Book Review

This week I am recommending an excellent source for budding Pauline scholars, The Writings of St. Paul edited by Wayne Meeks and John Fitzgerald.  This volume of the Norton Critical Edition series is the best work I’ve found for anyone seeking one book on Paul.  The book begins with an outline of the life of Paul which, in addition to outlining the important aspects of Paul’s life, examines how scholars interact with Acts and Paul’s letters in order to create such an outline.  The work also contains translations of the thirteen letters attributed to Paul and many Pseudo-Pauline works such as the correspondance of Paul and Seneca and 3 Corinthians.  Furthermore, this volume contains a massive amount of material concerning Paul from the early Church including both stories such as Paul and Thecla and passages from the Church Fathers.  Essentially if someone wrote about Paul in antiquity it is present in this work.  However, despite all of these invaluable primary sources, the most useful section of this work may be the last 300 pages which contain numerous articles from modern scholars examining a wide range of topics.  The editors have chosen articles form the heavyweights in the field with such names as Bauer, Von Harnack, Stendahl, Kaseman, Bultmann, Theissen, Mitchell, and countless others.


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.

Dictionary_PaulThe Dictionary of Paul and His Letters is an excellent resource for anyone interested in Paul of Tarsus.  I instruct my students to consult the Anchor Bible Dictionary and this work when working on their research papers.   This volume contains a myriad of articles covering every important topic.  Additionally, the articles are fairly meaty and written by well known scholars, each containing the relevant scholarly debates for each issue and closing with an extensive bibliography.  At over 1000 pages the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters should be on the shelves of every Pauline scholar.

Oh and if you have come here looking for the Biblical Studies Carnival it is on its way.  However, as I was coming down the dreaded 405 today I noticed there was a massive collision involving elephants, clowns, etc.  Thus, with all the cleanup necessary I imagine the carnival will not arrive until Monday night/ Tuesday morning.  On behalf of the proprietors I apologize for its delay.

galatians_debateThe last book I recommended was the Romans Debate.  Thus, I figured I should recommend the Galatians Debate this time around.  Like the Romans Debate, this work is loaded with articles by top notch Galatians scholars such as: Dunn, Jewett, Martyn, Barclay, Fredriksen, and Walter.  The Galatians Debate is divided into three sections: genre (rhetoric or epistle), autobiography, and the situation (and opponents) in Galatia.  For anyone interested in rhetorical approaches to Galatians and the debate concerning the value of applying rhetoric to Paul’s letters, this work is invaluable.  Additionally, the many articles concering the oppenents of Paul are excellent.  This is certainly a work that should be consulted for any research project focusing on Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Fee_philToday I am posting an update to my annotated ranking of the academic Philippian commentaries.  While I had already moved Gordon Fee’s work up to the #3 position, today I am adding a mini review for the work.  Here is one line from my review that summarizes my thoughts on Fee’s commentary, “I consider Gordon Fee’s work to be the top Philippians commentary for the non-specialist.  Fee’s specialty seems to be combining top notch scholarship with clear and interesting prose.”

If you have any quibbles with my review or ranking of Fee’s commentary please let me know as I am interested in what my readers think, especially since so many rank Fee’s commentary as the top Philippians commentary.

Klauck_LettersMy latest book recommendation is Ancient Letters and the New Testament by Hans-Josef Klauck.  Klauck’s work is the new standard for scholarly yet approachable works to ancient letter writing.  Klauck explores many important topics such as the postal system, epistolary theory, rhetoric, and classifying letters.  Additionally, Klauck includes an annotated list of all the ancient letters writers, divided between Latin and Greek.  Moreover, Klauck’s excellent bibliographies alone make this work a worthy purchase.  Yet another useful feature is the example(s) included at the close of each section.  Essentially Klauck’s work could be used as either a textbook or a reference work.  I highly recommend this work and consider it the new gold standard of its genre.

Prior Recommendations

E. Randolph Richards: Paul and First-Century Writing (review)

Margaret M. Mitchell: Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation  (review)

Richard Hays: Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (review)

Richards_lettersToday’s book recommendation is E. Randolph Richards’ Paul and First-Century Writing.  Richards’ wrok covers a wide variety of topics concerning Paul and letter writing.  He examines the following topics and more: secretaries, letter carriers, co-authors, tools of the trade, and Paul’s writing style.  The work is quite illuminating, however, Randolph is willing is prone to speculation when evidence is lacking.  Additionally, he has an agenda which does not become clear until mid way through the book, Paul wrote every letter attributed to him.  Despite the possible shortcomings Richards has provided an excellent work that I used in my course on Paul and ancient letter writing last year at, the exceedingly secular, UCLA (Hist 97K for those interested).  I highly recommend the work for anyone interested in Paul and ancient letter writing.

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