Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity, 3rd Ed

By Robertson, C. K. | Anglican Theological Review, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity, 3rd Ed


Robertson, C. K., Anglican Theological Review


Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity, 3rd ed. By James D. G. Dunn. London: SCM Press. 2006. 470 pp. $29.99 (paper).

I still recall my initial meeting with the legendary biblical scholar. C. K. Barrett, former Light foot Professor of New Testament at Durham University in England and author of countless commentaries and critical works. Kingsley, as he introduced himself, was interested in what had brought me "across the pond" to Durham for my doctoral studies. The draw for me, I told him, was his very own successor at Durham, James D. G. Dunn. Barrett's smile widened as he succinctly replied, "Oh1 you're in good hands then."

Dunn has in his own career proven hhnsell as prolific and respected a scholar as his illustrious predecessor, with dozens of journal articles, books, and commentaries to his name. I had the good fortune to be present at Durham during the writing of his magnum opus on Paul. The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Eerdmans, 1998). Following his retirement from the university, Dunn has completed the first of his multi-volume treatise on Jesus, Christianity in the Making: Jesus Remembered (Eerdmans, 2003). Both works stand as masterpieces of late twentieth to early txvcntv-livst century biblical scholarship.

However, it is the- recenti) published third edition of a Dunn classic, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, that provides readers with the clearest, broadest brush strokes on the development of earliest Christianity and warns against a tendency in every generation to resort to overlysiinplistic understandings of orthodoxy and heresy. Indeed, in his foreword to the third edition, Dunn asserts that these perennially divisive terms "beg too many questions, are- too emotive, provide categories that are far too rigid, and tend to close oil avenues of investigation rather than to open them up" (p. 6). With this in mind, Dunn proceeds to engage in what he describes as a "provocative rather than definitive studv" (p. …

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