Department of Religious Studies

Geoffrey Smith


Ph.D., Princeton University

Assistant Professor
Geoffrey Smith

Contact

Interests


New Testament | Early Christianity | Patristics | Nag Hammadi | Papyrology | Coptic Language and Literature

Biography


Geoffrey Smith is Assistant Professor of Biblical Greek and Christian Origins and Fellow of the Nease Endowment in the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins (ISAC). He received a PhD in Religions of Mediterranean Antiquity from Princeton University in 2013. Smith is a scholar of the New Testament and Early Christianity whose research interests include Paul and the Pauline tradition, Patristics, orthodoxy and heresy, papyrology, and Valentinianism. His book Guilt by Association: Heresy Catalogues in Early Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2015) examines the strategic circulation of polemical texts in contests for religious authority by deutero-Pauline and early-Patristic authors. His current research explores the intersection of medicine and polemic in the writings of Tertullian of Carthage. 

Courses


R S 353 • Angel/Demon/Magic Early Cen

43645 • Fall 2016
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:30PM CBA 4.338
(also listed as MEL 321)

The world as early Christians imagined it was a spiritual universe inhabited by angels and demons. These lesser gods were thought to govern the mundane affairs experienced by Christians, day-to-day matters like health, wealth, love, and revenge. But how did Christians come to view the world in this way? How did angelology and demonology influence the ways that Christians thought about the world around them? And to what extent did Christians use magic to manipulate the spiritual world? We will consider these and other questions in this survey of early Christian views of angels, demons, and magic. All primary sources will be read in translation.

 

Texts:

  • M. Meyer and R. Smith, Ancient Christian Magic
  • H.D. Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation
  • The Oxford Annotated Bible

 

Grading:

  • 3 short essays: 45% (15% each)
  • Final Paper: 40%
  • Attendance and participation: 15%

R S 387M • Introduction To Coptic I

43760 • Fall 2016
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM BUR 554

The origins of the Coptic language are somewhat mysterious. It emerged in the first and second centuries CE, when a small group of linguistic innovators began to transliterate the Egyptian language into Greek characters along with a few letterforms borrowed from demotic. The language increased in popularity and flourished from the fourth through seventh centuries among Christians in Egypt. Many late antique Egyptian Christians read the bible in Coptic translation, and composed literature, magical texts, and private letters in the language as well. Coptic was even used sporadically as the language of bureaucracy. While Coptic is no longer spoken today, it lives on as one of the liturgical languages of the Coptic Orthodox Church. This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of Coptic grammar and familiarize them with many of the texts that survive in the language. Students will also become familiar with the circumstances of discovery and contents of some of the major hoards of Coptic manuscripts, such as the finds at Dishna, Kellis, Nag Hammadi, Oxyrhynchus, and the monastery of the archangel Michael and the White Monastery. Finally, students will become acquainted with topics of special interest among Coptic scholars today, such as paleography, dialectology, and bilingualism.

Required course books include, but are not limited to:

  • Walter E. Crum, Coptic Dictionary (Wipf & Stock Pub, 2005)
  • Bentley Layton, A Coptic Grammar: With Chrestomathy and Glossary. Sahidic Dialect (Harrassowitz Verlag, 2011)
  • Bentley Layton, Coptic in 20 Lessons: Introduction to Sahidic Coptic with Exercises and Vocabularies (Peeters Publishers, 2007)
  • Richard Smith, A Concise Coptic-English Lexicon. Second Edition (Society of Biblical Literature, 1999)

R S 353 • Paul And His Social World

42830 • Spring 2016
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM JES A215A
(also listed as C C 348)

Perhaps no other follower of Jesus has influenced the Christian tradition to the degree that the apostle Paul has. Among the twenty-seven books in the New Testament, his name appears on nearly half of them. He is variously remembered as the second founder of Christianity, the great apostle, and an apostate from Judaism. But who was Paul of Tarsus? What traditions influenced him? What did he teach, and how did others interpret his teachings?  This course will examine the life and letters of this first-century Jewish missionary, by interpreting Paul’s own writings within the context of diaspora Judaism and the broader Greco-Roman world. We will also explore his legacy within the early church, by considering some of the interesting and perhaps unexpected ways that later canonical and extra-canonical Christian authors tailored Paul’s teachings to suit their own contexts.        

Readings 

John Gager, Reinventing Paul

Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians

Richard Pervo, The Making of Paul: Constructions of the Apostle in Early Christianity

 

Grading

3 short essays, 5-6 pages (45%, 15% ea)

Final Paper, 10-12 pages (40%)

Attendance and participation (15%)

R S 365 • Hermits/Monks/Sts Early Christ

42845 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM BUR 228
(also listed as C C 348, MES 342)

When a rich young man asked what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus famously replied: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mk 10:17-22). This course examines those early Christians who interpreted Jesus’ words literally and renounced friends, family, and material possessions and sought holiness in a life of self-denial. We will explore individual and communal forms of Christian monasticism, from Simeon the Stylite, who in an act of religious devotion lived for thirty-seven years atop a pillar, to Shenoute the Archimandrite, who oversaw a federation of monasteries intended to provide male and female monks with the opportunity to live as angels in heaven while still on earth. In this survey of Christian monasticism from the first through fifth centuries CE, we will not only marvel at the spectacular feats of these religious eccentrics, but also explore the social, economic, and religious factors that may have made a life of self-denial attractive to many early Christians. We will also consider the role of authority in these movements. Who had it? How did they get it? And in what ways did others contest it? All primary sources will be read in translation.  

 

Grading

  • 3 short essays: 45% (15% each)
  • Final paper: 40%
  • Attendance and participation: 15%

 

Texts

  • A. Veilleux, Pachomian Koinonia: The Life of Saint Pachomius
  • B. Layton, The Canons of Our Fathers: Monastic Rules of Shenoute
  • R. Krawiec, Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery: Egyptian Monasticism in Late Antiquity

R S 387M • Gnosticism

43320 • Spring 2015
Meets TH 12:30PM-3:30PM BUR 436A
(also listed as MES 386)

“Gnosticism” and Early Christianity“What is Gnosticism?” asks a well-known book on the topic. Some scholars view Gnosticism as a religious phenomenon that surfaces from time to time within or alongside Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Others use the category more narrowly to designate a group of Christian “heretics” active in the second and third centuries. A skeptical minority understands Gnosticism to be a polemical category constructed by unsympathetic interpreters from the second through the twentieth centuries. In this class we will consider the multiple answers given to the question of Gnosticism by familiarizing ourselves with the ancient texts often regarded as gnostic, surveying the various scholarly treatments of these texts, and discussing critical issues in class. While this course will focus chiefly on early Christianity, it will also make brief forays into later purported manifestations of Gnosticism in other religious and intellectual traditions by examining medieval Jewish mysticism, Sufism, and the thought of analytical psychologist Carl Jung. This course will move freely between the poles of historical study and theories of religion. 

GK 328 • Pauline Epistles

33485 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM WAG 112
(also listed as GK 385W)

The name of the apostle Paul appears on more than half of the texts in the New Testament. These Pauline and deutero-Pauline Epistles reflect a surprising degree of stylistic and rhetorical sophistication when compared with other epistolary literature of the first and second centuries CE. Some scholars have even suggested that they number among the earliest literary examples of the Second Sophistic, a period of renewed interest in Greek rhetoric and oratory during the high Roman Empire. In this course we will test this hypothesis by reading the Pauline and deutero-Pauline Epistles alongside orators and authors such as Aelius Aristides, Dio Chrysostom, Lucian, and Philostratus, as well as relevant selections from ancient rhetorical handbooks, pseudepigraphic epistles, and the papyrological and epigraphic record. Primary sources will be read in Greek.

For GK 328, the class stresses volume and comprehension in reading, vocabulary building, and sight-reading, along with grammatical review and syntactic analysis. All students are expected to prepare specified portions of Greek on a daily basis, to be translated and analyzed in class for grammar, forms, and syntax. There will be regular quizzes over subsections of the reading, plus a mid-term (cumulative) and final examination (comprehensive). Students will prepare a final project. Daily reading/translation assignments, quizzes, and exams are likewise required for those taking the course for graduate credit (GK 386M). In addition there will be supplemental translation from Greek comparanda and readings in secondary literature, plus a written paper comparing features of Paul’s letters with contemporary literature.

Texts /Readings:

Novum Testamentum Graece, ed. by Nestle & Aland, et al. (28th edition revised; Stuttgart: Deutsche Biblegesellschaft/American Bible Society, 2012).

H. Schmoller, Handkonkordanz zum griechischen Neuen Testament (revised ed.; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994).

C.F.D. Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek (2nd ed.; Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1960).

An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon founded upon the 7th edition of Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon  (Oxford:  Clarendon, 1889; repr. 1997).

Other Greek readings will be provided by the professor.

R S 387M • Coptic

44680 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM MEZ 1.104
(also listed as MEL 383)

The origins of the Coptic language are somewhat mysterious. It emerged in the first and second centuries CE, when a small group of linguistic innovators began to transliterate the Egyptian language into Greek characters along with a few letterforms borrowed from demotic. The language increased in popularity and flourished from the fourth through seventh centuries among Christians in Egypt. Many late antique Egyptian Christians read the bible in Coptic translation, and composed literature, magical texts, and private letters in the language as well. Coptic was even used sporadically as the language of bureaucracy. While Coptic is no longer spoken today, it lives on as one of the liturgical languages of the Coptic Orthodox Church. This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of Coptic grammar and familiarize them with many of the texts that survive in the language. Students will also become familiar with the circumstances of discovery and contents of some of the major hoards of Coptic manuscripts, such as the finds at Dishna, Kellis, Nag Hammadi, Oxyrhynchus, and the monastery of the archangel Michael and the White Monastery. Finally, students will become acquainted with topics of special interest among Coptic scholars today, such as paleography, dialectology, and bilingualism.

Required course books include, but are not limited to:

Walter E. Crum, Coptic Dictionary (Wipf & Stock Pub, 2005)

Bentley Layton, A Coptic Grammar: With Chrestomathy and Glossary. Sahidic Dialect (Harrassowitz Verlag, 2011)

Bentley Layton, Coptic in 20 Lessons: Introduction to Sahidic Coptic with Exercises and Vocabularies (Peeters Publishers, 2007)

Richard Smith, A Concise Coptic-English Lexicon. Second Edition (Society of Biblical Literature, 1999)

C C 348 • Paul And His Social World

33328 • Fall 2013
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM BUR 436A

C C 348 Topics in Ancient Civilization:

The development and progress of ancient civilization, including history, philosophy, literature, and culture. No knowledge of Greek or Latin is required.

 

Curriculum Vitae


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