I was planning to attend the SBL session focusing on the book After the First Urban Christians, but alas I was unable to attend. However, Abigail at Continuum was kind enough to send me a review copy of the book and I will provide a full review in the near future. The list of scholars contributing to this volume is impressive and includes scholars such as Wayne Meeks, Dale Martin, David Horrell, Todd Still, and Bruce Longenecker. Essentially, this work examines and re-evaluates topics explored in Wayne Meeks foundational book The First Urban Christians.
Thus far I have read the first essay by David Horrell, “Whither Social-Scientific Approaches to New Testament Interpretation? Reflections on Contested Methodologies and the Future.” In this essay, Horrell essentially calls out certain scholars in the context group who claim that one is not employing social-scientific criticism unless one works closely with models derived from the social sciences. Horrell would prefer a broader definition which includes scholars who interact with the social sciences but do not necessarily employ strict models. I agree with Horrell here that the definition of social-scientific criticism proposed by Malina (as quoted by Horrell) is in fact too narrow. But Horrell is also correct in stating that “… there is a diversity of method and approach among those who participate in the Context Group.” (10)
While Bruce Malina may insist on such a narrow definition and rigorous use of models, not all members of the Context Group would agree with Malina’s definition of social-scientific criticism. Both my advisor who is a member of the Context Group and I who have attended many functions associated with the group would not be properly defined by such a narrow definition of social-scientific criticism. Thus, while Horrell is certainly right to criticize Malina’s overly narrow definition of social-scientific criticism, I am a bit uncomfortable with him associating the Context Group as a whole with this definition.
I look forward to reading the rest of the fine essays in this volume.