The African Context of Early Desert Christianity

A valuable resource and important research centre: The Center for Early African Christianity – http://www.earlyafricanchristianity.com/
Three books coming out of the Center are of particular interest:
How Africa Shaped
Thomas C. Oden “How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity” [IVP Academic, 2010]
“Africa has played a decisive role in the formation of Christian culture from its infancy. Some of the most decisive intellectual achievements of Christianity were explored and understood in Africa before they were in Europe. If this is so, why is Christianity so often perceived in Africa as a Western colonial import? How can Christians in Northern and sub-Saharan Africa, indeed how can Christians throughout the world, rediscover and learn from this ancient heritage? Theologian Thomas C. Oden offers a portrait that challenges prevailing notions of the intellectual development of Christianity from its early roots to its modern expressions. The pattern, he suggests, is not from north to south from Europe to Africa, but the other way around. He then makes an impassioned plea to uncover the hard data and study in depth the vital role that early African Christians played in developing the modern university, maturing Christian exegesis of Scripture, shaping early Christian dogma, modeling conciliar patterns of ecumenical decision-making, stimulating early monasticism, developing Neoplatonism, and refining rhetorical and dialectical skills. He calls for a wide-ranging research project to fill out the picture he sketches. It will require, he says, a generation of disciplined investigation, combining intensive language study with a risk-taking commitment to uncover the truth in potentially unreceptive environments. Oden envisions a dedicated consortium of scholars linked by computer technology and a common commitment that will seek to shape not only the scholar’s understanding but the ordinary African Christian’s self-perception.”
African Memory
Thomas C. Oden “The African Memory of Mark: Reassessing Early Church Tradition” [IVP Academic, 2011]
“We often regard the author of the Gospel of Mark as an obscure figure about whom we know little. Many would be surprised to learn how much fuller a picture of Mark exists within widespread African tradition, tradition that holds that Mark himself was from North Africa, that he founded the church in Alexandria, that he was an eyewitness to the Last Supper and Pentecost, that he was related not only to Barnabas but to Peter as well and accompanied him on many of his travels. In this provocative reassessment of early church tradition, Thomas C. Oden begins with the palette of New Testament evidence and adds to it the range of colors from traditional African sources, including synaxaries (compilations of short biographies of saints to be read on feast days), archaeological sites, non-Western historical documents and ancient churches. The result is a fresh and illuminating portrait of Mark, one that is deeply rooted in African memory and seldom viewed appreciatively in the West.”
Early Lybian
Thomas C. Oden “Early Libyan Christianity: Uncovering a North African Tradition” [IVP Academic, 2011]
“Buried for more than a millennium beneath sand and the erosions of time are the remnants of a vital, formative Christian presence in Libya. From about A.D. 68 till the Muslim conquest of A.D. 643, Libya housed a vibrant, creative Christian community that contributed to the shape of the faith even as we know it today. By the mid-190s A.D., Leptis Magna could claim favorite sons as the Roman pontiff, Victor the African, and as the Roman emperor, Septimius Severus. A rich and energetic community produced a wide variety of key players from early martyrs to great thinkers to archheretics. Tertullian, the great theologian, and Sabellius, the heretic, are relatively well known. Less well known are the martyrs Wasilla and Theodore and the great poet-philosopher-bishop Synesius of Cyrene. Uncovering this North African tradition and offering it to a wide reading audience is the task that Tom Oden sets for himself in this fascinating tour de force. The book, originating as lectures delivered at the Islamic Da’wa University in Tripoli in 2008 and later expanded as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures in 2009 at Dallas Theological Seminary, has been expanded and refined to provide additional insights and references, surveying the texts, architecture and landmarks of this important period of Christian history. It also serves as a valuable companion to Oden’s earlier offerings in “How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind” and “The African Memory of Mark”.”
Oden
Thomas C. Oden (PhD, Yale University), is the general editor of the “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” and the “Ancient Christian Doctrine” series as well as the author of “Classic Christianity”, a revision of his three-volume systematic theology. He is the director of the Center for Early African Christianity at Eastern University in Pennsylvania and he formerly served as the Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Theology at The Theological School of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Oden is active in the Confessing Movement in America, particularly within the United Methodist Church and is president of The Institute for Classical Christian Studies. He suggests that Christians need to rely upon the wisdom of the historical Church, particularly the early Church, rather than on modern scholarship and theology and says his mission is “to begin to prepare the postmodern Christian community for its third millennium by returning again to the careful study and respectful following of the central tradition of classical Christianity.”
https://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/author.pl/author_id=380

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