Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

December 2015 issue of Church History

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

The December 2015 issue of Church History is now available online. Articles in this issue include:

  • Joseph P. Huffman, “The Donation of Zeno: St. Barnabas and the Modern History of the Cypriot Archbishop’s Regalia Privileges”
  • Charles Keenan, “Paolo Sarpi, Caesar Baronius, and the Political Possibilities of Ecclesiastical History”
  • Karin Vélez, ““By means of tigers”: Jaguars as Agents of Conversion in Jesuit Mission Records of Paraguay and the Moxos, 1600–1768”
  • Polly Ha, “Religious Toleration and Ecclesiastical Independence in Revolutionary Britain, Bermuda and the Bahamas”
  • David Mislin, “One Nation, Three Faiths: World War I and the Shaping of “Protestant-Catholic-Jewish” America”

You can view the issue here.



What Ben Carson’s Pyramid Theory Tells Us About How He Reads The Bible

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Thomas J. Whitley

A lot of people have enjoyed making fun of Ben Carson’s 1998 comments, which were made public last week, that the Egyptian pyramids were not built for burial purposes but were actually built by the biblical Joseph for grain storage. He has since confirmed to CBS that he still believes this theory. It was not his best week.

His reasoning is that you wouldn’t need hermetically sealed compartments for burials but you would for grain storage. The theory is outlandish, to say the least, and robs ancient Egyptians of their agency. As Kristina Killgrove wrote for Forbes, the ancient Egyptians wrote down what the pyramids were for. Were they lying? Maybe Joseph really did build the pyramids for grain storage and the Egyptians were later embarrassed about this and so they concocted an elaborate story about the pyramids really being tombs, complete with bodies, burial accoutrements, etc. Yeah, that would make sense.

His theory is interesting for how far-fetched it is and for the fact that he actually believes scientists think aliens built the pyramids! But it’s also interesting for what it tells us about how he reads the Bible. The official position of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church is that

Scripture is an authentic, reliable record of history and God’s acts in history. It provides the normative theological interpretation of those acts. The supernatural acts revealed in Scripture are historically true. For example, chapters 1-11 of Genesis are a factual account of historical events.

I do not uncritically assume that Carson accepts every position of his church; he’s said so himself. But even beyond that, we see this method of interpretation in his views of the ancient pyramids. First, the Joseph story in Genesis is a completely accurate story for Carson and so he believes that if the Bible says Joseph stored enough grain to  feed everyone for seven years, then he did just that.

The next step that Carson takes in his interpretation, though, is less literal. He goes looking for a structure that he thinks would have been large enough to hold a bunch of grain, sees big stone pyramids, and believes he has his answer. So, he confidently asserts that the pyramids were the places where Joseph stored this grain. Carson may
believe that the Bible is an accurate historical description, but his theory goes well beyond what the Bible says. He is no longer just saying what the Bible says, but is trying to show how its historically accurate information fits into the wider world. Forget the fact that the Joseph story is set in the Middle Kingdom, some five centuries after the pyramids in Giza were built, and that there’s actually very little open space for storage inside the pyramids, which are mostly stone. But there is another part of the official Adventist Methods of Bible Study that may shed some light on Carson’s little theory.

In recent decades the most prominent method in biblical studies has been known as the historical-critical method. Scholars who use this method, as classically formulated, operate on the basis of presuppositions which, prior to studying the biblical text, reject the reliability of accounts of miracles and other supernatural events, narrated in the Bible. Even a modified use of this method that retains the principle of criticism which subordinates the Bible to human reason is unacceptable to Adventists.

As long as Ben Carson is striving to interpret the Bible according to officially approved Adventist methods, he cannot allow human reason to trump the biblical text. The next must be “saved” at all costs. The story of the Bible puts the Israelites at the center of world events, even when that is hardly an accurate description of world affairs at the time. It is Ben Carson’s job, though, as an Adventist interpreter of the Bible, to maintain this narrative. Co-opting great historical monuments such as the Egyptian pyramids as really evidence of God’s greatness and faithfulness toward the Israelites along with the Israelites’ general superiority is one way to do this.

Maybe he should stick to rap. On second thought, that’s probably not going to work out either.

Thomas Whitley is a PhD Candidate in Religions of Western Antiquity at Florida State University where he studies sexual slander and identity formation in early Christianity. You can follow him on Twitter.

(Image Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Call for Participants – Bodies of Christ: Visualizing Jesus Then and Now

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Readers of the blog might be interested in this seminar opportunity, sent to us by Professor Edward J. Blum.



Bodies of Christ: Visualizing Jesus Then and Now

Directed by: Edward J. Blum (San Diego State University),
with host: James Bratt (Calvin College)

June 12-24, 2016

Seminar Description

Bodies of Christ: Visualizing Jesus Then and Now addresses a fundamental dilemma of Christianity: how to represent God’s Son. This is particularly important in the twenty-first century. Issues of race, gender, and sexuality animate debates in church, state, and society. Considerations of bodies and body images dominate personal lives. And new technologies allow for the creation and distribution of images as never before. How we “see” Jesus Christ plays a vital role in how we see ourselves, our communities, our churches, our nations, and our societies.

We will begin with history. How have peoples of the past represented Jesus Christ? What has animated debates ranging from heresy discussions to the Protestant Reformation? How has American history, its triumphs and tragedies, altered the terrains of conversation? Then, we will address the present and future. How can we represent Jesus Christ to best serve the kingdom of God? How can we address displays of Jesus in popular culture and media? How can we engage our sisters and brothers to deepen their commitments to Jesus Christ through their own visualizations?

We look forward to a diverse group of historians, religious studies scholars, artists, theologians, and pastors to discuss and debate these topics.


For more information, including how to apply, please see this link.

Anglo-Saxon Apocrypha in Manuscript Contexts

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Brandon W. Hawk

Following on my explorations of extra-biblical texts in the history of Christianity, in this post, I discuss a few particular translations of apocrypha into Old English as they appear in manuscripts from late Anglo-Saxon England. Examining Anglo-Saxon apocrypha in their manuscript contexts problematizes assumptions about the circulation and use of canonical and non-canonical materials, as apocrypha exist alongside a variety of works accepted as clearly orthodox and even privileged as authoritative texts.

Two apocrypha that are perhaps most outstanding for their Anglo-Saxon manuscript contexts are Old English versions of the Gospel of Nicodemus and the Avenging of the Savior. This pair occurs together in their most fascinating placement in Cambridge, University Library Ii.2.11, from late eleventh-century Exeter—based on Latin versions in the ninth-century French manuscript known as Saint-Omer, Bibliothéque Municipale 202. In the Anglo-Saxon manuscript, the versions of the Gospel of Nicodemus and the Avenging of the Savior directly follow the four canonical Gospels. This has caused much speculation about the status of apocrypha in Anglo-Saxon England: Jackson J. Campbell suggests that the scribe “considered [this gospel] to be of almost equal importance to the preceding gospels”;[i] and Antoinette di Paolo Healey has echoed this suggestion with the claim that “this apocryphal gospel, if not equal, was almost equal in authority to the canonical gospels.”[ii] Skeptical of these assumptions, Thomas N. Hall notes that “there is no evidence that the Euangelium Nichodemi ever achieved canonical status or was held as a sacred text in Anglo-Saxon England,” and observes that “the juxtaposition of canonical and apocryphal works is not altogether rare in medieval Latin Bible manuscripts.”[iii] Despite lacking clear evidence about the status of the gospel, however, there can be no doubt that the apocrypha was not spurned, and it was at the least venerated as a favored religious text.

The Harrowing of Hell from the Tiberius Psalter, British Library Cotton MS Tiberius

Another vernacular translation of the Gospel of Nicodemus also appears Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41, from the first half or middle of the eleventh century. Although not paired with the Avenging of the Savior in this manuscript, the Gospel of Nicodemus directly follows a homiletic rendering of another apocryphon, the Apocalypse of Thomas. Preceding these apocrypha are Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica in Old English, sacramentary mass forms, Office chants, the Old English Martyrology, charms, the apocryphal-based Old English Solomon & Saturn, a medical recipe, and six Old English homilies. Following the two apocrypha, the manuscript also contains several prayers and two more Old English homilies, the last of which is a translation of Matthew 26-27. The orthodoxy of these surrounding works is not in question, especially in the case of the sacramentary mass sets, Office chants, and gospel homilies; furthermore, Bede’s Historia and the Martyrology are based on accepted historical accounts that are upheld throughout the Middle Ages for their authority.

An Old English text of the Gospel of Nicodemus is also extant in London, British Library Cotton Vespasian D.xiv, which also causes pause because of its contents.[iv] The first part of this manuscript, containing the Old English works, was copied in the twelfth century, although the second part of the book was in England before 912. Besides the Gospel of Nicodemus, we find an array of texts in the vernacular, including a series of homilies by Ælfric, a fragment of Ælfric’s Letter to Sigefyrð, texts on The Catholic Faith, The Ten Commandments, Concerning Twelve Abuses, Concerning Eight Vices, Concerning Eight Virtues, and The Old English Alcuin. Also notable for this study is the presence of an Old English version of the Fifteen Signs before Doomsday—an apocalyptic apocryphon associated with the Apocalypse of Thomas and Irish apocrypha. Besides these Old English texts, we also find, bound into the second, earlier part of the manuscript, Isidore’s Synonyma, four creeds attributed to Ambrose, Gregory, and Jerome, Latin hymns, and excerpts from Boethius’ De consolatione Philosophiae added in the tenth century after the manuscript had reached England. The central connection between several of these works is their doctrinal nature—that is, works concerned with the central dogma of the Christian faith, such as commandments, virtues, sins, and creeds. Even the works by Boethius and Isidore implicitly deal with such doctrinal issues, although framed within rational philosophical approaches.

A similar last case of the Gospel of Nicodemus appears in London, British Library Cotton Vitellius A.xv, copied in the twelfth century. This manuscript also contains all Old English texts, all but one direct translations from Latin sources. In their order in the codex, they are: Augustine’s Soliloquies, attributed to King Alfred in a colophon; the Gospel of Nicodemus; a prose version of Solomon & Saturn, and a fragmentary homily based on the Life of St. Quentin. Again, the manuscript presents two apocryphal works situated between two authoritative texts from the patristic era.

Implicit in all of this, it should be apparent that apocrypha are rarely situated alone in their manuscript contexts. Old English versions of the Gospel of Nicodemus in particular accompany a wide variety of text types, including patristic works, historical accounts, liturgical materials, doctrinal treatises, homilies, and saints’ lives. Furthermore, these texts may be seen, in their manuscript contexts, closely situated with sermons preached to the lay public. In other words, these cases reveal that at least some apocrypha should be considered part of the apparatus of tradition for teaching the Christian faith in early medieval England.


[i] “To Hell and Back: Latin Tradition and Literary Use of the ‘Descensus ad Inferos’ in Old English,” Viator 13 (1982), 107-58, at 113.

[ii] “Anglo-Saxon Use of the Apocryphal Gospel,” The Anglo-Saxons: Synthesis and Achievement, ed. J. Douglas Woods and David A. E. Pelteret (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 1985), 93-104, at 98.

[iii] “The Euangelium Nichodemi and Vindicta saluatoris in Anglo-Saxon England,” Two Old English Apocrypha and Their Manuscript Source: The Gospel of Nichodemus and The Avenging of the Saviour, ed. J. E. Cross, with contributions by Denis Brearley, Julia Crick, Thomas N. Hall, and Andy Orchard (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996), 36-81, at 50.

[iv] See the edition of this whole manuscript in Early English Homilies for the Twelfth-Century MS Vesp.D.XIV, ed. Rubie D. N. Warner, EETS os 152 (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1917).

Shaun King, Classification, and Christianity

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Thomas J. Whitley

First it was Rachel Dolezal. Now it’s Shaun King.

King is a Black Lives Matter activist who, like Dolezal, has been accused of lying about his race. King’s accusations first garnered national headlines when Breitbart published a story questioning whether he had been lying about his race as well as whether he lied about numerous other details in his life story (such as whether he was the victim of a hate crime). The story gained steam with CNN and other major organizations picking it up. There’s even a posting on it.

Both Dolezal’s and King’s stories provide excellent fodder for discussing how classification works and what’s at stake in the act of classifying. In a lengthy piece in response to the accusations, King recounts his lived black experience.

Every friend I had was black, my girlfriends were black, I was seen as black, treated as black, and endured constant overt racism as a young black teenager. Never have I once identified myself as white. Not on forms, not for convenience or privilege, and not for fun and games, have I ever identified myself as white. I was never a white guy pretending to be black. Not once, ever, did it occur to me that I was being phony or fraudulent or fake. Quite the opposite — I always believed I was living the truest form of my self.

King writes quite openly of the impact that being told he was “mixed” as a young kid by other kids had on him. He recognizes how it shaped his perspective of himself. In this regard, King recognizes both the internal and external influences on his racial identity.

He has pushed back, though, when pictures of him as a child in which he “looks” white are used as evidence against him. Many of the outlets publishing stories about King clearly link him with Black Lives Matter and with Rachel Dolezal. Many appear, as King claims, to be attempts to discredit not only him but the BLM movement as a whole. King personally understands that classification matters.

It was a bit shocking to me, then, when a friend on Facebook shared a Shaun King post in which he takes issue with people who claim to be Christian and yet direct hate his way.

While King frames his post here as if he is having trouble with identifying as Christian, he actually has trouble with other calling themselves Christian when he thinks they shouldn’t be. King is now the one doing the classifying. He draws the clear line that he who is loving and caring and those who are hateful cannot be part of the same group.

“We can’t both be Christians.”

As all systems of classification do, his benefits him. “Hateful” Christians are not really Christians. True Christians look like King. This, of course, is not said explicitly. He doesn’t have to. He makes an unstated, but obvious, appeal to authority. In this case, the authority is the Bible. It is an authority to which both King and those “hateful” Christians would appeal, but King quotes 1 John 4:20 like a mic drop. There is no commentary. King doesn’t even have to make his point himself, the Bible has already done it for him, which only serves to legitimate his discourse. What’s at stake here is who gets to claim the label Christian, and King is very much engaged in this struggle. Or, as Pierre Bourdieu put it, what’s at stake in the classification struggle is “power over the classificatory schemes and systems” (Distinction, 479). The identity I claim for myself is only as useful as my control over that identity.

This is not a post about how Shaun King is a horrible person because he objects to being classified by others as something he doesn’t like but has no problem being the one to classify others as something they most likely would not like. Rather, what we see in the example of Shaun King is just how classification works, that is, for us. Or at least that is how it is employed. For when it is not working for us, on our behalf, and in ways that increase our power and capital, then classification is something that must be fought as oppressive and nefarious. But when classification is working for us, on our behalf, and in ways that increase our power and capital, it is presented as natural, as simply the way things are — “Everything that claims to be Christianity, isn’t.” — and when presented this way without commentary regarding the work that the classification is doing, it is rendered nearly invisible. This is possible because those engaging in acts of classification largely do see some classificatory schemes as simply the way things are, or at least the way things ought to be. That these particular schemes often happen to benefit the one who sees them this way . . . well, that’s natural.

Thomas Whitley is a PhD Candidate in Religions of Western Antiquity at Florida State University where he studies sexual slander and identity formation in early Christianity. You can follow him on Twitter.

*Image courtesy Shaun King on Twitter.

Thinking about Secularism Globally and Robert Yelle’s The Language of Disenchantment

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Jeffrey Wheatley

I have spent the past few months reading books for an ad hoc summer reading group composed mostly of graduate students interested in thinking about secularism globally. Most of us research under the framework of American religious history, but we agree that there is much to be gained by thinking about secularism comparatively, by using the concept of secularism to trace the way the category religion can be a tool of statecraft and how ostensibly secular or religiously-neutral modes of governance can very much have presuppositions that bring into question their religious neutrality and the possibility of religious neutrality broadly. Under the program of secularism, the distinction between what is properly religious and what is properly secular becomes key, and this distinction is not natural or transcendent, but the product of historical contingency, especially (but not exclusively) the development of Western power across the globe. Some of the works we have read include: José Casanova’s Public Religions, the first chapter of Beth Hurd’s new book Beyond Religious Freedom (scroll to the bottom of this interview for a preview), Cassie Adcock’s Limits of Tolerance, Peter van der Veer’s Modern Spirit of Asia, and Webb Keane’s influential Christian Moderns. (Sidenote: if you can access it, I recommend looking at the first issue of the Journal of Religious and Political Practices.)

We also read Robert Yelle’s The Language of Disenchantment: Protestant Literalism and Colonial Discourse in British India, which resonates with many of my research subjects and questions. Yelle suggests that British reforms to disenchant India are best understood as an integral aspect of Britain’s Puritan-inflected Christian colonialism, not a straightforward process of secularization that diminishes religion, or at least relegates it to the private sphere. Disenchantment is a Christian conceit, and to make this point Yelle gestures toward various Christian critiques of Judaism, ancient mythology, paganism, and Hinduism, all of which Christian theorists at various historical junctures understood to harbor errant assumptions about how the world works. These imperfect religions, Protestant-influenced British colonialists asserted, lived in an enchanted world inimical to self-government and progress. These critiques mark these religions and their subjects as problems to be overcome—as pre-modern survivals lingering an all-subsuming (Christian) modern age. Some readers might be familiar with the argument that disenchantment might be better thought of as historically a part of Christianity rather than a radical parting from Christianity (think Max Weber), but it is Yelle’s decision to hone in on language, in particular, that makes this book useful for those interested in a critical approach to secularism.

Yelle explores the different semiotic ideologies that structured, on the one hand, British colonial projects of language reform and, on the other hand, Hindu oral practices. Many of the latter were premised on a confidence in the power of words, of mantras, to effect change (see Chapter 4). The former viewed such a confidence in “vain repetitions,” deserving the same iconoclasm British Protestantism directed at Catholic practices. Chapter 2, for example, examines Friedrich Max Müller’s attempt to produce of a “Science of Religion” in the context of Reformation theological aims. Müller famously argued that religion’s origins lay in linguistic confusion. According to his account primitive peoples eventually mistook the name for a natural object or force for an agential being. The sign and the signified become confused. In his account such erroneous views of language persisted. Such “verbal idolatry”—presumed to be theologically and scientifically unsound—would have to go. More broadly, as Chapter 3 demonstrates, British attempts to standardize, transliterate, or replace the variety of languages spoken in India were directly tied to Protestant desires for “plainness of speech” and undoing the confusion of languages that followed the Tower of Babel. Both were understood as necessary steps towards the fulfillment of a global reign of Christianity and British colonial power. Chapter 5 explores how British Christian colonialists understood Hindu law by comparing it with Jewish ritual law, which, within the Christian teleological narrative, was superseded by Christian law. It does not perfectly fit with the focus on language present in the rest of the book, but the chapter should be of interest to those studying religion and law nonetheless.

One take-away from reading these books together under the rubric “global secularity” is that it helps us re-conceptualize the project of secularism from a deployment of a religion-secular binary to the dynamic production of a trinary that often looks something like what Jason Josephson proposes in The Invention of Religion in Japan: religion/secular/superstition (or, as befits Yelle’s book, “idolatry”). The first two categories are mutually reinforcing and receive the imprimatur of the state through laws of incorporation, initiatives for religious freedom, and symbolic affirmations. That which the state puts into the third category is problematic. Practices, communities, and beliefs labeled “superstitious,” “primitive,” or “pre-modern” are consigned to anachronism or explicitly targeted for destruction for the sake of modernization, global recognition of sovereignty, and/or the suppression of political dissent. The concept of the trinary seems especially useful for those who want to engage secularism within the contexts of colonialism and capitalism, both of which depend on regulation and discipline.

Jeffrey Wheatley is a graduate student at Northwestern University. His research explores formations of religious contestation, racialization, the state, and capitalism with a focus on nineteenth-century North America. You can contact him at or on Twitter @wheatleyjt.

CFP: Religion and Medicine

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Editor’s Note: This CFP comes to us by way of Katherine Harvey of Birckbeck, University of London.




Birkbeck, University of London, 15-16 July 2016

Convenors: Katherine Harvey, John Henderson and Carmen Mangion

In the contemporary Western world, religion and medicine are increasingly separated, but through much of history they have been closely interrelated. This relationship has been characterised by some conflict, but also by a great deal of cooperation. Religious perspectives have informed both the understanding of and approaches to health and sickness, whilst religious personnel have frequently been at the forefront of medical provision. Religious organisations were, moreover, often at the heart of the response to medical emergencies, and provided key healing environments, such as hospitals and pilgrimage sites.

This conference will explore the relationship between religion and medicine in the historic past, ranging over a long chronological framework and a wide geographical span. The conference focus will be primarily historical, and we welcome contributions which take an interdisciplinary approach to this topic.

Four main themes will provide the focus of the conference. The sub-themes are not prescriptive, but are suggested as potential subjects for consideration:

  1. Healing the Body and Healing the Soul
  • Medical traditions: the non-natural environment and the ‘Passions of the Soul’.
  • Religious traditions (for example, the Church Fathers, sermons and devotional literature).
  1. The Religious and Medicine
  • Medical knowledge and practice of religious personnel, including secular and regular clergy.
  • Nurses and nursing.
  • Medical practitioners, religious authorities and the regulation of medical activity and practice.
  1. Religious Responses
  • Religious responses to epidemics, from leprosy to plague to pox and cholera.
  • Medical missions in Europe and the wider world.
  • Religion, humanitarianism and medical care.
  1. Healing Environments and Religion
  • Religious healing/ miracles/ pilgrimage.
  • Institutional medical care (including hospitals, dispensaries and convalescent homes).

Proposals, consisting of a paper abstract (no more than 300 words) and a short biography (no more than 400 words), should be submitted to by 30 October 2015. We will to respond to proposals by early December. For more information please visit our website, at, and follow us on Twitter @RelMedConf2016

Finding Apocryphal Gospels in Church

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Brandon W. Hawk

In a previous post, I hinted at the flexibility of the biblical canon, and the many related extrabiblical texts. From years of scholarly study, what is clear about these so-called “apocrypha” is that they derive from communities that found them useful for understanding their perspectives on Christianity.[1] For example, the Protevangelium of James and the related Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew narrate information about the life of the Virgin Mary and infancy of Jesus not found in the canonical gospels—foundational for Roman Catholic Marian devotion and doctrine from the medieval period up to the present. Although popular media like Dan Brown’s novels often present apocrypha as fictions at odds with institutionalized Christianity, many of these texts have been, at one point or another, valued as part of Christian tradition.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a number of anthologies of translations containing Christian apocrypha appeared in English (as well as among other languages, such as German and French). One representative of this trend is The Apocryphal Gospels and Other Documents Relating to the History of Christ, translated by B. Harris Cowper.[2] A more specific witness, with implications for considering the role of apocrypha in the history of Christianity, is a single copy of the seventh edition, published in London in 1910.

Although this particular book is relatively unmarked throughout, two ex libris notes appear in the front cover and first flyleaf. On the inside cover is written in pen, “Emmanuel Church | Pew 70.” On the right side of this opening (the first flyleaf) is a personal library stamp, identifying the book as belonging to “Hugh W. Ogden | Tremont Bldg. | Boston, Mass.” Both situate this volume of The Apocryphal Gospels at a specific place of Christian worship, in use by a specific parishioner.

Within the rich history of Boston’s Emmanuel Church (established 1861),[3] Hugh W. Ogden’s connections emerge from a variety of evidence. A draft document concerning the “Building history, stained glass windows, memorials and furnishings” of Emmanuel Church provides the following note about (and image of) a memorial donation: “Brass tablet 1938 in memory of Hugh Walker Ogden 1871-1938 by Gorham Ogden was a World War I Colonel, and presided over hearings on the Boston 1919 molasses disaster.”[4] More details about Ogden’s life and connections to the church are provided in Stephen Puleo’s book, Dark Tide: The Great Molasses Flood of 1919.[5] There Puleo recounts:

Ogden served as clerk of the corporation of the Emmanuel Church in Boston and as a member of the vestry of Christ Church (the Old North Church) in the North End. He was described as one of the ‘outstanding Episcopal laymen’ of Boston and an authority on canon law. One of his great delights was collecting rare books on church history.[6]

This information is corroborated by several other documents listing Ogden as “clerk” for Emmanuel Church.[7] It is likely, then, that Ogden rented pew 70 in Emmanuel Church, where he kept at least one of his books, the copy of The Apocryphal Gospels.

With the note inside the front cover about “Pew 70,” we may push observations about The Apocryphal Gospels further. This book was kept, and meant for use, alongside materials often seen as more traditionally orthodox in church, such as the canonical Bible and hymnbooks. While many already acknowledge the problems of setting up false dichotomies between “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy” in Christian history, this book presents a specific case calling for more nuanced perspectives. In other words, the apocrypha included in the anthology were viewed—at least by Ogden, it seems—not as marginal, but as relevant to Christian belief, worship, and practice. However The Apocryphal Gospels were used in these contexts, it is at least significant that they were, at one time, kept specifically within the walls of a Christian church.

Brandon W. Hawk is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Rhode Island College. His research interests encompass the afterlives of texts (particularly Christian works), including circulation, translations, adaptations, and re-presentations in various cultures and media. He may be contacted via email at brandonwhawk [at], or found on Twitter @b_hawk.


[1] For a helpful introduction, see Tony Burke, Secret Scriptures Revealed: A New Introduction to the Christian Apocrypha (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013).

[2] The full title page runs as follows: The Apocryphal Gospels and Other Documents Relating to the History of Christ. Translated from the Originals in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Etc. with Notes, Scriptural References and Prolegomena, trans. B. Harris Cowper (London: David Nutt, 1910; repr. variously, in many editions).

[3] See

[4] Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St, Boston Massachusetts 02116: Building history, stained class windows, memorials and furnishings, compiled by Mary Chitty, Elizabeth Richardson, and Michael Scanlon, and Sam Myatt, photographs by Julian Bullitt, Matthew Griffing, and Donald Kreider (Dec. 2012 draft) [available at], 34, original emphasis.

[5] Dark Tide: The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 (Boston: Beacon P, 2003), esp. 63-66 and passim.

[6] Ibid., 65.

[7] See, for example, various records of the Annual Meeting of the Convention of the Diocese of Massachusetts, such as Journal of the One Hundred and Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Convention, A. D. MDCCCXCVII (Boston: Damrell and Upham, 1897); Journal of the One Hundred and Twenty-Sixth Annual Meeting of the Convention, May 3, 4, A. D. 1911 (Boston: The Diocesan House, 1911), 230 and 236; and a list of “Officers of Emmanuel Church Elected Easter, 1912” in The Yearbook of Emmanuel Parish, Boston, Year Ending Advent, 1912 (Boston: Emmanuel Church, 1912), 3.

15th Annual Florida State University Department of Religion Graduate Student Symposium

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Thomas J. Whitley

The Florida State University Department of Religion is pleased to announce its 15th Annual Graduate Student Symposium to be held February 19-21, 2016 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Last year’s symposium allowed over 50 presenters from over 15 universities and departments such as History, Political Science, Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Classics to share their research, learn from one another, and meet many of their peers and future colleagues. 

This year’s symposium will be held under the theme “Religion/Culture.”

Dr. Kathryn Lofton, of Yale University, will deliver this year’s keynote address.

Due to our commitment to collaborative scholarship, students from all fields with interdisciplinary interests in the study of religion and at all levels of graduate study are encouraged to submit paper proposals.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to: Church and State; Religion, Law and Politics; Ritual, Practice, and Performance; Religion and Violence; Space and Place Theory; Secularisms; Empires; Sexuality and Gender; Cosmology and Creation Stories; Method and Critical Theory on Religion; Possession and Displacement; and, Comparative Examinations of Religious Groups and Texts. 

Presentations should be approximately 15 to 20 minutes in length and will receive faculty responses.  In addition, every year respondents select the best graduate paper to receive the Leo F. Sandon Award, an endowed award named for the Religion Department’s former chair. 

Proposals including an abstract of approximately 300 words, a list of key terms, and a one-page CV should be submitted by December 4, 2015 for review.  Final papers must be submitted by January 24, 2016. Please send proposals to Matthew Coston at <fsureligionsymposium @>

Religion and the GOP Presidential Hopefuls, Part II

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Emily Johnson

Since I last wrote about the GOP presidential candidates in May, the already-crowded field has seen its membership double in number. It is time, then, for an update on the religious affiliations and moral positions of the nine candidates who have now joined the race. (Click the link above to go back and read about Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mark Everson, Jack Fellure, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio).

Such a “cheat sheet” is necessary not only for the pure pleasure of amassing trivia. Indeed, it’s not trivial at all. In recent years, a rapidly growing field of scholarship on the New Christian Right and the Culture Wars of the 1970s and 1980s has begun to reveal the significant, nuanced, and long-lasting influence of conservative Christian movements in American politics across the twentieth century. As we gear up for the 2016 election, the populous field of Republican candidates speaks to the continued relevance of this history as well as some important shifts over the past four decades. Many of the central issues are the same: abortion, homosexuality, government overreach, and the crumbling Christian foundations of the nation. The denominational diversity of the candidates reveals a continuing trend toward conservative Christian ecumenism, while the similarity of the rhetoric from candidate to candidate evinces the still-overarching influence of certain evangelical Protestant frameworks. More than anything, the prevalence of religious and moral framing among the GOP candidates contrasts sharply with the priorities and language of their Democratic opponents, indicating important assumptions about the place of religion in twenty-first century American politics, even despite a long history of leftist religious activism in this country.

Without further ado, then, part two of our examination of the religious orientations – personal and political – of Republican presidential candidates for 2016.

Chris Christie (announced on June 30): The governor of New Jersey (since 2010) has a reputation for outspoken brashness, which he embraces in his campaign slogan: “Telling it like it is.” He explains this tendency by way of ethnic identity in a video on the front page of his campaign website: “I had an Irish father and a Sicilian mother.” Readers of Matt Jacobson’s excellent book Roots, Too will recognize that this proud claiming of these national heritages ties Christie firmly to a particular narrative of American immigrant identity, connecting him to a romanticized notion of the Ellis-Island-era immigrant, once downtrodden but now firmly pulled up by bootstraps. Christie’s ethnic heritage is also deeply connected to his identity as a Catholic, which has informed his opposition to abortion and his support for government vouchers for parochial schools. His position on gay rights has been more complicated, however. Christie stated in 2011 that: “My religion says it’s a sin [but] . . . I think if someone is born that way it’s very difficult to say then that that’s a sin.” In 2013 he signed a statewide ban on reparative therapy (popularly known as “ex-gay” or “pray the gay away” therapy) but also vetoed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey, and he recently criticized the Supreme Court’s decision on this matter.

Lindsey Graham (announced on June 1): Graham has represented South Carolina in the U.S. Congress for twenty years, first as a member of the House of Representatives (1995–2003) and now as a Senator (since 2003). A lifelong Southern Baptist, Graham generally hews to the moral positions typical of the religious right. His campaign website identifies “Securing Our Values” as one of Graham’s top three priorities, elaborating that: “Strong families, constitutional liberties, and the sanctity of life form the bedrock on which our nation was founded.” He recently reintroduced a bill into Congress that would criminalize abortion after 20-weeks’ gestation, even naming the bill for himself on his campaign website. His opposition to “Radical Islam” is the centerpiece of his foreign policy platform and has also informed his response to domestic issues. Last month, he reacted to the massacre at a historically black Charleston church by comparing the shooter’s motivations to “Mideast hate.” He has also recently made headlines for advising the GOP to “accept” the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, but notably – in the same statement – renewed his commitment to “protect the religious liberties of those who believe that opposing same sex marriage is part of their faith.”

Bobby Jindal (announced on June 24): The son of Indian immigrants, Jindal was raised Hindu but converted to Protestant Christianity, based in part on the influence of a high school classmate (who was Southern Baptist). In college, he converted to Roman Catholicism and now identifies as an “evangelical Catholic.” Religiously and politically, Jindal speaks the language of evangelical Protestantism. In 2014, he gave the commencement address at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, focusing on his conversion to Christianity but glossing over his move to the Catholic branch of the faith. At a Good Friday prayer breakfast in April this year, he eloquently captured a core premise of modern conservative Christianity in his statement: “I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels like evangelical Christians are the only group that it’s okay to discriminate against in this society.” In May of this year, Jindal signed an executive “Marriage and Conscience Order” in response to Louisiana legislators’ refusal to pass a religious freedom bill similar to the recent Indiana law that sparked controversy for its potential to promote discrimination against members of the LGBT community. Jindal has also been an outspoken opponent of abortion and “radical Islam.”

George Pataki (announced on May 28): In a GOP field with a surprising number of Catholic candidates, some (like Jindal, Bush, Rubio, and Santorum) have foregrounded their faith and underscored their commonalities with other conservative Christians. Others (including Christie and Pataki) have chosen not to make religion a central feature of their campaigns. Pataki served as Governor of New York for nine years, from 1995 to 2006. He frequently highlights his service as governor during and after the September 11 attacks, and has said that “radical Islam” is one of the most pressing threats to American freedom. However, he has not made his opposition to radical Islam central to his campaign in the way that both Graham and Jindal have done. Instead, Pataki’s campaign announcement centers on an appeal overcome “those things which might seem superficially to divide us.” He has chastised the national GOP for focusing on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, which he sees as “a distraction” in federal politics. As governor, he signed an important 2002 gay-rights bill and more recently asserted his opposition to Indiana’s religious freedom law in light of its potential to authorize discrimination against gays and lesbians. Pataki’s record on reproductive issues is more mixed. He identifies as pro-choice, and signed a 2002 law requiring insurers to cover contraception regardless of religious objections. However, he also vetoed a 2005 bill that would have made emergency contraception available without a prescription, and he supported a measure requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortions.

Rick Perry (announced on June 4): The former Texas governor (2000–2015) was raised as a Methodist, but now attends the nondenominational Lake Hills megachurch in Austin. In 2014, he publicly renewed his commitment to his faith with a baptism in Little Rock Creek, where Texas hero Sam Houston was baptized 160 years earlier. This easy mixture of religious and political symbolism is typical for Perry, who famously announced during his 2012 presidential campaign that he had “been called to the ministry,” while comparing his political career to a “big . . . pulpit.” Perry is also a staunch opponent of abortion and gay marriage. As governor, he passed an omnibus abortion bill that included some of the most restrictive legislation in the country and that resulted in the closure of most of the state’s abortion clinics. His response to the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage neatly summarized his multivalent stance on this matter: as an issue of tradition, of states’ rights, and of government overreach.

Rick Santorum (announced on May 27): The former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania (1995–2006) is another Catholic candidate who fluently speaks the language of the religious right. He recently made headlines for criticizing Pope Francis’ stance on climate change, asserting that the pontiff should “leave science to the scientists.” His initial response to last month’s shooting in Charleston mirrored early Fox News coverage of the massacre, acknowledging it as a “crime of hate” but connecting it to “assaults on our religious liberty we’ve never seen before” rather than to racial animus. (He later said that the shooting was “clearly racially motivated.”)The father of seven is strongest on “family values” issues, including his committed opposition to abortion and homosexuality. His 2003 statement that the “definition of marriage has never included man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be” prompted sex-columnist Dan Savage to “memorialize the scandal” by popularizing a new, sexually explicit definition of the word “santorum.” The former senator has also expressed broader concerns about threats to the institution of marriage, including not only the legalization of same-sex unions, but also declining marriage rates and a concern that “marriage is not about children anymore.”

Donald Trump (announced on June 16): Trump is Presbyterian, but religion has never been a conspicuous feature of his public persona. His most extensive commentary on his faith comes from an interview that aired on the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2011, when Trump was considering a possible presidential run in the last election cycle. He emphasized his belief in God and asserted that “the Bible is certainly the book; it is the thing,” but he also made it clear that church attendance is not necessarily a top priority in his life, although he said that he goes to church as often as he can and always on Christmas and Easter. Not mentioned in the interview was his daughter Ivanka’s 2009 conversion to Judaism; he told the Jewish Voice this year that he feels “very honored” to have a Jewish daughter and Jewish grandchildren. Trump has been an outspoken opponent of radical Islam, and this week criticized President Obama for being too “politically correct” on the subject. His campaign website largely focuses on his business accomplishments, but also asserts that Trump’s priorities include promoting “the Free Market, the importance of a strong family, a culture of Life, a strong military and our country’s sacred obligation to take care of our veterans and their families.”

Scott Walker (announced on July 13): Governor of Wisconsin since 2011, Walker made a national name for himself less than one year into his governorship, when the protests surrounding his Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill made national headlines. Walker is also socially (and religiously) conservative. He grew up as a pastor’s kid in the First Baptist Church of Plainfield, Iowa. He attended Underwood Memorial Baptist Church in Wauwatosa, WI until 2003, when that church joined the LGBT-friendly Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. Walker denied that he left Underwood for that reason, however, stating that his family wanted a church with a larger youth group for his two sons. He now attends the Meadowbrook Church in Wauwatosa, which is nondenominational in affiliation but strongly evangelical in leaning, emphasizing Biblical inerrancy and the necessity of personal redemption. Walker has said that he would support a constitutional amendment to allow states to overturn the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage. He has also been a strong supporter of a Wisconsin bill that would ban abortion after 20-weeks’ gestation, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. His campaign website centrally emphasizes personal freedom and small government: “In America we celebrate our independence from government, not our dependence on it.”

Emily Johnson is a Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee. She recently completed her doctorate at Yale University, including a dissertation entitled “Authors, Activists, Apostles: Women’s Leadership in the New Christian Right.” Her work focuses on gender, politics, and popular culture in recent American religious history.

*Image Credits: Christie (Official Portrait); Graham; (Official Portrait); Jindal (Gage Skidmore); Pataki (Michael Vadon); Perry (Gage Skidmore); Trump (Michael Vadon); Walker (Gage Skidmore).