About Me

I have a Master of Arts  in Classics, a Master of Theology in Church History, and a Ph.D. jointly in both fields. These facts alone will give you a clue about the person who’s writing the posts on this blog.

Primarily, I think of myself as a Classicist. The field of Classics is the study of the Graeco-Roman world, from as far back as archaeology will take us to c. A.D. 500.  I have read lots of Latin and Greek texts and know a thing or two about ancient history and Classical civilisation.  The Classical world is the foundation for all subsequent western thought, art, tradition, law, etc., and is well worth your time to learn about it.  Read this post at my other blog: Classics for the Non-Classicist: 10 Books to Start.

Of course, I am more than a Classicist, considering the content on this blog (though there is You Should Read the Iliad).  As a Classicist, my research took me in the direction Late Antiquity, and once there, I was drawn into the world of the Desert Fathers (my page on them here), the first Christian monks.  This was combined with a true, deep, abiding love for Christ, stemming from a lifetime in the Anglican Church (chiefly the “charismatic” and “evangelical” elements thereof), which led me to spend a year in Cyprus, where I met the Orthodox and the Philokalia for the first time; and Richard Foster’s book Prayer that showed me a way of entering the Father’s embrace that drew upon the vast tradition of Christianity — Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, European, New World, African, Asian.

My Ph.D. dissertation is a study of the manuscript tradition of Pope St Leo the Great, a central figure to western Christology and canon law who helped engineer the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and whose teaching on the dual natures of Christ is officially embraced by the Church universal, Roman Catholic as well as Eastern Orthodox (but not the “Miaphysites” [Coptic & Ethiopian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic] or the “Nestorian” Church of the East), including all mainstream, Trinitarian Protestants (whether they realise it or not! – and, that is to say, not fringe/heretical movements that reject the Trinity).

And so I have been seeking to immerse myself more deeply in the Great Tradition ever since, drawing from the well that other believers have frequented for almost 2000 years, seeking the wisdom of the past in my Christian life just as I have sought it as a scholar.  I am still Anglican (though I worship with the Presbyterians these days), still love the Bible, still love the Sacraments, still love hymns, still love charismata, and now also love high liturgy, hesychasm, incense, my rosary, the intricacies of ancient Trinitarian and Christological thought, and the Jesus Prayer.

I live in Scotland with my wife, a growing personal library, two kilts, and a collection of Playmobil Vikings.

I go by three initials (formerly by “Scholiast”) here out of a paranoia of mine. I am currently applying to Classics Departments, not Divinity Schools. Sometimes, people in the secular university have a bias against Christians, especially those of us who wear our faith on our sleeves — an often unacknowledged bias, in fact. My fear is that a hiring committee may unconsciously hold a bias against me if a Google search brings them to this blog.

Meum nomen verum Matthew est.

Come journey with me into the Great Tradition that beckons and calls, infused with the life of the sevenfold Spirit of God.  May we join with the cherubim in their thrice-holy cry and hymn the Most Blessed and Most Glorious Trinity!

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52 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Thanks for the blog. I stumbled across it today, while searching for blogs entries discussing Saint Ephrem the Syrian. I will definitely be coming back to read through more posts, since I have enjoyed reading many of the authors you are discussing. And many more, I hope to enjoy soon.

  2. I very much appreciated your work. Currently, I am a theology student at Toronto School of Theology. Have applied for a THM and will know if I am accepted late January. My area of study is Historical Theology/Patristics. Came across your blog while searching for hymns and prayers of St. Ambrose.

    Take care

  3. Thanks for this blog. I’m a doctoral student of Christian Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley CA, studying for my History Comprehensive Exams. Blogging on these subjects helps me study. I came across this as I was blogging on Antony and the Desert Fathers and Mothers.
    It’s nice to come across a fellow blogger in this area. I’m also part of the Anglican church. I’m deforestlondon.wordpress.com. Thanks again!

    • Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you have found this blog helpful. May it continue in its helpfulness for time to come (but NOT unto ages of ages).

  4. I just discovered you today. Excellent website.
    As a parish pastor, I do not have much time to work on the web outside of specific research for sermons, etc. However as a (former) Missouri-Synod Lutheran, I am immersed in the classics (Latin, Greek, Hebrew required BEFORE Semnary). I may poke around here more regularly.

    On a more mundane note; maternally I am a Geddes of the Gordons (tartan and all). Are we hereditary friends, enemies, or too far distant to have ever historically interacted?

    • I am not sure of the relations between my ancestors and Clan Gordon. My Scottish ancestry is Erskine and Balfour. Balfours are Lowlanders, so I doubt there was much contact, friendly or otherwise, with the Gordons. All I know of Erskine relations is the … unfriendly contact with Farquharson. While Gordon lands border with Farquharson, Erskines are centred more southerly, just north of Stirling. Who knows?

  5. Thank you very much for your blog. I’m currently working on Middle English sermons for a wedding ceremony and consulted your translation of the Sarum Missal for the order of consecration of marriage. I’m trying to figure out at what moment of the consecration the priest could actually have delivered such sermons. Could you please be of any help? Thank you very much again!
    Ariane

    • Ariane,

      Thanks for your comment! I actually have no idea where the sermon would be. This is one thing that I have been generally unsure of with many mediaeval ceremonies. The BCP also lacks a place for a sermon. All of a sudden, I can’t quite remember where it traditionally goes. I believe that at my wedding, as at HRH William’s this past Friday, the sermon slipped in between the Giving of the Ring and the prayers. Another option would be after the prayers and before the Mass.

      • Thank you so much for your prompt answer. I shall let you if ever I had another suggestion!
        Ariane

  6. Thanks for your blog, which I now subscribe to. I was grateful in particular for your explanation of typology. I had read how the saintly Austin Farrer lost his chance of the professorship by being too typological for the tastes then current, and I was immediately curious as to what was meant. Now I understand.

  7. Hello,

    Just came across your blog when browsing recent WP posts on Church Fathers. I’m interested in Classic Christian sites and find your blog helpful. FYI, the “Anglican Library” link in the side bar is broken.

  8. Just found your blog and it is going to be a favourite. I belong to the Mystic Tradtion, Julian of Norwich was a great influence on me, as I also lived in Norwich. Now I live in Scotland. I hope you may like to check my blog out too-Livinginthemonasterywithoutwalls

    • Hi Stephanie. I’m just popping over to your blog now (only 3.5 yrs late…). Thanks for stopping by — I hope Lady Julian continues to bless you.

  9. Very well spoken. All your master and phb really dont mean much when it comes to faith in jesus by whom we are saved him and him alone. Where do we find that it is found in scripter and only scripter alone.We as saint know all are answer are in scripter and it show us how to worship and when And in the manner Of worship.know if you want to say or have the opinion. Of it dosent say not to do this we will have a carnival with man made music. Big screen tv and self help services rather than the worship of the lord. Wait that is what is going on in. The church today so to say or give opinion on scripter as a man that is totally deprived in being is worng and against. Are lord

    • Dear Chaps,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that my degrees are as nothing compared with the glorious riches of knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I merely mention them as a point of reference. This is part of who I am, as much as years as a trucker and farmer are part of who my wife’s grandfather are. It is faith in Our Lord and His presence in our lives that really matters.

      I also agree that Scripture matters. As a baptised and bred and Protestant by choice, I believe that Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation and is our surest and best means of coming to know about God and learn of His character and ways. Without Scripture, no matter how interesting a person’s philosophy is, it cannot even come close to the heights of the Truth of our God. And He himself — He is beyond all opinion and all guessing and all theologising, anyway. What matters is knowing Him through Scripture and through prayer, ever turning to Him in all circumstances.

      • Thank you.May we always ask for illumination when conversing in scripture.May the holy ghost give the strength to take are self out of the situation so we can understand thank you and god bless. I’ll be around

  10. Hi
    I’ve just stumbled on your blog. It looks v. inter.. but will save for later to read carefully.
    For the time being, to any one interested, there’s going to be a one-day seminar at the Univ of Cambridge(UK) Inst of Orthodox Studies, on the hymnology of St. Ephrem the Syrian by Dr. Sebastian Brock (Uni. of Oxf’d.) on Saturday 16th Feb 2013.
    Sarah

  11. Nice to read through. I did my licence at Sant’Anselmo, Rome in monastic fathers. i am going to take some classes for junior monks and nuns; could you send me some recent research work on monastic fathers.
    thank you.
    Fr. Showraiah osb. showraiah@yahoo.com

  12. An Anglican who worships with Presbyterians and says the rosary and treasures the sacraments? Now that’s eclectic. I’d like to see exactly how you make all those pieces work together. Anyway, I enjoy the blog. God bless!

    • Update on my rosary: I still have it, lovely olive wood creature that it is, but one bead broke, and I now have a much more portable chomboschini (courtesy of an Orthodox priest) that doesn’t have a tendency to get snagged on things or come apart in my pocket. And, of course, is used for the Jesus Prayer.

    • In which university are you doing your doctorate? and please may I ask what subject? I dream of one day doing a doctorate in the history of the Syriac Orthodox Ch in Kerala, India.

      best Sarah Knight

      On Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 7:26 PM, the pocket scroll wrote:

      > ** > PJ commented: “That makes more sense.” >

      • Hi, Sarah! Sorry I haven’t responded to your original comment. Busyness and forgetfulness are a dangerous combination. I am at Edinburgh doing my PhD on the manuscripts of Pope Leo I’s letters.

  13. I love the direction of this blog. As a fellow Canadian currently doing an M.Th in systematic theology at University of Aberdeen who shares your love of the church fathers and preference for Paleo-orthodoxy as the way forward (or rather backwards…) for Christianity, I sincerely hope we cross paths some day. All the best.

  14. What a wonderful blog. It is a rarity now to find a blogger that can draw the readers into the articles and help them have a clear visualization that the writer hopes to present to the audience. You have a gift that few have. Like C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and earlier writers you make me hope the posts you write don’t end quickly. I have my degree in Religion and going to start my master’s degree so I like to see what scholars write about and honestly with most of them I would rather drink vinegar that suffer through their attempts to impress others with their knowledge. Well done and like the Terminator I will be back.

    • Hi Greg! So glad you like this blog so much. I’ve been writing here for several years, so there’s lots to be found. I try to save impressing others with my knowledge for getting into conferences and getting stuff published. 😉

  15. I stumbled upon your blog today because I was looking for the lyrics to one of Gayle Salmond’s songs. I liked the title of your blog when it came up in the Google results and I am glad I followed the link. My 2nd oldest’s son’s middle name is “Bede” named after the Venerable Bede. I’ve just finished reading about 3 posts and I’ll do some more reading from your blog when I’m not using my phone. Thank you for spending your time writing. 🙂

    • rainphire,

      I am so glad you have enjoyed this blog that you stubmled upon! The Venerable Bede is a worthy man to name a son after. 🙂 I hope you find more here to inspire.

  16. MJH, thank you for this particular article. So many ‘Christians’ are seemingly so obsessed with the ‘Wrath of God’, they fail to see that the primary heart and essence of God is Love. If only we Christians could see that the heart of the Gospel is shown in the New Commandment of Jesus, that we love one another as He has loved us.

    I remember a fellow Franciscan, in his preaching, once asking the large congregation, “How much does God love us?”. With no response, he simply stretched his arms out wide – in the form of a Cross – and said: “This much”.

    Peace and All Joy!

  17. Hi. Would you be able to tell me what language is in the scrolls of the images of the saints? I have one of these images, and I am attempting to identify it.
    Thank you,
    Jaime

    • Hi Jaime. It depends on the image. Usually it is in the language of the people/tradition who made it. Some images have Greek, some have Latin, others have Slavonic or Armenian or Coptic. Sorry I can’t be of more help — one would have to see the scroll to be able to identify the language. Thanks for stopping by!

  18. Hello,
    I’m a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and I’m currently researching early iterations of the missa sicca (and more specifically, missa nautica). Do you know of any before 13th c Durand? Feel free to email directly.
    Many thanks,
    Rebecca Shores

  19. Hi!

    Found your site while searching for information on Ancient Christain Commentary. I’m just a little lamb trying to grow in my knowledge of Christ. I came from word of faith false teaching. Love Sacraments, hymns. I hope I can learn from your site. I want to read Church Fathers as they see Jesus differently then us. Do wish I could find a church though.
    Thank you for sure.

    • Hi julegate!

      Thanks for stopping by. I hope this blog can help you grow!! It can be hard to find a church with sound teaching and a rootedness in things ancient and sacramental, but I hope the Lord will bring you to one! 🙂

  20. I just found your blog this morning, and I am excited to explore it. I am wondering if you have heard of commentaries that Bede wrote. Approximately 10 years ago, i ran across some and have never been able to find them again.

  21. Been following your blog for awhile and just want to say thanks for your content. I get loads from it as someone raised evangelical but wanting to dig more into the Patristics and the ancient church.

    I’ve seen you mention elsewhere (I might be mistaken) that you associate with a non-existant form of Anglicanism? Could you unpack your own denominational conviction a bit more? I just ask as I’m trying to figure this out myself and feel like I slip somewhere between the cracks.

    Also I don’t know if you’ve seen http://www.patristics.co/ ? I would love to work towards something similar for early british Christian church but whilst I know of the desert fathers and the patristics in general – I’m stuck with Bede’s Ecclesiastical History for knowledge of the early british church. Can you provide any book recommendations which would give me an overview of the first missionaries to the british isles and any material we have from them? Is there an easy resource to map out Christian missions to the british isles over time? If not I’d love to make one that is publicly available, if for no other end than to educate myself. I can build it myself with little trouble but just need some help filling in my knowledge of the subject.

    Do you have an email address I could plug some questions your way?

    God bless you

    • Hi, Keith. Good questions all. I was raised in the Anglican Church of Canada, and I still self-identify as an Anglican. The problem is, I am an *actual*, honest-to-goodness Anglican who believes the 39 Articles of Religion and upholds the standards of doctrine, worship, and morals expressed in the Book of Common Prayer. When we lived in Toronto, my wife and I found Little Trinity Anglican Church a great blessing of evangelical Anglicanism in the heart of the city. Since moving to Scotland, however, I have found that most Scottish Episcopal churches I meet have jettisoned either the Prayer Book (if not liturgy altogether) or historic, orthodox teaching as espoused by Scripture and delineated by the 39 Articles. As a result of a fierce commitment to theological orthodoxy, I have found it easier to worship with the Free Church of Scotland simply because it’s not my own tradition but has a strong tradition of sound, biblical preaching. I have recently spent some of my Sundays away from home and at Rome where I go to the local Church of England (Diocese of Europe) parish, but because of my own issues and their own issues, it is often an uncomfortable experience for me. The lived reality of Anglicanism today is a hodge-podge and it is hard for those who embrace tradtional worship and traditional teaching to find much comfort there.

      Thanks for the link to the Patristics website; I’ll have to check it out. Most of what I know about the primary sources for early British Christianity can be found on the ‘Sources for “Celtic” Christianity’ page here. https://thepocketscroll.wordpress.com/classic-christianity/9-sources-for-celtic-christianity/ My main source for the early English missions is the Ven Bede. I’ll go through my notes to see if I can find anything else about early British Christianity…

      • Thanks for the quick response.

        I totally sympathise with your comments r.e the church of scotland/england currently. To be honest being raised in an evangelical church of england church I feel like I’ve only recently begun to discover Anglicanism for the first time – and that is mostly through the internet and voices like yourself or in books.

        I’ve tried to get into the BCP but it’s lost on me, particularly as a lay person as it seems so much is tied up into the liturgy of a sunday gathering. To be honest I don’t know anyone who uses it consistently so I have no idea who to talk to about getting stuck into it. Theologically I associate with Anglicanism but I worry if its an Anglicanism of the mind only, because my experience seems so far removed from my understanding of what its meant to be ‘in principle’. I’m keen to learn or talk out my questions but to be honest I know few people in person with a knowledge of historical Anglicanism and I’m eager to figure out a way to externalise my shifting attitudes and convictions on this.

        Thank you also for the link regarding early British Christianity I’ll be sure to comb through it.. and thank you again for the blog, I really enjoy reading it. Do you have any advice on getting familiar with the BCP?

      • Hi Keith! I’ve decided to send you along an e-mail, although I’ll probably blog about getting familiar with the BCP in a little while.

  22. Hello,

    I think I have found a kindred spirit in you here. I am a Methodist (though I have previously been Presbyterian, Baptist, Word of Faith charismatic, then Classical Pentecostal (Church of God), then Vineyard, then…nothing for a while…and now Methodist, which is what i have been for the past 20 years.

    I consider myself “Broadly Evangelical”. I am in that magical middle ground where I am too conservative for most Liberals, and too liberal for most Conservatives. (I like to say I piss off all the right people! LOL!)

    I have a bachelor’s degree in History, and an MDiv from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham AL.

    I, like you, have a great interest in Church History, and in the theology of the early Church Fathers. Irenaeus is one of my favorites. I began learning about Eastern Christianity several years ago, and there is much about Eastern Orthodoxy that I like and respect.

    I am, by conviction, a Protestant, but much of my spirituality and my understanding of the Trinity and salvation comes from the Orthodox Christian tradition.

    I host a discussion forum on the Delphi Forums platform called “The Holy Trinity: Discussion and Debate”. I invite you to visit if you like. It is a debate forum, so sometimes there is contentious exchanges with folks who reject the Trinity. Come and check it out. http://forums.delphiforums.com/theholytrinity

    Secundus

    • Hi Secundus,

      Thanks for stopping by again! Indeed, we seem to have much in common. I should check out the forum before too long. I think of myself as a restless Anglican with eastern leanings. The local Greek Orthodox priest refers to me in similar terms…

  23. Is there a way to get a copy of your article,” Why You Shouldn’t Use Liturgy in Your Worship”? I have a niece that read it once and would like to reread. The link you shared October , 2015 no longer works. Thanks.

    • Unfortunately, since that article was to someone else’s work, the fact that it has now been taken down means that I can’t access it, either! Alas.

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