The Forgotten Creed
Stephen J. Patterson, The Forgotten Creed: Christianity's Original Struggle against Bigotry, Slavery and Sexism (New York: Oxford University Press), 2018
Stephen J. Patterson is a dedicated New Testament scholar, writer and teacher. During his decades as professor at Eden Theological Seminary, I had several opportunities to hear him lecture and to read his works. His careful research and ability to see many different points of view make him an excellent Biblical teacher. The Forgotten Creed takes a look at the Jesus movement before there was an institutional church and uses ancient documents, both Biblical and those from other sources to achieve a remarkably accurate look at a part of our story that has been hidden.
A single quote from Paul in Galatians reveals the possibility that the words were part of an oft used and familiar liturgy. If this is the case, the roots of the Jesus movement contained efforts to overcome bigotry, sexism and classism. Patterson takes us on a careful examination of “There is no Jew nor greek, no salve nor free, no male and female.” The journey winds through some pretty obscure texts and thoughts and one needs to have a bit of love for some obscure texts and following the footnotes, but the book is an easy read and one that I’d love to share with a group of lay people some time.
As is typical for Patterson, he allows the reader to draw their own conclusions, but it is also clear which way he is leaning. He is convinced that the words come from a baptismal liturgy and that they were familiar to those who were the first readers of Paul’s words and they illustrate that the struggle with divisions within the church are longstanding. We may have been wrestling with bigotry, classism and sexism for as long as we have been in the church.