In the Mail: German Edition

I want to thank the kind folks in the fine German publishing house, Mohr Siebeck for these free review copies.

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In this book, Adam Winn addresses the long-debated question of the purpose of Mark’s Gospel. After placing the composition of Mark in Rome at a time shortly after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, he seeks to reconstruct the historical situation facing both the Markan evangelist and his community. This reconstruction focuses on the rise of the new Roman Emperor Vespasian and the aftermath of the Jewish Revolt in Rome. A significant feature of this reconstruction is the propaganda used to gain and secure Vespasian’s power-propaganda that included oracles and portents, divine healings, and grand triumphs. Of particular interest is the propagandistic claim that Vespasian was the true fulfillment of Jewish messianic prophecies. Winn argues that such a claim would have created a Christological crisis for the fledgling church in Rome-a crisis that called for a compelling Christian response. Winn seeks to demonstrate that Mark’s Gospel could be read as just such a response. He demonstrates how the major features of Mark’s Gospel–his incipit, Christology, teaching on discipleship, and eschatology–can be read as a counter résumé to the impressive résumé of Vespasian. In the end, this project concludes that Mark was composed for the purpose of countering Roman imperial propaganda that had created a crisis for its author and community.

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David W. Chapman examines Second Temple and early rabbinic literature and material remains in order to demonstrate the range of ancient Jewish perceptions about crucifixion. Early Christian literature is then shown to reflect awareness of, and interaction with, these Jewish perceptions. Ancient Jewish historical accounts of crucifixion are examined, magical literature is analyzed, and the proverbial use of crucifixion imagery is studied. He pays special attention to Jewish interpretations of key Old Testament texts that mention human bodily suspension in association with execution.

Previous studies have demonstrated how pervasive in antiquity was the view of the cross as a terrible and shameful death. In this volume, the author provides further evidence of such views in ancient Jewish communities. More positive perceptions could also be attached to crucifixion insofar as the death could be associated with the innocent sufferer or martyr as well as with latent sacrificial images. Christian literature, proclaiming a crucified Messiah, betrays awareness of these various perceptions by seeking to reject or transform negative stereotypes, or by embracing some of these more positive associations. Thus early Christian literature on the cross exhibits, to a greater degree than is commonly recognized, a reflection upon the various Jewish perceptions of the cross in antiquity.

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This is a collection of twenty-four essays by Richard Bauckham first published between 1976 and 2008, some of which have been updated for this volume. Many aspects of the literature and thought of early Judaism are covered, including life after death, the provenance of the Pseudepigrapha, the Jewish apocalypses, the book of Tobit, the Horarium of Adam, and the Contra Apionem of Josephus. There are discussions of ‘the parting of the ways’ between early Judaism and early Christianity and of the relevance of early Jewish literature for the study of the New Testament. Other essays throw light on specific aspects or texts of early Christianity by relating them to their early Jewish context. These include studies of the delay of the parousia, the restoration of Israel in Luke-Acts, and the use of Latin names by Paul and other Jews in the early Christian movement. The essays in this volume result from the author’s conviction, throughout his career, that the New Testament texts can only be understood adequately through wide-ranging and detailed study of the Judaism of the late Second Temple period.

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