The call for papers for the next Annual Meeting on Christian Origins (September 26–28, 2019) closes on April 28, 2019.
Programme Units (2019)
Programme Unit chairs and contacts are indicated in parentheses. The Units are listed in alphabetical order.
Anthropological Worlds: Materials, Approaches, and Perspectives
The purpose of the Unit is to increase discussion and confrontation of methods and perspectives that anthropologists are elaborating. The field of investigation includes ancient, modern, contemporary religious phenomena and connected events. The title of the 2019-Unit is “Discussing Anthropology and Religions”.
⇒ The panel will last 105 minutes and rely on (presumably 3) invited speakers.
Anthropology of Religious Forms and Identities
Content and Boundaries Imagery
This panel will address the relationship between Christian religious representations and political dynamics in cultural encounters, from ancient to contemporary times. Religious texts and practices historically furnished the models of interpretation of alterity in situations of conquest, clash, and colonial encounter. Many cultural agents, in particular missionaries, have played a central role in setting the line between ‘human and non-human’ and in differentiating between moral and immoral behaviours. At the same time, many so-called acculturated people have often domesticated Christianity to produce movements and practices swinging between mimesis and resistance. Through the analysis of texts, arts, social activities and movements, the papers will explore the ambiguous role played by religious representations and conducts in the metropolitan and non-metropolitan contexts, as well as the heritage of these representations in past and contemporary era.
⇒ The panel will last 90 minutes and rely on (presumably 3) invited speakers.
Bible and Conflict
This unit examines the ways that biblical texts have been cultural resources for ideological conflict and competition. On the one hand, biblical texts show evidence of social conflict and competition in the period in which they were written. First Corinthians, for instance, suggests that Paul’s audiences experienced numerous forms of conflict and competitiveness among themselves, which Paul tried to manage in his letters. On the other hand, early Christian groups routinely viewed themselves in conflict with outsiders as well, as the Apocalypse of John illustrates with its particularly violent language. By attending to these features of the texts, we learn more about the social dynamics of early Christianity and the challenges that they faced. To study conflict and competition in the Bible is therefore to examine the propulsive forces of socio-political development in early Christianity. We can, moreover, also attend to how biblical texts have been deployed in more recent settings for conflicted and competitive political ends. The dispute over same-sex marriage in the U.S., for instance, shows how people on both sides of political debates easily try to appropriate the authority of the biblical texts. Thus, while containing evidence for ancient conflict and competition, the Bible continues to be mobilized for more contemporary political and ideological purposes—situated in their own modern contexts of conflict and competition. This unit will include some invited papers, as well as some selected from submissions to the call for papers.
Christian Origins and Epigraphy
(Chair: John S. Kloppenborg)
We invite papers and/or workshop presentations on the study of Greek and Latin inscriptions and other forms of material culture, in particular their bearing on the understanding of the practices of Christ groups in the first three centuries of the Imperial period.
Christian Origins: Modern Myths and Historical Representations
The Unit invites papers dealing with the birth of modern scholarship on early Christianity. The main purpose is to reconstruct the ways in which covert apologetic agendas, both religious and secular, may have led to the construction of different myths of Christian origins. In particular, we seek proposals on: (a) the emergence in early modern Europe of a specific interest in the problem of origins; (b) the historical investigation on Early Christianity and “biblical” Judaism as a mirror of doctrinal disputes; (c) the modern rediscovery of apocryphal texts and traditions; (d) the contributions of Catholic and Reformed intellectuals to the rise of the comparative study of religion; (e) the relationship between modern religious imagery and the historical or pseudo-historical representation of Christian origins.
⇒ For this year, we seek papers devoted to historical representations of Jesus, Judaism, and the rise of Christianity from the 19th to the first half of the 20th century, which comprise theological and scientific debates within the context of European and North American cultures.
Discussion of Books
The presentations held in the Annual Meeting on Christian Origins in Bertinoro are focused on recent books with a fresh approach to Second Temple Judaism texts, practices and beliefs, as well as to the historical Jesus and to texts and materials more or less explicitly linked to the early groups of Jesus followers (1st–2nd cent. CE). These presentations are also open to innovative methodological approaches to the study of religions according to sociology, cognitive science of religion, anthropology, literature, psychology, archaeology. Another important field is the history of the research on the historical Jesus from the Late Middle Ages to nowadays.
Early Groups of Jesus’ Followers
This research unit aims to re-explore the social world of the early groups of Jesus’ followers (1st–2nd cent.), re-describing the emergence of Christianity in terms of anthropology, social history, and cultural studies. Proposals are welcome on any aspect related to the social forms and composition of the early Christian groups (types of gathering, in-group and out-group relationships, gender dynamics), their continuity or discontinuity with Jesus’ practice of life, their relationship with other groups and institutions of the ancient Mediterranean world (forms of cohabitation, negotiation, and conflict), their production and use of texts, their conceptions of space and time, as well as the reconstruction of their communicative networks. Preference will be given to papers focusing on new methodological approaches or addressing under-explored subjects.
Experiencing and Narrating the Body:
Ascetic Discourses and Practices in Early Christianity
Given the strong ascetic tendencies spreading through the ancient Mediterranean world during the first three centuries of Christianity, the relationship between the individual and his body ended up playing a central role in the process of shaping Christian identity. For some Christians, at any rate, the body might function as an exemplary artifact that could be displayed to their audience. After its removal from existing social and moral entanglements, it could become an instrument to be used against the world. This panel aims (1) to explore the experiences that underlay the religious action related to the body and (2) to identify the relevant discourses. Papers should address the following questions in relation to literary texts of the first three centuries of Christian era: how did eschatological tension shape the use of the human body in everyday life? How could this tension be related to the choice of embracing an ascetic way of life? Did the ascetic individual possess a specific awareness of his bodily functions? How was this self-awareness expressed? Which specific bodily effects did it produce? Was the ascetic discourse a result only of individual experiences or did it also involve shared or collective reflection? How could this specifically Christian relationship with the body be more broadly contextualized within the non-Christian environment?
Gospel of Thomas, Nag Hammadi, and Gnosticism
This unit welcomes contributions on the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, the Nag Hammadi texts and other Gnostic documents (e.g. Codex Tchacos, Codex Bruce, Codex Berolinensis). The unit is open to contributions that address both specific and cross-cutting issues, from whatever critical perspective (literary, socio-anthropological, historiographical, etc.). Interdisciplinary approaches and methodological renewal are strongly encouraged. Among the topics that are particularly welcomed, we mention (for example): a) contents, composition, milieu of Thomas; b) the context of the Nag Hammadi codices; c) concepts conveyed by Gnostic texts and traditions.
⇒ This unit will include both invited papers and proposed papers (applicants must submit an abstract to the unit chairs).
(Chair: Daniele Tripaldi)
The Unit welcomes papers that move beyond a simplistic literary approach to our sources and aim instead at grasping the historical figure of Jesus in all its political, social and cultural complexity, investigating Jesus’ lifestyle, message, religious practices (prayer, fasting, visions, healings and exorcisms) and self-comprehension, within the context of contemporary Judaism (including John the Baptist and his disciples as well as the groups of Jesus’ followers). A special focus will be laid on the critical assessment of new mythicist positions denying Jesus’ existence, on methodological clarifications and on the deconstruction of the classical 4 phase paradigm articulating almost every presentation of the history of the Leben-Jesu-Forschung.
⇒ Papers (20 minutes, plus 5 minute discussion) will be delivered partly on invitation, partly by application and submission of an abstract.
History of the Jews and Judaism in the Hellenistic-Roman Period
In the first years, the panel “History of the Jews and Judaism in the Hellenistic-Roman period” has been focusing on relationship and dialogue of Jews with other cultures and on Jewish identity in ancient world. In the years 2017-2019 the focus will be on the dialectics within the Jewish world and, in particular, on groups, sects and trends which animated the Jewish world in the centuries I BCE – I CE. Recent studies have definitely undermined the traditional image of a sectarian Judaism. So a complex and lengthy process of redefinition of the “parties” started and today the making is in progress.
Intellectual Context of Early Christianity
(Chair: John S. Kloppenborg)
We invite papers that discuss aspects of the intellectual, literary, rhetorical, and political contexts of the early Christ cult in the first three centuries.
Issues of Method: New ‘Secular’ Approaches to Early Christian Research
Traces of ‘Allodoxia’ and ‘Hysteresis’ in Early Christ Religion
The principal aim of this Unit is to promote cross-disciplinary research characterized by a common agenda: a radical de-metaphysicization of the explanatory narratives of the processes of creation, transmission, blending, memorization, and survival of religious representations, experiences, and practices documented by Jesus followers across the ancient Mediterranean world between the 1st and 4th century CE. Since we are persuaded that a strategy of consilience among different perspectives is necessary to account for the complex formative dynamics of any large-scale symbolic system, the Unit programmatically resorts to ‘secular’ approaches which are too often opposed to each other – like cognitive and evolutionary approaches, historical discourse analysis, post-colonial studies and model-based sociological exegesis. More generally, we would like to contribute to the creation of a trans-disciplinary area where a new scientific policy in the research on Christian origins can be successfully pursued.
Aim of this year’s Unit is to reflect on a couple of ‘thinking tools’ introduced by Pierre Bourdieu: ‘allodoxia’ and ‘hysteresis’. Generally neglected in Bourdieu-oriented research, these two concepts should not be seen as independent entities but rather as interconnected with one another as well as with other key categories of Bourdieu’s general theory of practice – field, habitus, doxa, capital, etc.
With the term allodoxia, Bourdieu designates a type of misrecognition that occurs when an erroneous recognition both reveals and strengthens the discursive and representative aspects of the dominant doxa of a given field. In this respect, allodoxia is the mistake we sometimes make when, waiting for somebody, we believe to see that person in everybody who comes along. This very common misunderstanding is not neutral but rather operates as a powerful means of reinforcement of what ‘goes without saying’ within a specific arena of social production and reproduction.
Like allodoxia, hysteresis, too, has to do with the alignment of an agent with a state of a field. Yet with a past state. Bespeaking a discrepancy between habitus and field, hysteresis is a sort of backwardness that affects those agents whose mental structures have been molded by prior structures now become obsolete. In consequence, they think in a void, act inopportunely (à contre-temps), and move ‘out of sync’. Bourdieu has happily dubbed this failing dispositional inertia ‘Don Quixote’s syndrome’.
We welcome paper proposals that attempt to find traces of allodoxia and hysteresis in evidence related to techniques and procedures whereby meanings, discourses, and writings are produced, controlled, and reproduced in Christian religious settings throughout the first three centuries CE. The term ‘evidence’ is not meant to be restricted to literary sources. Taking one thing for another (allodoxia) and showing an ‘out-of-sync’ knowledge (hysteresis) can be evidenced by inscriptional materials too.
⇒ The session will consist of both invited and proposed papers.
Johannist Constellation: Systemic Questions and Different Answers
Sources, Locations, History
This panel seeks to map a network between certain early Jesus groups that turned on their shared attempts to address what they perceived to be a cosmic fracture obstructing communication between a realm ‘above’ and a realm ‘below’. Our point of departure is the Gospel of John (hence, the title), whose theology, polemics, ritual and language endeavor to resolve the impediment created by ‘the ruler of this world’. But our exploration extends further, to other works, which in similar ways address the same cosmological problem and which, therefore, may reflect a ‘constellation’ of socio-religious texts: immediately in view are the Johannine epistles, the Apocalypse of John, the Gospel of Thomas and the Ascension of Isaiah.
Mark and the Other Gospels
(Chair: Mara Rescio)
Aim of this unit is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for ongoing research on both canonical and extra-canonical Gospels. We encourage papers that employ innovative reading strategies, suggest new areas of inquiry, and/or offer new perspectives on enduring questions. Especially welcomed will be proposals on: (a) The reconstruction and localization of Mark’s sources; (b) The reception of Mark in the first three centuries; (c) Gospels and method: current trends in biblical studies; (d) The relationship between canonical and extra-canonical materials; (e) The socio-cultural context of miracle stories in the gospel tradition; (f) Women and the Jesus movement: gender issues in gospel texts.
Oral and Written Sources of the Gospels and of Early Christian Texts
Aim of the unit is the reconstruction of the sources used by the authors of apocryphal and canonical Gospels and other early Christian writings. Also relations between sources of early Christian writings and groups of Jesus’ followers can be taken into consideration. Particularly welcomed will be papers about: (1) materials used by the authors of the Gospels concerning Jesus and / or his disciples (a. single sayings or collections of sayings of Jesus; b. stories about Jesus’ actions; c. information of any kind coming from individuals or groups); (2) texts drawn from the Hebrew Bible and its ancient translations or from any early Christian writing used as a source; (3) Bible testimonia; (5) faith and liturgical formulas; (6) non-canonized Jewish works circulating in the different Jewish groups of the 1st and 2nd centuries used as sources.
Papyrology and Early Christ Groups
(Chair: Peter Arzt-Grabner)
This unit is aimed at investigating the use of papyri, ostraca and related material to illuminate the text, language, society, and thought of early Christ groups during I and early II CE. Regarding documentary papyrology, we invite papers dealing with the methodology of comparing texts in general as well as with particular genres (e.g., private and official letters, deeds, contracts etc.) and topics, and how and inasmuch they can be compared with New Testament and other early Christian writings or passages. Of course, also papers on recently identified or edited papyri and parchments containing texts of the New Testament and other early Christian literature as well as subliterary or documentary Christian texts are more than welcome.
Re-dating the Early Christian Texts
This Unit aims to (re)discuss the date of composition of the Gospels and other proto-Christian texts according to / in dialogue with recent scholarly suggestions.
⇒ The Unit will include both invited papers and proposed papers (applicants must submit an abstract to the Unit chairs).
Studying Jesus and Early Christians in Modern Times: New Perspectives & Methods
Since the late 15th century several different historical factors influenced the research of the Christian past and the analysis of the figure of Jesus. The increasing refinement of philology fueled by Humanism and the study of ancient texts proved to be relevant in readdressing theological questions concerning the nature of early Christianity. The Reformation set forth a religious conflict that rekindled ancient polemics and, in turn, the study of antiquity. The search for the most authentic religious experience of Jesus and the Christian community became one of the most relevant topic of different religious groups. Thanks to technological innovations such as the rise of print and the amelioration of communication infrastructures, ideas and texts circulated widely both in print and manuscripts disseminating new representations of Jesus and the early Christianity. As a result of the inception of new science and the discoveries linked to the age of exploration, new notions of religion appeared and greatly influenced the understanding of the history Christianity. Furthermore, we wish to break the scholarly periodization which separates the early modern and the modern period, aiming to connect them in order to assess when and how new notions about the study of Jesus emerged and how they accordingly changed in relations to the rise of different epistemological paradigms.
⇒ For this year, we especially seek papers devoted to the historical depiction of Jesus, ancient Judaism, and the rise of Christianity composed by different religious groups, including Catholics, Jews, Reformed Churches and radical dissenters, from 1500 to 1750. We also invite scholars to offer papers on the image of Jesus among the great representatives and philosophers of the Enlightenment.
Transmission of Jesus’ Words
(Chair: Mara Rescio)
Reconstructing the transmission of Jesus’ words is nowadays at the centre of the scholarly debate on Christian origins. First of all, it is necessary to study all the available materials, overcoming the anachronistic distinction between apocryphal and canonical sources. Materials coming from ancient Christian literature (especially in Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian) still require close attention: we also need to reconstruct their trajectories and areas of transmission. Equally necessary would be a critical theory of memory, memorization, and the oral and written modes of transmission. Finally, how the shift from Jesus to Christianity has resulted in a change of the words of the historical Jesus, is yet another question of great importance, where current research once again measures itself against the exegesis of the 19th and 20th centuries.