Saturday, 2 May 2015

Alexander Kocar: What Happens When the Saved Sin Again? Anthropology, Repentance, and the Danger of Apostasy in Second Century Christianity

In this paper, I will consider and compare two early Christian texts, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Apocryphon of John, that both deploy salvific difference to account for the social and theoretical problems posed by sin after baptism.  Both Hermas (Sim 8) and the Apocryphon (NHC II, 9; 27) use spatial metaphors representing higher and lower levels of salvation to differentiate between apostates and ordinary sinners; in so doing, these texts subdivide post-baptismal sinners into distinct and usable categories of persons.  For both Hermas and the Apocryphon then, this salvific hierarchy enables greater flexibility for readmitting sinful community members while still maintaining important social and ethical boundaries.  In the course of this paper, I will contextualize these two texts in light of competing views on repentance and apostasy, e.g., in the Letter to the Hebrews (6:4 – 12; 10:26 – 31; 12: 17) and the writings Ignatius (Smyrneans 4 – 5; Philadelphians 3; 8).  And finally, I will elucidate how both Hermas and the Apocryphon employ anthropological justifications to explain different types of conduct; in particular, I will examine how both Hermas and the Apocryphon construct persons – in particular sinful persons – in order to account for the possibility of their repentance but also the danger of their apostasy.

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