An Exploration Of Early Christian Communities As ‘Scholastic Communities’ -- By: Claire Seymour Smith

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 63:1 (NA 2012)
Article: An Exploration Of Early Christian Communities As ‘Scholastic Communities’
Author: Claire Seymour Smith


An Exploration Of Early Christian Communities As ‘Scholastic Communities’1

Claire Seymour Smith

In 1960, Edwin Judge described the early Christian communities as ‘scholastic communities’.2 Since then, he has continued to explore this aspect of early Christian communities. However, while his pioneering work in this field has become a standard point of departure for the socio-historical study of the early Christian movement, his ‘scholastic communities’ description has received scant attention. By contrast, scholarship on the formation and social character of early Christian communities is dominated by the search for antecedents, influences, and analogies or models from antiquity, none of which adequately accounts for the Christian communities, or recognises the priority of educational activities reflected in Judge’s characterisation. Moreover, the approach of these studies is problematic, because without a prior description of early Christian communities on their own terms, comparative approaches risk overlooking, distorting or misunderstanding aspects of early Christian communities that are not repeated in other social phenomena.

The thesis explores the ‘scholastic community’ description, not to shed light on other, albeit related, socio-historical issues, but to ascertain the appropriateness of the description. Rather than utilising social-scientific or comparative models, the thesis adopts an emic approach for the prior task of social description through an analysis of

New Testament texts. This is done through an exhaustive, detailed and disciplined exegetical study of the vocabulary of ‘teaching’ in 1 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus.

The methodology for the vocabulary study is original. A working definition of ‘teaching’ based on a simple model of communication is used to identify fifty-six verbs (and cognates) as vocabulary denoting ‘teaching’. Each of these verbs is grouped in semantic groupings determined from within the lexical base of the target literature. Ten groupings are identified: ‘core-teaching’, ‘speaking’, ‘traditioning’ (which included ‘writing’), ‘announcing’, ‘revealing’, ‘worshipping’, ‘commanding’, ‘correcting’, ‘remembering’ (which included ‘imitation’), and ‘false teaching’.

Discussion of each of the first nine semantic groupings corresponds to chapters 3-11 of the thesis. Each chapter begins with a survey of scholarship related to activities denoted by words in that semantic grouping, and then each ‘teaching’ word a...

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