Baker Academic

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Lovely Time in Twickenham and Chichester

I'm just back to Ohio from a busy, productive, and stimulating week in England. Highlights include staying with Chris Keith and family in Isleworth. I'm so very lucky to have as a friend the best and brightest mind New Testament and social scientific study! Chris helped me think through a few important topics related to my latest research on ancient concepts of ethnicity.

I also met several very fine scholars at the St Mary's conference related to the function of cities in earliest Christianity. I was especially glad to connect with Daniel Ho, David Gill, Volker Rabens, Paul Trebilco, Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer, Dominic Mattos, David Horrell, Anders Runesson, Ian Paul, Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski, and Joan Taylor. I don't mind saying that I sort of geeked out over meeting Joan. Her book on John the Baptist was among the first that I read in preparation for my MA thesis. I especially benefited from conversations with Daniel Ho, David Gill, and Paul Trebilco (a fellow Dunnite). The paper by Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer related most closely to my own work and the entire trip would have been worth it just to hear her paper: "Diaspora Jewish Attitudes to Metropoleis: Philo and Paul on City Life, Jerusalem and Rome."

I enjoyed many, many laughs and learned a great deal from my new hero Anders Runesson (pictured here with Chris and Piotr at an American-themed BBQ joint in Twickenham. Yes, such things exist! And, yes, Chris chose the location.) Anders' book boasts the distinction of being the first monograph specifically dedicated to the origins of synagogues. Oslo is surely landing a wonderful colleague and an excellent scholar.

I spent the remainder of my trip in Chichester with Jimmy and Meta Dunn. Jimmy and I worked together on a co-authored project, meandered around Chichester, and visited Chichester Cathedral. The red Chagall window is breath-taking and the Sutherland painting "Noli me Tangere" is among the few Mary Magdalene portraits that doesn't clothe her in red. A must see if you're ever in Chichester.



  1. You wrote: "Anders' book boasts the distinction of being the first monograph specifically dedicated to the origins of synagogues." So, it's now on my wish list.

    This is not an area where I have any expertise, so I don't know who is "first." But didn't Lee Levine get here before Anders?

    1. This is exactly the question that I asked, Larry. Anders is quite appreciative of Levine's work. I'm not sure that Levine has dedicated a monograph-length study specifically on origins. Beyond that explanation, I would be speaking out of turn.

    2. A potentially huge subject though. I would like to tell the author not to be shy about seeing Christianity as taking advantage or growing out of the destruction of the Second Temple, and the sudden instability and variability in lesser synagogues and rabbis. To develop the Hellenistic Judaism called Christianity.

    3. Speaking as one of Runesson's current doctoral students, I can confirm that Anthony's explanation is correct. Levine treats synagogue origins in 'The Ancient Synagogue,' but that book is a comprehensive study on ancient synagogue in general rather than a focused study on origins, and his treatment of the issue is relatively brief in comparison to what Runesson does in 'Origins of the Synagogue.' Runesson builds greatly upon Levine's 'city gate' hypothesis, and in my opinion, is better able to account for the evidence coming from the diaspora as well as for 'sectarian' synagogues (as they are sometimes called) by positing a sort of typology between 'public' synagogues (which are derived from the city gate) and 'association' synagogues (which are a sort of association). It is now starting to become fairly common to see Runesson's distinction between 'public' and 'association' types being used by other scholars as well.

      - Jordan Ryan

    4. Jordan, thanks! That was most helpful.