The final meeting of the Second Century Seminar was held last night at the University of Dallas. Daniel Williams, Professor of Religion in Patristics and Historical Theology at Baylor University, delivered a paper entitled, “Spreading the Word: Who did the Ancient Apologists write for?”
The essay raised questions about the intended audience of early Christian apologetic writings and concluded that the “first and primary readership of apologies were literate (and clerical) Christians.” Contrary to some common assumptions, there is virtually no evidence that Roman emperors or pagan intellectuals actually read and engaged the Christian apologetic writings. Instead, those who were copying and disseminating the apologetic texts were Christians already sympathetic to the arguments of the text. These are, broadly speaking, Christian texts written for Christian edification and intellectual formation in order to prepare Christians for cultural engagement.
Stephen Presley, Associate Professor of Church History at Southwestern Seminary, responded and the ensuing discussion focused on the nature of the genre of “apology” in the early church and the broader pagan audiences that might have encountered the writings through interactions in the public square. The use of scripture in thier apologetic arguments, as well as the possible channels for disseminating apologetic writings within the imperial court, were also discussed.
As always, it was a wonderful evening and nice conclusion to another year of Second Century Seminar meetings. The seminar will continue to meet next year at the University of Dallas and we all look forward to another round of papers in 2018-19.