Review: Crossing Cultures in Scripture

9780830844739Marvin J. Newell is senior vice president of Missio Nexus, a network of evangelical mission agencies, churches and training centers in North America. Newell previously served as the executive director of CrossGlobal Link and served as a missionary to Indonesia for twenty-one years. Newell also served as professor of missions and intercultural studies at the Moody Theological Seminary. He is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which being Crossing Cultures in Scripture: Biblical Principles for Mission Practice.

Crossing Cultures in Scripture is a stimulating canonical exploration that presents a biblical theology of culture and God’s activity therein from Genesis to Revelation. Newell divides the book into three major sections: (1) foundational cultural considerations, (2) crossing cultures in the Old Testament, and (3) crossing cultures in the New Testament. The presupposition that guides the overall existence of this investigation is discovered in Newell’s adherence to the Reformation principal of sola Scriptura. For Newell, the Bible is “the first and final authority for all that we believe and practice” and the “primary point of reference” for studying and engaging culture (p. 13). Therefore, when it comes to the task of cultural and crosscultural engagement, for Newell, “the Bible itself is a textbook on cultural understanding” that displays itself within three primary realities: (1) the Bible is the portrayer of cultures, (2) the Bible is a sculptor of cultures, and (3) the Bible is an appraiser of cultures (p. 13-14).

The foundation of Newell’s approach is strengthened by the excellence of his guided cultural tour through the biblical narrative of both the Old and New Testament. The definition of “culture” explored in Newell’s study is bound to human existence. Newell explains, “Culture is the distinctive beliefs, values, and customs of a particular group of people that determine how they think, feel, and behave” (p. 17). As such, Patrick Fung rightly recognizes the usefulness of Newell’s work in his forward to the volume, writing, “Crossing Cultures helps us to both decode the Bible stories from the biblical cultures and to encode the Bible stories for different cultures today, so that God’s message remains relevant and universal” (p. 11). The chapters are numerous (36 chapters total) and brief (roughly 7 pages per chapter). Newell rounds out the volume with several helpful appendices, including a sermon series guide that stretches 13 weeks and allows Pastor or Bible study leaders to engage their people in the content of the book.

There are a number of positive aspect of this book apart from the content. Two of those deserve mention here. First, Newell has including numerous graphs and diagrams throughout the volume to help the reader visualize the content in a manner that cultivates learning and application. There is also a table and figure list at the end of the volume for future reference. Second, each chapter in the volume is organized into at least three section: (1) setting, (2) crosscultural insights, and (3) crossing takeaway. The latter provides the reader with a quick paragraph of easily digestible and applicable content for each chapter.

The Bible is overflowing with cultural significance, and Crossing Cultures in Scripture: Biblical Principles for Mission Practice by Marvin J. Newell helps readers explore it through the lenses of cultural engagement. Newell has provided a stunning parade of the practical importance of biblical theology as it pertains to the life and wellbeing of Christian missions and culture in the twenty-first century. This is a book that will surpass its reputation in usefulness and impact for those actively involved in cultural or crosscultural engagement, which should be every person seeking to faithfully follow Jesus. If you are looking for a book that will both equip and challenge your understanding of Scripture and culture, your time will be well invested here. This book comes highly recommended!

Review: Saving the Bible from Ourselves

26598225Glenn R. Paauw is vice president of Global Bible Engagement at Biblica and senior fellow at the Institute for Bible Reading. He has a deep-seated passion for engaging people in the Bible and allowing such engagement to penetrate everyday life. Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well is the fruit of such passions and Paauw’s ambitious attempt to provide a refreshingly new paradigm for everyday Bible engagement.

Saving the Bible from Ourselves introduces seven new perspectives on Bible reading that allow the reader to slowdown and engage the biblical text with intentionality. Paauw’s objective is to help readers rediscover a “big reading” of Scripture. As Paauw explains, “My core argument is that for most of us, most of the time, small readings prevail over big readings . . . small readings [are] those diminished samplings of Scripture in which individuals take in fragmentary bits outside of the Bible’s literary, historical, and dramatic contexts” (p. 11). It is here that the Bible needs saving, according to Paauw. Not because of internal defect or shortcoming, but because small readings have “buried it, boxed it in, wallpapered over it, neutered it, distorted it, isolated it, individualized it, minimized it, misread it, lied about it, debased it and oversold it” (p. 16).

As the book unfolds, Paauw carefully guides the reader towards a multifaceted problem which allows them to observe and implement a resolution that will last. The broader problem can be summarized as follows: (1) the contemporary Bible is far too cluttered and distracting for long periods of digestion; (2) such clutter results in the tendency to read less when our soul desires to read more; (3) such minimal Bible consumption results in a diminished historical and literary awareness, as well as oversight of the larger biblical narrative. It is here that Paauw calls for a Bible reading revolution—a revolution that removes itself from its dependency upon study aids and Bible clutter, and seeks to reengage itself with the bigger picture of the biblical narrative.

Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well by Glenn R. Paauw is the type of book that should be received with open arms from anyone serious about their Christian faith. It is a book that will challenge your current reading practices and reorient your heart towards a proper method of Bible engagement. I couldn’t recommend it more!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Peter in Early Christianity

26029085Peter in Early Christianity edited by Helen K. Bond and Larry W. Hurtado is a compilation of the nineteen essays presented at a 2013 conference organized by the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh. The contributors to this volume include internationally recognized scholars of early Christian history, such as Jonathan W. Lo, John R. Markley, Margaret H. Williams, Paul A. Hartog, Willaim Rutherford, and much more.

Larry Hurtado opens the volume with an excellent essay surveying Petrine scholarship within Protestant Christianity. Hurtado’s focus is on the works of three influential scholars from the mid-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries: Oscar Cullmann, Martin Hengel, and Markus Bockmuehl. It is here that Hurtado exposes the reader to the apostle Peter as a topic of serious historical and scholarly consideration within the Protestant tradition—a consideration that is more concerned with historical knowledge than ecclesiastical polemics.

The essays that follow are loosely organized in chronological order and divided into three major sections. The first five essays in the volume seek to contribute to a historical portrait of Peter. Margaret H. Williams essay on the various names associated with Peter was among the best in this initial section. Williams analyzes Jewish onomastic practices and connects such practice to the different names given to Peter in the gospels. Timothy Barnes also has a compelling essay on Peter’s death and the tradition of Peter being crucified. Barnes makes a compelling case from John 21:18-19 that Peter was burned alive, not crucified.

The next five essays are focused on Peter in the New Testament. While all five of the essays are extremely crucial to the overall scope Petrine studies, Jason Sturdevant’s contribution on the character of Peter in the Fourth Gospel was among the best. The final group of essays is the most thought-provoking in the entire book and is certain to encourage additional research. These essays are collectively aimed at examining Peter in the early Christian tradition. Lastly, the volume concludes with a noteworthy essay by Markus Bockmuehl in which he examines Peter within the works of the Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Peter in Early Christianity edited by Helen K. Bond and Larry W. Hurtado is an outstanding collection of essays, that, in many ways, tread on unchartered territory within Petrine studies. This is a book that will broaden your horizon and encourage your understanding of one of the most influential figures of early Christianity. The scope of essays included are comprehensive and detailed, and the organization is appropriately presented. If you are interested in the person and influence of Peter within the early Christian movement, Peter in Early Christianity is a one stop volume that will point you in several right directions. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Rediscovering Jesus

9780830898565Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious, and Cultural Perspectives on Christ by
David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards is a calculated investigation into nearly every corner of today’s Christological landscape. The perspectives presented in this book are numerous and the presentation is everything but boring. From the opening pages, the authors captivate the reader with illustrative narratives that are easily relatable and appropriately placed.

Each chapter of the book has three specific parts. First, the authors seek to clarify who Jesus is in relation to a particular perspective discussed. Second, the authors aim to articulate the more unique features of Jesus from within that perspective and how it is distinctive. Third, the authors attempt to discuss a hypothetical situation where that perspective of Jesus is the only perspective available to the conversation.

Rediscovering Jesus is divided into two major parts: (1) Jesus in the Bible and (2) Jesus outside the Bible. In the former, the authors guide the reader through the New Testament as they examine the portrait of Jesus painted in (1) Mark, (2) Matthew, (3) Luke-Acts, (4) John, (5) Pauline literature, (6) Hebrews, (7) James, Peter, and Jude, and (8) Revelation. In the latter, the reader is guided through various sketches of Jesus in (9) Gnostic literature, (10) the Quran, (11) history, (12) Mormonism, (13) America, and (14) the cinema.

The authors are sensitive to the fact that the majority understanding of Jesus is traceable back to either Paul, John, or some closely knit combination of both. I found the work shown on this observation to be accurate and important to the topic. The authors provide excellent guidance through each New Testament book. The discussion is informative and displays a keen eye of surveillance regarding the variegated portraits of Jesus presented therein—especially when one considers some of the more unusual books surveyed.

As the attention is directed to religious and cultural views of Jesus outside the Bible. I personally found the selection of perspectives for this section interesting and well-intended. Each of these perspectives could be encountered with some level of frequency by the average Christian in America, and the conversation and examination are all too appropriate. Still, I would have loved to have seen a chapter on the Jehovah Witnesses or Judaism. Of course, I am well aware that perspectives of Jesus outside the Bible could produce a volume much longer than that here.

There are a number of things about this book that I really enjoyed. First and foremost, it was extremely readable and highly engaging. I found myself unable to put it down as I became more familiar with the format and anticipated the outcome of each chapter. Second, I really thought the authors made an excellent choice to wrestle with the hypothetical of each perspective being our only source of information about Jesus. It was well-thought and interesting to ponder. Third, each chapter has a number of call-out boxes that provide additional content on the specific perspective that is both informationally and practically oriented.

Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious, and Cultural Perspectives on Christ by David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards is an easy candidate for a supplementary textbook for a seminary course. However, this does not mean that it is purely an academic work. In fact, you will find that it is quite the opposite. Rediscovering Jesus is an inviting book that will make you ponder long and hard about your understanding of Jesus—or lack thereof. If you are interested in a book that will challenge you to contemplate your answer to Jesus’ question—who do you say that I am?—then this is a book you will indeed not want to miss.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Unchanging Witness

28869720We are now witnessing a moral transformation before our own eyes. It is a cultural shift that continues to sweep the land, and it is the issue of same-sex marriage and homosexuality that stands at the forefront of this fast-moving revolution, and its agenda is being bolstered on nearly every street corner. Are Christians to assume that they have got it wrong all this time? Has tradition really misunderstood what appears to be the clear and consistent message of Scripture on these issues? In today’s increasingly post-Christian world it is imperative that such challenges are met with gentleness and love, and the Christian must be well-equipped to meet such tasks. It is here that S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams have provided a unique and timely volume that aims to fill a much needed void amid an ever-changing world.

Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (B&H Academic, 2016) begins with a history of the Gay Christian movement in America—from the New York Stonewall Inn riots of 1969 to the publication and proclamation of the Boswell Thesis in the early 1980’s. This is an appropriate place to start the conversation for the reader. Not only does it provide a well-documented outline of events for where we are today, but it also helpfully places the conversation amid its proper historical context. This context then becomes an essential part of the initial section as the reader is guided through nearly two millennia of church history, beginning with the Church Fathers and ending with the current landscape of many modern mainline denominations. Fortson and Grams systematically dismantle the revisionist claims that characterize the Gay Christian movement, but it is the abundance of primary source material that carries the bulk of their argumentative weight.

With the historical foundation firmly established, Fortson and Grams can now direct the appropriate attention to the Scriptures that rightly motivated the previous convictions of the Christian Church. This section is divided into three parts: (1) The Bible and Homosexuality, (2) Creation and Law: Old Testament Text and Homosexuality, and (3) Creation, the Law and the Gospel: New Testament Text and Homosexuality—with the latter two parts comprising nearly half of the content of the book. There is no Scriptural concern that is left unturned as Fortson and Grams carefully guide the reader through the biblical passages, what the text says about homosexuality, how the text was understood historically and culturally, and how the text has been understood and interpreted by Christians (p. 2). The interaction with the major interpreters of the Gay Christian movement is ample, and the reader will benefit greatly from the level of scholarship and documentation provided therein.

The attention to scholarly detail in this volume is incredible. On a stylistic note, Fortson and Grams have chosen to utilize the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible because of the similar ecumenical intent of the volume and translation. Fortson and Grams have also provided a whole host of primary source material in the initial section of the book, and to make interaction easier for the reader they have used italics to highlight the portions of text that are most important. In regards to the content, it would be difficult to differentiate between the quality of work therein. Every chapter is equally important to the thesis of the book and the interaction with the Gay Christian movement is witnessed throughout. Nevertheless, some points of particular enjoyment will be the parallels presented between the law code text of Leviticus and Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 5-7 and the revisionist readings of Romans 1:24-28. Moreover, the assessment of the Pauline argument of nature/creation and nurture/law in Romans was also extremely helpful for interacting with some of the contemporary arguments against the traditional understanding of the texts. One major downfall of the volume is the lack of a bibliography. While skimming the footnotes is more work, and I am reluctant to recommend such, it will certainly prove beneficial for the interested reader.

Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition by S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams is easily projected to be one of the most important books of 2016. The comprehensive treatment of the issues at hand are presented in a clear and persuasive manner that only the most uninformed of readers would be willing to ignore. Of course, while continuing to play interpretive leapfrog with the biblical text may work in prolonging the conversation among supporters, the nearly two millennia of unchanging witness within the Christian community is not easily dismissed—at least not without severe logical and historical implications. The testimony of both Scripture and the response of the people of God to such have been unanimously opposed to the current revolutionary trend that is sweeping the nation, and Fortson and Grams have displayed this fact with undeniable precision. The Christian would do well in reading this book with careful and attentive eyes of compassion for the ever-changing world around them. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review:Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Context

00_PICKWICK_TemplateThe Bauer Thesis is an undergirding hypothesis running through the minds of individuals worldwide, but especially in the western world. It has been popularized on a large scale by scholars such as Bart D. Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, and Karen King. In fact, the Bauer Thesis is so widespread that it even witnesses some acknowledging support among laity and leadership in the Christian church. Still, the majority of individuals are familiar with the Bauer Thesis without even knowing it. So, what is the Bauer Thesis? The Bauer Thesis is a theory of Christian origins developed by the prolific intellectual voice of German scholar Walter Bauer. In essence, as Bauer peered over the landscape of early Christianity he saw a chasm of diversity with many forms of Christian orthodoxy and heresy. Bauer argued that the existence of a central Christian orthodoxy was nowhere to be found, rather with the superior influence of the Roman church, what we know today as Christianity is merely the outpouring of the victory of one form of Christianity over many others.

Many challenges have been directed towards the claims of the Bauer Thesis and its wide-range of scholarly support. Most recently, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Context: Reconsidering the Bauer Thesis edited by Paul A. Hartog (Pickwick, 2015) seeks to reevaluate the grounds for Bauer’s assessment of early Christianity through the interdisciplinary effort of both New Testament and Patristic studies. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Context has brought together specialists from both fields of study to reexamine the Bauer Thesis “by taking a fresh look at orthodoxy and heresy, unity and diversity, theology and ideology, and rhetoric and polemic within early Christian context” (p. 4-5).

The essays are rich with content, “supplemented by post-Bauer discoveries and refined by post-Bauer scholarship, [and] reveal new insights through careful attention to historical detail and geographical particularity” (p. 5). If the reader is unfamiliar with Walter Bauer and his contribution to biblical scholarship, the introduction by Hartog and the first chapter by Rodney J. Decker has provided an excellent overview of the Bauer and the Bauer Thesis in general. Decker also provides an annotated list of scholarly contention with the Bauer Thesis. These two chapters work well in orienting the reader in the right direction. While all ten essays are collectively beneficial in their own respect, some sure highlights for the reader will include an essay by William Varner titled “Baur to Bauer and Beyond: Early Jewish Christianity and Modern Scholarship,” and an essay by Bryan M. Litfin titled “Apostolic Tradition and the Rule of Faith in Light of the Bauer Thesis.”

The Bauer Thesis has proven itself to be a lasting plague upon the conversations that surround early Christianity. Despite dozens upon dozens of critiques directed at Bauer and the growing number of contemporary proponents to the Bauer Thesis, the conversation shows little signs of slowing down in the near future. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Context: Reconsidering the Bauer Thesis edited by Paul A. Hartog helpfully brings together an interdisciplinary team of scholars unified in the effort of honest discussion about the landscape of early Christianity. If you are looking for an up-to-date engagement with one of the most important and widespread theories related to both New Testament and Patristic studies, then Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Context will provide you with a wealth interaction that is certain to keep your appetite under control.

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Introducing World Religions

22504659Charles E. Farhadian is professor of world religions and Christian Mission at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Farhadian has studied at Seattle Pacific University (BA), Yale University (MDIV), and Boston University (PhD). He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Christianity, Islam, and Nationalism in Indonesia (Routledge, 2005), Christian Worship Worldwide: Expanding Horizons, Deepening Practices (Eerdmans, 2007), The Testimony Project: Papua (Deiyai Press, 2007), Introducing World Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), and the Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion (Oxford University Press, 2014). Most recently, Farhadian has released what is sure to be the standard undergraduate-level introduction to world religions from the Christian perspective—Introducing World Religions: A Christian Engagement (Baker Academic, 2015).

Introducing World Religions begins with an excellent introduction to prepare the reader for the forthcoming journey into the religious landscape of the contemporary world. This initial section, the persistence of religion, appropriately positions the reader and introduces the study of religion as an academic discipline. First, Farhadian acknowledges the difficulty that arises when one seeks to definitively define “religion.”  Consequently, Farhadian follows the eight characteristics of religion articulated by Watson King (Encyclopedia of Religion, “Religion,” 12:284): (1) traditionalism, (2) myth and symbols, (3) ideas of salvation, (4) sacred objects and places, (5) sacred actions, (6) sacred writings, (7) sacred community, and (8) sacred experience. Second, Farhadian briefly explores the numerous contexts in which the study of religion is discussed (psychological, social, cultural, historical, and environmental), as well as the various theories of religion (psychological, sociological, anthropological, and economical) articulated and affected by figures such as Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim, and Karl Marx.

Introducing World Religion covers eight major world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism and Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and dedicates an entire chapter to new religious movements (i.e. Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, etc.). Each chapter has four dedicated sections (contemporary snapshot, origins and concepts, worship and practice, and modern movements) and closes with an annotated timeline, key terms, and a further reading bibliography. Throughout each individual chapter, the reader will encounter a number of important terms that Farhadian has highlighted and defined. These terms are also listed at the end of each chapter and included in the glossary with a brief definition for quick reference. Also, as the subtitle alludes, the reader will encounter frequent “Christian Reflection” sections in which Farhadian helps aid the reader to think through various issues from a Christian worldview. These sections are brief and differ in usefulness, but the reader is sure to appreciate the sensitivity of their inclusion for the overall purpose of the book.

There are always limitations with the amount of content that can be included in an introductory work such as Introducing World Religions. This is especially the case when an author is looking to engage with other religious systems from a specific worldview. Still, I believe that Farhadian has maintained the needed balance between introduction and reflection with precision, and the reader will benefit greatly from his attention to detail. Furthermore, consistently Farhadian exhibits a clear desire to engage the landscape of world religions from a Christian worldview, and do so in such a way that the reader is encouraged to think critically as they interact with other religious systems near and far. The content within the book is clear and well organized for this task. Add a whole host of full-color illustrations, photographs, tables, maps, and sidebar discussions, and you have the recipe for a world-class textbook.

If you are a teacher or professor looking for an engaging textbook that will help you students shape a Christian worldview while engaging world religions, then Introducing Word Religions by Charles E. Farhadian is certain to be a welcomed addition to your course curriculum. If you are a student, pastor, or interested layman who is looking for a solid introduction to the religious landscape of the contemporary world, then Farhadian has provided a top-contender. Introducing World Religions is clear, stimulating, and bursting with useful information for readers of all backgrounds. It comes highly recommended.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: A Political History of the Bible in America

066426039XPaul D. Hanson is the Florence Corliss Lamont Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School where he has taught Old Testament for over forty years. In 1970, Hanson received a PhD from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. Hanson is the author or co-author of several books and a number of noted Old Testament commentaries, including Isaiah 40-66 from the highly acclaimed Interpretation series, 2 Chronicles: A Commentary from the esteemed Hermeneia series, Political Engagement as Biblical Mandate, The People Called: The Growth of Community in the Bible, and many more. Most recently, with the release of A Political History of the Bible in America, Hanson has provided a substantial investigation into the religiopolitical relationship that permeates American civilization.

A Political History of the Bible in America is a massive volume that leaves virtually no stone unturned. Still I must admit at the outset of this review that I am by no means an expert or specialist on American politics, nor American history. At best one could classify me as an interested spectator in a culturally familiar game. But, then again, this makes me a somewhat interesting candidate to do a review on a book of this magnitude.

Hanson begins with a lengthy prologue in which he builds a workable framework for the road ahead, and constructs a compelling case for the overall aim of the book. Hanson explains, “Biblical history, enriched by many religious and cultural traditions, flows into and is intertwined with our nation’s epic, both for better and for worse. To ignore that history is to cut ourselves off from our roots and to deny the ancestral experiences that forged our individual and collective identity” (p. 23). It is here that A Political History of the Bible in America divides into two major parts: (1) a historical retrospective on the relation between the Bible and politics in the United States, and (2) politics in the Bible.

In part one, Hanson traces the history of America back to the colonial times, starting with the theocratic model of the Puritans, paying close attention to the role of biblical tradition in the development of the national story of the United States. Hanson summarizes this objective, writing, “our objective is to examine the relationship between religion and politics in US history and identify the theo-political models that were adopted and developed to shape that relationship” (p. 29). As a nonspecialist, I found this section to be both clear and compelling. Hanson quickly drew me into the historical portrait that he was painting. Nevertheless, I found myself wanting more as I entered into the following section. This is largely a result of the brevity of the first part, but also due to Hanson’s ability to pull the reader into the details of the story.

In part two, Hanson directs the reader’s attention to the biblical framework in which the political underpinnings of American life have developed. To call this section a detailed study would be a minor understatement at over 500 pages. Hanson surveys both the Old and the New Testament in chronological order and presents a comprehensive study of politics in the Bible. I found this section to be rich with interpretive insight, especially when it involved discussion of the Old Testament Prophets. It is clear that Hanson is in his stride here. Another notable section was the lengthy chapter on the politics of Jesus, where Hanson aims to entertain the historical Jesus conversation and political implications of such simultaneously. Finally, the expedition comes to a close, as Hanson considers the proper methodological approach of biblical interpretation for the changing landscape of contemporary American culture.

As mentioned above, I am not a political enthusiast nor an expert on American history. Still, I find both to interesting and intriguing for various reasons (hence, the desire to read and review this book), and inevitably I engage in both on a daily basis as an American citizen. Overall, Hanson has provided a fascinating and compelling study of the religiopolitical relationship in America and beyond, and I appreciate his effort in writing an accessible volume that can be enjoyed by readers of all educational backgrounds. I think that some readers will unavoidably disagree with Hanson’s interpretive method of the biblical text, but they should still be able to appreciate the biblical and theological lenses in which he wears. If you’re even slightly interested in submerging yourself into the world of American politics, then I would highly recommend finding a place for A Political History of the Bible in America in your library. It’s well worth the investment.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Book Review: Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?

8103566James D. G. Dunn is no stranger to the world of Early Christianity. In fact, it has been said of Dunn, “Anyone who is interested in the rigorous study of early Christianity and who has not engaged with the works of James D. G. Dunn is not really interested in the rigorous study of early Christianity” (The Holy Spirit and Christian Origins, 2004). Dunn is Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham. He received an M.A. and B.D. from the University of Glasgow and a Ph.D. and D.D. from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of numerous books, including, The Evidence for Jesus (1985), Romans 1-8 & 9-16 in the Word Biblical Commentary series (1988), Jesus Remembered, Christianity in the Making, vol. 1 (2003), Beginning from Jerusalem, Christianity in the Making, vol. 2 (2009), as well as the present volume and the subject of this review: Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence (2010).

Everything that I have read by Dunn has been well-written and thoroughly engaging. He is consistently both scholarly and accessible to the average reader, and Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? displays the marriage of these two realities well. Though it must be said that the content within may not be easily welcomed by conservative evangelicals. The book begins with a brief introduction where Dunn reveals his conversation partners—Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado—and builds the case for his investigation with a number of sub-questions that become the focus of the subsequent chapters. The thesis of the book is also laid on the table twofold: (1) for the first Christians worship of Jesus was a way of worshiping YHWH, and (2) the contemporary worship of Jesus now witnessed is only possible or acceptable within what is now understood as a Trinitarian framework (p. 6).  In Chapter one Dunn examines the language of worship in the New Testament as applied to Jesus. He concludes that there is no real concrete evidence that worship language, as applied to God, was ever directly applied to Jesus. According to Dunn the worship language found within the New Testament was never explicitly directed at Jesus, rather it was directed at God for Jesus (p. 27-28). Chapter two carries much of the same theme of ambiguity as Dunn examines at the practice of worship in relation to the person of Jesus (i.e. prayer and sacrifice). Dunn writes, “in earliest Christianity, Christ was never understood as the one to whom sacrifice was offered, even when the imagery of sacrifice was used symbolically for Christian service” (p. 56).

As Dunn moves toward the topic in closer detail, chapter three addresses the topic of monotheism, heavenly mediators, and divine agents. This was an interesting chapter and most readers will likely find it to be a highpoint in the book. Dunn examines Paul’s reframing of the Shema, the divine personification of Spirit, Wisdom, and Word in light of the early Christian claims about Jesus, as well as exalted human beings such as Moses, Elijah, and Enoch. Dunn historically concludes that none of these entities were treated as a rightful recipient of worship, and thus either was Jesus to the first Christians. The final chapter is the heartbeat of the book and crucial to Dunn’s thesis. If the reader is able to read only a single chapter from the book this is the chapter to read. In chapter four Dunn address a number of stimulating topics related to the proposed question of the book, such as Jesus’s view of monotheism, the New Testament texts that appear to refer to Jesus as YHWH (i.e. 1 Corinthians 8:6; 15:24-28), as well as related issues within the Fourth Gospel and Revelation. As the book concludes Dunn warns the reader of the dangers of an oversimplified answer to the question. It’s not that simple according to Dunn. So, did the first Christians worship Jesus? Dunn concludes, “No, by and large the first Christians did not worship Jesus as such . . . so our central question can indeed be answered negatively, and perhaps it should be” (p. 150-151).
As stated above, everything that I have read by Dunn has been well-written and thoroughly engaging. He is consistently scholarly and accessible to the average reader, and Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? displays the union of these two realities well. Nonetheless, the content within this book may not be as easily welcomed by conservative evangelicals. Still, Dunn will make you think long and hard about your reading of Scripture and history. While I would largely align myself in opposition to Dunn’s conclusion, and in full disclosure did so prior to reading the book, I personally discovered many benefits in his contribution to this ongoing conversation. Consequently, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence is a commendable book, and I am certain that it will be enjoyed and discussed often by the interested reader.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.