Jewish Believers in Jesus: Book Notice

This is coming a bit late, as the book as been out since 2007, but I am currently reviewing Hendrickson’s Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries and it is a fascinating study.  It is edited by Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik.  Contributors, at least from the NT end, include Richard Bauckham and Donald Hagner.

Bauckham discusses ‘James and the Jerusalem Church’ – an incisive analysis of the composition, lifestyle, activities, status, and beliefs of the earliest Jewish Jesus-believing community.

Here are a couple of interesting things from Bauckham:

1. Stephen’s offense: ‘his stoning is not due to the speech at all.  It is the penalty for the perceived blasphemy in his claim to see Jesus at God’s right hand…’ (p. 64).

2. Early Christian scriptural interpretation (and pesher): ‘We must postulate something like an exegetical school within the early Jerusalem church whose members could be considered the first Christian theologians’ (p. 66) – normally Paul is named the first Christian theologian, but perhaps…not…?

3. Junia (Rom. 16.7): ‘…the fact that Paul calls them [Junia and Andronicus] apostles means that they were among those commissioned by the risen Christ in a resurrection appearance.’ (p. 86-7 – is this a common assumption that their apostleship assumes actual contact with the risen Christ?)

I am currently reading Donald Hagner’s essay: ‘Paul as a Jewish Believer – According to His Letters’.  I know that the discussion of this essay at a review session at SBL was controversial, but I will need to go back and see why after I finish this piece.  So far, it has a nice history of interpretation of Paul’s attitude towards his own Judaism, his commitment to the law, and the issue of call/conversion.

Book Notice:Christ as Agent of Creation in NT

Oxford University Press will be publishing the book Christ as Creator: Origins of a New Testament Doctrine, by Sean McDonough.  Sean teaches at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and he was one of my favorite profs (I had seven courses with him!).  His area of speciality is Revelation and also NT protology and eschatology.  Thus, he is highly competent in this subject.  The release date for this book on Christ as agent of creation is Dec 2009.  Too bad it didn’t make the cut for SBL.

Here is the description:

This book examines the New Testament teaching that Christ was the one through whom God made the world. While scholars usually interpret this doctrine as arising from the equation of Jesus and the Wisdom of God, Sean McDonough argues that it had its roots in the church’s memories of Jesus’ miracles. These memories, coupled with the experience of spiritual renewal in the early church, established Jesus as the definitive agent of God’s new creation in the New Testament writings and the teachings of the Early Church.

Following the logic that ‘the end is like the beginning’ Christ was taken to be the agent of primal creation. This insight was developed in light of Old Testament creation texts, viewed from within a ‘messianic matrix’ of interpretation. God gives his Word, his Spirit, and his Wisdom to his Messiah from the very beginning; and the Messiah, the radiance of God’s glory, establishes the cosmos in accordance with God’s purposes. Creation is the beginning of messianic dominion; he rules the world he made.

McDonough carefully substantiates his thesis through a detailed exegesis of the relevant New Testament texts in the context of related texts in Judaism and Greco-Roman philosophy. He concludes with a survey of the doctrine of Christ as Creator in the work of six theologians: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Karl Barth, Jürgen Moltmann, and Wolfhart Pannenberg.

Readership: Scholars and Students of Christology; of New Testament Studies; of historical theology

Here is the provisional table of contents:

1: Introduction
2: Memories of Jesus: Creation in the Gospels
3: Creation and the Moral Order
4: Creation: The Beginning of Messianic Dominion
5: Only Connect: Creation and Meditation in the Hellenistic World
6: The Problem of Philo
7: Through Whom? Messianic and Demonic Mediation in 1 Corinthians 8-10
8: Old Dominion: Creation in Colossians
9: ‘In the beginning, Lord…’: The Contribution of Hebrews
10: Union in Labor: Creation through the Son in the Gospel of John
11: Jesus and Genesis: Tentative Steps Towards Theology

Soon-coming books from WJK

I saw that Westminster John Knox has posted their new 2009 catalogue.  It is not just academic books, but it includes many of them.  Here are some highlights.

The Interpretation series is starting a new collection of books called ‘Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church’, edited by Patrick D. Miller, Richard Hays, Ellen Davis, and James Mays.  Topics will include Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, Sacraments, Miracles, the Apostle’s Creed, Violence in the Bible, Women in the Bible, Money and Possessions, Eschatology, and Introduction to Christian Scripture.  The inaugural volume is entitled ‘The Ten Commandments’, and is by Patrick Miller.

I am also excited about Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians by Stephen Haynes and Lori Hale.  I have read the John Wesley title and it is so well-written and, obviously, accessible to the non-expert.  This Bonhoeffer one tops my list of new books to get – already published titles in this series includes Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Barth.

Seeing Things John’s Way: The Rhetoric of Revelation is by David deSilva – one of my favorite scholars academically and he is also a friendly and warm person.  His work on Hebrews is well-known.  His intro to the NT is among the best.  He is going to be written prolifically for the Rhetoric in  Religious Antiquity series (DEO).  He knows ancient rhetoric, and he will have many, many insights into Revelation.  NB: A large portion of this book was written during a prestigious Von Humboldt research fellowship in Germany (hosted by Tuebingin).

Victor Furnish’s Theology and Ethics in Paul was first published in 1968 – I think by Abingdon Press.  It is now being re-published in WJK’s ‘New Testament Library’ series with a new foreward by Richard Hays.  Richard let me peek at the foreward and it helps to situate Furnish’s work, both within its own context theologically, and also shows where the study of Paul’s ethics has grown and developed since Furnish’s 1968 contribution and especially because of it.  I don’t actually own an old copy of TEP, so I am eager to get my hands on this.  It may be of interest for you to know that I plan on assigning this book as required reading in virtually any course on Paul I teach.

Festschrift for EP Sanders

I just came across the new FS for EP Sanders (See HERE).

Contributors include: Fabian E. Udoh, D. Moody Smith, E. P. Sanders, Jouette M. Bassler, Shaye J.D. Cohen, Albert I. Baumgarten, Cynthia M. Baker, Israel J. Yuval, Martin Goodman, Eric M. Meyers, Jürgen Zangenberg, Seán Freyne, Peter Richardson, Adele Reinhartz, Paula Fredriksen, Stephen Hultgren, John P. Meier, Craig C. Hill, Heikki Räisänen, Richard B. Hays, Stanley K. Stowers, John M. G. Barclay.

Quite a list of who’s who in Judaism and NT studies.

Here is the description

For nearly four decades, E. P. Sanders has been the foremost scholar in shaping and refocusing scholarly debates in three different but related disciplines in New Testament studies: Second Temple Judaism, Jesus and the Gospels, and Pauline studies. This collection of essays by an impressive array of colleagues and former students presents original scholarship that extends—or departs from—the research of Sanders himself. Both apologists and dissenters find their place in this volume, as the authors actively debate Sanders’s innovative positions on central issues in all three disciplines.

The introductory group of essays includes a substantive intellectual autobiography by E. P. Sanders himself. The next three parts examine in turn the three areas in which Sanders made his important contributions. The essays in part 2 engage Sanders’s notion of “common Judaism.” Those in part 3 deal with issues that Sanders raised respecting the historical Jesus and the Gospels. And the essays in part 4 debate Sanders’s contention that participation in Christ, rather than justification by faith, is the central theme of Paul’s soteriology. The volume concludes with a bibliography of Sanders’s works.

James Dunn and New Testament Theology

Ok.  It is purely coincidence that I have mentioned Dunn in most of my recent posts, but he is deserving of yet another one.  I just saw an announcement of a new New Testament Theology by Dunn (Abingdon, 2009).  It appears that it should be available in June or July.  See description below:

In this third volume in the Library of Biblical Theology series, James D.G. Dunn ranges widely across the literature of the New Testament to describe the essential elements of the early church’s belief and practice. Eschatology, grace, law and gospel, discipleship, Israel and the church, faith and works, and most especially incarnation, atonement, and resurrection; Dunn places these and other themes in conversation with the contemporary church’s work of understanding its faith and life in relation to God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ.


T & T Clark’s The Pseudepigrapha and Christian Origins is a publication that arises from papers given in the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas from 2000-2006 (book eds. G.S. Oegema and J.H. Charlesworth; 2008).  The essays are divided into 5 groups: the Pseudepigrapha (P.) and Christian Origins [introductory issues], P. and the synoptic Gospels, P. and Paul, P. and Luke-Acts, and P. and the Revelation of John. The book also contains a ‘postscript’ by Lee Martin McDonald that deals with ‘Ancient Bible manuscripts and the Biblical Canon’.


Introductory issues: John Court, Richard Bauckham and Lorenzo DiTommaso discuss issues such as the provenance of the P. and how P. research has developed after the OTP volumes.

Paul: Adam is a major topic of interest with respect to the Life of Adam and Even; Dunn offers a view of Adam in Paul with the P. in mind.

Luke-Acts: Craig Evans gives attention to ‘The P. and the problem of Background “Parallels” in the Study of the Acts of the Apostles’;

Revelation: David Aune looks at the genre of apocalyptic with interest in the Apocalypse of John.

I would like to comment further (when I have more reading time) on a few of these (esp. Dunn, Evans, and McDonald).

It is always nice to see SNTS making their cutting edge work available to us wide-eyed outsiders with a glass to the

door 🙂

Certainly ask your academic library to get a copy of this. You are probably not going to want to fork out £70 for this!

Book Notice: Peoples of the NT World (Simmons)

This really interesting ‘illustrated guide’ to Peoples of the New Testament World (Hendrickson, 2008) would have passed right by me unnoticed had a friend not brought it to my attention.

I will try and spend more time blogging on the particular contents later, but I will just give you a taste for now.

From what I can tell from a quick perusal, it is an intro to the ancient world, focusing specifically on groups of people.  This approach has the advantage of being somewhat focused (on only people), but covers a wide range of clubs and religious organizations throughout the ancient world.  This looks like it is pitched to a college level or an educated (armchair theologian) layleader level.  You expect there to be discussions of the Pharisees, Zealots, Sadducees (and there is).  But also Magicians and Exorcists; the Hebrews and Hellenists; Roman Emperors (27BCE-96CE); Centurions; Patrons and Clients; the Greek Philosophers; Slaves and Freed Persons.

The author: William Simmons teaches at Lee University (Tennessee).  He did his PhD at Univ. of St. Andrews under A.J.M. Wedderburn.

Use of book: This might be too detailed to require for a NT survey course as a supplementary textbook.  It would work well for a NT history course or one on backgrounds (e.g. ‘the social world of the NT’).

Style: It is illustrated with great pictures of coins, statues, buildings/temples, architectural reconstructions, landscape photos from mediterranean cities.

Resources: It has an annotated bibliography of primary documents (such as the trans. of the magical papyri, DSS, works of the apostolic fathers, Mishnah, Loeb volumes and more.  The end bibliography has almost 600 entires of secondary sources that will aid students in finding material for research papers.

Endorsements: David Aune (‘well-written presentation’) and Clinton Arnold (‘well researched and richly informative’) give high praise to this book.