“The Spirit Speaks” in VigC

7584I’m excited to share that my second published article, three years in the making, has at last seen the light of day! Thanks to everyone who has helped and encouraged me in this project, which I am continuing to pursue as a full-length monograph (because, you know, the royalties will be out of this world). The article, Kyle R. Hughes, “The Spirit Speaks: Pneumatological Innovation in the Scriptural Exegesis of Justin and Tertullian,” Vigiliae Christianae 69.5 (2015): 463-483, has been posted on the “Academic Archive” tab.

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SBL Atlanta: The Eschatology of Barnabas

It’s always nice to have SBL meet in your own backyard, and so I’m very excited that this year’s Annual Meeting is just a few miles down the highway from home. I’ll be presenting on the Epistle of Barnabas, a (more or less) early second-century Christian text that has long been a source of interest to me. If you’ll be at SBL and want to check it my presentation, I think there will be some good papers in this group:

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Hope to see you in Atlanta!

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An Ancient Palm Sunday Homily

In honor of the rapidly approaching Palm Sunday, I’d like to share a bit of an ancient Christian homily celebrating this particular day on the Church calendar. The first Ante-Nicene Fathers editors attributed this text to Methodius of Olympus (d. 311), but a later note mentions that one manuscript of the homily instead attributes it to John Chrysostom (d. 407). The style of the homily without question seems to better reflect that of Chrysostom, with wonderful turns of phrase such as one that describes David as “being by babes despoiled of his lyre” on this day. Here then is a portion of the homily “On the Palms”:

To-day, holy David rejoices with great joy, being by babes despoiled of his lyre, with whom also, in spirit, leading the dance, and rejoicing together, as of old, before the ark of God, he mingles musical harmony, and sweetly lisps out in stammering voice, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Of whom shall we inquire? Tell us, O prophet, who is this that cometh in the name of the Lord? He will say it is not my part to-day to teach you, for He hath consecrated the school to infants, who hath out of the mouth of babes and sucklings perfected praise to destroy the enemy and the avenger, in order that by the miracle of these the hearts of the fathers might be turned to the children, and the disobedient unto the wisdom of the just. Tell us, then, O children, whence is this, your beautiful and graceful contest of song? Who taught it you? Who instructed you? Who brought you together? What were your tablets? Who were your teachers? Do but you, they say, join us as our companions in this song and festivity, and you will learn the things which were by Moses and the prophet earnestly longed for. Since then the children have invited us, and have given unto us the right hand of fellowship, let us come, beloved, and ourselves emulate that holy chorus, and with the apostles, let us make way for Him who ascends over the heaven of heavens towards the East, and who, of His good pleasure, is upon the earth mounted upon an ass’s colt. Let us, with the children, raise the branches aloft, and with the olive branches make glad applaud, that upon us also the Holy Spirit may breathe, and that in due order we may raise the God-taught strain: “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” To-day, also, the patriarch Jacob keeps feast in spirit, seeing his prophecy brought to a fulfilment, and with the faithful adores the Father, seeing Him who bound his foal to the vine mounted upon an ass’s colt. To-day the foal is made ready, the irrational exemplar of the Gentiles, who before were irrational, to signify the subjection of the people of the Gentiles; and the babes declare their former state of childhood, in respect of the knowledge of God, and their after perfecting, by the worship of God and the exercise of the true religion. To-day, according to the prophet, is the King of Glory glorified upon earth, and makes us, the inhabitants of earth, partakers of the heavenly feast, that He may show himself to be the Lord of both, even as He is hymned with the common praises of both. Therefore it was that the heavenly hosts sang, announcing salvation upon earth, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” And those below, joining in harmony with the joyous hymns of heaven, cried: “Hosanna in the highest; Hosanna to the Son of David.” In heaven the doxology was raised, “Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place;” and on earth was this caught up in the words, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

The full homily can be found here.

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Book Review: Ancient Christian Worship

51NrR4p2cPLAndrew B. McGowan, Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014. Pp. 298 + xiv.

Andrew McGowan’s newest book is an exemplary guide to the ritual life of the earliest Christians. Indeed, insofar as the study of early Christianity tends to focus more on ideas than practices, this book is a particularly welcome contribution which might be profitably used in many a class on early church history.

McGowan begins with a helpful introduction which takes up the problems inherent in our understanding(s) of the term “worship.” In this book, “worship” refers not to an attitude of the heart or a particular set of music at the beginning of a church service, but rather “these practices that constitute Christian communal and ritual life, as reflected in the NT itself and thereafter” (7). As such, the book traces the development and significance of aspects of early Christian worship including obvious candidates such as the Eucharist and baptism as well as less obvious things like song and dance.

The book excels in presenting each aspect of ritual life in a clear and compelling manner. To take just one example, the chapter on “Meal: Banquet and Eucharist” does a very nice job of situating the Eucharist within the context of the Greco-Roman banquet, summarizing the key contributions of more scholarly works such as Dennis E. Smith’s From Symposium to Eucharist and Katherine M. D. Dunbabin’s The Roman Banquet. This ability to concisely pull together the main points of recent scholarship makes this book an ideal choice for introducing students to some of the key literature for each aspect of early Christian ritual. Returning to the focus of this chapter, McGowan deals with the well-known issues of reconciling the Last Supper traditions as found in the Markan and Pauline (1 Corinthians) texts, and traces the major lines of development between these early forms of the Eucharist (that is, within the context of a larger community meal) to its detached placement as a sacrament within a church service. Again, it is easy to imagine portions of the book to be used as required supplemental reading for any number of college or seminary courses.

All of this may of course be found in other treatments of the development of the Eucharist, but McGowan manages to surprise by looking at these subjects from new angles. Thus, for instance, he concludes the chapter on the Eucharist with a look at “kissing.” McGowan examines the “holy kiss,” the devotional kisses given to saints and martyrs, kisses in the context of baptism, and, finally, kissing at the Eucharist itself. By focusing on topics of this nature, McGowan helps us to see early Christian ritual as both more familiar and more strange than we originally anticipated.

In sum, at a time when some Christians are rediscovering the power of ritual (see, e.g., James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom on the importance of habit-forming practices as central to the Christian pedagogical task), McGowan’s book is an excellent introduction to the complexity and wonder of the communal life of the first centuries of Christians. Highly recommended.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic for review purposes. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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The Journey Continues at Radboud University


I’m very excited to publicly share the news that I’ll be completing my doctorate at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, beginning this semester. The decision to transfer from UVa to Radboud was not made lightly, but I believe it to the best course for me, my family, and my research. One benefit: as an external researcher, I can live and work (a real job!) in the US as I finish my program; I’ll only have to go over to the Netherlands at the end for my defense.


Under the supervision of an NT scholar at Radboud, I’ll be writing a dissertation/book provisionally entitled The Testimony of the Spirit. Some elements of this project will appear this year in Vigiliae Christianae as “The Spirit Speaks: Pneumatological Innovation in the Scriptural Exegesis of Justin and Tertullian.”

Many thanks to everyone who has helped make this transfer possible. I’m excited for the next few years! More info on Radboud can be found here.

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LBD Apostolic Fathers

If you’re not familiar with Faithlife’s Lexham Bible Dictionary, part of the Logos Bible Software family of products, it’s a very nice resource for people who want to study the Bible more deeply, with more than 6,000 entries at present. I believe that even people without Logos can access it (with a free account registration) at bible.faithlife.com.

In any event, I’ve done a few articles for the LBD, and, if you’re so interested, two are now online: “Second Letter of Clement” and “Apology of Quadratus.” Never heard of them? All the more reason to go find out!

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“The Spirit Speaks”: SBL and Print Updates

If you’ll be visiting sunny San Diego (a huge improvement from blustery Baltimore, I expect) later this month for SBL, consider yourself invited to what I expect will be a very interesting session on “Spirit and Bible: The Development of Early Accounts of the Spirit in the Christian Scriptures.” I’m certainly looking forward to presenting alongside such a distinguished group of scholars. Here’s the details:

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Finally, I’m pleased to share the news that the full-length version of this project is scheduled to appear some time in 2015 in the journal Vigiliae Christianae. Here’s the abstract:

This paper considers the role of the Spirit within early Christian writers’ use of prosopological exegesis, an interpretive method which seeks to identify various persons (prosopa) as the “true” speakers or addressees of a Scriptural text in which they are otherwise not in view. While scholars are increasingly recognizing that, for some early Christian writers, the Spirit could himself be a speaking agent, there remains no systematic analysis of the texts in which the Spirit speaks from his own prosopon. After making just such an analysis, focusing on key texts in the writings of Tertullian and Justin Martyr, this paper concludes that the need for divine testimony concerning both the Father and the Son was the central motivating factor for assigning OT quotations to the prosopon of the Spirit. In particular, this paper argues that this emphasis on the Spirit’s role as one who testifies is a direct outgrowth of the portrayal of the Spirit in the Johannine corpus, and arose in the context of conflict with Judaism concerning the cessation of the Spirit. By making this connection, we have a new means by which to glimpse the theological dynamics at work in the pre-Nicene period that would contribute to the development of a distinctively Trinitarian, and not merely binitarian, view of God.


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