With my study of plural marriage demographics completed, I have returned to studying early Christian church leadership. I like to type in search terms in library subscription databases and skim the articles that pop up. I figure some might be interested in my research notes. I welcome any discussion about issues that are raised.

Shalom Goldman, “Joshua/James Seixas (1802-1874): Jewish Apostasy and Christian Hebraism in Early Nineteenth-Century America” Jewish History, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring, 1993), pp. 65-88

This article oddly came up while searching JSTOR for early Christian ordination, which is a topic I have blogged about in the past. The major reveal of the article is that Seixas had secretly converted to Unitarian Christianity (observed by John Adams as the denomination that would provide the smoothest transition for Jews to convert to Christianity) before being hired to teach Mormon students Hebrew in Kirtland. Seixas was a well connected scholar. He collaborated with Moses Stuart, who was regarded as “the dean of Biblical studies in America”  and communicated with Unitarian James Walker, who later served as President of Harvard. I have previously cited Stuart’s work as a contemporary of Joseph Smith who also connected the white stone of Revelation 3:21 with the Urim and Thummim.

Myllykoski, Matti. 2007. “James the Just in History and Tradition: Perspectives of Past and Present Scholarship (Part II).” Currents in Biblical Research, 6:11-98. LINK

BYU professor, S. Kent Brown, wrote a 1972 dissertation on early Christian sources regarding James. As Myllykoski’s literature survey jumps from topic to topic, Brown’s treatment is often the first to be cited. (On a personal note I just discovered Dr. Brown’s wife is a once removed second cousin of mine.) James deserves more attention by LDS scholars. Legend has James associated with temple worship, the Melchizedek priesthood, Davidic succession, and a gnostic endowment. Was he an apostle or presiding bishop? Did he maintain a quorum of 12 in Jerusalem while others of the original 12 conducted missionary abroad? As a pillar of the early Church did his authority rival Peter’s? Did his policies placing minimum requirements on Gentile converts while personally conforming to Mosaic laws create a split in Christianity? I recommend Myllykoski’s 2 part series as a good primer to understanding the work that has already been done on these questions.

Hans Kvalbein, “The authorization of Peter in Matthew 16:17-19; A Reconsideration of the Power to Bind and Loose” in Jostein Adna ed. The Formation of the Early Church Mohr Siebeck, Tubingen, Germany 2005 p. 145-174 LINK

This is a Protestant take on the old proof text. Writes Kvalbein “A majority of exegetes from all denominations support the view that Peter is the petra: the rock or foundation stone on which Jesus will build his church.  But a similar majority from all confessions, including Roman Catholic scholars, do not support the traditional Roman Catholic view that this text introduces the idea of an apostolic succession pointing to the primacy of Peter as the first bishop of Rome. This is in fact, a late interpretation and application of the text, which gained broader support in the Roman Catholic Church only from the time of the Reformation and Counter Reformation.” In common ground with Mormon exegetes, Kvalbein links Jesus’s blessing to Peter’s confession based on divine revelation. However Kvalbein has a fairly limited view of how revelation sets Peter apart from other disciples (from apostles down to the little children of Matt 11:25 and Matt 10:40-2) who receive revelation. He argues that Matthew supports a low, democratic church structure, while being aware of his anachronistic terms.

Given my LDS background, I associate the keys of the kingdom to bind and loose more in line with 1) the right to direct the earthly church via revelation and 2) the authority to seal covenants made through earthly ordinances such that they will be honored in heaven (D&C 132:7). It is not easy to establish the first point from non-LDS sources (but a prior essay of mine might be a good start), let alone confining myself to Matthew. Kvalbein primarily associates binding and sealing with the forgiveness of sins and counters another tendency to associate it with the right to interpret the law and declare something forbidden or not (based on later rabbinical usage). Again he argues that this doesn’t make Peter or the apostles all that special because Matt. 18 extends the need to forgive to all brothers and disciples. Secondarily, he associates the forgiveness of sins with ordinances like baptism (for which Peter and the other apostles are given the great commission in Matt 28) and the Lord’s supper. However he sees this type of setting apart as a consequence that some believers are in different stages of maturity in the faith than others. Peter was just the first to receive the revelation and keys.

The perspective set forth in Dallin H. Oaks’s recent conference talk was helpful to me. He distinguished between a personal line of revelation and a hierarchical, authoritative line of revelation and pled for a balance between the two within the LDS Church. To oversimplify, Protestants tend to exclusively emphasize the personal line at the expense (at least from a Mormon perspective) of the hierarchical on.

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