Beverly Gaventa is one of my favorite pauline scholars – clear, balanced, exegetically-skilled and knows her primary sources well. This book is no exception in that regard. One is almost always disappointed to discover, though, that the chapters of the book have been (more or less) published previously as essays and articles in other volumes. In this collection, only about 3 out of 11 chapter are ‘original’. Now, I have not read a ton of Gaventa’s previous work, but I felt that there wasn’t enough editing done in the book to smooth out the material, eliminate redundancies, and expand what was said previously.
Overall, the book has two major units. The first several chapters are interested in Paul’s application of maternal and nursing metaphors specifically to his own apostolic ministry. She pays attention to how this might contribute to the overall picture of a family of God that Paul is drawing. But, as Reider Aasgaard has pointed out, since Paul is not always consistent in the relationships of this family (who is the father, God or Paul?), the issue is much more complicated.
The second part, in Gaventa’s opinion related to the first, involves reading the apocalyptic horizon of Paul’s letters. She focuses a great deal on Romans. Here she demonstrates the influence of Lou Martyn and E. Kasemann on her thinking. Not much is unusually new here, but she does a good job representing a whole crew of pauline scholars that are redirecting NT scholarship away from New Perspective (Jew/Gentile) issues and focusing on the ‘anti-God’ or ‘cosmic’ elements in Paul’s letters.
Overall, I am happy to have so much of Gaventa’s scholarship in one place. She is one of the best pauline scholars of our time and anyone interested in Pauline theology would benefit from this.