Monday, February 19, 2007

Announcement: Exciting New Agenda for the Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism SBL Section

As I'm putting together the SBL program agenda for the New Testament Mysticism Project or NTMP, I'm also thinking about the Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism Section which birthed the NTMP.

I imagine that some of my blog readers will be surprised to learn that my main interest in early Christian studies is recovering its pre-Nicene forms of mysticism and religious experience. What I really want to understand as a scholar are the mystical and esoteric traditions within (and even foundational to) early Christianity. So I have gotten many laughs out of the blogsphere's characterization of me as "atheistic," "anti-Christian," "anti-faith," "secular," and "anti-religious" because of my uncompromising historicism.

What is very exciting regarding the study of early mysticism is the new agenda that the Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism Section has set for the next ten years. The group has just finished a decade of collaborative work that was published in November 2006 jointly by E.J. Brill and the Society of Biblical Literature. The book, Paradise Now, is an introduction to the major aspects of the mystical tradition within early Judaism and Christianity. It is a book that defines a field of study largely neglected by scholars until now - pre-Nicene forms of mystical traditions and praxis in early Judaism and Christianity.

Now the EJCM's agenda is renewing in terms of possible provenances of early mysticism. The agenda will operate in rough chronological order, beginning with forms of mysticism in the Ancient Near East. The group wishes to create a forum to discuss how, why, and in what forms mysticism emerges at various times, locations, and communities prior to 500 CE. The papers presented in the SBL sessions will be collected for inclusion in a new series of volumes called, After Paradise Now: Essays Exploring the Provenances of Mysticism in Early Judaism and Christianity.

The EJCM group is inviting papers for the San Diego SBL from scholars with expertise in the Ancient Near East, examining forms of mysticism that emerge in this particular provenance. If you are interested in proposing a paper, the link is here to submit it.

In 2008, the group will be studying forms of mysticism in the Hebrew Bible, and in the Enochic literature. If you are interested in proposing a paper in either of these 2008 sessions, please contact the Chair of the group directly, Professor Kevin Sullivan at

3 comments: said...

Dear April

Why bother with Jewish mysticism when there is a real possiblity that the religion exported from Judea was simply the prophetic requirement of receiving and obeying the Spirit? Thus Acts 10:45, "The circumcised 'believers' who had come with 'Peter' were astonished that the 'gift of' the 'Holy' Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles" - the important result being that the Gentiles began praising God. The thrust was: 'they have received the 'Holy' Spirit just as we have" (10:46). I suggest that the references to speaking in tongues and baptism in the name of Jesus were later additions.

Incidentally, in his recent paper comparing Luke:11:27-28//Thom.79a, I see all of Mark Goodacre's references in Acts to the 'word' of God' as originally being Spirit of God which was proclaimed, and was to be received and obeyed. Having the Spirit purified the spirit ready for glory. In the extant text, the 'word' of God, the gospel message, was preached to a precise controlled formula.

There are clues that there were indeed first century Jewish prophets and that they rejected the religion of the priests and the temple cult of animal sacrifices.

In many ways the Jesus of the gnostics is like the Spirit of God. These prophetic types of less easily controlled forms of religion was bound to fair badly in any power struggles.

Bob MacDonald said...

The link to NTMP on this page is broken; there are no google results for such a page - does it exist?

There is no need to distinguish tongues as a 'later addition' - (as in Geoff Hudson's comment) what does that add to knowledge? Tongues were enough of an embarrassment to power formations.

I appreciate your focus on power abuse in metanarrative. I am 30 years behind in my studies - but one thing I have learned: power and the use of power is what moves us and is where we fail most often.

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