Skinner, Matthew L., The Christian Century
Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition, by Gary A. Anderson (Yale University Press, 232 pp., $30.00). Have modern economic assumptions and the theological underpinnings of Protestantism left us with distorted perspectives on almsgiving and its spiritual rewards? Anderson says yes. In this wide-ranging and engaging study of biblical writings and the Second Temple Jewish traditions that informed them, he shows that biblical charity extends beyond benefaction and philanthropy. Charitable acts make statements of belief about the nature of God and the world, and they have the capacity to make the giver aware of God's presence through the needy, creating a sacramental interaction that cannot be replicated via mere gifts of money.
Seven Events That Shaped the New Testament World, by Warren Carter (Baker Academic, 192 pp., $21.99 paperback). Introductory surveys of the New Testament's historical and cultural contexts must demonstrate why understanding those contexts yields a richer reading of the Bible. Carter's wit and insight help his book succeed brilliantly. He employs seven monumental events and processes as entry points for exploring larger causes and consequences--the wider cultural currents that everyday people negotiated in every aspect of their lives in biblical times.
Encountering Jesus, Encountering Scripture: Reading the Bible Critically in Faith, by David Crump (Eerdmans, 155 pp., $20.00 paperback). Weaving occasional reflections on his own religious journey into his analyses of the Gospels and the writings of Paul, Crump examines the Bible through an explicitly Kierkegaardian lens. He emphasizes personal encounters with Jesus Christ as foundational to faith and to a proper appreciation of the value and limitations of critical-historical methods. Kierkegaard was not the first to notice faith's tendency to defy reason and reorder commonsense expectations. Crump sees the New Testament as expressing the same thing when Jesus transforms surprised disciples and apostles and compels readers to respond in faith themselves.
Apocalyptic Paul: Cosmos and Anthropos in Romans 5-8, edited by Beverly Roberts Gaventa (Baylor University Press, 200 pp., $34.95). Recent years have brought exciting progress and greater nuance to scholars' descriptions of Paul as an apocalyptic theologian and to our grasp of the political and ideological dimensions of his theology. These eight perceptive essays scrutinize some of the apostle's most contested chapters. They reveal the God, the world, the people and the powers that play parts in Paul's articulation of the gospel and of the righteousness and justification it accomplishes.
When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible, by Timothy Michael Law (Oxford University Press, 240 pp., $24.95 paperback). When churchgoers and church watchers wonder about the origins of Christian theology, questions about the Septuagint's importance for the New Testament and patristic era do not dominate their concerns. Law laments this lack of attention and enthusiastically explains the Septuagint's history, its significance for early Christian writers, and the reasons it all but disappeared from theological discourse in the Christian West. The Septuagint may indicate that ancient Jewish scriptures and theologies were more fluid and varied than many suppose.
A Peaceable Hope: Contesting Violent Eschatology in New Testament Narratives, by David J. Neville (Baker Academic, 304 pp., $24.99 paperback). How should we make sense of New Testament accounts of Jesus commending and exemplifying nonviolence alongside other passages that anticipate his future role as a violent, eschatological avenger? …