Harnack in English

Adolf von Harnack was one of the most significant theologians of the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. The definitive listing of his bibliography runs to over 1600 items. In his day, he was also something of a theological celebrity, and his works (liberal in social outlook, critical in character, but in certain ways traditional as well – at least when it came to the NT) were translated into English with a volume that few can match. I drew up the following list of translated works, but I’m sure there must be things I’ve missed, particularly in the periodical literature.


  1. Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God (partial transl. by John E. Steely and Lyle D. Bierma; Labyrinth, 1990; repr. Wipf & Stock, 2007)
  2. M. Rumscheidt, ed., Adolf von Harnack: Liberal Theology at its Height (Making of Modern Theology 6; San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989). A selection of excerpts and shorter writings from Harnack.
  3. Militia Christi: The Christian Religion and the Military in the First Three Centuries (trans. David McI. Gracie; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981)
  4. The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries (trans. J. Moffatt; New York: Harper & Row, 1962): vol. 12
  5. The Origin of the New Testament and the Most Important Consequences of the New Creation (trans. J. R. Wilkinson; New York: Macmillan, 1925)
  6. What is Christianity? (trans. Thomas Bailey Saunders; London: Williams & Norgate, 1902 [and often reprinted])
  7. Bible Reading in the Early Church (trans. J. R. Wilkinson; Crown Theological Library 36; London: Williams & Norgate, 1912)
  8. The Acts of the Apostles (trans. J. R. Wilkinson; London: Williams & Norgate, 1909)
  9. With Wilhelm Hermann, Essays on the Social Gospel (trans. G. M. Craik; Crown Theological Library 18; New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907)
  10. Luke the Physician: The Author of the Third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles (trans. J. R. Wilkinson; London: Williams & Norgate, 1908)
  11. The Sayings of Jesus: The Second Source of St. Matthew and St. Luke (trans. J. R. Wilkinson; London: Williams &  Norgate, 1908)
  12. The Date of the Acts and of the Synoptic Gospels (trans. J. R. Wilkinson; London: Williams & Norgate, 1911)
  13. Monasticism: Its Ideals and History and the Confessions of St Augustine: Two Lectures (trans. E. E. Kellett and F. H. Marseille; Williams & Norgate, 1901)
  14. The Constitution of Law of the Church in the First Two Centuries (trans. F. L. Pogson; London: Williams & Norgate, 1910)
  15. History of Dogma (trans. by N. Buchanan; Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1896-99): vol. 1234567
  16. Outlines of the History of Dogma (trans. E. K. Mitchell; New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1893)
  17. Christianity and History (trans. Thomas Bailey Saunders; London: Adam & Charles Black, 1896)
  18. The Apostle’s Creed (trans. Stewart Means and Thomas Bailey Saunders; London: Adam and Charles Black, 1901)
  19. Sources of the Apostolic Canons: With a Treatise on the Origin of the Readership and Other Lower Orders (trans. L. A. Wheatley; London: Adam and Charles Black, 1895)
  20. Thoughts on the Present Position of Protestantism (trans. Thomas Bailey Saunders; London: Adam & Charles Black, 1899)

Articles and Essays 

  1. Pro Domo,” Outlook (28 April 1894)
  2. “Martin Luther, the Prophet of the Reformation,” in The Prophets of the Christian Faith (by various authors; New York: Macmillan, 1896), 107–122; also here
  3. “Newer Roman Catholic Church History,” Lutheran Church Review 18 (1899): 393–95
  4. “Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews,” Lutheran Church Review 19 (1900): 448-471
  5. Contribution to The Atonement in Modern Religious Thought: A Theological Symposium (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1901), originally appeared in The Christian World 
  6. “The Kaiser’s Letter on Christ and Revelation,” Methodist Quarterly Review 52 no. 3 (1903): 565–70
  7. “Time of Christ’s Crucifixion,” Lutheran Church Review 29 (1910): 73–75
  8. “The ‘sic et non’ of Stephan’s Gobarus,” Harvard Theological Review 16 no. 3 (1923): 205–34
  9. Appendix: Analysis and Historical Appraisal of the Enchiridion,” in Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love (ed. Thomas S. Hibbs; Regency, 1961), 142ff.
  10. “The Relevance of Theological Faculties at the University,” Christian Scholar 47 no. 3 (1964): 208–20″
  11. “The Old Testament in the Pauline Letters and in the Pauline Communities,” in B. S. Rosner, ed., Understanding Paul’s Ethics: Twentieth Century Approaches (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 27–49


  1. With Karl Barth: Continuum 7 no. 1 (1969): 195–212
  2. With Erik Peterson: “Erik Peterson’s Correspondence with Adolf von Harnack,” Pro Ecclesia 2 no. 3 (1993): 333–44


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Q in Wellhausen’s pre-1880 OT Scholarship

In a previous post, I had noted that Q was used as an abbreviation for Quelle in pre-1880 geography books, and suggested this as a longshot hypothetical background to the adoption of the siglum in NT studies. Perhaps something more relevant came to my attention today, even if it is nearly as speculative. In reading John Rogerson’s learned book on the development of Old Testament scholarship in England and Germany in the 19th century, I was struck by the fact that Wellhausen used ‘Q’ as a siglum for a hypothetical source of the Pentateuch in an 1876 article on ‘Die Composition des Hexateuchs,” in the Jahrbuch für Deutsche Theologie although Wellhausen used it as an abbreviation for ‘quatuor’ rather than for Quelle. He writes, “Ich habe für die s.g. Grundschrift das Zeichen Q gewählt, als Abkürzung für Vierbundesbuch (quatuor), welchen Namen ich als den passendsten für sie vorschlage” (392: ‘I have chosen the siglum Q as an abbreviation for the so-called Grundschrift, which stands for the ‘four-covenant book’ (quatuor) which name I propose as the most appropriate for it’).

Admittedly it’s not exact, but might this have primed the NT world to think of Q as standing for a hypothetical biblical source behind the canonical accounts? Pure speculation, but a strikingly analogous designation and function.

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If We Could Re-Assign the Chapters in Mark according to Sense

I’ve been teaching a class on Mark again – one of my favorites. Every time I do so, the chapter divisions in the gospel bother me, given how they conflict with the internal divisions of the gospel itself. If we tried to keep some fidelity to the current numeration of chapters, wouldn’t the following make much more sense? Not suggesting it would be possible actually to implement it, but this would have been much more sensible, once upon a time.
Chapter 1 = 1.1-45
Chapter 2 = 2.1-3.6
Chapter 3 = 3.7-35
Chapter 4 = 4.1-34
Chapter 5 = 4.35-6.6a
Chapter 6 = 6.6b-56
Chapter 7 = 7.1-8.21
Chapter 8 = 8.22-38
Chapter 9 = 9.1-50
Chapter 10 = 10.1-52
Chapter 11 = 11.1-25
Chapter 12  = 11.27-12.44
Chapter 13 = 13.1-37
Chapter 14 = 14.1-72
Chapter 15 = 15.1-47
Chapter 16 = 16.1-8


What makes a good letter of reference? A view from below

As it happens, I’ve now had the chance to sit on four or five search panels for academic positions. This makes me far from expert in the process, but I’ve been struck by the differences in how letter writers perceive their task in recommending a candidate (similar observations could be made about letter writers for PhD programs, I think, mutatis mutandis). In a way that has surprised me, on the whole I’ve noticed that the most prominent scholars often write the most detailed and involved letters of reference, and attempt to offer a documented case for their candidate. I had assumed that senior scholars would be too busy to write tailored letters of reference, but one has the sense that they take the task very seriously since seeing good people achieve the best positions is one of the most important means of guaranteeing the future quality of the field. But even when we are early in our careers, we are sometimes asked to write letters for others, and it’s not always easy to know what to include, particularly before we’ve had the benefit of seeing lots of letters of recommendations ourselves.

So what makes a good letter? A few brief, unscientific observations. Good letters are:

  1. Specific. The best letters are specific, and in multiple senses. They evidence a real knowledge of the individual in question, and can therefore supply not merely a list of abstract qualities, but can demonstrate those qualities in action by referring to particular illustrative events that make the case for them. Moreover, while sometimes candidates submit letters – often because their doctoral programs urge them to proceed in this way – that are simply general letters of recommendation meant to be deployed in any circumstances (‘I recommend X for a position in any college, seminary or university’), letters tailored for a specific context undeniably make a stronger impression. We all assume that everyone starts with a boilerplate, but tailoring the letter conveys that the senior academic is highly enough invested in a person to be bothered to write again and again and again, and so implicitly conveys that the applicant is worth someone else’s time as well.
  2. Long enough to say something. Variations in the length of letters also surprised me. While very short letters can of course be very positive, it seems to convey again something about the senior academic’s investment in the applicant, if a letter is hefty enough to be substantive. True, some letters can go on and on for pages, but most letters can say quite a bit in a solid 1.5-2.5 pages, which seems to be about the average length of good models I have in mind.
  3. Personal. Perhaps because they are major scholars, the best letters show the voice of their authors, and so convey something of the personal importance of the applicant to the academic. I don’t here have in mind letters laden with all the gory details of one’s personal life, but I think letters that offer selected anecdotes from personal interactions in a way that begin to suggest for the reader the personality and quality of the applicant ultimately help in making an applicant stand out.
  4. Comparative. When recommenders write for more than one person, it’s extremely helpful if they can offer, even implicitly, some way of assessing the relative merits of the candidates for whom they write, or at least to pinpoint more precisely the strengths and weaknesses of each as they appear to the writer. Even if a person writes for only one applicant, to place them in some notional rank (‘among the best three students in my thirty year career’, or ‘perhaps the strongest student I have ever had’) can be extremely helpful.

There is much else that might be said, I’m sure, but these are simply a few of the points that stick in the mind as I consider letters I’ve read (there are more authoritative sources here). Poor letters can convey that a writer wishes to damn the candidate with faint praise; that may be perfectly intentional in certain circumstances, but it’s worth reflecting on the process of writing recommendations enough to ensure that our letters have the persuasive effect that we do intend by crafting them appropriately.

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Empty heavens in P72 at 2 Peter 3:13?

Recently, through the kind provision of Stan Rosenberg and under the guidance of Alison Salvesen, a group of NT graduate students spent a few afternoons in a workshop examining high-quality facsimile reproductions of P72, one of the Bodmer codices that contains, among other things, 1-2 Peter and Jude. I’ll be quick to say that I’m not a textual critic or a manuscript expert by any stretch of the imagination, which is one reason why the sessions were so much fun. The orthography of the scribe is highly various, which may suggest that the manuscript or its text went through an aural process of transmission at some point. Along these lines, there is a fun orthographic variant at 2 Peter 3:13. The NA28 here reads καινοὺς δὲ οὐρανοὺς καὶ γῆν καινὴν κατὰ τὸ ἐπάγγελμα αὐτοῦ προσδοκῶμεν ἐν οἷς δικαιοσύνη κατοικεῖ (we await a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, according to what he promised). But here, P72 reads κενους δε ουρανους και γην καινην: an empty heavens and a new earth. Given the amount of orthographic variation elsewhere in the Petrine epistles, the most probable explanation is that the scribe has simply written ε for αι. But given that he gets it ‘right’ in mentioning the γην καινην, it at least causes one to pause and wonder what the scribe might have understood here, or perhaps better how a reader might have subsequently taken it. Could it be that someone who heard this read out might have thought of righteousness vacating heaven to come down to earth and dwell there, and so an ’empty heaven’ might express a utopian hope for a better future? Against this, of course, one would want to note the ἐν οἷς would suggest that righteousness dwells in both heaven and earth, presumably. It’s wild speculation about what is in all probability a mere orthographic variation (of the sort that could easily be paralleled in the scribe’s activity elsewhere), but also a bit of fun to ponder.


Early Christianity without the Septuagint: a counterfactual thought experiment

If we cast our minds back to the Alexandrian Jewish community in, say, the third century BCE, we might envisage a counterfactual history like the following: a group of Jewish elders considers the way in which the whole community carries on its conversation, its business, its worship in Greek. Most of our people struggle to understand the holy books, one says. Shall we translate them into Greek? An aged man steps forward and declares: No, the Holy One, blessed be He, delivered these oracles to Moses and the prophets in the holy language, the language of patriarchs and angels, Hebrew, and his holy word must be preserved. No translation is possible. We shall have to teach our people to understand the holy tongue, since to render it into Greek would be a deep profanation. The meeting is swayed by the pious reflections, and agree to an aggressive programme of Hebrew instruction and withdrawal from the broader Alexandrian community. The message is clear: like the Quran a thousand years later, the Hebrew Bible is untranslateable. The sentiment spreads, and in time the halakhic judgment against the propriety of non-Hebrew languages for Scripture becomes widespread. The earliest followers of Jesus see, therefore, no rationale for translating their master’s sayings into Greek, early Christian mission takes as its emphasis Hebrew-speaking communities, who, n.b., have a much more insular relationship to their setting in the Western diaspora because of the linguistic gap. The apostle Paul heads east rather than west, and the New Testament eventually comes to be written, in a curtailed form, in Hebrew rather than Greek, and the emergence of Christianity is firmly rooted in Palestine and the eastern Diaspora, rather than in the Hellenized west. Needless to say, early Christianity would have taken a much different form. In some ways, it is easier to imagine an early Christianity without the apostle Paul than one without the Septuagint.

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To Read the Bible Like Any Other book: Before Jowett

Much has been made of Benjamin Jowett’s notorious or celebrated essay ‘On the Interpretation of Scripture’, in his contribution to the 1860 Essays and Reviews. There, Jowett urged that the Bible should be read as any other book, and once we do so we will discover that it is unlike any other book. His axiom, ‘to interpret the Bible like any other book’ has been celebrated by some (e.g., James Barr, “Jowett and the ‘Original Meaning’ of Scripture” Religious Studies 18 (1982): 433-37 and “Jowett and the Reading of the Bible ‘Like Any Other Book’,” Horizons in Biblical Theology 4/5 (1982-83): 1-44) and criticised by others (e.g., Walter Moberly, “‘Interpret the Bible like Any Other Book’? Requiem for an Axiom,” Journal of Theological Interpretation 4 (2010): 91–110). But while Jowett’s splash was the largest, he was not all that original in his contention. Moses Stuart, conservative American Protestant scholar who taught at Andover in the first half of the 19th century, published an essay in 1832 in which he asked, in the title question,”Are the Same Priniciples of Interpretation to be applied to the Bible as to Other Books?” American Biblical Repository 2 (January 1832): 124–37. He goes on to affirm that such principles are indeed to be applied to the BIble: “If the Bible is not a book which is intelligible in the same way as other books are, then it is difficult indeed to see how it is a revelation” (129). “If their [i.e., the Scriptures’] contents are peculiar, (as they are,) still we apply the same laws to them as to other books that are peculiar, i.e. we construe them in accordance iwth the matter which they contain” (137). And Stuart himself, early in the essay, presents his view as a commonplace since at least Ernesti. The essay is also remarkable for its invocation of the common sense realism that was so attractive to 19th century American interpreters of the Bible. Perhaps when read in the context of Anglican theology of the 1860s, and with the broad splash that Essays and Reviews made, Jowett’s dictum seemed radical, but viewed in the history of hermeneutical reflection, it is far from innovative.

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