Westar Institute Fall Meeting 2013
Early Christianity: Heritage or Heresies?

The Westar Institute Fall Meeting 2013 took place October 23 – 26, 2013 in Santa Rosa, California. The Westar team thanks all attendees and supporters who participated in this twice-annual event. Learn more about Westar national meetings.

Program Highlights

The Christianity Seminar — Radical Questions

  • Did Christianity begin with Jesus, Paul, Luke, or Constantine?
  • Which came first, the Gospel of John or the Gospel of Luke?
  • What did the first New Testament look like?
  • How did the debate about rules and rituals shape Christianity?
  • Does the date of Christian origins impact Jewish-Christian relations?


The Once & Future God

Joseph Bessler & David Galston

Wednesday, 9 am–3:30 pm

When asked about God, the historical Jesus inevitably answered in parable. The Christian Church, however, typically answers with metaphysics. This contrast raises some intriguing questions: what are the sources of ideas about God in the Western tradition? How did Jesus get lost in this tradition and does he have anything new to offer? David Galston and Joe Bessler will examine how ideas about God are informed by and ingrained in the cultural heritage of the West. They will contrast ideas about God found in the tradition with Jesus’ vision of God and ask what inspiration we can draw from Jesus about the future of God?[one_third]

David Galston David Galston is a University Chaplain, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and Academic Adviser to the SnowStar Institute in Canada. He is the author of Embracing the Human Jesus: A Wisdom Path for Contemporary Christianity (2012).





Joseph BesslerJoseph A. Bessler is the Robert Travis Peake Associate Professor of Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK, where he also serves as Associate Dean. He is the author of A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better (2013).

The Acts of the Apostles: Taming the Tongues of Fire

Shelly Matthews

Thursday, 9–11:30 am

The early assemblies that gathered in Jesus’ name engaged in dramatic, spirit-induced practices. The overarching narrative framework of Acts situates dramatic events, such as the tongues of flame that descended on Pentecost, within an orderly account for the purpose of reassuring Theophilus, the author’s elite patron. Thus there is tension between this story of unruly and egalitarian spiritual practices and the order subsequently found in Acts. Shelly Matthews will explore how Acts struggles to tame the tongues of fire. She will expose the gaps, fissures, and alternate voices in the narrative that suggest a more complex, and even subversive, religious movement.[one_third]

Shelly Matthews

Shelly Matthews is Associate Professor of New Testament at the Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, and author of The Acts of the Apostles: Taming the Tongues of Fire (forthcoming), Perfect Martyr: The Stoning of Stephen and the Construction of Christian Identity (2010) and First Converts: Rich Pagan Women and the Rhetoric of Mission in Early Judaism and Christianity (2001).[/two_thirds][column_break]

Marcion: Forgotten “Father” & Inventor of the New Testament

Jason BeDuhn

Thursday, 1–3:30 pm

Marcion (c. 85–160 CE) is the most significant figure of second-century Christianity. But his importance has been obscured by his status as a “heretic”—a charge made by his enemies that has all too often been repeated as fact by modern scholarship.  Jason BeDuhn will disentangle what we know for certain about Marcion from entrenched assumptions. He will examine Marcion’s role in Christianity’s emergence from Judaism, the increased standing of Paul as an authority figure, and the formation of a Christian set of scriptures. Finally he will explore what Marcion’s New Testament suggests about the development and transmission of Christian literature (such as the Gospel of Luke and the Epistles of Paul).


Photo of Jason BeDuhn

Jason BeDuhn

Jason BeDuhn is Professor of the Comparative Study of Religions at Northern Arizona University, a Guggenheim and National Humanities Center Fellow, and author of The Manichaean Body (2000, winner of the American Academy of Religion Best First Book Award), Truth in Translation (2003),  Augustine’s Manichaean Dilemma (vol. 1 2010, vol. 2 2013), and The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptural Canon (forthcoming 2013).

An Interview with Joe Tyson

Friday, 7:30–9 pm

Joseph TysonJoseph B. Tyson, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, is an internationally recognized authority on the Gospel of Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and Marcion.  One of the founders of the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies, he is beloved as the elder statesman of biblical scholars in the region and is widely respected for his work as chair of the Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations as well for as his groundbreaking work on  Christian origins and dedication to religious understanding. Tyson is co-author (with Dennis E. Smith) of Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report (forthcoming 2013), and author of Marcion and Luke-Acts (2006), Luke, Judaism, and the Scholars (1999), and Images of Judaism in Luke-Acts (1992), among others.


The Christianity Seminar

Celebration of the Publication of the Acts Seminar Report

Friday, 9–10:30 am, 11 am–12:30 pm

Featuring co-authors Dennis E. Smith and Joseph B. Tyson, and members of the Acts Seminar and Christianity Seminar.

Paper presentations:

  • Acts in an Age of Uncertainty (Joseph B. Tyson)
  • How Paul’s Itinerary in Acts Was Put Together (Dennis E. Smith)
  • Fleshly Resurrection, Apostolic Authority, and the Final Judgment (Shelly Matthews)

Regular Sessions of the Christianity Seminar, TBA

Friday, 2–3:30 pm

  • Luke 24: A Second-Century Edition? (Brandon Scott)
  • Luke’s Last Supper Story (Dennis E. Smith)
  • John’s Radical Rewriting of Luke-Acts (Dennis MacDonald)

Saturday, 9–10:30 am, 11 am–12:30 pm

  • The New Marcion (Jason BeDuhn)
  • The OT and Second-Century Christians (Joseph Tyson)
  • Canon Formation among the Romans (Chris Shea)

Saturday, 2–3:30 pm

Wrap Up and Voting, led by Nina Livesey and Perry Kea[divider style=”hr-dotted-double”]


Wednesday, October 23

9–10, 10:30–11:30 am, 1–2, 2:30–3:30 pm
Galston/Bessler, The Once & Future God

Authors & books

Thursday, October 24

9–10, 10:30–11:30 am
Matthews, The Acts of the Apostles

1–2, 2:30–3:30 pm
BeDuhn, Marcion

Authors & books

8–10 pm

Friday, October 25

9–10:30 am, 11 am–12:30 pm
Celebration of Publication of Acts

2–3:30 pm
Christianity Seminar

4–5 pm
Associates forum

7:30–9 pm
Keynote Interview

Saturday, October 26

9–10:30, 11–12:30, 2–3:30 pm
Christianity Seminar

7–10 pm

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Wednesday – Saturday (entire event

Registration Options Members Non-members
Early Bird (by July 31, members save $95) $295 $325
Pre-registration (by Sept 23, members save $70) $320 $350
Registration (after Sept 23, members save $50) $340 $370


Wednesday – Friday Acts Celebration
Includes reception

Registration Options Members Non-members
Early Bird (by July 31, members save $45) $150 $165
Pre-registration (by Sep 23, members save $30) $165 $175
Registration (after Sept 23, members save $20) $175 $185


Thursday evening – Saturday
Includes reception, banquet & electronic seminar papers*

Registration Options Members Non-members
Early Bird (by July 31, members save $65) $195 $225
Pre-registration (by Sept 23, members save $45) $215 $235
Registration (after Sept 23, members save $35) $225 $245


Single Sessions and Other Options

Members Non-members
Wednesday – All daytime sessions $65 $70
Thursday – All daytime sessions $65 $70
     Thursday morning – Matthews only $35 $40
     Thursday afternoon – BeDuhn only $35 $40
Friday – All daytime sessions $65 $70
     Friday morning – Acts Celebration only $25 $30
     Friday evening interview $20 $20
Saturday – All daytime sessions $65 $70
Extra reception ticket $40
Extra banquet ticket $55
Hardcopy of seminar papers* $25
Electronic seminar papers* (w/o registration) $15


Discounts are available for qualified students. Learn more »

CEUs are available on request. Learn more »

Refunds are available if requested in writing by October 1, minus a $40 administrative fee. No refunds will be given after that date.

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Accommodations & Travel

All events will take place at:

The Flamingo Resort Hotel
2777 Fourth Street
Santa Rosa, California 95405

By air
Alaska Airlines provides nonstop service to the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa (STS) from Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Santa Rosa is also served by San Francisco (SFO) and Oakland (OAK) airports.

The Airport Express provides service from SFO and OAK to Santa Rosa. Travel time is about two hours. The fare is currently $34 one-way with a $2 discount for seniors (62+), military, and students. The new Santa Rosa drop-off point is located 1.8 miles from the Flamingo at the Veterans Memorial building. From there you must get a cab.

Currently buses depart San Francisco airport every hour, on the half-hour, from 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Airport buses pick up on the Lower Level (outside Baggage Claim area) in the center island at the pillars marked “Airporters.” Buses depart Oakland airport every two hours, on the half hour, from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Buses pick up outside the Baggage Claim area, at the Ground Transportation Center platform marked “4D Scheduled Buses.”

Airport bus schedules change frequently. To be sure of up-to-date schedules and fares, for maps, and to get online discounts, visit Airport Express or call toll free at 800-327-2024.

By car
The Flamingo Hotel is located at the corner of 4th Street and Farmers Lane in Santa Rosa, approximately 55 miles north of San Francisco.

  • Take Hwy 101 North to Santa Rosa
  • Exit Hwy 12 (East toward Sonoma)
  • Stay on Hwy 12 (which joins Farmers Lane) to 4th Street

*Seminar Papers
The Seminar Papers are the basis for the discussions in Saturday’s sessions. They will not be presented orally at the event. Persons wishing to follow the discussions should read the papers in advance. Electronic copies of the Seminar Papers are included in the Wed/Thurs – Sat registration prices. They will be distributed in September. Hard copies of the papers will be available at a cost of $25 each.

Students Discounts
Qualified full-time students—undergraduates enrolled in a degree program and graduate students in Religious Studies or a related discipline—are entitled to a 50% discount on their registration fees. The discount will be taken on member or nonmember rates, depending on the Westar membership status of the student. *Note: The deadline to submit the student discount form has passed. Interested students should call 503-375-5323 to register at the discounted rate. Students who plan to register in person at the conference should bring their Student ID cards.

Continuing Education Units
Attendance at Westar events qualifies for CEUs for clergy and other educators. Full attendance at Westar’s Spring or Fall semiannual meetings earns 2 CEUs (.5 per day). Participation in a full Jesus Seminar-on-the-Road program earns .5 CEUs. Please notify us of your interest in advance of meetings using the CEU request form. During the event, applicants will be asked to check in at the registration desk each day on arrival and departure. A certificate will be sent immediately following the event. *Note: The deadline to send the request form has passed, but Westar can still accept requests for CEUs on a case-by-case basis. Please submit the request form and call 503-375-5323 with any questions.

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