You Should Read Kavin Rowe’s World Upside Down (Gupta)

Typically I talk about “new” books on the blog, but since I just finished reading it (and loved it!), I wanted to give a word of support for C. Kavin Rowe’s World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age (Oxford Press, 2009). Rowe masterfully blends socio-historical and narrative study of Acts, and his entire monograph is an exercise in theological interpretation of Scripture.

I adopted it as a textbook for my seminary Gospels & Acts class. I was warned that it might be a challenging read for MDIV students – and it is – but I sensed from the students that they gained much from Rowe and appreciated the depth. My only concern is that Rowe tends to ends sentences in Greek, Latin, or German (or some combination), which makes it quite difficult to read for the uninitiated. That is not really Rowe’s fault, but an obstacle for using the book as a textbook in the kind of course to which I have assigned it. Still, I cannot find a suitable alternative to do the textbook work both in history and epistemology. In any case, I warmly commend it to Neutestamentlers. Here is a memorable section:

For Luke, Jesus’ identity as Lord of all is not something produced by the Christian mission, a kind of evolutionary endpoint of a naturally expanding claim about the significance of Jesus of Nazareth as the gospel penetrated ever more deeply into Mediterranean culture. It is rather the source from which mission springs. That this identity is a saving identity and that people– not just some, but people –need salvation are two sides of the same reality manifested in the dramatic sequence that was Jesus’s ministry to the lost, his rejection and crucifixion, and ultimately his resurrection. That this sequence of events constitutes a turning point in the cosmos, a ‘fulfillment’ of the plan of God to overcome salvifically the division between Jew and gentile, is not something simply to be announced– as if the early Christian missionaries were only street-corner preachers –but something to be lived, or embodied. Christian communities, as we have had occasion to say, are the sociological explication of God’s universal lordship in Jesus Christ (p. 126).


Book Notice: Justin Marc-Smith, Why Bios? (Skinner)

Smith PhotoWhen I was in San Diego last month for the annual meeting of the SBL, I picked up a handful of really interesting books. The first one I decided to read was Justin Marc Smith’s monograph, Why Bios? On the Relationship Between Gospel Genre and Implied Audience (LNTS 518; London: Bloomsbury / T & T Clark, 2015). This volume is a revised version of Smith’s dissertation from St. Andrews. The book was of immediate interest to me for several reasons. First, in my SBL paper, one of my major points was that we need to take seriously the gospels as Greco-Rmoan biographies in order to make arguments about narrative techniques and characterization. I was therefore very interested to see what Smith had to say. Second, in a future project I intend to develop a via media between the Brown/Martyn hypothesis about the Johannine community and the Bauckham/Klink “gospels-for-all-Christians” model. At the heart of that debate are deliberations about the nature and scope of the gospels. Smith’s treatment is insightful and conversant with a great deal of material both within and outside of the discipline of gospels research. I am sure this work will become a dialogue partner for me in my future research on this topic. I have already identified some areas in which Smith and I disagree, but I’ll save those for a future time. For now, I recommend this resource to those interested in this important discussion. This monograph definitely contributes to advancing the current state of the discussion.