Open Letters: Ignatius of Antioch and the Reconstruction of Early Christianity
J. Gregory Given
The support of the Shohet Scholarship over the academic year 2021–2022 was instrumental in allowing me to maintain forward momentum on my research while navigating the rough waters of an early academic career as a contingent teacher and (sometimes) independent scholar. Over the past year, thanks to the Shohet, I made substantial progress on my book manuscript, completed two publications, began a third, and presented my research at two conferences. I am not sure that any of this work would have happened without the generous support of the International Catacomb Society.
During this time, I made substantial progress on the primary focus of my research proposal, a monograph project tentatively titled, Open Letters: Ignatius of Antioch and the Reconstruction of Early Christianity. This book represents a revision and expansion of my 2019 Harvard dissertation. Over the course of the Shohet award term, I made headway in revising the four chapters carried over from the dissertation and began the work of drafting two new, additional chapters that I had planned for the book. I presented a partial draft of each of these new chapters at conferences: At the 75th General Meeting of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in late July 2021, I gave a paper titled, “Ignatius of Antioch, Pseudepigraphy, and the Discernment of Early Christian Letter Fiction,” which included arguments from Chapters 1 and 6 of the book project. Then, in a virtual session at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in November 2021, I presented “Epistolary Networks: Textual Fluidity in Ancient Letter Collections,” a partial draft of Chapter 5. (I began both presentations with a public acknowledgement of the ICS’s support for my research.) Thanks to the invaluable feedback received in these fora, both of the book’s new chapters are currently about 70% written. Following an editorial board review of a full proposal and two sample chapters, Open Letters has now been invited for submission to the Christianity in Late Antiquity series at the University of California Press. I anticipate completing and submitting the manuscript for peer review next year.
In addition to the progress on the Book manuscript, the Scholarship supported my completion of two publications, and a start on a third, all directly related to the monograph project. In a book chapter that will be out next year, I provide a scholarly introduction to and translation of the Correspondence of Ignatius with John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary, a (today) little-known four-letter collection that survives only in Latin, straddling the intersection of the Ignatian dossier and the broader corpus of New Testament Apocrypha. In a peer-reviewed article set for release in Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, I survey the manuscript evidence for two versions of the letters of Ignatius in Coptic and argue that this Coptic evidence troubles the standard picture of the textual history of these letters. Building on this article, I am currently preparing an edition and study of two Coptic fragments of this Ignatius material that have yet to be published, which will hopefully be submitted soon to Le Muséon as part of a dossier of new manuscript witnesses to the Ignatius letters. The Shohet Scholarship made possible my completion of both submitted publications—both were due long before the Scholarship period, but it was only with the help of the Shohet that I was finally able to devote the time to seeing them through to completion.
I am tremendously grateful for the ICS’s support of my work during a fragile period in my early research career. When I finally submit Open Letters for publication, it will be in large part because of this support.
Bibliography: Forthcoming Publications Supported by the Shohet Scholarship
J. Gregory Given. “How Coherent is the Ignatian Middle Recension? The View from the Coptic Versions of the Letters of Ignatius.” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 98 (2022): 481–502.
J. Gregory Given. Open Letters: Ignatius of Antioch and the Reconstruction of Early Christianity. Book project, invited for submission to the Christianity in Late Antiquity series at the University of California Press. Manuscript to be submitted in Spring 2023.
J. Gregory Given. “The Correspondence of Ignatius with John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary” Pages 509–24 in volume 3 of Tony Burke, ed. New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2023).