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Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature by Delmer M. Brown

By Delmer M. Brown

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Like most schools, it included folk who developed their master’s ideas in quite different ways. It is from such circles that we have the so-called ‘deutero-Pauline’ letters: 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, and the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). The authorship of Colossians, whose language and ideas were appropriated by the writer of Ephesians for his own purposes, is still a matter of some debate; but the letter should probably be included in this list. These works imitate the form of the Pauline letters; and like most pseudepigraphical literature of the time, they seek not only to claim the apostle’s name and authority for what they say but, even more perhaps, to perpetuate and defend that authority by developing the master’s teaching in new circumstances.

Mark, in fact, seems to have been known and used by the other two, though often with significant omissions and changes of detail. Mark, however, is not the only source they have in common. Each of them also reproduces the contents of a tradition of the sayings of Jesus. This tradition is usually taken nowadays to have been set down in writing, and is referred to as ‘Q’ (from the German term Quelle, ‘source’). In addition to this sayings-source, however, Matthew and Luke employ other materials to supplement Mark.

The first is the apocalypse (‘unveiling’), a record of visions and revelations accorded a seer, usually with the assistance and mediation of a heavenly guide or guides. The typical subject-matter of such works is ultimate mysteries: the character and inhabitants of the divine or heavenly realm, the predetermined course of cosmic history, and the ultimate fate of the world. Apocalypses tended to appear in situations of crisis in which events had created acute doubts about the justice of God and the destiny of God’s righteous servants.

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