Hugo Mendez

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Hugo Méndez

Assistant Professor

Education

Ph.D., M.A., University of Georgia, 2013, 2009
B.A., Southern Adventist University, 2006

Fields of Specialization

  • New Testament
  • Reception and Cultural History of New Testament texts
  • Early and Late Antique Christianity

Research Interests

  • Johannine literature
  • Luke and Acts
  • Ritual uses of biblical texts (lectionaries, stational liturgy, hymnody)
  • Martyrs cults, feasts, pilgrimages, and relics

Professional Biography

The texts now constituting the New Testament have played a critical role in the construction of Christian communities, identities, and practices through the centuries. My research interprets Christian communities of the first six centuries by their production and use of these literary works.

My first book manuscript enhances what we know about one community—Jerusalem—by looking more closely at its devotion to the New Testament figure of Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 6–8). As the Mediterranean was Christianized in the fourth and fifth centuries, cities seeking to bolster their prestige drew on the fame of local martyrs to claim importance for themselves as spaces. Rome famously articulated its identity around Peter and Paul, while Constantinople claimed the legacy and relics of Andrew. In Inventing Stephen: The Early Cult of the Protomartyr in Late Ancient Jerusalem, I demonstrate that church officials in Jerusalem worked for several decades to position Stephen in a similar role—that is, as a symbol of the city’s prestige and identity. Canvassing the diverse expressions of Stephen’s local cult, my book illuminates Jerusalem as a cultural site, revealing how the church understood its biblical past, how it articulated this self-understanding through and around the biblical martyr it selected as its own special patron, and how it reproduced this knowledge in a range of texts, monuments, and ritual practices.

As that first project nears its conclusion, I have begun work on another manuscript—one that challenges the ways that scholars have used biblical texts to reconstruct Christianity in the first and second centuries. For over fifty years, scholars have claimed that the biblical books of John, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John originated in an ancient, sectarian Christian movement: the so-called “Johannine community.” We have no external evidence for this movement; we have only the above four texts, which scholars claim reveal the history of this community. In a recent article, however, I have argued that no such community existed. Instead, the four Johannine texts are probably a chain of ancient literary fakes/forgeries, penned by authors of different extractions, and not reliable sources for historical reconstruction (“Did the Johannine Community Exist?” JSNT; see link below). My book takes this thesis forward, arguing for a dramatic redescription of early Christianity and a sea change in scholarly discussions of these ancient texts.

Courses Recently Taught

  • Metacriticism of New Testament Studies (Graduate; Spring 2020)
  • Introduction to the New Testament (Spring 2020)
  • The Cult of Saints: Narratives, Materialities, Practices (Fall 2019)

Selected Awards

Fellowship, Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2016–18

ISM Fellowship in Sacred Music, Worship, and the Related Arts, Institute of Sacred Music, Yale University, 2014-16

Selected Publications

“Revising the Date of the Armenian Lectionary of Jerusalem.” Journal of Early Christian Studies, in press (vol. 29; Summer 2021).

“Did the Johannine Community Exist?” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 43 (2020), in press.

“Mixed Metaphors: Resolving the ‘Eschatological Headache’ of John 5.” Journal of Biblical Literature 137 (2018): 711–732 (https://doi.org/10.15699/jbl.1373.2018.409291).

“He Spoke… Forever’: A Hebrew Idiom in Luke 1:55.” Biblica 98 (2017): 257–269 (https://doi.org/10.2143/BIB.98.2.3217846).

Stephen the Martyr (Acts vi-viii) in the Early Jerusalem Lectionary System, Journal of Ecclesiastical History (2017): 22–39 (https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022046916001421).

“Semitic Poetic Techniques in the Magnificat: Luke 1:46–47, 55.” Journal of Biblical Literature (2016): 551–568 (https://doi.org/10.15699/jbl.1353.2016.2713).

“‘Night’ and ‘Day’ in John 9.4–5: A Reassessment.” New Testament Studies 61 (2015): 468–481 (https://doi.org/10.1017/S0028688515000223).