Palestine in the Time of Jesus.
This is a distinctive volume dealing with Palestine at the time of Jesus. It takes neither a historical, geographical, archaeological, or biblical perspective, but it applies the processes of sociological and anthropological research and classification appropriate for the understanding of New Testament Palestine. The authors' avowed goal is presented in three statements. One, "to examine the primary social institutions of first century Palestine through social scientific methodology." Second, "to present testable models of society that can be employed when studying the Bible and therefore be refined or modified as the reader acquires more information"; and, third, "to relate the systemic analysis directly to New Testament passages in each chapter in order to demonstrate how this material is applicable."
In the judgment of this reviewer, the authors fulfill the goals set out. Much of the information included in this volume is available in various sources, but here a vast amount of information is contained in a single manageable volume. Dealt with in the book are studies of the powerful and the powerless, the values of kinship, the importance of honor and variations of honor, the patron and client system--concepts deeply embedded in the social structure of the New Testament world, but often ignored in today's discussions of this literature and these times.
One consistent theme throughout the book is the importance of recognizing differences between cultural norms and practices of the 1st century A.D. and of modern times. Of particular concern to readers of this journal is the emphasis placed on the fact that there was no distinction between church or religious institutions and state in the New Testament world. They were so intertwined that it was impossible to separate them.
Significantly broad research lies behind the writing of this book. The authors are well acquainted with New Testament interpretation, with contemporary documents, both Latin and Greek, and the historians and other writers of New Testament times and the surrounding centuries. There is a good acquaintance with the archaeological record from this time as well as Judaism and the documents which have survived such as the Talmud and the Mishnah.
While the book is not easy reading for the non-specialist, it is well constructed. There are appropriate illustrations and very helpful charts or tables which set out in visual fashion the concepts being discussed. Each chapter concludes with a concise summary and a section entitled "Applying the Perspectives" in which the ideas presented are related directly to passages in the New Testament. There is also a list of suggested readings for each chapter.
After an introduction to the social system of Roman Palestine, there are chapters on kinship, politics and patronage, the political economy and political religion--all related to agrarian Roman Palestine. A very helpful addition is a rather long section, almost forty pages, in which there are three glossaries (institutions, documents, terms from social science) explaining many of the concepts or items which are presented in the book. Throughout the text of the book an asterisk is placed by terms or concepts found in the glossary. There is a good bibliography and a useful index.
The book is well written. The authors use technical terminology, but provide keys to aid the non-specialist reader, Information that otherwise can be found only in numerous sources is here presented in a brief volume which should prove helpful to students of New Testament times.
BRUCE C. CRESSON Baylor University Waco, Texas
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|Author:||Cresson, Bruce C.|
|Publication:||Journal of Church and State|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2000|
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