Monthly Archives: March 2010

Stephen Colbert and Jesus vs. Glenn Beck

This is absolutely hilarious:

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/267673/march-18-2010/glenn-beck-attacks-social-justice—james-martin

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Roman and Christian Funerals: The conclamatio

In the late antique, a prominent feature of the funerary rites was the conclamatio: the calling out of the deceased’s name. Numerous sarcophagi and reliefs from antiquity depict the conclamatio. The Haterii here is an example of this. The deceased rests upon a couch (κλίνη) while those who stand around her call out her name. They would continue to do this until the burial. If one was cremated, it seems as though the conclamatio continued until the pyre was doused, often with wine and water. An interesting note: people who were cremated often had a piece of flesh removed to be buried. Servius, in his commentary on Vergil’s Aeneid says that the purpose of calling out the name is simply to make sure they’re dead.(1) This was probably how the custom began (along with washing the body with warm water), but it later took on religious connotations. It probably served an apotropaic purpose, keeping the spirits of the deceased from sticking around the house (where the wake was held). This also seems to have been the purpose of the loud music and dirges at funerals.(2) The musicians can be seen on the Haterii relief in the lower left corner. Wealthy families would hire professional musicians and professional mourners (praeficiae) to lament at funerals.

So what about the Christians? They seem to have rejected it. There are no clear instances of a conclamatio in any early Christian literature of which I’m aware. Funeral dirges were replaced by the antiphonal singing of the Psalms. Referencing 1 Thess 4.16, Tertullian says the loud trumpets should not be played at a Christian funeral lest the buried Christian miss the trumpet of the angel.(3) Because the Christians had abandoned the traditional Roman and Greek views of the afterlife (which, in the late ancient world, were numerous), they had no reason to participate in those particular mourning customs that had grown up around those traditional Roman beliefs.

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(1)Servius, Commentarii in Vergilii Aeneidem 4.218
(2)J. Quasten, Musik und Gesang in den Kulten der Heidnischen Antike und Christlichen Frühzeit,195.
(3)Tertullian, De Corona Militis 11

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Book Review: Christopher A. Hall, Worshiping with the Church Fathers


  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Intervarsity Press (January 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 083083866X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830838660

Christopher A. Hall has done it again – Worshiping with the Church Fathers is a knockout book! I received the book a couple of weeks ago from the fine people at IVP Academic and have just finished reading it. I knew the book was going to be good when I opened to the first page of the first chapter and read the first line:

“Some readers, particularly those from an evangelical background and perspective, may find themselves surprised, bewildered, and perhaps troubled to discover that the church fathers thought, lived, and worshiped sacramentally.”

Hall is right, but it’s not just Evangelicals – every congregation has been touched by post-modernism’s incredulity to religious meta-narratives (of which sacraments are a part), and thus a lesson from the Fathers is in order.

This book is divided into three parts: I) Sacraments II) Prayer and III) Discipline. Part one covers Baptism and the Eucharist. Part two covers “The Basics of Prayer”, “The Challenges of Unceasing Prayer”, “Further Coaching on Prayer”, and “The Lord’s prayer.” The third part is divided into two sections: “The Transforming Call to the Desert” and “A Space to Draw Close to God.”

Hall’s opening line seems to be the guiding theme throughout the book, discussing the various themes through the Fathers’ sacramental lenses. Peppered with quotes from the Fathers and modern scholars alike, the book is a great introduction to the early worship (and not just liturgy) of the early Christians. In fact, I was surprised at first that this book is not primarily about liturgy, but rather discusses the entire Christian life as worship.

I appreciate what IVP is trying to do with these books, but not all they have put out are total knockouts. This one is. If you get one of the books out of this series, get this one – you’ll find yourself buying the other ones soon enough.

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Speaker on campus today

I just recently found out about this speaker being on campus:

MRST Lecture Series

David Michelson (Department of History, University of Alabama)

speaking on:

“Putting Action into Words: The Formation of Christian Orthodoxy in Late Antiquity Viewed from Syriac Sources”

THURSDAY, 25 March 2010 at 4:00 pm in Bate 1012

Michelson is a recent Princeton graduate (2007) and he did his Ph.D under Peter Brown. Brown’s book The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity was a major catalyst for my senior thesis, so I’m really excited to listen to someone who studied with him.

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James McGrath is a Chronicle Celebrity

Reading through the Chronicle tonight I found this article. Well done, Dr. McGrath! I’ll be looking for your autograph at this year’s SBL.

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Win stuff from Tyndale Press!

From Tyndale Press (sign up and go win something!):

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Accepted at Notre Dame

This afternoon I received an email from Blake Leyerle, the director of graduate studies at Notre Dame’s Early Christian Studies program, telling me that I have been accepted into their MA program. I am so unbelievably excited and I look forward to moving up to South Bend in the Fall to begin my studies!

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