Sayings of the Fathers: Arsenios

1. Abba Arsenios, while still living in the palace, prayed to God, saying, Lord, show me the way, how I can be saved. And a voice came to him, saying, Arsenios, flee men, and you will be saved.

2. He, having withdrawn to the solitary life, prayed again, saying the same thing. And he heard a voice saying to him, Arsenios, flee, be silent, be still. For these are the root of sinlessness.

3. It happened once to Abba Arsenios that the demons were afflicting him in his cell. When his servants returned to him, they were standing outside the cell, and heard him crying aloud to God and saying, O God, do not leave me. I have done nothing good before You, but permit me, according to Your goodness, to make a beginning of it.

4. They said about him, that just as none in the palace wore finer clothing than him, so no one in the Church wore more worthless than him.

5. Someone said to the blessed Aresenios, How do we, with so much education and wisdom, not understand, and these farmers and Egyptians acquire so much goodness? Abba Arsenios said to him, We understand nothing from our education in the world, but these farmers and Egyptians acquire goodness through their own hard work.

6. Once Abba Arsenios asked a certain Egyptian elder about his own thoughts (λογισμων). Another saw him, saying, Abba Arsenios, How do you, having such a good Latin and Greek education, ask this farmer about your thoughts? And he said to him, I have a Latin and Greek education, but I do not even know the alphabet of this farmer.

7. Once, the blessed Archbishop Theophilos came to Abba Arsenios, with a certain magistrate. And he asked the elder to hear a word from him. And the elder was silent a little while, and answered him, And if I speak to you, will you keep it? And they agreed to keep it. And the elder said to them, If you hear Arsenios is somewhere, you will not approach.

8. Again, another time the Archbishop, wanting to come to him, first sent to know if the elder would receive him. And he made clear to him, If you come, I will receive you. And if I receive you, I will receive all. And then I will no longer remain here. The Archbishop heard these things and said, If I chase him away by going, I will no longer go to him.

9. A brother asked Abba Arsenios to hear a word from him. And the elder said to him, As much as your ability is, struggle, so your inner work will be according to God, and you will conquer your external passion.

10. Further, he said, If we seek God, He will appear to us, and if we hold onto Him, He will stay beside us.

11. Someone said to Abba Aresenios, My thoughts afflict me, saying, You can neither fast nor work. At least look after those who are sick, for even this is love. But the elder, knowing the seed of the demons, said to him, Withdraw, eat, drink, sleep, and do not work. Only do not leave the cell. For he knew that the endurance of the cell returns the monk to his routine (or “order” ταξιν).

12. Abba Arsenios said that a wandering monk in foreign lands should not meddle, and rest (or “settle down” αναπαυεται).

13. Abba Markos said to Abba Arsenios, Why do you flee us? The elder said to him, God knows that I love you, but I cannot be with God and with men. The thousands and myriads above have one will, but men have many wills. So I cannot leave God, and go with men.

14. Abba Daniel said about Abba Arsenios that he would spend the whole night awake, and when it came to be about dawn, he would by nature fall asleep. He would say to sleep, Come, you wicked servant. And he would sit sleeping a little while, and immediately wake up.

15. Abba Arsenios said that it was sufficient for a monk to sleep one hour, if he is a fighter (αγωνιστης).

16. The elders said that once a few small dried figs were given to Sketis, which were like nothing, and they did not send to Abba Arsenios, so he would not feel an insult. And hearing this, the elder did not go to the gathering (συναξιν), saying, You have banished me by not giving to me of the blessing which God has sent to the brothers, which I was not worthy to receive. And they all heard and were helped by the humility of the elder. And the priest went, took him the little dried figs, and brought him to the gathering with joy.

17. Abba Daniel said that however many a year he remained with us, we would make for him every year only one measure of bread, and when we would come to him, we would eat of it.

18. Further, he said about the same Abba Arsenios that he would never change the water for palm branches more than once a year, but only add to it. For he wove rope and sewed until the sixth hour. And the elders entreated him, saying, Why do you not change the water for palm branches that smells? And he said to them, Because instead of the incense and the spices that I enjoyed in the world, I must bear this smell.

19. Further, he said when he heard that all the kinds of summer fruits were ripe, he would say about them, Bring me some. And would taste only once a little from each of them, giving thanks to God.

20. Abba Arsenios was sick once in Sketis. He lacked everything, even a piece of linen. And he had nothing to buy any with. He received charity (or “a love-gift” αγαπην) from someone, and said, I thank you, Lord, that you considered me worthy to receive charity through your name.

21. They said about him that he had his cell at a distance of thirty-two miles, and he did not leave it very easily, for others did errands for him. And when Sketis was laid waste, he left weeping, and said, The world has lost Rome, and the monks, Sketis.

(to be continued)

Sayings of the Fathers: Anthony (cont’d)

12. Some of the brothers came to Abba Anthony to tell him the dreams they had seen, and to learn from him if they are true, or from demons. Now they had a donkey, and it died on the way. When they finally came to the elder, he said to them first, How did the little donkey die on the way? They said to him, How did you know that, Abba? And he said to them, The demons showed me. And they said to him, That is why we came to ask you, lest we be led astray, because we have seen dreams, and many times they are true. And the elder fully convinced them by the example of the donkey, that they are from demons.

13. Once someone had been hunting wild animals on the desert, and saw Abba Anthony joking with the brothers [and was scandalized]. And the elder, wanting to fully convince him that it was sometimes necessary to relax (or “condescend” συγκαταβαινειν) with the brothers, he said to him, Put an arrow to your bow, and shoot. And he did thus. He said to him, Shoot again. And he shot. And he said again, Shoot. The hunter said to him, If I shoot without limit, the bow may break. The elder said to him, So it is with the work of God. If we shoot more than the limit of the brothers, they will promptly shatter. Therefore it is necessary for one to relax with the brothers. The hunter heard these things, was pierced by remorse, and being greatly helped by the elder, went away. And the brothers, strengthened, went away to their place.

14. Abba Anthony heard about a certain young monk who had performed a sign (or “miracle” σημειον) on the road. As this one saw some elders walking along and struggling on the road, he ordered wild donkeys to come and carry the elders, until they came to Anthony. So the elders told these things to Abba Anthony. And he said to them, It seems to me that this monk is a ship full of goods, but I do not know if he will come into the harbor. And after a time, Abba Anthony suddenly began to weep, to pull out his hair, and to mourn. His disciples said to him, Why do you weep, Abba? And the elder said, A great pillar of the Church has now fallen (for he spoke about the young monk). He said, But go to him, and see what has happened. So the disciples went, and found the monk sitting on a mat, and weeping for the sin he had committed. Seeing the disciples of the elder, he said, Tell the elder to entreat God to give me only ten days, and I hope to have defended myself (απολογησασθαι). But after five days, he died.

15. A certain monk was praised from among the brothers before Abba Anthony. So when he came, he tested him, whether he could bear insult. And finding that he could not bear it, he said to him, You seem like a village which is beautifully adorned outside, but plundered by robbers inside.

16. A brother said to Abba Anthony, Pray for me. The elder said to him, I will have no mercy on you, nor will God, if you yourself do not make every effort and beseech God.

17. Some elders came to Abba Anthony, and Abba Joseph was among them. And the elder, wanting to test them, put forward a saying from the Scriptures, and began to ask from the youngest, What is this saying? And each spoke according to his own ability. And to each the elder said, You have not found it. Last of all, he said to Abba Joseph, How do you explain this word? He answered, I do not know. So Abba Anthony said, Most certainly, Abba Joseph has found the way, for he said, I do not know.

18. Brothers were coming to Abba Anthony from Sketis, and got into a boat to come to him, finding there an elder also wanting to come to him. And the brothers did not know him. And they sat in the boat, speaking the words of the Fathers, and from the Scriptures, and also about the work of their hands. And the elder was silent. When they came to the dock, they found the elder also going on toward Abba Anthony. When they came to him, he said to them, You found a good fellow-traveller, this elder. And he said to the elder, You found good brothers with you, Abba. The elder said, Good they may be, but their courtyard has no door, and whoever wants to enter the stable may let loose the donkey. And he said this, because they were saying the first things that came to their mouths.

19. Brothers came to Abba Anthony, and said to him, Speak a word for us. How may we be saved? The elder said to them, You have heard the Scriptures. You have the means well enough. But they said, But we want to hear from you, Father. And the elder said to them, The Gospel says, If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, also turn to him the other. They said to him, We are not able to do this. The elder said to them, If you are not able also to turn the other cheek, then permit just one to be struck. They said to him, We cannot do this. The elder said, If you are not able to do this, do not give as you have received. And they said, We cannot do this. So the elder said to his disciple, Make them a little soup, for they are weak. If you cannot do this, and will not do that, what can I do for you? You need prayers.

20. A brother renounced the world and gave his possessions to the poor, keeping a little back for his own reason, and went to see Abba Anthony. And learning this, the elder said to him, If you want to be a monk, go into the village, and buy meat, and place it around your bare body, and come back here thus. And the brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore his body. And when he came back to the elder, he wanted to learn if he had done as he had advised. When that one showed his torn up body, the holy Anthony said, Those who renounce the world, and want to hold onto possessions are thus torn by demons battling them.

21. Temptation once happened to a brother in the monastery of Abba Elias. And, cast out, he came to the mountain, to Abba Anthony. And the brother remained near him for a time, then he sent him to the monastery he had been expelled from. When they saw him, they expelled him again, and he returned to Abba Anthony, saying, They did not want to receive me, Father. So the elder sent to them, saying, A ship was wrecked in the sea, and lost its cargo, and with difficulty came safely upon the shore. And you want to cast back upon the sea what has made it safely to the shore. When they heard that Abba Anthony sent him, they quickly received him.

22. Abba Anthony said, I think that the body has a natural motion entangled with it. But it cannot act without the soul being willing. And it only signifies in the body a passionless motion. And there is also another motion, from nurturing and caring for the body with eating and drinking. By these the heat of the blood arouses the body toward action. So the Apostle also said, Do not be drunk on wine, in which is debauchery. And further the Lord in the Gospel commands His disciples, saying, Watch, lest your hearts are weighed down in indulgence and drunkenness. And there is another motion of those who struggle (or “compete” αγωνιζομενοις), coming from the plotting and envy of demons. You must understand that there are three bodily motions: one is natural, and another from negligence of intake, and the third from demons.

23. Further, he said that God does not send the same wars upon this generation as upon the ancients. For he knows that they are weak and cannot bear them.

24. It was revealed to Abba Anthony in the desert that in the city was someone like him, a physician by profession, who gave his surplus to those having need of it, and who all day sang the Trisagion with the angels.

25. Abba Anthony said that the time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will rise up against him, saying that you are mad, because you are not like them.

26. Brothers came to Abba Anthony and said to him a saying from Leviticus. So the elder went out into the desert, and Abba Ammonas followed him secretly, knowing his usual practice. The elder went very far, standing for prayer, and cried out in a loud voice, O God, send Moses, and he will teach me this saying. And a voice came to him, speaking with him. So Abba Ammonas said that though he heard the voice speaking with him, he could not learn the word from it.

27. Three of the Fathers had a custom to visit the blessed Anthony annually. And two of them would ask about distracting thoughts (λογισμων) and the salvation of souls. But the one was always silent, never asking. Now after a long time, Abba Anthony said to him, Behold, so long a time have you been coming thus, and you don’t ask me anything. And he answered, saying to him, It is enough for me only to see you, Father.

28. They say that one of the elders asked God to see the Fathers, and he saw them except Abba Anthony. So he said to the one showing these things to him, Where is Abba Anthony? And he said to him that in the place where God is, there he is.

29. A brother in a monastery was falsely accused of fornication, and he got up and went to Abba Anthony. And the brothers came from the monastery to heal him and take him back, and they started to charge that he did so. But he defended himself that he did no such thing. Now Abba Paphnutius happened to be there, and he said this parable: I have seen a man on the bank of the river stuck in the mud up to his knees, and some men came to give him a hand, plunging him in up to his neck. And Abba Anthony said this to them about Abba Paphnutius, Behold a genuine man, able to heal and save souls. So they were pierced by remorse at the word of the elders, and they offered repentance to the brother. And, encouraged by the elders, they took the brother to the monastery.

30. Some say about Abba Anthony that he was a Spiritbearer (Πνευματοφορος), but he would not speak about it with men. For he revealed things happening in the world, and things yet to come to happen.

31. Once Abba Anthony received a letter from Emperor Constantine, in order to come to Constantinople, and he considered whether to do it. So he said to Abba Paul, his disciple, Ought I to go? And he said to him, If you go, you may say [your name is] Anthony, but if you do not go, [it remains] Abba Anthony.

32. Abba Anthony said, I no longer fear God, but I love Him. For love casts out fear.

33. He said, Always have the fear of God before your eyes. Remember Him who gives death and who gives life. Hate the world and all the things that are in it. Hate all fleshly recreation. Renounce this life, so you may live for God. Remember what you have promised to God, for it will be required of you in the Day of Judgment. Suffer hunger, suffer thirst, suffer nakedness, keep vigil, mourn, weep, lament in your heart. Test yourselves, to see if you are worthy of God. Disdain the flesh, so that you may save your souls.

34. Abba Anthony once travelled to Abba Amoun, to Mount Nitria, and after meeting one another, Abba Amoun said to him, Because of your prayers, now the brothers are more numerous, and some of them want to build cells further away in order to have quiet. How much do you suggest is a far enough distance for the cells to be built from here? And he said, Let us eat at the ninth hour, and we will go out and we will investigate the desert, and look at the place. And so they travelled the desert until the sun came to set, and Abba Anthony said to him, We will make prayers and erect the cross here, so that those wanting to build will build here. So also those there, whenever they will visit these, having eaten their little bit of bread at the ninth hour, they may visit thus. And those leaving here, doing the same, may remain unworried when visiting one another. And the distance is twelve [mile] signs.

35. Abba Anthony said, Whoever strikes a lump of iron, first considers the thought of what he intends to make, a scythe, a sword, an axe. So also we ought to consider what kind of excellence we should pursue, so that we do not toil in vain.

36. Further, he said that submission with self-control subdues beasts.

37. Further, he said, I know monks that have fallen after many toils, and came to an ecstasy of pride, because they put their hope in their works, and were deceived about the commandment which says, Ask your father, and he will tell you.

38. Further, he said, If he is able, a monk ought to be confident in telling the elders how many steps he takes, or how many drops of drink in his cell, so that he will not stumble in them.

That Jesus Tomb Stuff

Tyler Williams over at Codex has begun keeping track of the best posts amongst the Biblioblogs in response to the latest media pseudo-scandal about a particular tomb near Jerusalem being that of Jesus’ family, friends, followers, dog-walker, and pool-cleaner, no doubt. See particularly this post which highlights a response from James Tabor, who is marginally (and/or should that be “scandalously”?) involved in the project. Keep watching there, as I’m sure he continue with the round-ups.

In addition, see this excellent post by Jim Davila at Palaeojudaica, which includes input from his colleague at St Andrews, Richard Bauckham, who provides some fascinating information on the distribution of various Greek forms of “Mary,” particularly the surprising (to me) information that the Greek form μαριαμνη, “Mariamne,” is unique in Biblically-related literature to the Acts of Philip. I think I was thrown off on that score by the old Whiston-translated edition of Josephus’ works, which I internalized long ago. Whiston regularly uses “Mariamne,” where modern editions have μαριαμμη throughout. I wonder if that’s a peculiarity of the admittedly peculiar Whiston, or a peculiarity of the edition(s) he utilized? In any case, Bauckham’s careful statistical information on name distribution in among first-century Jews in his Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is a good read on the subject. His work is a lesson in how to do this kind of name research.

Sayings of the Fathers: Anthony

Beginning of the letter A.
About Abba Anthony.

1. When the holy Abba Anthony was living in the desert, he was in a state of melancholy (ακηδια) and his mind was darkened by a multitude of imagined things (λογισμων), and he said to God, Lord, I want to be saved, but these thoughts will not leave me alone. What shall I do in my trouble? How will I be saved? A little later, when he went outside, Anthony saw someone like himself, sitting and working, then rising from work and praying, and again sitting and plaiting a rope, then again rising for prayer. It was an angel of the Lord, sent for the correction and insurance against stumbling of Anthony. And he heard the angel saying, Do this, and you will be saved. And when he heard this, he had great joy and courage, and did this, and was saved.

2. When Abba Anthony meditated upon the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, saying, Lord, how is it that some perish when short-lived, and some live to extreme old age? And why are some poor, and yet others rich? And why are the unrighteous rich, and yet the righteous are poor? And he heard a voice saying to him, Anthony, keep your attention on yourself, for these things are the judgments of God, and they will not benefit you to learn them.

3. Someone asked Abba Anthony, saying, What must we keep in order to be pleasing to God? And the elder answered, saying, Keep what I tell you. Whoever you may be, always keep God before your eyes. And whatever you do, do it from the witness of the Holy Scriptures. And in whatever place you live, do not leave quickly. Keep these three things, and you will be saved.

4. Abba Anthony said to Abba Poimen that this is the great work of man: always to reproach himself for his own faults before God, and expect temptation until the last breath.

5. The same said, No one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven untempted. He said, Remove the temptations, and no one would be saved.

6. Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, What should I do? The elder said to him, Do not put your trust in your righteousness, nor regret past actions, but control your tongue and stomach.

7. Abba Anthony said, I saw all the traps of the enemy spread over the earth, and groaning, said, What can get through these? And I heard a voice saying to me, Humility.

8. He also said that there are some who have worn out their bodies in asceticism, and because of this they do not have judgment, being far from God.

9. He also said that from a neighbor is life and death. For if we gain a brother, we gain God. And if we scandalize a brother, we have sinned against Christ.

10. He also said, Just as fish die on dry land, thus also the monks loitering outside their cells or spending time with those of the world lose the intensity of quiet (ησυχιας). And so, like the fish to the sea, so we must hurry to the cell, lest we loiter outside and we forget our inner guard.

11. He also said that one living in the desert and in quiet (ησυχαζων) is delivered from three battles: of hearing, and speaking, and seeing. He only has one: fornication.

(to be continued)


I was offline for the last couple days reloading my laptop from scratch. Most everything’s back in its usual splendid working order. I’ll be getting back to the Apophthegmata Patrum tomorrow.

Sayings of the Fathers, Prologue (cont’d)

Here is the continuation and end of the Prologue to the Apophthegmata Patrum, alphabetical series, which I was too tired to finish last night. You’ll note that the fifth century editor who wrote the prologue mentions that he has separated out the anonymous sayings and compiled them separately after the alphabetical collection. This is very likely a reference to the less well-known Apophthegmata Patrum, anonymous collection. I am not translating that collection here. In any case, we owe this editor our thanks for having arranged the saying under the name of each of the various Fathers, and further collecting these chapters based on names under each of the appropriate letters of the alphabet. The collection was formerly no doubt quite a chaotic one. Enjoy.


But since a narrative by many authors is confused and disorderly, producing a certain confusion in the thought of the reader, the mind is not able to comprehend the multiple scatterings in the book. For this reason we have re-arranged it under a listing of letters, the order of which is better for clear and easy comprehension for those wishing to produce advantage. So, whatever is about Abba Anthony, Arsenios, or of Agathon, and those whose names begin with Alpha [are listed under Alpha. Basil, Bisa]rion and Benjamin are under Beta, and so on up through Omega. And since there are also other sayings and acts of the holy elders for which the names of those who spoke or did them do not appear, we have separated these into chapters after the the completion of those according to the letters. We have sought and found as many books as we were able to find, listing them at the end of the chapters, so that collecting from all of them the help of the Spirit, and delighting in the sayings of the Fathers, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb [Ps 18.11 LXX], and conducting ourselves properly in the calling with which God has called us, we may come to His Kingdom. Amen.

Berkeley WECSOR, anyone?

In a few weeks, on March 25 and 26 to be exact, the Western Commission for the Study of Religion, affectionately known as WECSOR, will be held here in Berkeley, mere blocks from my home at the Bade Museum of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. That school has a particularly nice lawn that yours truly may at times be found enjoying during the high summer, with iced coffee(s) and book(s).

So, if any readers are coming to Berkeley for this little conference, please do let me know. I’m thinking to arrange a little evening to-do, perhaps at my favorite watering-hole in town, Jupiter, with its extensive menu of grub and grog. Hopefully it’ll be dry so we can sit out in the courtyard, with its fiery fountain! Certainly I’ll have to show my guests the two best bookstores in town, and we could certainly enjoy some of the local eateries during lunch.

So, let me know if you’re coming, either by email or comment here. It’d certainly be nice to meet folks in person.

UPDATE: Gracious! Up until I heard the acronym spoken aloud today, I had heard and read “WESCOR” and typed it so above, which I’ve since corrected. How odd. I can’t remember that ever having happened before. Age, I suppose.

The Apophthegmata Patrum

For Lent this year, I am translating the Apophthegmata Patrum, the Sayings of the Fathers, the alphabetical series, best known these days through Sr Benedicta Ward’s excellent translation in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

The text I’m using is the same base text that she used, that of Migne PG 65:71-440, as found in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG catalog no. 2742-001), both of which come from manuscript Paris Gr.1599. Sr Benedicta’s translator notes in the beginning of her volume mention that she also utilized P. Guy’s Recherches sur la Tradition Greque des Apophthegmata Patrum, which corrects and supplements the manuscript in several places. I don’t intend to include the extra sayings in Guy unless it turns out that such are numerous, and/or the text hideously corrupt.

I will make no excuses for mistakes, and would rather appreciate to have them called to my attention when they occur. I am going to try to be a bit more paraphrastic in this translation than I was in my rather literal translations of Jerome’s Prologues to the Vulgate, not least because I do want to finish the entire work during Lent, and so intend not to spend days agonizing over how best to render a particular phrase literally (oh yes, reader, indeed I did!). For this reason, I won’t be as focused on maintaining a vocabulary equivalence. You will see, for instance, the extremely common ασκησις and related words rendered in a variety of ways,
depending on the context: “ascetic struggle,” “ascetic feat,” “struggle,” and so on. I trust it will make good reading. I’ll use the numbers of the various sayings included in the text, rather than the Migne and TLG column and line numbers. This will make it easier for readers to compare my translation to Sr Benedicta’s. Hopefully all will be edified in the process.

I dearly love the translation by Sr Benedicta Ward of the Apophthegmata Patrum alphabetical series. I’ve gained much from it. This is as much a tribute to her work, an imitation in gratitude if not flattery, as an educational experience and a kind of ascetic endeavor on my own part. As I fast, I feast. As I translate, I expect to learn these sayings better than I ever have before, and to enjoy a taste of the desert. For those who are sympathetic, I crave your prayers.

So, we begin with the prologue.


In this book is written an account of the virtuous ascetic struggle, amazing life, and sayings of the holy and blessed Fathers, for the emulation and instruction and imitation of those wishing to establish a heavenly citizenship, and those wanting to progress in travelling the Way to the Kingdom of Heaven. You must know that the holy Fathers, who were zealous followers and instructors of the blessed life of the monks, entirely aflame with divine and heavenly love, counting as nothing all that among men is beautiful and valued, endeavoured to do nothing at all for display, but escaping notice, and keeping most of their virtuous deeds hidden through their great humility, thus travelled along the Way toward God. Thus no one has been able to outline exactly for us this virtuous life, for those who have done the most work concerning these have handed down in writing only a few of some of their virtuous words and deeds, not so as to gain favour for them, but they were eager to stir up those in the future to eager imitation. Thus many at various times have set forth these sayings and virtuous deeds of the holy elders in the form of tales, in a simple and unadorned style, for in this they saw only to help many.

(to be continued)

Bauckham’s …Eyewitnesses

Having been reading Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses over the last few weeks when I could squeeze in the time, I have to say that I have found myself non-plussed. As I mentioned in response to several readers’ inquiries, I found E. Earle Ellis’ work on the subject of “traditioning” and his scenario for the production of the Gospels, as found in The Making of the New Testament Documents and in the shorter History and Interpretation in New Testament Perspective to be not only more convincing, indeed compelling, but particular better in interaction with various other trends of scholarship. I have found Bauckham’s work to be very interesting, to be sure, but the digressions and the overall diffuseness of argumentation without specific referents for opposing viewpoints (perhaps something to be expected from an Eerdmans book, an admittedly popular press?), the relatively scanty annotation, and the numerous distracting lists to lead me away from taking it as more than a thought excercise, a published notebook of sorts. In comparison, the treatment of tradition in NT formation by Ellis is well-argued, well-discussed, and well-annotated, particularly with reference to German Biblical scholarship, which is typically where the most serious opposition to traditionary approaches to New Testament (and Old Testament, etc) formation has come from. I suppose that Bauckham’s work is gaining the better press as it is coming from a press that has been able to distribute more copies at a lower price than both of Ellis’ above-mentioned works, which are published by Brill, so they are, of course, both out of print in hardback, were extremely expensive when in print, with only The Making of the New Testament Documents now in paperback, though even that appears to have run out of print now as well. That’s a shame, that such excellent work on this subject hasn’t received the attention that it deserves.

Of course, for an Eastern Orthodox Christian like myself (at the beginning of this year’s Great Fast, no less!), taking tradition as a part of the formation of the New Testament is no surprise, as Tradition is the backbone of the development of the Church itself, and the primary expression of Tradition itself is the Scriptures. That companions of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, were actually involved in the process of passing on information about him is as obvious as water making one wet. But traditionary input is not even so much a matter of faith as it is common sense. Who else would even have cared about Jesus or the very first Christians? The Romans? The Judeans? The Galilean Gentiles? Hardly. Those who witnessed the extraordinary bore witness to it.

These accounts were passed on from that point, sometimes becoming garbled and adulterated, as in various sectarian works. But there has always been a group of people faithfully receiving and faithfully passing on what was passed down from earlier generations, leading all through the years from those first disciples down to the present. In the same way, there have been those through the years who have taken that message and run with it in another direction. Depending upon the place and time, sometimes the former were in the majority, sometimes the latter, sometimes the traditional and orthodox, sometimes the innovating and heretical. None of this is in question except in perhaps the outer limits of extremely skeptical scholarship, I had thought. On second thought, perhaps not.

The reason that Bauckham and others are finding it necessary to belabor the point of traditionary input in the formation of the New Testament perhaps lies not only in the extreme reaches of skeptical scholarship, but also lies in the extreme anti-traditionary aspects of certain trends in modern popular Protestant religion. I’ve heard with my own ears and read with my own eyes various derogatory references to “tradition” in various thoughtless low-browed works. Of course, the same will reference “ancient Christian tradition” and even quote some Church Fathers when it suits their purposes, in a species of proof-texting run rampant. How revolting.

Nonetheless, Bauckham is an interesting read, but not one that has managed to hold my attention at the moment, unfortunately. It has now joined McDonald’s The Biblical Canon (see my short review) on a particular shelf for me to return to when I actually don’t have something better to read. But that’s just me! I enjoy reading other reviews, and expect to see a number of them appearing on various blogs, as it appears that numerous Biblical studies bloggers are currently reading the book. It’ll be a good thing to compare notes, in the end.