Institute for Religion & Critical Inquiry

Project: Texts, Traditions, and Early Christian Identities

The project will address the question: How did the earliest Christian communities employ texts and traditions ascribed to a sacred past to negotiate issues relating to their identity – who they were, why they existed, how they differed from others? Otherwise expressed: How far is early Christian reception of normative texts and traditions motivated by the need for communal self-definition in the face of perceived challenges and threats arising from within and without? The first version of the question asks about the role of texts and traditions in the work of identity construction; the second asks about the role of identity construction in the reception and deployment of texts and traditions. Whether the emphasis lies on identity or reception, the fundamental aim is to investigate the interaction of these two concepts, each of which represents a constitutive element in early Christian communal life.

The project is led by Prof. Francis Watson (ACU/Durham) and six other Chief Investigators: John Barclay (Durham), Reimund Bieringer (KU Leuven), Stephen Carlson (ACU), Ben Edsall (ACU), David Sim (ACU), and Joseph Verheyden (KU Leuven).