Archives For New Testament

 

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A Feature Review of 

The Forgotten Creed:
Christianity’s Original Struggle against Bigotry, Slavery, and Sexism
Stephen Patterson

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2018
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Reviewed by Alden Bass
 

According to Stephen Patterson, Paul was reluctant to make the statement which we now know as Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” As Patterson explains in his new book, these words were already well-known when Paul took up his pen to write to the Galatians, a bit of liturgical language which would have been familiar to any Christian who recited it at their baptism. Paul incorporated the formula into his letter in an effort to ease tensions in the nascent Galatian Christian community between Jews and Gentiles. The old social order built on race, gender, and class differences was dead, at least among those walking “in newness of life.” Paul hesitated, Patterson suggests, because these words were dynamite.

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What Following Jesus Means

 
A Brief Review of

Phoebe: A Story
Paula Gooder

 
Paperback: IVP Academic, 2018
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Reviewed by Leslie Starasta
 
 
As 21st century readers, we are far removed from the life and times of early Christians. Sitting down to read the Bible, we consider it an ancient text to be studied and the inspired scripture that is central to our faith. Our ability to interact with the text by reading it in the privacy of our own homes or on a mobile device is vastly different from the first believers who heard the letters read while gathered in house churches.

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Theology and Evangelism

 
A Review of

Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King.
Matthew Bates

Hardback: Baker Academic, 2017.
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Reviewed by Danny Yencich
 
 
Matthew Bates’s recent Salvation by Allegiance Alone is a welcome book. It is useful—vital, even—for Christians of any traditional or denominational stripe grappling with the Gospel.

The book, which is clearly aimed at a mixed audience of laity and students, forwards a simple but important thesis: contemporary Christianity has, for the most part, gotten it wrong when it comes to “belief, faith, works, salvation, heaven, and the gospel” itself (2). Bates’s argument hinges on a fresh take on the first item in that list— “belief” (pistis). Whenever the Greek term pistis appears in the New Testament with reference to eternal salvation, Bates suggests that allegiance, not “belief,” “is the best macro-term available to us that can describe what God requires from us for eternal salvation” (5). Thus, “it is by grace you have been saved through allegiance” to Jesus the Christ (Eph 2:8, Bates’s translation, 4). This is a marked departure from the standard rendering of this and most other NT instances of the term pistis, which is to say: Bates has picked a fight with a lot of people. His argument, however, is robust and demands a close reading from anyone who would immediately dismiss the thesis out of hand.

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A Review of

Paul and the Faithfulness of God

N.T. Wright

Paperback (2 vol.): Fortress Press, 2013
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Reviewed by Daniel M. Yencich

 
N.T. Wright’s long-awaited treatise on the theology of Paul is a big book. Indeed: although it is one work, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (PFG hereafter) is split into two volumes and spans a mammoth 1660 pages. There is a joke about an author attaining true historical significance when the volume of writings about him surpasses the number of things he actually wrote, but Wright’s five-pound book renders it rather obvious. Beyond physical measurements, however, PFG must still be described as a “big book,” in the sense of the impact it has had and will have in New Testament scholarship, theological reflection, and Christian ministry for years to come. Wright is not always persuasive in his arguments in PFG, but his perspective is certainly interesting and, especially in evangelical circles, his voice certainly commands attention. PFG is an important work, if a bit physically unwieldy, and will challenge scholars, pastors, and interested non-specialists alike with its comprehensive vision of Christianity’s most famous apostle and the theological thought he bequeathed to history.

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522571: Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time

A Review of

Paul Among the People:
The Apostle Reinterpreted
and Reimagined in His Own Time

By Sarah Ruden
Now Available in Paperback: Image, 2011.
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Reviewed by David Anderson.

Paul is one of those writers—and personalities, as we catch glimpses of his own in the epistles and in Acts—that people either love or dislike without much middle ground. But he was a man of his time, just as the Old Testament prophets were men of their time. To understand “where they were coming from,” a reader needs to own at least a basic familiarity with the culture they lived in.

Sarah Ruden’s earlier books are translations of some of the classics of ancient literature: the Aeneid, Lysistrata, and Satyricon. In this short study (a little under 200 pages not counting backmatter) she looks at Paul’s writings on various topics in the light of how these compare to accounts by Greek and Roman authors. For a slightly similar, albeit more scholarly, effort that places more emphasis on contemporaneous historical events (the emperor Claudius’ expulsion of the Jews from Rome, Nero’s early actions as emperor), Neil Elliott’s Arrogance of Nations (Fortress, 2010 reprint ed.) can be highly recommended.

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875670: The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary   Message of the Lord"s Prayer

A Brief Review of

The Greatest Prayer:
Rediscovering the Revolutionary
Message of the Lord’s Prayer

By John Dominic Crossan
Hardback: HarperOn, 2010.

Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Bob Cornwall.


[ A longer version of this review is available on the author’s blog ]

The Lord’s Prayer is one of the best known and most beloved prayers in the World. Christians may disagree about a lot of things, but they all seem to find deep and abiding meaning, strength and spiritual sustenance in this prayer. But, even though we may recite this prayer weekly or even daily, often from memory, do we truly understand what it is we’re saying as we offer this prayer? That is, is there more to this prayer than meets the eye and could this prayer be in its original form a revolutionary manifesto? That is the contention made by John Dominic Crossan, one of the leading and best known Jesus scholars of our day, as he takes up this prayer. In the course of eight chapters, together with a prologue and an epilogue, Crossan invites us to join him in wrestling with the theological, political, social and cultural implications of this prayer, and the result is an extremely helpful book, even if at points it appears as if the prayer itself fades into the background of a broader discussion of the biblical story.
As I offer my review of Crossan’s book, I need to acknowledge that I have just published my own book on the Lord’s Prayer, a book that carries a title that might suggest that I read the prayer in ways similar to Crossan [Ultimate Allegiance: The Subversive Nature of the Lord’s Prayer (Energion Publications, 2010)]. I will leave that possibility to the discernment of those who choose to read both books.
The prologue and the Epilogue offer clues to the trajectory that this book follows. The prologue carries the title, “The Strangest Prayer,” and in this prologue Crossan makes the point that while this prayer is offered up by Christians of every imaginable perspective, the prayer itself doesn’t address many of the issues that different Christian groups hold dear – whether inerrancy of Scripture, substitutionary atonement or even the resurrection, and yet it is prayed people who tend to ignore what it does say. This is not a Christian prayer per se, but is, the author contends “a prayer from the heart of Judaism on the lips of Christianity for the conscience of the world.” It is, in Crossan’s view “a radical manifesto and a hymn of hope for all humanity in language addressed to all the earth” (2). This insistence that the prayer is deeply rooted in Judaism, leads the author to explore in some depth the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible underpinnings of each phrase in the prayer.

 

In keeping with the theme of this week’s issue, empire, here’s an excerpt from the essential book:

Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire.
Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat.
Paperback:  IVP Books, 2004.
Buy now:  [ ChristianBook.com ]

 

“That Most Reluctant of Critical Theorists

A review of
Paul, Philosophy, and the Theopolitical Vision.
Douglas Harink, editor.


Reviewed by Matthew Kaul.


Paul, Philosophy, and the Theopolitical Vision.
Douglas Harink, editor.

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ Wipf and Stock ]

Paul, Philosophy and the Theopolitical Vision - Harink, ed.As with the last volume I reviewed on this subject, Saint Paul among the Philosophers, this volume is a compilation of essays originally given as talks at a conference. As with any compilation of conference papers, the challenge the editor of this volume faces lies in covering the greatest possible breadth of material from the conference while at the same time maintaining some sort of coherent, logical organization, some sense of the book as a coherent whole rather than a series of only tangentially related chapters.

Unfortunately, too frequently the price of coherence is repetition: essays cover the same ground in setting up and making their arguments, seemingly unaware that other chapters have already done their work for them. This volume does not entirely escape that difficulty; at the end of the book, the reader will have read enough paraphrases of Agamben and Badiou to make her feel right at home in an English department grad student lounge or an emerging church pub-and-theology night. Nevertheless, the volume is in many ways a great success, particular in opening up suggestive new insights into how theology and philosophy might more fruitfully interact regarding that most reluctant of critical theorists, the apostle Paul.

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Two New Books on Early Christianity

What’s With Paul and Women?
Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2
.
Paperback: Ekklesia Press, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Commentary on the Gospel of John
(Ancient Christian Texts Series)

Theodore of Mopsuestia
Hardback: IVP Academic, 2010.
Buy Now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Jon Zens’ newest book with the Seinfeld-esque name What’s With Paul and Women? offers a brief, but pointed critique of the literal and superficial reading of I Timothy 2 that understands that passage as saying that women should categorically never be able to teach men in churches.  Zens, who is editor of the engaging and long-thriving periodical Searching Together, does a wonderful job here of confirming my intuitions (and I suspect those of others as well) that Paul’s instruction was contextual – for the church in Ephesus in that time – and not universal.  Many objections that might be raised are identified and delicately dismantled.  This clear and thorough treatment of this passage is essential reading for anyone who has questions about the place of women teachers in the church, or for anyone in dialogue with those who doubt that women should teach.

The newest volume in IVP’s Ancient Christian Texts Series is Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Commentary on the Gospel of John.  Before I picked up this volume, Theodore was not a figure with whom I was familiar, and there is good reason why Theodore’s name is not a familiar one: in the mid-sixth century, more than a hundred years after his death, his writings were condemned as Nestorian and thus heretical and were in large part destroyed.  However, as described in the book’s introduction, the latest scholarship (and specifically variant versions of this text that have survived the centuries) calls into question Theodore’s condemnation as a Nestorian.  Since the Nestorian controversy centered on the nature of Christ’s person, this commentary on John’s Gospel gives us a excellent vantage point for exploring Theodore’s position, and for broadening our own perspectives on Church History, reminding us of the reality that historical situations – even within the Church – are almost always more complex than what we learn in our basic historical introductions.

 

37 Page Excerpt from
A THEOLOGY OF JOHN’S GOSPEL AND LETTERS.
by
Andreas Koestenberger.
Hardback: Doubleday, 2009.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]