Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Phil Harland's Review of Thirteenth Apostle

I want to point my readers to Phil Harland's review of my book, The Thirteenth Apostle. Phil is a fellow blogger and has some interesting things to say in regard to the book. I want to respond to his criticism that I use the term "apostolic" to refer to the "mainstream" church, and that this is anachronistic. We have not yet created language to discuss what actually was going on on the ground in the second century.

I hate "proto-orthodox" because of its connotation that these churches were "orthodox" when in fact they weren't. In fact, many of the main leaders of this church were later designated as heretics (i.e. Tertullian, Origen). I also hate "mainstream" because it suggests that there was a mainstream and everyone else was divergent. I find "apostolic" to be the least onerous because it suggests that these churches rallied around the twelve apostles and believed that their doctrines came from them directly, and it doesn't have any negative connotations in regard to other forms of Christianity.

If anyone has a better term to suggest, I'm more than open to hear about it, because I haven't the foggiest clue how to get out of this terminological dilemma! Thanks Phil for bringing this up.


David Creech said...

I've struggled with this problem too. What do you think of the term "early catholic"?

Memra said...

Thanks to Jacob Neusner and others, we got used to speaking of the Judaisms of the first century, rather than of the Judaism.

Perhaps we could call the diverse Christian movements simply "early Christianities" or similar.

Or something along the lines of Ray Pritz's "Nazarene Jewish Christianity."

April DeConick said...


Except that apostolic christianity is NOT Nazarene Jewish Christianity. This is an entirely different church in the second century.


I think early catholic is worse in terms of anachronism. But this is just my opinion - because it ties back into it Roman Catholicism just because of same word association.

José Solano said...

I think “Apostolic Christianity” is an excellent choice to describe a particular branch or branches of “Christians,” after all, Apostolic succession is what they claim and find important. As your book brings out, the writers of the Gospel of Judas (Sethians) were not interested in claiming Apostolic succession and found even the thought of wanting to follow the “ignorant” Apostles a grave error.

Other terms are possible but for the distinctions that you are making “Apostolic Christianity” seems perfect.