Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Polymorphic or Polydoxic Christianity? Perhaps Neither.

April DeConick, in the comments of her posts, has expressed some concerns with the term "polymorphic." Firstly, she notes that she had considered it before coming up with "polydoxy," and her reasons for rejecting it are:

1. Primarily, it is the same problem with "Christianities"--it just denotes varieties, but does not give any hints pertaining how these groups interact with one another or how they understand themselves. Although, I should note, "polymorphic" is not as grammatically jarring as "Christianities" or "Judaisms."

2. There is nothing particularly Christian about polymorphic--something I consider in its favor, but if one is trying to capture the interactions exclusively between Christians rather than Christians and other groups or just all groups in antiquity, then something with a more Christian ring, with "doxy" or "praxy" would be preferable.

I consider the first point the real potential problem with "polymorphic," and I would be willing to relinquish it for that purpose--its lack of teeth.

In contrast, "polydoxy" indicates a particular character of these groups--they are all claiming to be Christian and the "correct" Christianity against other forms. In this sense, if I have read April's blog entries correctly, this term denotes the specific interaction of jostling for primacy or the polemics of various groups claiming to have the correct understanding of rites and beliefs against the others. "Christianities" and "polymorphic," therefore, appear too benign to capture such polemical interactions, ranging from subtle to intense.

My question as a novice in this field to a seasoned scholar such as April would be this: does "polydoxy" conceal as much as it reveals? Meaning, is the Hobbesian "all against all" or polemical jostling various orthodoxies the only type of interaction that the sources reveal? Or does it capture just a portion of 2nd and 3rd century forms of Christian interactions?

But if this IS the case, perhaps the term "polyorthic" more correctly captures the interactions--it does not impose a false division between belief and practice, and it focuses on various groups claiming they're "right." And it is odd enough to catch people's attention!

It is an interesting topic to brainstorm.

1 comment:

Liam said...

Hey Jared, did you get my email about the Coptic service on Saturday?