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Magic and Paganism in Early Christianity.

Magic and Paganism in Early Christianity. By Hans-Josef Klauck. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003. xii and 136 pages. Paper. $15.00.

Klauck's commendable work has the benefit of offering a serious academic study that will also be immediately useful to pastors and other students of the New Testament. It functions as a study of religion in the book of Acts, and it tackles many of the pesky questions that curious readers may have. Who was the Ethiopian covert? Simon Magus? the slave-girl soothsayer? And what of Paul's sermon at the Areopagus? Which philosophical schools, cults, or folk religions competed with Christianity for converts or provided targets for evangelism? The short volume moves at a fast clip through story after story, raising questions of evangelization and inculturation. It makes for a nice commentary, tackling questions that befit a good study of early "gospel and culture."

Klauck sees even the form of the book of Acts as "literary inculturation," with its adherence to conventions of the day (p. 4). Beginning with the mission proclamation in 1:8--to go "to be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth"--he quickly proceeds to the formation of the early sending community, of the events at Pentecost, and of work in the diaspora. The second chapter treats the evangelist Philip (Acts 8), and the third chapter treats the foundational events in Caesarea (Acts 10-12). The last half of the book examines Paul's first missionary journey (Acts 13-18), his work in Greece (Acts 16-18) and Ephesus (Acts 19), and his final journey to Rome (Acts 17-28). A short conclusion frames the discussion, with Klauck writing that "the primary intention of the Acts of the Apostles as a book is not missionary, but it does portray missionary history, as an inspiration to the reader" (p. 121). In his narration, Klauck does a remarkable job not only of highlighting the most obvious candidates for discussion but also of raising new questions.

Klauck is ever the dispassionate observer, refereeing debates over passages and offering possible interpretations. Not surprisingly, the University of Chicago New Testament scholar is uninterested in speculating on what this discussion offers to the church or to theological treatment. Others, however, may find this work remarkably helpful in constructing New Testament theologies, in reconstructing the vibrancy of early Christianity, and in probing the intersection of Christianity with the magics of today.

Jonathan Seitz

Princeton Seminary
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Author:Seitz, Jonathan
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2005
Words:406
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