If we were to travel back in time to the first century, would we recognize “Christianity?” How much of our imagination of the early church is inspired by our modern Western culture, whether it be our contemporary churches or movies such as The Passion? Or, asking the question in the other direction, would the apostles—even Jesus—recognize Christianity? Craig Evans’ From Jesus to the Church goes a long way towards addressing some of these questions. Evans himself presents his book as a study of “the clash between the family of high priest Annas and the family of Jesus of Nazareth” (p. 2), but the contents of his book far exceed this topic.
Category: Reviews (page 2 of 35)
I must admit I’ve delayed writing this review. It’s not that I didn’t like Stephen Dempster’s Micah commentary; in fact, it was the opposite. I liked it so much that I was intimidated to review it (even after writing so many reviews). It’s just that good. Micah all the expected features of a commentary in the Two Horizons series. A 50-page introduction discusses usual issues such as authorship, setting, and structure as well as Micah’s placement in the Book of the Twelve (interestingly, Micah’s prediction of the temple’s destruction is at the very center of the Twelve). A 120-page commentary follows; one that somehow doesn’t feel as brief as it may look. A 70-page theological reflection concludes the commentary, in which Dempster considers Micah’s themes (e.g. justice, land, temple, messiah), contribution to Biblical theology, and contemporary relevance (e.g. cheap grace, justice, idolatry).
“Christians have become utterly inured to the cross” (p1). With this opening volley, Thomas Andrew Bennett in Labor of God provocatively challenges the church to revisit its thinking and speaking of the cross. Our images, concepts, and explanations Jesus’ work have become so familiar they have lost the scandal of the cross—they no longer shock. However, Bennett does not merely want to lament and deconstruct; he offers a solution to this problem. Bennett finds the solution in the freshness of a long-discarded image: the cross as labor.
The general, or Catholic, letters of James, Peter, John and Jude are the “final frontier” of NT studies (xiii). If it’s true that these letters are neglected individually individually, they are even more neglected as a unit. Darian Lockett’s Letters from the Pillar Apostles aims to remedy this neglect. His goal is “a sustained argument for reading the Catholic Epistles as an intentional, discrete collection set within the New Testament” (xvi).
This review first appeared in Kesher Journal, with small modifications. Paul persists as a polarizing and puzzling figure within and without the church and academy. Judging by the book of Acts, this was no less true in the first century! But are we stumbled by the same things as his contemporaries? Paula Frederiksen, author of Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle, insists that we misread Paul if we neglect his thorough Jewishness and imminent apocalyptic expectations; “racing on the edge of the End of time” (xii).
Upon turning to Christ, Paul considered his past in Judaism and any other legalistic systems of salvation as “crap” (Phil 3:8). At least, that’s how we have heard this passage taught. But did Paul think this way? Are identity markers, such as Torah-observance and circumcision for Jews, really abolished when one follows Christ? Are Christians a “third race,” neither Jew nor Gentile? Christopher Zoccali’s Reading Philippians After Supersessionism reconsiders these assumptions found in Christian tradition and modern scholarship when it comes to Paul’s letter to the Philippians.