Scholars traditionally rely on the literature of the ancient world to construct a story of Christian origins. But the story told by those literary remains is that of the elites. Archaeology, on the other hand, uncovers the physical remains not only of elites, but also of ordinary folks—at times slaves and frequently the everyday.
Archaeology’s potential for rewriting early Christian history is evident from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which have had a profound effect on the description of second Temple Judaism. The impact of yet another discovery, the Christian library at Nag Hammadi, is less widely understood.
New scholarship of the historical Jesus, authentic Paul, and the Acts of the Apostles, as well as archaeological discoveries—at Nag Hammadi, Sepphoris, and Huqoq—raise new questions and demand a different reconstruction of the origins of the Christian movement.
If the Acts model of apostolic succession is a fiction, what other historical model best explains how Jesus’ vision of the divine domain became a state religion?
How does the picture from archaeology challenge the view from ancient literature?
What can current archaeological discoveries tell us about the formation of Jewish and Christian identities in the time of the Roman Empire?
How do the texts from Nag Hammadi challenge the orthodox model for the beginnings of Christianity?
Join Jodi Magness, Milton Moreland, L. Michael White, and scholars of the Westar Institute for an exploration of these and other radical questions, plus Kathryn Gin Lum on American religious history:
Does the growing divide in the American political landscape go back to a deep anxiety that this nation, and its inhabitants, might be damned instead of redeemed?