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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



see Bible, Christian Scriptures, Hebrew Scriptures

A Popular Survey of the New Testament by Norman L. Geisler (Baker Books) Besides the Gospels, which are more familiar to most Christians, the New Testament can seem like a strange collection of letters to people who are very different from ourselves.
Understanding the New Testament is a daunting but exciting task. Today’s world is so different from that of the first century. The dress, travel, vocation, and custom of biblical characters are all foreign to readers. Yet it is important to understand the context and content of the New Testament. A Popular Survey of the New Testament is designed to help ordinary people enrich their understanding of New Testament people and events. Written by Norman L. Geisler, cofounder and former dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary and Bible College in Charlotte, North Carolina, the book addresses many questions that readers of the Bible may have, such as:

Who wrote the books of the New Testament and to whom were they writing?

When were these books written and why?

What can today's believers get out of a letter about a slave returning to his master?

How can a warning about first-century Gnostics help Christians today?

How can we tell if what is written in the New Testament is true history or just mythology?

A Popular Survey of the New Testament is illustrated throughout with color photos, charts, and maps, and written in an informal style. Each chapter includes study questions. The book also contains several appendices: Early Church Fathers and Sources, Early Citations of the New Testament, Key Words and Phrases in the New Testament, and Miracles in the Gospels; and a Bibliography.

Of the making of New Testament studies there is no end, so readers may rightly wonder why yet another manual is needed. Does this volume offer insights not easily available elsewhere? Geisler, dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary and Bible College, and author of more than 70 books dealing with the Bible and Christianity, gathers decades of findings of New Testament scholars into a truly accessible and readable overview, aimed at readers at all levels. Beginning with a fine explanation of the various critical methodologies used in analyzing the scriptural record, he then treats each book in the New Testament, addressing questions about authorship, the date of writing and the book's intended audience, and a clear explanation of the content of each book. … Numerous charts and full-color photos enhance the presentation, making the book an excellent choice for course adoption. Geisler thinks even beginning students can appreciate and understand the canon and demonstrates beautifully the simplicity and consistency of these writings. This is a book worth owning. – Publishers Weekly

Illustrated throughout with color photos, charts, and maps, and written in an easy, informal style, A Popular Survey of the New Testament is accessible and enjoyable to anyone who wants to understand the New Testament better.

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2nd edition by Craig L. Blomberg (IVP Academic) Dr. Blomberg is a member of a team of scholars who have for a number of years been engaged on a ‘Gospels Project’, designed to explore the main critical issues in the study of the Gospels in our time. The findings of this team have been published in a series of six volumes entitled Gospel Perspectives. But these volumes are written by scholars for scholars. What Dr. Blomberg has done is to digest their contents and present them, in the light of his own study and understanding of the subject, to a wider public. His book calls for careful thought on the part of its readers, but does not require technical knowledge. Here is an answer to the questions: Is it possible for intelligent people nowa­days to approach the Gospels as trustworthy accounts of the life and teaching of Jesus? Must they be read with skepticism until their detailed information is confirmed? Or can we, in the light of present knowledge, take it for granted that their authors intend to record things that really happened? The answer Dr. Blomberg gives to these questions is positive and satisfying, because he gives ample evidence of accurate and up-to-date acquaintance with the subject of his work and the relevant literature. I am happy to commend it warmly to readers who are interested in this question, and especially to theological students. – F. F. Bruce, from the Foreword to the first edition

For over twenty years, Craig Blomberg's first edition of The Historical Reliability of the Gospels has provided an antidote to many of the toxic effects of skeptical criticism of the Gospels. Offering a balanced overview of the history of Gospel criticism, especially that of the late twentieth century, Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, introduces readers to the methods employed by New Testament scholars and shows both the values and limits of those methods. After an assessment of noncanonical Jesus tradition, he addresses issues of historical method directly.

Many people continue to believe that only a small percentage of the New Testament accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth reflect what he really said and did. The reasons for skepticism may vary over the years, but some arguments have proved remarkably persistent – for example, the Gospels were not written by people in a position to know what Jesus was like, primitive cultures believed in miracles that we know are impossible, theological interest precludes historical accuracy, non-canonical texts disprove the stories in the Gospels, and so on. According to Blomberg, such claims are in fact weakly supported, or have actually been disproved. However, various issues contribute to the complexity of the question of the Gospels' trustworthiness, and disagreements remain. Furthermore, confusion has been compounded by fiction promoted in popular culture, or by eccentric, unrepresentative scholarship.

Since its first appearance in 1987, Blomberg’s response to skepticism in The Historical Reliability of the Gospels has been widely appreciated. Fully revised and updated, this new edition takes account of the vast amount of relevant scholarship that has appeared over the last two decades. This new edition of The Historical Reliability of the Gospels contains numerous additions to the footnotes and two added appendixes. Readers will find that over the past twenty years, the case for the historical trustworthiness of the Gospels has grown stronger.

The book offers an overview and history of contemporary Gospel study methods, explores the problem of miracles from scientific, philosophical and historical perspectives, critically examines the issue of supposed contradictions among the Synoptics, investigates alleged historical discrepancies between the Synoptics and John's Gospel, and surveys canonical and non-canonical Jesus tradition outside the Gospels.

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels is a solid analytic study providing answers to the questions of historicity which stand up to serious academic scrutiny as well as providing some help for those who are perplexed by scholarly disagreement. Ranging over a wide field – differences between parallel accounts of the same event, the theological interests of the Evangelists, the miracles of Jesus, the testimony of extra-biblical sources, and critical assessment of historical methods – Blomberg presents a thorough, informed engagement with the main issues in the ongoing debates. Deliberately refusing to appeal to the inspiration of the Bible or to church tradition, he convincingly demonstrates the overall historical reliability of the Gospels. This valuable and accessible study will appeal to non-specialists and ministers as well as to theological scholars and students.


The New Testament and Its Modern Interpreters edited by Eldon Jay Epp, George W. MacRae (Scholars Press) (Hardcover) This volume has been designed both to survey and to evaluate New Testament scholarship since World War II. In several respects this period of about forty years comprises one of several eras in NT studies that were extraordinarily productive both in quantity and quality of work and also in significance of results. Similarly productive periods surely are to be identified around 1835-1840, when David Friedrich Strauss stirred up a world-wide debate on the historical Jesus and when the priority of Mark seemed secure; or around 1865, when the basic Two-Source theory of Synoptic origins seemed assured and C. Tischendorf was discovering or publishing some of the most important NT manuscripts; or around 1900, when the impressive scholarship of Adolf Harnack and the other learned "Old Liberals" set the modern standard for excellence in critical scholarship and at the same time misled two generations on the kingdom of God and the historical Jesus, and when Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer effected a revolution in NT scholarship on the latter issues; or around 1920, when Karl Barth's Epistle to the Romans (1918) had appeared and when the stage was set by Martin Dibelius and Rudolf Bultmann for the form-critical analyses of the NT, but especially by Barth and Bultmann for new theological/ hermeneutical approaches that were to have far-reaching influence in the post-World War II period and down to our own times; or, finally, around the mid-1930sjust before the war when Rudolf Otto and C. H. Dodd emphasized (and Dodd overemphasized) the reality of the present kingdom in the ministry of Jesus, and when the Chester Beatty papyri were published and brought new life to textual criticism.

Our forty-year period began in 1945 and the immediately following years with the reestablishment of those international scholarly ties that had been broken and had lain dormant during the war years when North America and virtually all of Europe were involved in conflict. Obviously, British-American ties were quickly and almost automatically restored, but perhaps most striking in this reconnection was the early and close cooperation of German and American NT scholars. This was symbolized, for instance, in the broad use of English-language publications in the work of European scholars like W. G. Kmmel and others, but was demonstrated very concretely, for example, in the interconnection between the German "Neutestamentlicher Arbeitskreis" and the American "New Testament Colloquium." Prominent in the former group were scholars like Hans Conzelmann; the latter group emphasized "the study of issues raised by or resulting from the scholarly work of . . . Rudolf Bultmann" (as described in the

Encyclopedia of Associations, 10th ed.) and included among its senior members Hans Jonas, Kendrick Grobel, and Amos Wilder, as well as (then) younger members such as Robert W. Funk, Helmut Koester, George MacRae, Norman Perrin, James M. Robinson, and about a dozen others. Fully half of these members of the American group were either European by birth or had studied on the Continent. Renewed recognition and cooperation between those on both sides of the Atlantic were not limited, of course, to the German-American scene, but were worldwide, and no longer would any national group form an isolated "cell" of NT scholarship.

At the same time, due primarily to the encyclical of Pope Pius XII in 1943, Divino afflante spiritu, Roman Catholic NT scholars no longer traveled a separate path, but began to walk in the mainstream of critical scholarship (see Brown: 18-19, 117). This dramatic change can be seen, symbolically and in actuality, by observing in North America the extraordinary degree to which the memberships of the Society of Biblical Literature and of the Catholic Biblical Association now overlapand also in recent years by the numerous Roman Catholic presidents of the former and the recent Protestant president of the latter. As a further instance, Joseph Fitzmyer, a Jesuit, has served as editor of both societies' journals, first of the Journal of Biblical Literature for six years (1971-1976) and then of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly (1980-1984). Examples could be multiplied, such as the appointment of Roman Catholic (and Jewish) NT scholars to permanent positions and endowed chairs in Protestant theological seminaries (and conversely), or the "denominationally blind" appointments now made in most of our college and university programs in the study of religion. These developments, which appear matter-of-fact to us now, could not have been foreseen or even imagined prior to World War II. Anyone who doubts this statement will find striking confirmation of its accuracy in a 1947 article in The Study of the Bible Today and Tomorrowa collaborative volume similar to the present oneby J. H. Cobb on "Current Trends in Catholic Biblical Research," where the "Catholic" and the "liberal" scholars are seen as radically different in their approaches and results:

The Catholic scholar, on the other hand, begins with Scripture and tradition, the total deposit of the faith as, and only as, this is officially interpreted by the living magisterium of the church.... He cannot doubt the reliability of the channels by which the biblical literature has been transmitted, nor can he consider portions of it as mere myth, legend, fiction, symbol, etiological explanation, or apologetic. He cannot employ one portion of it to disprove the factual character of another portion. To illustrate, when accounts of a given event, such as the resurrection narratives, differ widely in detail, he must harmonize the records in such a way as to affirm both the truth of the detail and the truthfulness of the total story of which it is a part. (117-18)

Raymond E. Brown, S.S., speaks for the current view on the relationship between the magisterium and the theologians or biblical scholars:

I do not think that the members of the magisterium can speak authoritatively about matters of theology or Scripture unless they have elementary competence in the field, either by their own learning or by consultation. . . . I am saying that bishops must listen to theologians and acquire information, and pray over it, and think over it, and then teach pastorally what they judge the Church must hear. (48-49)

To be more specific, he speaks, for instance, of the Catholic Church's "acceptance of a developmental approach to the Gospels, recognizing that the final Gospels go considerably beyond the ministry of Jesus and that later Christology had been retrojected into the accounts of the ministry" (67), and he cites as one example Matt 16:18: "Today, the majority of scholars would recognize that Mark is older than Matthew and that the sentence about building the Church upon Peter is a Matthean addition (from post-resurrectional material) to an account which originally lacked it, as we see in Mark and Luke". These somewhat random statements from Brown are symbolic of a fresh and refreshing ecumenical unity among NT scholars that is a distinctive feature of the postwar period.

Another refreshing change has been the steady decline of anti-Semitic expressions and anti-Jewish sentiments in NT scholarship, though the task has not been finally completed. As one example, the pejorative (and inaccurate) description of the Judaism of the general NT period as Sptjudentum ("late Judaism") has in our time largely disappeared from our parlance. In addition, a new openness to face the issues of anti-Semitism within the NT and to face them honestlyhas been evident throughout the post‑World War II period, involving both Protestant and Catholic and, of course, Jewishparticipants in the continuing discussion and the growing literature.

Bultmann's brief but provocative essay, serves appropriately as the pivot between the prewar and postwar phases of NT scholar-ship, for not only does it bridge chronologically the gap created by the war, but it is symptomatic of widespread changes that were to take place when studies resumed on a broad scale. This is evident, as examples, in renewed investigations of the Christian kerygma and its meaning to moderns, in hermeneutics generally and in the application of existentialist categories to the NT in particular, in the study of NT language and "language-event" and the new literary-critical approaches to the NT, in the application of Greco-Roman religion and philosophy to the study of the NT, and in the so-called new quest of the historical Jesus. Indeed, when one takes into account the other aspects of Bultmann's workform criticism and the sayings of Jesus, NT theology, and Pauline and Johannine studiesit is obvious how pivotal he and his work have been in our discipline. Even those who may eschew the "Bultmannian" or "post-Bultmannian" points of view will admit both his deep influence and the character of his work as a turning point in postwar NT studies.

This list of significant contributors, long as it is, represents only a small portion of the highly influential scholars who have shaped NT studies over the centuries. It does, however, bring us to the beginning of World War II, where the present volume again takes up the narrative of the ongoing development of NT studies.

It will be obvious that the essays that follow have at least two significant omissions, for there are neither separate chapters nor substantive discussions of either the social world of the NT or feminist perspectives on NT scholarship. Perhaps the editors were remiss in not assigning separate contributions on these subjects, but in the late 1970s, when this trilogy on The Bible and Its Modern Interpreters was planned, investigations of the NT social world were only beginning and a distinctive feminist perspective on NT studies was even less well articulated than were such perspectives on the study of religion generally, or on theology, or even on the OTfrom which NT studies has so often taken its cuefor in that field also only a modicum of work had been done prior to the present decade. It will be the responsibility, therefore, of the next generation to assess NT scholarship in these two areas, for surely during the coming decades NT social world and anthropological studies will demonstrate their vital significance for interpreting the NT, and all along feminist perspectives will continue to correct the male-dominated biblical scholarship of the past eighteen centuries and more.

The New Testament and Literature: A Guide to Literary Patterns by Stephen Cox (Open Court) acts as a guide, focusing on the underlying patterns that combine ideas with literary devices. The book identifies the literary formulas in the New Testament and shows how these elements have shaped English and American literature.

The New Testament may be the most influential book of all time, from both a religious and a literary standpoint. But while the New Testament's impact upon people's religious beliefs and practices has been analyzedand continues to be analyzedat enormous length and in intricate detail, amazingly little has been written about the New Testament's impact as literature.

In The New Testament and Literature, Stephen Cox offers a literary guide to the New Testament and to some of the classic works of Christian literature that have followed it. He identifies what he calls the New Testament's DNA, and shows how that DNA is replicated in works by such varied authors as John Donne, Rudyard Kipling, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, James Baldwin, D.H. Lawrence, William Faulkner, Martin Luther King, and C.S. Lewis.

Professor Cox begins with fundamental questions of the origin and nature of the New Testament, identifies its literary genres, and shows how its basic literary patterns unite specific ideas with specific techniques. So pervasively influential has the New Testament been within English-speaking culture that even works by anti-Christian authors or writers whose orientation to Christianity is ambiguous persistently replicate the New Testament's literary patterns.

Coxs approach is not primarily theological, historical, or devotional. He does something uncommon, something often mentioned or recommended but rarely attempted in a serious way. It looks at the New Testament both as a distinctive work of literature and as a productive influence on later works of literature.

Many books have been written about "the Bible as literature." For some, the phrase means, in effect, the Old Testament as literature. For many others, it means the study of historical issues that have little to do with the special characteristics of New Testament writing. Few books are willing to assess the literary quality of the New Testament. Fewer still are written for intelligent readers who may not already be very familiar with the Bible or Christian teachings.

Making the New Testament accessible as literature does not mean examining its techniques in abstraction from its vital message. Nor does it mean tracing its themes in abstraction from its literary methods. The New Testament and Literature approaches its subject by identifying certain patterns, certain combinations of ideas and methods, that give the New Testament its distinctiveness and coherence and its ability to create resemblances to itself in later literature. I call these patterns the DNA of the New Testament.

  • Part I (the first eight chapters) explores these patterns, identifying specific elements of the New Testament's DNA, and examining their effects on the four major types of New Testament literature: gospel, epistle, church history, and apocalypse. The chief examples are the gospels of Luke and John, the Acts of the Apostles, the epistles of Paul to the Galatians and the Corinthians, and the Revelation.

  • Part II (Chapters 9-16), examines the influence of New Testament patterns on a wide range of English and American literature.

  • Chapter 9 shows the persistence of the New Testament DNA in one of the earliest works in the English language, The Dream of the Rood, and in a story written twelve centuries later, Rudyard Kipling's "The Gardener."

  • Chapter 10 samples the vast popular literature of Christian revival, with special reference to George Foxe's Book of Martyrs, a work of the Protestant Reformation, and Christian hymns of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

  • Chapter 11 discusses the importance of the New Testament DNA in the seemingly opposed religious movements represented by John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and the poetry of John Donne and George Herbert.

  • Chapter 12 explores the tradition of New Testament individualism, as represented especially in the work of William Blake and Emily Dickinson.

  • Chapter 13 takes up the influence of the book of Revelation, particularly in American culture. It looks at a variety of popular American writers, including Dickinson, Julia Ward Howe, James Baldwin, and Vachel Lindsay.

  • Chapter 14 analyzes literary challenges to Christianity, exposing their ironic tendency to assimilate Christian patterns of thought and writing. This chapter considers works by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, D.H. Lawrence, Harold Frederic, Sinclair Lewis, and others.

  • Chapter 15 follows some of the many literary responses that Christians and non-Christians have made to attacks on Christianity and the New Testament. The authors considered here include Thornton Wilder, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Betjeman, Martin Luther King, C.S. Lewis, and Robert Browning.

  • Chapter 16 studies two distinguished examples of twentieth-century literature, the fiction of J.F. Powers and the poetry of T.S. Eliotvivid illustrations of the way in which the same New Testament patterns can renew themselves in works that seem radically different in approach and style.

For the reader's convenience, Part III presents the texts of some of the works discussed in the book. 

Rhetoric at the Boundaries: The Art And Theology of New Testament Chain-link Transitions by Bruce W. Longenecker (Baylor University Press) In the first section of his book, Longenecker actually takes the time to explain some different sorts of transitions that one comes across in Greek text of the New Testament period. He examines excerpts of Quintillian and of Lucian of Samosata, showing that the "chain-link" transition is something that was accepted rhetorical style of this period. He examines other non-canonical sources to establish that this transition style was used in different genres and by different writers.
explores the way in which New Testament authors used the ancient rhetorical device of chain-link constructions (or interlocks A-b/a-B) to effect smooth transitions, both large and small. His study demonstrates how recognition of this rhetorical technique proves decisive for New Testament interpretation. Longenecker accomplishes this by examining the evidence for chain-link interlock in a variety of ancient sources, including the Hebrew scriptures, Jewish and Roman authors and rhetoricians of the Graeco-Roman world. He then applies the results of the survey to fifteen problematic passages of the New Testament. In each case, Longenecker establishes the presence of chain-link interlock and highlights the structural, literary, and theological significance of the rhetorical device for New Testament interpretation.

Longenecker then applies his focus to the New Testament, and this is the most interesting part. He identifies and elaborates upon several instances of the chain-link transition in various NT books and shows how they have been mis-identified and (in several instances) mishandled by many previous interpreters. These worked examples (for Romans, Gospel of John, the Apocalypse, and Acts) provide a good basis for understanding this type of structure.
Longenecker only examines a subset of potential links of this type, but he lays the proper foundation for identification and examination of these sorts of things.

Conceiving Peace and Violence: A New Testament Legacy by Philip L. Tite (University Press of America) explores the role of biblical texts in the promotion of peace and violence. He begins by exploring the function of religious texts as ideological elements, recognizing that the New Testament affects the social construction of realities or cultures within which people read and apply authoritative writings to ethical discussions. Arguing that an engaged reading of these texts is central within moral discourse, Dr. Tite explores such issues as feminist challenges to biblical ethics, Jewish-Christian relations, and gay and lesbian ethical disputes in Christianity.

Excerpt: Our discussion will fall into three major sections. Part One looks at the construction of ideological constructions as well as the ethical implication of those social dynamics, while Part Two will explore biblical peace/violence as embodied in actual New Testament texts. In Part Two my concern will be to look at the symbolic "mythic" universe generated in two New Testament texts (the Fourth Gospel and 1 Peter) along with some reflections on the ethical implications of those universes for readers. The closing, Part Three, will suggest that the biblical texts have a potentiality for peace or violence promotion by means of exploring how dehumanization of three particular "marginalized publics" have emerged from the Christian reading of these texts. Each of these arenas of interaction offers us challenges to engage in a new hermeneutic of responsibility and accountability: the challenge of gender, the challenge of anti-Semitism, and the challenge of gay culture. I close the book with a personal challenge. This book should be read in its entirety from beginning to end rather than non-sequentially in bits and drabs, as each section builds upon, and largely presupposes, the previous sections.

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention some of those who made this book possible. As will be discussed more fully in Part One and the closing of Part Three, this book has been in process for now more than ten years. I have struggled with many of the issues arising from biblical peace and violence matters, and I am deeply indebted to those who were both sounding boards for my ideas, especially in the formative stages of those ideas, as well as guides in helping me to see beyond my own narrow perspectives of the world, including religious and ethical questions.

In many ways this book has served as a venue for my personal growth, marking almost sacramentally a rite of passage for me from one worldview to another, a transformation I explicate at some length in the closing of the book. This work, therefore, has been a very personal and self-reflective project. If the writing of this book has served no other purpose than to be such a reflective vehicle through a limai period in my life, then it will have served its primary purpose. If it can also add to the provocation of ideas, either affirmatively or negatively, then this book will have proven itself a successful endeavor. Dialogue and questions are not only the beginning of wisdom; they are also the beginning baby-steps towards internal and social realizations of peace.

Originally this book was completed prior to the events of September 11th, 2001. I had written a simple book, thought provoking I had hoped, but still a simple book. I had hoped to discover myself through the process of writing it, and when that goal had been, for better or worse, accomplished, it was further hoped that others might also benefit from my thoughts. The book, however, sat on a shelf, and in a computer file, for sometime and I hesitated to even approach a publisher. Other areas of research had drawn my attention, such as my long love for the study of Gnosticism and my emerging fascination with method and theory issues. When I received a phone call the morning of September 11, with Trevor saying, "turn the TV on, a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center," my life changed. As I watched in utter horror on live television the two towers collapse, thousands dying and a great city covered in ash and chaos, my heart sunk. I spent the day with Viv trying to make some sense of what had happened; ironically on a beautiful, calm day here in Mont-real. That evening Colleen and I watched President Bush's address. Had a world war been declared? Would we now face a blind, continual process of cycling and escalating violence? Would this horrific cycle of blind rage result in the end of humankind?

I longed in those days for a ray of intelligent, critical reflection on the world crisis, a small light in a dangerous game of propaganda and dehumanizing euphemisms such as "collateral damage." (Such euphemisms have also served as moral justifiers for violence and murder by Great Powers. When the "enemy" is simply the "other" in the pursuit of justice, moral reflection is negated, indeed such morality simply reinforces zealous pursuits of national interests.) Bertrand Russell's fears of the perpetuation of violence for the sake of national interests, with such perpetuation being legitimized by coercive manipulation of the masses, seemed to be the reality of international political policy: A "war on terrorism" simply became the most recent label for engaging in ideological conflicts. The stakes this time round, however, have risen far beyond what the old Great Powers of Europe risked. Not only is nuclear and biological global warfare more likely, but so also the spiraling of violence to uncontrollable and perhaps utterly insane levels. Most horrific of all is the dishonoring and manipulation of the memory of the many victims of this new cycle of violence: those who died in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. They have simply become propaganda tools of policy makers. Those innocents who died in Afghanistan are not even given this much due, but rather are dismissed as simply "collateral damage"in their case they are given no public memory.

9/11 has forced us to rethink the importance of dialogue, engaging issues of peace and violence. My training in religious studies, albeit early Christianity, sensitized me to the importance of religion in our world crisis. Although I am not an Islamic scholar, from a more general religious studies perspective I noted the important role that religion played not only for the acts committed by the terrorists, but also the political rhetoric of the American government in response. Although a few intellectuals have noted the interwoven nature of religion with political and cultural conflicts, such as Mark Juergensmeyer and a former student of mine John Bell, too many have overlooked this essential factor.


Understanding What One Reads: New Testament Essays by Jan Lambrecht, Veronica Koperski (Annua Nuntia Lovaniensia, 46: Peeters) In the course of his long and distinguished scholarly career, Jan Lambrecht has been a prolific writer from both an academic and a pastoral perspective. Since 1994, attempts have been in process to collect as many as possible of his shorter writings into volumes that would be more accessible, resulting in four publications up to this point. Lambrecht's writings on Paul appeared in Pauline Studies (BETL, 115) and, together with some from his former student, Reimund Bieringer, in Studies on 2 Corinthians (BETL, 112). In 2001, upon completion of his teaching at the Biblicum, he was honored with a volume of Collected Studies (AnBibl, 147) representing his then more recent works. This volume, as its full title indicates, consists for the most part of studies on Pauline literature and the Book of Revelation, but it also includes a short article on Christian freedom in 1 Peter. had appeared previously and some new, was published as De kracht van het geloof ("The Power of Belief"). Nonetheless, there remain some of his works that have not yet been brought into a collection, and important articles in the recent Dutch collection are not available to a wider audience. This present offering attempts to address that situation. twenty-two studies in the present volume have all been written or published relatively recently, they are reflective of Professor Lambrecht's academic and pastoral interests over his entire career, ranging from Mark's use of Matthew, and possibly Q, to the Book of Revelation, and including Luke, Acts, and Paul. audience for which it was intended. Thus within this volume there will be some writings that will challenge scholars to rethink some positions and others addressed to a more general audience. This work is offered in the hope that the dialogue will continue and be fruitful in bringing forth old and new out of the treasure of the biblical writings.

New Testament History: A Narrative Account by Ben Witherington III (Baker Academic) Essential to an understanding of the New Testament world is a comprehension of the individuals, events, and social movements that shaped the world from which Jesus and his followers emerged. Unfortunately, the accounts of Josephus and other early historians are complex and often leave students feeling overwhelmed and confused. New Testament History provides a worthy solution to this problem. A well-known expert on the social world of the New Testament, Ben Witherington offers an engaging look into the world that birthed the Christian faith.

In this succinct yet readable narrative, Witherington carries the reader from the intertestamental Maccabean wars to the reign of Domitian and the exile of John, focusing especially upon the life of Christ. Witherington closely explores the geographical, political, social, and religious influences that shaped the leaders and social movements of the day. The inferiority complex of Alexander the Great and the stories of "Little Boots" and Nero are a few examples of such case studies.

Essential to an understanding of the New Testament world is a comprehension of the individuals, events, and social movements that shaped the setting from which Jesus and his followers emerged. Unfortunately, the accounts of ancient historians can leave readers feeling overwhelmed and confused. New Testament History provides a worthy solution to this problem. A well-known expert on the social situation of the New Testament, Ben Witherington offers an engaging look into the world that birthed the Christian faith.

This rich chronicle leaves readers with a better understanding of the social and political climate of the New Testament world, tackling controversies and issues with depth and clarity. Students, pastors, and interested readers will enjoy this stimulating account and appreciate its readable narrative style. New Testament History contains a number of pedagogical features, including illustrations, sidebars, "Closer Look" sections, maps, and charts.

THE DIDACHE: a commentary by Kurt Niederwimmer, translation by Linda M. Maloney; edited by Harold W. Attridge ($52.00, hardcover, 336 pages, bibliographical references and indexes, Hermeneia a critical and historical commentary on the Bible, Fortress Press; ISBN: 0800660277)

THE DIDACHE is an early work on Christian discipline, also known as the "Teaching of the Lord through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations". The only independent Greek manuscript, dated to around 1056 C.E., of this relatively compact handbook of Christian ethical and liturgical-community instructions is concluded by a brief eschatological admonition. Niederwimmer argues for a date of effective origin as early as around 100. The fact that Christian witnesses from the 4th century onward, especially in the vicinity of Egypt, provide the strongest evidence for the existence of THE DIDACHE tradition, hint on its foreshadowing influence on the development of monasticism. SyroPalestine seems to be the place of origin. In general, the analyses of the internal contents and concerns of THE DIDACHE shows in this exquisite volume of close analysis to reveal hand in hand with the external and textual evidence to fortify the impression that a variety of layers underlie the form of the traditions that have happened to have survived in the Bryennios manuscript. Niederwimmer’s commentary reflects upon more than a century of careful if controversial discussion of how this document adds to our a neat and consistent picture of early Christian history and thought.

THE DIDACHE has provoked an enormous amount of scholarly discussion, not only with reference to the text and traditions it represents, or the circumstances of its origin, but also concerning its evidence for reconstructing aspects of early Christian thought and practice. The two-ways material that opens the work spin around in the larger framework of pre-baptismal instruction and as a means for evaluating itinerant teachers. Although the baptismal rite as described in this work may have been an annual event, the immediately subsequent instructions on fasting and formal prayer explicitly refer to weekly and daily observances. There is much debate about the relationship on how to give thanks and prayers to such early Christian practices as agape meals and "Eucharist" celebrations, and to related uses of ointment/incense. The nature christology and eschatology as reflected language of the prayers is well analyzed by Niederwimmer.

Equally fascinating is THE DIDACHE’S treatment of early Christian leadership, with the focus on itinerant ministry of apostles/prophets and other teachers, but also with reference to settled bishops and deacons who might have been in danger of being considered inferior to the itinerants! How this all relates to similar issues in the sweep of early Christian evidence from Paul through the Montanist crises of the later second century is well summarized in the copious notes of this scholarly edition. The relationship of the apocalyptic appendix at the end of this work is also compared to early Christian traditions. The relative absence of apocalyptic interests or language elsewhere in the document is noteworthy given its probable dates of origin. Most of all is the general absence of traditional Christian theological and soteriological concerns to such a degree that Niederwimmer argues that no clear theology is likely to be recovered. The significance of apparent parallels between THE DIDACHE and the canonical Synoptic Gospel traditions is well brought out in the notes to this volume.

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