Monday, 16 February 2015

2015 SBL/AAR Annual Meeting (November 21-24 in Atlanta, GA - Contextualizing North African Christianity program

The Contextualizing North African Christianity program unit invites paper proposals for the 2015 SBL/AAR Annual Meeting (November 21-24 in Atlanta, GA) for the following two sessions devoted to the North African bishop and martyr, Cyprian of Carthage:
1)       Contextualizing the Life of Cyprian. We seek paper proposals that help to situate Cyprian’s life and work within the social and cultural contexts of Roman North Africa.
2)       The Afterlife of Cyprian. Cyprian was an influential figure in his own day but loomed even larger after his death. We welcome proposals illustrating this enduring influence (e.g., hagiographical traditions, the pseudo-Cyprianic corpus, and as an authority in the Donatist controversy and among various authors of the fourth through seventh centuries).
Deadline for Paper Proposals: March 5, 2015
If you are a SBL member, you must login before you can propose a paper for this or any other session. Please login by entering your SBL member number on the left in the Login box.
For all other persons wanting to propose a paper, you must communicate directly with the chairs of the program unit: David Riggs (, David Wilhite (

Saturday, 7 February 2015

John Kenney: ‘Nondum me esse’: Augustine’s Early Ontology

While ontological discourse is unfashionable in contemporary theology, it was prominent in the works of Augustine of Hippo. This paper will concentrate on Augustine’s attribution of “esse” and related terms to God in his early works. Contrasting readings of Augustine’s ontological discourse will be reviewed, especially those of Émilie Zum Brunn and Jean-Luc Marion. Texts under consideration will be drawn from the Cassiciacum dialogues, the anti-Manichaean treatises, and Confessions. The paper will conclude by clarifying the larger implications of Augustine’s commitment to ontological theology in the context of his account of contemplation.

Edward Naumann: The damnation of baptized infants according to Augustine: Aliquid novi, or the logical explication of longstanding ecumenical implication? Workshop: 'Out of Africa': The Quest for North African Theological Identity(/-ies) in the Patristic Era

Studies concerning Augustine’s teaching on infant baptism usually emphasize the necessity of baptism for salvation, and/or the damnation of children who die without baptism. Far less has been said about the damnation of children who die with baptism. Nevertheless, Augustine denies salvation to those who are baptized outside of the Catholic church, and this includes children. Furthermore, it seems that the benefit of the sacrament is jeopardized even for infants within the Catholic church, when their parents do not believe rightly, if they fall from the faith, or if they cause their children to sin. In each case, the infant’s lack or loss of the benefit is associated with the failure of the faith of the sponsors, which is needed for the child to believe (through them) and be saved. In the Sermones ad populum, Augustine seems to insist that parents must believe rightly that their children are sick, or else the children may lose the benefit. Augustine’s teaching on the damnation of baptized infants, as part of his teaching concerning infant baptism in general, develops rhetorically and comes to its clearest expression during the Pelagian controversy. As Carol Harrison recently argued (2006), however, such a development does not lack a good degree of continuity with Augustine’s earlier theology. As an extension of this way of thinking, I will consider to what extent the damnation of baptized infants may be present in nucleo before Augustine, not only in Africa but also elsewhere, in both Eastern and Western forms of Christianity.

Vasilije Vranic: Communicatio idiomatum or theosis: The Human Nature of the Resurrected Christ in the Christology of Theodoret of Cyrrhus

Throughout the Eranistes, which arguably is the expression of the mature Christological thought of Theodoret of Cyrrhus, it is argued that the divine nature remains immutable and unchangeable. However, the human nature of Christ is said to have acquired extraordinary properties not proper to a human nature. Theodoret explicitly affirms that, despite this change, in the incarnation the human nature of Christ was not changed into the nature of the Godhead.
In my paper I argue that Christ’s resurrection is the turning point in the existence of the person of Christ, the moment which marks the beginning of the exchange of attributes (communication idiomatum). The reason for this chronological marker is simple: Theodoret’s concept of Incarnation is defined by its purpose — the salvation of the human race. The sole purpose of the Logos’s Incarnation is the repayment of the debt of the Protoplast and the human race which followed in his fall. The sacrifice of an equally perfect human being was required to restore the fallen human race. Thus, it was necessary that Christ be a complete and perfect human being in order to accomplish that mission. Once the mission was completed by the death on the cross and the resurrection, it was no longer necessary for the human nature to retain all of its attributes, and the time had come for it to receive its due glory: it began sharing in the attributes of the divine nature.

Jennifer Freeman: SC: A Productive Problem: Anthropomorphic Images of the Trinity in Late Antiquity and the Late Middle Ages

Imaging the triune God has been a “productive problem” in the Christian Church since its very origins, generating a multitude of diverse visual “solutions” from the symbolic to the anthropomorphic. This paper examines Early Christian anthropomorphic depictions of the Trinity (as found, for example, in the Dogmatic Sarcophagus and the nave mosaics of Santa Maria Maggiore) in their iconographic and theological contexts, such as the conflicts posed by Arianism in the fourth century and the Three Chapters Controversy in the sixth century. This paper then considers the subsequent dearth of such images in Western Europe, which lasted up until the twelfth century. Scholarship on Trinitarian iconography tends to focus on either late antique or late medieval examples; this paper attempts to connect these two periods through its account of the interim lacuna and suggests theological motivations for the presence and subsequent absence of this iconographic theme.

Tikhon Pino: SC: Maximos the Confessor on the Body-Soul Relationship: Aristotelian Metaphysics as a Corrective to Origenist Anthropology

The Ambigua of Maximos the Confessor contains an important critique of the Origenist doctrine of the preexistence of souls condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553). Against the notion that soul is temporally, and therefore ontologically, prior to body, Maximos sets forth a theory of the human composite which relies on the Aristotelian conception of a "whole," of which body and soul are "parts." This language, which appears already in such early writers as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, is infused by Maximos with philosophical overtones in order to provide a rigorous refutation of Origenism whereby belief in the preexistence of the soul becomes not only a factual error, but a logical impossibility. Building on the anthropology of Gregory of Nyssa, whom he invokes as his authority on this issue, Maximos's theory is also indebted to the writings of Nemesios of Emesa, Leontios of Byzantium, and Leontius of Jerusalem. Yet Maximos's theory is unique in its appropriation of Aristotelian categories to establish a distinctly Christian understanding of the psychosomatic synthesis. Conditioned by the Chalcedonian interpretation of the hypostatic union, Maximos develops a conception of the human being as single eidospossessed of two ousiai, each of which is reciprocally defined by the other on the basis of the Aristotelian category of the Relative.
This paper examines the way in which these Aristotelian concepts inform Maximos's Chalcedonian anthropology through an analysis of the Confessor's metaphysical arguments for the coexistence of body and soul. Implications for Byzantine theology after Maximos are also explored.

James Francis: Ancient Seeing/Christian Seeing: The Old and the New in John of Damascus

In recent years, much has been written on the topics of visuality in classical antiquity and early Christianity.  Investigation into the nature of representation, the dynamic interchange between viewer and viewed, and the interrelation between image and text have emerged as hallmarks in this regard both in classical studies, as in the work of Simon Goldhill, and late antique/early Christian studies, as in that of Jaś Elsner.  One obvious cardinal point regarding visuality and the “history of seeing” is the Iconoclast controversy and the definitive Christian articulations of acceptable representation and seeing that emerge from it.  This communication will apply key insights from studies of visuality to the theology of John of Damascus in his Apologies Against Those Who Attack Holy Images. It will outline the points at which John’s work reflects and builds upon classical understandings of representation and seeing, and where and how it departs from this inheritance.  Ultimately, this communication poses the question whether Iconoclasm produced a specifically Christian visuality.