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Cambridge-trained scholar calls for Extension of the New Testament Canon
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Cambridge-trained scholar calls for Extension of the New Testament

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{Acta Pauli press release} Toronto, Canada. Christians around the world were shocked and the bedrock of confidence in the Bible was shaken when Peter W. Dunn, PhD, announced the formation of the “Committee for the Inclusion of the Acts of Paul in the New Testament Canon” on the website Acta Pauli on April 23, 2009. The echoes resounded around the world and the buzz on the street has been nothing less than astonishing. In Perth, Australia, Martin Foord, Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology and Church History at Trinity Theological College calls it, “The discovery of the millennium.” Dunn has devoted the better part of a decade to the study of this ancient book. Many of his findings are in his newly published doctoral dissertation, “The Acts of Paul and the Pauline Legacy”, for which he was awarded a PhD at the University of Cambridge in 1996. The Acts of Paul recounts Paul’s missionary experience from the time of his commission to preach and ends with his martyrdom. During his missionary trips, Paul even converts and baptizes a wild lion.

In recent months, Dr. Dunn has formulated new theories about the Acts of Paul which have led him to create the Committee. “Initially, I thought the Acts of Paul should be dated to the middle of the second century. But now I am leaning towards a much earlier date around the end of the first century. That is almost 100 years earlier than scholars have heretofore believed,” said Dunn. When asked who was the author of the Acts of Paul, he replied, “Well, Tertullian at the beginning of the third century (ca. 205) reported that it had been written by an Asian (modern Turkey) priest who had to step down from his job. But we have reason to believe that Tertullian may have been misinformed. A good case could be made for Timothy. The Acts of Paul never mention him by name and that is strange. Timothy would have been only about 20 when he met Paul in the 50’s. So that would make him about 70 years old at the end of the first century when the Acts of Paul were written. St. Timothy, according to tradition, became the bishop of Ephesus. This accords well with Tertullian’s claim that it was a presbyter (priest) from Asia.”

Clearly the Acts of Paul will frustrate scholars such as Bart Ehrman and John Dominic Crossan, who have questioned the orthodox foundations of the New Testament Canon. The Acts of Paul is an anti-Gnostic tract which affirms God as creator of the world, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and reliability of Old Testament prophets. These are all tenants of orthodox faith. Ehrman was unavailable for comment.

The Rev. Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill, noted expert on the Bible, says that the Paul of the Acts of Paul is too much of a wimp. He opposes making the Acts of Paul part of the New Testament. “What does Paul do when he hears the lion roar? He runs and hides! That’s not the Paul I know, nor is it the Paul of the Bible.” Driscoll was referring Acts of Paul 9:15, “When the [lion] roared wildly and ferociously, Paul broke off his prayer in terror.”

In contrast, feminist scholars of early Christianity have been raving about the Acts of Paul for decades. Two entire chapters of the Acts of Paul describe the exploits of the most important woman in the early Church, St. Thecla. She miraculously survives two martyrdom attempts, experiences a divine baptism, and finally, is commissioned by Paul as an apostle. “It is about time someone took the initiative to make the Acts of Paul canonical. Finally women will have a voice in the church,” said one anonymous source, a feminist scholar at the Catholic University of Notre Dame, where President Barack Obama will be challenging the graduates on May 17.

The announcement has the world scrambling to learn more about the Acts of Paul. Commentaries are unavailable, and scholarly treatments have been sold out of most bookstores. It has the public searching online for information and translations. Google has reported increased activity around the search terms, “Acts of Paul” and “Thecla”. Suddenly Coptic scholars are in demand, because the only manuscript of the Acts of Paul available today is a fragmentary papyrus in Coptic at University of Heidelberg. According to Dunn, now that the Committee is mobilized, it will be making a concerted effort to find a complete manuscript either in Coptic or Greek among the unopened Oxyrhinchus papyri at Oxford. They have commissioned Jim Leonard, specialist in the Coptic New Testament at the University of Cambridge, to begin the search. The {name of news agency} reached Leonard who commented, “The acceptance of Acts of Paul into the Canon will assure new jobs for Coptic New Testament scholars in Christian colleges and seminaries for years to come.”

But it is too early to tell how the church hierarchy will react. Typically the church is slow to move on new discoveries and ideas, but Dunn’s committee may indeed have a ground-breaking impact. To find out what New Testament scholars are thinking, the {name of news agency here} telephoned N. T. Wright, Gordon Fee, Luke T. Johnson, and {add NT scholar}; each of them said in turn that they were scrambling to get information about Acts of Paul and were not ready to comment. A spokesman for the Catholic church however has said that there is little chance that Pope Benedict would permit the inclusion of the Acts of Paul. The Roman Catholic Church, he said, is a conservative institution, and she is not troubled by the whims of biblical scholars.

Protestant church officials are not ecstatic about Dunn’s Committee either. An undisclosed source from the World Council of Churches said, “The Acts of Paul puts too much emphasis on sexual continence,” referring to Acts of Paul 3.5-6, beatitudes devoted to a life of chastity. “We believe everyone has the right to have sex anytime they feel like it,” said the official.

What are we? Where do we come from? Why are we here?
Category: Member Blogs
Tags: What are we? Where do we come from? Why are we here?

Just a thought for those who believe evolutionary explanations of religion are irrelevant, or even threatening, for theology.

To the extent that we do not know the circumstances of origin and the original functions of religion, we do not understand our symbols, myths, and rituals.

(Philip Hefner, The Human Factor, p. 159)

Metcalfe's Law.
Category: Member Blogs

"Metcalfe's Law." It states that the complexity of a network is a square of the number of end points. Network designers wrestle with this problem daily.

From a communications and/or conflict resolution perspective, Metcalfe's Law is informative. As the audience (network end points) is enlarged through social media, the complexity becomes extraordinary. And at some point, it crashes into chaos.

That may be happening here. If it does, it will be familiar and sad.

Because any network end point (node aka human) can itself have "N" number of connections, it becomes very difficult to model the universe of actors and observers. Without a form communications process, you don't know precisely who has said what to whom, when, or where. Message integrity gets fragmented (think of the game "Telephone") and respondent or observer perspective gets rapidly impacted by reacting to incomplete information.

So just start with the numbers that are known: eight dissident faculty members, a dean, six members of the Board, another ten administrators impacted by the showdown, and one hundred students. Add it up and you have at the core 125 end points in this affected community. The square of 125 is 15, 625 possible intersections between 125 people—15,625 possible different points of view.

Now, if each of these parties speak with just three people, the network grows to include 375 people. Square that and we're at 140,625 possible conversations and points of view. Try to put a bow around that mess.

If it makes the front section of a newspaper or even page two of a blog or Twitter feed, the network could grow by a factor of 10 to 3750 people and now the complexity is rated at 14,062,500 possible interactions.

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