My last post was unusually personal for my blog, but I have been thinking about death more than usual lately. Early Christian authors often reflect on death and dying, more so than I think we do today.

For example, Gregory of Nazianzus’s wrote four funeral orations: three were for his family (his brother Caesarius, his sister Gorgonia, and his father Gregory), and one—and perhaps one of his greatest orations—was for his friend Basil of Caesarea. Gregory also wrote many epitaphs for himself and others. Two-hundred fifty-four are preserved in the Palantine MS and are translated in volume II, book 8 of the Loeb Greek Anthology.

Also, this year The Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies is co-sponsoring with The Center for Scriptural Exegesis, Philosophy, and Doctrine (Mundelein Seminary) and the Chicago Theological Initiative a colloquium On Christian Dying. The colloquium will take place on March 17–18. Here is the schedule:

Thursday, March 17th
9:30—12:00 Gilbert Meilaender (Valparaiso University)
Paul L. Gavrilyuk (University of St. Thomas)
Michel Barnes (Marquette University)
12:00—2:00 Lunch
2:00—4:30 Sheryl Overmyer (DePaul University)
Cyril O’Regan (University of Notre Dame)
Marcus Plested (Marquette University)
5:00—7:00 Dinner
7:30—9:00 Public Lecture
John Cavadini (University of Notre Dame)
Friday, March 18th
9:30—12:00 Brian E. Daley (University of Notre Dame)
Brent Waters (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary)
Mark McIntosh (Loyola University Chicago)
12:00—1:30 Lunch
1:30—4:00 Marc Cortez (Wheaton College)
Cherith Fee Nordling (Northern Seminary)
David Luy (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

[N.B.– The colloquium is limited to 75 people, but the public lecture by John Cavadini is free and open to the public; I will be posting more information on that in the near future]

To be honest, when I heard of the topic for the colloquium last year, I wasn’t that excited. However, as my grandfather’s passing drew near, I began to realize how little death and dying is discussed in contemporary theology. There are exceptions, but it seems to me that it doesn’t occupy the attention of modern theologians as much as it did early Christian writers. It seems to me that a theology that neglects death and dying isn’t doing it’s job.

Finally, here is a interview with Dr. Ellen Muehlberger on the topic of death and repentance in early Christianity that is worth a listen.


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