In the Mail: An Anomalous Jew

image1Upon arrival at Saint Louis University this morning, I was pleased to find Michael Bird’s An Anomalous Jew: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans (Eerdmans, 2016). I am most thankful to Eerdmans for sending this my way, and look forward to reading and reviewing what promises to be a stellar read.

From the Eerdman’s catalogue: “Though Paul is often lauded as the first great Christian theologian and a champion for Gentile inclusion in the church, in his own time he was universally regarded as a strange and controversial person. In this book Pauline scholar Michael Bird explains why.

An Anomalous Jew presents the figure of Paul in all his complexity with his blend of common and controversial Jewish beliefs and a faith in Christ that brought him into conflict with the socio-religious scene around him. Bird elucidates how the apostle Paul was variously perceived — as a religious deviant by Jews, as a divisive figure by Jewish Christians, as a purveyor of dubious philosophy by Greeks, and as a dangerous troublemaker by the Romans. Readers of this book will better understand the truly anomalous shape of Paul’s thinking and worldview.”

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Reflections on The Supremacy of God in Preaching

The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Piper)John Piper’s classic The Supremacy of God in Preaching offers an outline of principles for preaching, centering on the need for preachers to recognize (and apply) the supremacy of God in their theology and practice. The revised and expanded edition contains three emphases: why God should be supreme in preaching; how God should be supreme in preaching (building from Edward’s life and theology); and that God is still supreme in preaching (additions and further reflections after thirty-three years of ministry and preaching). Continue reading

Book Review: The Pauline Effect (Strawbridge)

The Pauline EffectWhile the influence of Pauline writings on early Christianity remains widely recognized, few studies investigate the particulars of Paul’s theological and exegetical influence on ante-Nicene Christianity. Beginning this immense task of studying the specific reception histories of Pauline pericopes is Jennifer Strawbridge’s The Pauline Effect, winner of the 2014 SBL-De Gruyter Prize for Biblical Studies and Reception History. This volume examines how Paul and his letters—particularly the texts of 1 Corinthians 2.6-16, Ephesians 6.10-17, 1 Corinthians 15.50-58, and Colossians 1.15-20—shaped early Christian theology and practice. Among the contributions of this volume is the argument that early Christian use of Paul reveals definitive development of Christian formation as “progress from one level of wisdom to another” (4). Continue reading

Book Review: Who Made Early Christianity? (Gager)

9780231174046Contemporary readers of the New Testament are often struck by the overwhelming influence of the Apostle Paul. After not appearing at all in the gospels and barely appearing in the first half of Acts, he comes to dominate most of the rest of the New Testament canon. Despite his popularity, however, Paul remains a controversial figure, the historical interpretations of his thought incredibly varied and the history of his influence remaining uneven across time. Nowhere is this contestation more evident than in current Pauline Studies, that field of New Testament and Biblical Studies which focuses on understanding the life and theology of the Apostle to the Gentiles. In contribution to this realm of inquiry comes John G. Gager’s latest monograph, Who Made Early Christianity? The Jewish Lives of the Apostle Paul (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), which pushed back against conceptions of Paul and early Christianity which simultaneously sound the triumph of Christianity and the decimation of Judaism. Continue reading

Book Review: Paul’s Message and Ministry in Covenant Perspective (Hafemann)

Paul's Message and Ministry in Covenant Perspective (Hafemann)There has been no shortage of scholarship on Paul in the last 150 years, as theologians and biblical scholars alike have taken up writing about Paul en masse. Amid the voluminous tomes on the Apostle, certain voices ring out more clearly than the others, beckoning readers to take up Paul with fresh insight. Scott J. Hafemann’s Paul’s Message and Ministry in Covenant Perspective, collected essays on Paul’s ministry and message from the perspective of covenantal theology stands as such a work, providing theological and exegetical insight from across twenty-five years of research on the Apostle Paul and his letters to the church at Corinth. Continue reading

Book Review: Guilt by Association (Smith)

Guilt by Association (Smith)Since the publication of Walter Bauer’s Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerie im ältesten Christentum in 1934, the issue of discerning orthodoxy and heresy in earliest Christianity has taken on renewed importance. Amidst this reinvigorated study, however, scholars have by-and-large failed to appropriately consider the insights of Christian heretical catalogues, or so argues Geoffrey S. Smith in Guilt by Association: Heresy Catalogues in Early Christianity. In this volume, Smith investigates some of the most powerful weapons in the early Church’s battles for legitimacy and authority, arguing that heresy catalogues should be approached as sources for understanding early Christian boundary-definitions and claims of orthodoxy. Continue reading

Book Review: The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel

Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel (Boer)In The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel, Roland Boer offers an economic study intended to bring contemporary social science into dialogue with the world of Ancient Israel. Focusing on the allocation and extraction economic patterns in ancient Israel and the historic interplay between these institutional systems, Boer argues that a Marxist analysis of the economic and social world of ancient Israel reveals a sacred complexity of economic institutions and activities which existed in tension with one another. As correlative arguments, Boer pushes back against postclassical assumptions of a proto-market economy in ancient Israel, advocates for a broader application of social scientific research to biblical studies, argues for an integrated understanding of the sacred and secular in Israel, and in contrast to numerous contemporary studies contends that a complexity of institutions formed the basis of ancient Israel’s economy. Central to this study are the five building blocks of ancient Israel’s religiously regulated sacred economy—subsistence survival, kinship households, patronage, estates, and tribute exchanges—and the three regimes in which these foundational institutions developed—systems of subsistence, palatine, and booty. Continue reading

Book Review: God on the Streets of Gotham

God on the Streets of GothamIn God on the Streets of Gotham, Paul Asay (long-time associate editor of Plugged In), takes a detailed look at the meaning and impact of the Dark Knight on the lives of those who come in contact with his story. The Batman series, especially the recent trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan, has been one of the most successful film franchises in cinema history. In God on the Streets of Gotham, Asay seeks to explain why the person and story of Batman are so popular in American culture and how the caped crusader continues to fascinate viewers around the world. Drawing upon both traditional Batman narratives (be they DC Comics or Adam West) as well as the modern Bale-Nolan series, Asay presents a wealth of discussion worthy material surrounding the meaning and symbolism of Batman for Christ in the modern context. Continue reading

Book Review: Lord Jesus Christ (Hurtado)

Lord Jesus ChristMagnum opus remains a term best reserved for the crowning achievement of a scholar’s life and work, the pinnacle at the top of decades of research, writing, and sharpening arguments. These great works comprehensively examine and engage their field of work and, at their best, even redefine the field for years to come. Such is Larry W. Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. 746pp.). Hurtado’s magnum opus—now approaching fifteen years old—not only transformed the field of early Christian studies, but also continues to offer insights and ways forward for contemporary scholars. Continue reading