Studies in Early Christianity
Edited by Alvin P. Cohen, Glenn S. Holland and E. Bruce Brooks
Alpha is an annual repository for leading-edge research in the New Testament and related texts, and the historical development which the texts imply. Like its older sister journal Warring States Papers, it has a central focus on the methodology of text-based historical research, and includes examples of the application of basic historical and philological methods to texts in other traditions, including Chinese and Homeric Greek.
In the past, the early Christian texts have been approached theologically, rather than as historical sources. Christian history has been seen as fully realized in Paul, and all other viewpoints are dismissed as later heresies. But many of the NT texts give hints of a pre-Pauline Christianity, the thing Paul began by persecuting. The work of the Project leads to an unexpectedly full picture of that pattern of early belief and practice. It is this to which we have given the name Alpha Christianity. It turns out to be remarkably close to what many contemporary Christians actually live.
This first volume takes up the principal Gospels and other early sources for the teachings of Jesus. It notes evidence for stratification in Mark, leading to the earliest and thus most authoritative stratum of that text. It finds no need to posit a common source for Matthew and Luke, and instead argues for mutual contact between them. Mandaean and Gospel echoes of John the Baptist are compared, the work of William O Walker Jr on interpolations in Paul is continued, and a foundation is laid for the introduction of a new stylistic difference test in v2.