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Dr. Charles Hill
Associate Professor of New Testament, Dr. Hill received a doctorate in New Testament Studies from Cambridge University. Prior to joining the faculty of RTS, he taught at Northwestern College where he was recognized as Teacher of the Year. He has written articles for various scholarly journals and is a contributor to the New Geneva Study Bible. Recently, Oxford University Press published his volume Regnum Caelorem: Patterns of Future Hope in Early Christianity which has received great favor in the academic community. Two additional books are underway.
Dr. Hill sent me an email in response to some questions about the MG article. I wanted to find out what a Church History scholar thought about my arguments. Here are excerpts from his reply. I added categories to make it easier to read.
Genuineness of Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp Letters
By way of quick response to your specific questions, yes, what we have of Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp is practically universally considered genuine (there is a little ongoing wrangling about the number of authentic Ignatian letters by a man named Ruis-Camps, but it is generally disregarded). (I see that the author of the Catholic Encyclopedia article says that Presbyterians repudiate everything claiming Ignatiuan authorship. Where does he get this? Must be quite outdated.) Some scholars still hold to P. N. Harrison's view that Polycarp's epistle is composite, with the first part coming from a time somewhat later than the last part - but even Harrison thought the whole letter was genuine Polycarp.
Clement's, Ignatius', and Polycarp's View
I absolutely agree with you and think you are on ground which will hold up even under critical hammering when you say that in these writers in particular "we find a 'non-metaphorical' portrayal of the deity and resurrection of Jesus".
Clement's, Ignatius', and Polycarp's Knowledge of the Meaning of the Gospel
I imagine you may get some argument about whether these and other early Christian writers "must have known whether the NT writers intended these things 'metaphorically' or 'factually'", and particularly about the possibility that they may have actualy known any of the apostles or any of the Gospel writers. You don't have that direct testimony from these authors (though this does not rule it out), and more sceptical scholars usually try to discredit the testimonies of Irenaeus, Eusebius and later writers. For instance, most critical scholars reject (wrongly, in my opinion) Irenaeus' statement that Polycarp was a disciple of (or knew at all) John the Apostle.
Also, I noticed you said that there was evidence that Ignatius too had been a disciple of John. Did this come from the Catholic Encyclopedia? I see that the CE article cites no source for this opinion, and I think few scholars today would buy it.
I think you are right in pointing out the temporal overlaps, however, between these early writers and the authors of the Gospels. If Spong, et al., won't accept that Clement might have known Paul, Peter, and the author of Mark's Gospel, they cannot dispute that, under their dating scheme, Clement was a younger contemporary (by the way, on Clement's living not long after the apostles, see 1 Clem. 5.1-4). In other words, while you might want to be tentative in pressing any assertions of actual personal contact between any of the Apostolic Fathers and any of the NT authors or Apostles, you can certainly argue, as you have, that these people for a number of reasons are in an excellent and unique position to know about and to share the metaphysical assumptions of the Evangelists.
General Approach of This Article
I think your approach and overall argument is solid and powerful. On Papias, you might be interested in an article of mine just published in the Journal of Theological Studies, n.s. 49 (1998) 582-629. It argues that Papias' lost testimony about the Gospels of John and Luke is largely recoverable in Eusebius.
.. You do a great job of demonstrating the desparate fallacies of Spong's argument.