A couple of more papers to add to the “other writings” list, which may or may not interest you.
The first is my first major research paper for seminary. It was actually a distance-learning class I took through Briercrest Seminary on the Patristic Fathers (basically early church history and theological development with a focus on the leading theologians of the time). Over the course of my reading I became fascinated by the Nestorian controversy, a famous (in church theological circles) heresy in the fourth century (I think) about the relationship between divine and human natures in Jesus. I was fascinated because it seemed like a fine example of hair-splitting and I couldn’t quite figure out why Nestorius got the treatment (excommunication) he did, particularly since some of what Nestorius argued for was affirmed in later church councils. In the last 150 years or so, theologians have been rethinking Nestorius’ status, wondering if he was himself in fact a Nestorian (in spite of the fact that that heresy will forever bear his name).
This paper was particularly helpful for me because it made me realize that “heresy” is not necessarily an evil thing. That is not to say that I affirm heresy. What I mean is that we tend to think of heretics–the purveyors of heresy–as people intent on destroying the church. What I discovered during the course of writing this paper was that those who have been branded “heretics” by the church (often rightfully so) were in fact sincerely wrestling with their faith in and understanding of God. They were often (always?) concerned with believing rightly and faithfully and honouring God.
This is often true, I find, even among the more serious heresies, such as Arianism or the teachings of Marcion. These men were trying to be faithful. That doesn’t mean that they were right–sincerity is not a guarantee of theological correctness–but it also doesn’t mean that they were intent on destroying the church.
I haven’t re-read this paper in more than three years, so I have no idea what I think of it now. But I do remember that the professor said it was a delight to read. Here it is: “Personality and Terminology: The Nestorian Controversy” (terrible title– pdf, 15 pages).
The second paper I want to link to today is the longest I’ve ever written. The pericope of the adulteress (John 7:53-8:11) came up several times in 2011. You’ll notice that your Bible, if it was published in the last 40 years or so, marks off this passage saying in a footnote or elsewhere that “the oldest and most reliable manuscripts” do not include this passage. The New English Bible omits the passage altogether and places it in a footnote at the end of John. One of my professors said that he would not preach this passage because he did not believe, based on the evidence, that it is original to the text. Most text critical scholars feel the same way (hence its marking off in our Bibles).
The fact is, this passage appears in various forms in different places in the New Testament manuscripts as well as in other writings. However, I don’t think simply saying “the oldest and most reliable manuscripts do not include this passage” tells the whole story accurately.
The paper is 31 pages long (plus bibliography) and it still does not fully engage everything I think is worth engaging on this topic. It’s quite technical, as it covers all of the manuscript evidence, but it also engages (though not as much as I would have liked) questions of inspiration and the source of scriptural authority.
Here you go: “Pericope Adultera (John 7,53-8,11).”
Again, if you read either of these, let me know what you think.
(I have now started a page of “other writings,” where I will, from time to time, post additional papers, publications, etc. Of course, the best laid plans, the road to hell, etc.)