I just received my copy of a new book edited by my friends, Frank Dicken (who is also a former student) and Julia Snyder. The book, Characters and Characterization in Luke-Acts (LNTS 548; London: Bloomsbury/T & T Clark). Here’s a description from the back of the book:
Like all skilful authors, the composer of the biblical books of Luke and Acts understood that a good story requires more than a gripping plot – a persuasive narrative also needs well-portrayed, plot-enhancing characters. This book brings together a set of new essays examining characters and characterization in those books from a variety of methodological perspectives.
The essays illustrate how narratological, sociolinguistic, reader-response, feminist, redaction, reception historical, and comparative literature approaches can be fruitfully applied to the question of Luke’s techniques of characterization. Theoretical and methodological discussions are complemented with case studies of specific Lukan characters. Together, the essays reflect the understanding that while many of the literary techniques involved in characterization attest a certain universality, each writer also brings his or her own unique perspective and talent to the portrayal and use of characters, with the result that analysis of a writer’s characters and style of characterization can enhance appreciation of that writer’s work.
Part One consists of seven chapters devoted to character issues in the Gospel of Luke. Part Two consists of six chapters devoted to Acts. The book also boasts an all-star lineup of scholars working in the US, UK, and Germany, including: Sean A. Adams, Cornelis Bennema, Hannah M. Cocksworth, John A. Darr, Frank E. Dicken, Stephen E. Fowl, David B. Gowler, Joel B. Green, James L. Ressguie, Julia A. Snyder, F. Scott Spencer, Steve Walton, and Brittany E. Wilson.
Receiving this book made my day for two reasons. First, I am proud to be associated with both Frank and Julia and happy for their accomplishment. Second, I am excited to see further work being done on characters and characterization in the NT narratives. This represents the third book on the subject in the Library of New Testament Studies; the first two were my books, Characters and Characterization in the Gospel of John, and Character Studies and the Gospel of Mark (co-edited with Matt Hauge). As I understand it, Matt Hauge is also working on Characters and Characterization in the Gospel of Matthew. I am excited that this work on characterization is continuing.
Congrats to Frank and Julia!
The book I co-edited last fall with my friend, Matt Hauge, Character Studies and the Gospel of Mark, was reviewed by D. Keith Campbell in the most recent fascicle of Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. Frankly, I was astonished to see such a positive assessment of the book. The review was one of the most glowing a book of mine has ever received. Campbell closes his review with these words:
[T]he contributors—all pacesetters in Markan narrative criticism—offer penetrating contributions to the field, contributions that NT narrative critics, who especially study characterization, will discuss for years to come. In essence, they accomplish what all researchers strive to accomplish; they advance their field, provide new methods for research, and open clear avenues for others to travel. What more could a monograph offer?
This is where I would normally encourage you to buy a copy but it costs $117!!! Let’s be honest for a second….who has that type of money? However, I am told that the paperback will be available for under $40 in just a few months. THEN you can go buy a copy. Our thanks to Dr. Campbell for both his positive assessment of the book and for his critical engagement with each chapter.
Over at RBL, there is a review by Craig Koester of Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel, the volume recently edited by Steven Hunt, Francois Tolmie, and Ruben Zimmerman. Not only did I contribute several chapters to this fine volume, but the subject matter is close to my heart. See Koester’s largely sympathetic review here.
If it seems that every time you click a link on social media this past week, you are hearing about the upcoming AAR/SBL meetings in San Diego, it’s probably because many of us are giddy about the opportunity to gather with friends, buy discounted books, eat at high end restaraunts, and oh yeah, present and listen to papers. What makes this whole scenario even better (at least here in the US) is that when we return home we go right into the Thanksgiving holiday. Thus, SBL is like a pre-holiday!
This year I will be giving a paper in the Johannine Literature Group in which the topic is “Characterization in the Gospel of John.” Here’s the lineup:
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room 25 B (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)
Theme: Characterization in the Gospel of John
Ruben Zimmermann, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Presiding
Christopher W. Skinner, Mount Olive University
Toward a Theory of Character for Interpreting the Gospel of John (20 min)
Cornelis Bennema, Wales Evangelical School of Theology
The Scope and Limitations of Using a Uniform Approach to Character in the Gospel of John (20 min)
Alicia D. Myers, Campbell University Divinity School
Topographies of Person: Mapping Ancient Characterization in the Gospel of John (20 min)
Break (5 min)
Steven A. Hunt, Gordon College, Francois Tolmie, University of the Free State and Ruben Zimmermann, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel: Methods, Trends, Results (20 min)
Francis J. Moloney, Australian Catholic University
The Final Appearance: Characters in John 20 (and 21) (20 min)
James L. Resseguie, Winebrenner Theological Seminary
Character and Point of View: The Beloved Disciple as Test Case (20 min)
Discussion (25 min)
If you’re interested in the subject, we’d love to see you there. Everyone on the panel has written something of substance on the topic in recent years. I’m really looking forward to the interaction.
I just noticed that my forthcoming book, Character Studies and the Gospel of Mark (co-edited with Matt Hauge) is now available for pre-order on Amazon. It’s not set to be out until October, but if you order now, you can have the distinction of being one of the first people to own it. I mean, isn’t that incentive enough? And here’s the thing, it will only cost you $114. What a bargain! If you’re still not convinced, here’s the table of contents:
1. ‘The Study of Character(s) in the Gospel of Mark: A Survey of Research from Wrede to the Performance Critics’ (1903 – 2013) Christopher W. Skinner
2. ‘History, Theology, Story: Re-Contextualizing Mark’s “Messianic Secret” as Characterization’ Elizabeth Struthers Malbon
3. ‘The Creation of Person in Ancient Narrative and the Gospel of Mark’ Matthew Ryan Hauge
4. ‘God as Healer of Creation in the Gospel of Mark’ Ira Brent Driggers
5. ‘The Characterization of Jesus as Lord in Mark’s Gospel’ Joel F. Williams
6. ‘Characterizing the Non-Human: Satan in the Gospel of Mark’ Elizabeth E. Shively
7. ‘The Narrative Rhetoric of Mark’s Characterization of Peter’ Paul Danove
8. ‘Women in Mark’s Gospel’ Susan Miller
9. ‘“Their Great Ones Act as Tyrants Over Them”: Reading Mark’s Characterization of Roman Authorities from a Distinctly Roman Perspective’ Adam Winn
10. ‘Gentile Characters and the Motif of Proclamation in the Gospel of Mark’ Cornelis Bennema
Of course, this won’t be the last I’ll say about the book, but if you pre-order now, you can ignore all of my future posts on this topic. 🙂
I just got an email this morning from Cor Bennema informing me that his newest book with Fortress Press has just been released. The book is entitled, A Theory of Character in New Testament Narrative and it seeks to build upon Cor’s earlier work in this area. I have had a chance to look at the pre-publication proofs and I think this book is going to be a conversation starter.
I have disagreements with Cor on some issues (and I have expressed these in print in several places), but I always find his work to be stimulating and thought-provoking. A few days ago I posted about an upcoming SBL session in which we will be discussing these issues along with Steve Hunt, James Ressegeuie, Frank Moloney, and Alicia Myers. Our recent publications in this area will serve as a foundation for much of what we will likely discuss in those sessions (see here, here, here, here).
Congratulations to Cor! I look forward to reading this book more carefully and revieiwing it here on the blog.
Today I was notified by Dan Batovici that the recent volume, Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel (ed. Steven A. Hunt, Francois Tolmie, Ruben Zimmerman) was reviewed over at Reviews of Biblical and Early Christian Studies. I have a special place in my heart for this volume. Not only was I privileged to contribute two essays to the book (character studies of “The World” and Malchus), but I was in constant contact with the editors as I brought forth my own volume, Characters and Characterization in the Gospel of John (Library of New Testament Studies), during the same period their volume was emerging. The review, written by a young scholar named Josaphat C. Tam, is interesting in that it only looks at three of the seventy essays in the book. The first of those three happens to be my study of “The World.” In the second of two paragraphs devoted to my essay, Tam writes:
While Skinner’s exegesis from the selected texts is reasonable to show that his view stands, he seems to have undervalued the significance of texts like 1:29; 3:16-17; 8:12; 9:5; 16:8; 17:21, 23, where the world clearly remains the object of God’s love and the evangelistic target of Jesus and the Paraclete (subsequently the Christian community). There is a tension between the unbelieving/rejecting attitude of the world towards Jesus and the hopeful conversion of the world for which Jesus/the author maintains. If the unbelieving characters/traits are represented by the world, the believing characters are also represented by the world. Being also members of the world, the Samaritans, the Samaritan woman, the blind beggars, and the disciples etc. encounter Jesus and are called to be children of God. They are from the world; upon understanding God’s love and through their believing understanding, they no longer belong to it while they are still in it (cf. 17:11, 14-16). The Pharisees’ fear in 12:9, “the world has run off after him,” though hyperbole it may be, ironically contains an element of truth. Far from expressing the world’s following in ignorance as Skinner claims (p.67), these words of the Pharisees can be a partial summary to Jesus’ ministry. Through these words, the author shows to the readers that, in contrast to those religious elite, truly some members of the world can be receptive to Jesus’ message. A clear example is that even the crowd (7:31, 40-43) are divided in their attitude towards Jesus. Time and again, the world is the receiver of God’s promises, though unfulfilled to some, yet definitely not to the others. In light of these observations, it seems the more complex traits of the world should be further explored.
I am, of course, thankful for the engagement and I think Tam raises some helpful questions. However, I would say in response that if Tam had read the introductory portion of my essay a little more carefully, he would have noticed where I map out a specific approach for my analysis of the world as a character. I am focusing on specific instances where the kosmos behaves as the Johannine Prologue (1:1-18) predicts. I am also clear that my focus is intentionally narrow. I wanted to examine the kosmos as a character (the aim of the volume) as opposed to a comprehensive discussion of the concept of the kosmos in the Fourth Gospel.
Overall, Tam’s impressions of the book are good…and I agree with him. If you are interested in narrative criticism, Johannine studies, character studies, and related areas, you will want to check out the book. (The price tag is pretty hefty, so for my friends in academia who want a copy, you should probably volunteer to review it for a journal!)