Item description for Timothy: Paul's Closest Associate (Paul's Social Network-Brothers and Sisters in Faith series) by Bruce J. Malina...
Overview Human beings are embedded in a set of social relations. A social network is one way of conceiving that set of relations in terms of a number of persons connected to one another by varying degrees of relatedness. In the early Jesus-group documents featuring Paul and coworkers, it takes little effort to envision the apostle's collection of friends and friends of friends that is the Pauline network. Through this series we hope to come to know those persons in ways befitting their first-century Mediterranean culture. While most Christians might accurately identify Timothy as an associate of the apostle Paul, they probably conjure up images of Timothy and his relationship with Paul in twenty-first-century terms. In Timothy: Paul's Closest Associate, Bruce J. Malina ventures off the path of modern biography, with its interest in psychological development and introspection, toward a more likely description of Timothy. Malina draws us out of our individualistic worldview and into the first-century Mediterranean world, where introspection was unheard of and collectivism prevailed. Here alone, within a network of friends and associates, can we discover the real Timothy. Moreover, Malina's fascinating explanation of social-scientific group development over generations, while perhaps challenging readers to rethink traditional biblical interpretation, provides readers with fresh and plausible insights about Timothy. These insights lead to a greater appreciation not only for Timothy but, more important, for the gospel of God that Paul enjoined on him to proclaim: the God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead, making him Lord and Messiah.
While most Christians might accurately identify Timothy as an associate of the apostle Paul, they probably conjure up images of Timothy and his relationship with Paul in twenty-first-century terms. In "Timothy: Paul's Closest Associate, "Bruce J. Malina ventures off the path of modern biography, with its interest in psychological development and introspection, toward a more likely description of Timothy. Malina draws us out of our individualistic worldview and into the first-century Mediterranean world, where introspection was unheard of and collectivism prevailed. Here alone, within a network of friends and associates, can we discover the real Timothy. Moreover, Malina's fascinating explanation of social-scientific group development over generations, while perhaps challenging readers to rethink traditional biblical interpretation, provides readers with fresh and plausible insights about Timothy. These insights lead to a greater appreciation not only for Timothy but, more important, for the gospel of God that Paul enjoined on him to proclaim: the God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead, making him Lord and Messiah.
"Bruce J. Malina, STD, is professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Creighton University in Omaha. He is the author of numerous works, including "The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology "(Atlanta: John Knox, 1981; rev. ed., 1993; Louisville: Westminster/Knox, 3rd rev. ed., 2001); with John J. Pilch, "Social Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul" (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006); and with John J. Pilch, "Social Science Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles" (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008)."
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Studio: Liturgical Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.31" Width: 5.49" Height: 0.36" Weight: 0.44 lbs.
Release Date Feb 1, 2008
Publisher Liturgical Press
Series Pauls Social Network : Brothers
ISBN 0814651801 ISBN13 9780814651803
Availability 0 units.
More About Bruce J. Malina
Bruce J. Malina is professor of biblical studies at Creighton University. Internationally known for his work in New Testament social science criticism, he is the author of numerous books, including "New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology" and "Windows on the World of Jesus: Time Travel to Ancient Judea."
Bruce J. Malina currently resides in Omaha, in the state of Nebraska.
Reviews - What do customers think about Timothy: Paul's Closest Associate (Paul's Social Network-Brothers and Sisters in Faith series)?
Five stars but something missing May 13, 2009
This is the first, and by far the best, of a series of books edited by Bruce Malina on the Apostle Paul's social network. The books are products of what is called "the context group," which uses modern social science to help us comparatively understand the First Century world and our modern world.
The other books in the series are on those persons within Paul's social network: Stephen, Apollos, Epaphras, Lydia, and Phoebe. These other books are mainly regurgitations of Malina's book on Timothy. I found the book on Epaphras to be the weakest on social science understandings.
Malina is especially strong at helping us understand the difference between the collective culture of the First Century world versus American individualism. His understanding of how the theology of each New Testament writer was affected by their generation (first, second, or third generation from death of Jesus) is compelling.
However, his understanding of how Paul's social network became "change agents" was weak and less helpful. Also, his explanation of the small group processes of Paul's network is curious. What is the purpose of explaining that Paul's social network went through certain predictable phases of group process? There is a discordance here: the first half of the book is an excellent aid in understanding the First Century World vis a vis the modern world; the second half of the book is sort of a self-help book on understanding buzz words like "change agents" and the social phases of group process.
Perhaps using Max Weber's three part model of social change - tradition, charisma, and rationality -- would have been more helpful in understanding "change agents." And perhaps Jacob Moreno's sociometry theory and sociologist Peter Berger's "plausibility structures" would have been more helpful on the treatment of small group processes.
This excellent, albeit ambitious, series of books, however, requires some constructive comments on its use of a social network model to understand Paul and First Century Christianity. Malina's picture of Paul is accurate. Paul was a "networker," traveling to various urbanized cities in the First Century to weave a web of Christianity together. But what Malina, and other writers in the series, miss is that First Century Christians lived in a more "thickly" institutionalized world, not the modern day world of loose "networks." The term "network" is a modern day concept. Using the network concept is sort of like trying to fit a First Century square peg into a modern day round hole. First Century Christians would have recognized what is meant by the term "institution," but probably would find the term "network" foreign. Conversely, many modern persons would find "institutions" to be backward and nonprogressive.
The Apostle Paul lived in a world of thick institutions and loose networks; while today in the modernized world we live in a social context of thin institutions and thick networks. Institutions ward off anomie (meaninglessness), instill morality, maintain collective memories, help us through difficult life transitions through ceremonies, but unavoidably are coercive, closed, inflexible, and often "greedy." Conversely, modern society has a core of thin institutions which are unraveling due to modernization, breeding thick networks which are loose, open, flexible, but narcissistic and anomic.
I would suggest reading sociologist Anton Zijderveld's The Institutional Imperative: The Interface of Institutions and Networks as a supplement to Malina's and the other author's books in the series.
Buy the whole series of books - they are nonetheless worthwhile.
Not Recommended Jun 12, 2008
The problems with this book fall into the following categories, factual mistakes, conclusory assumptions, methodological errors, and polemic excess. After one comes to grips with these matters, it is hard to ascribe much value to anything in this slim volume by Bruce J. Malina. This book is an attempt at an interdisciplinary explanation of the interactions between the apostle Paul and Timothy and others closely involved with Paul's ministry. Using models and theories from cultural anthropology, sociology, and even modern history, the author offers up his analysis of Paul's first century social and cultural world. These models and theories that Malina uses are normally applied to matters concerning the 19th, 20th, and 21st century. Therefore, they are not by definition applicable to matters of the first century CE. Furthermore, Malina, a member of a theology department, has a doctoral degree from a Franciscan institution in Jerusalem that is part of the Pontifical university system which as far as I can tell would lend him no expertise in the area of social science criticism let alone the expertise to transpose that criticism across twenty odd centuries.
New ground is broken when Malina applies "Hansen's law" to the generational group dynamics of a first century CE religious movement. Propounded in the late 1930's by Marcus L. Hansen, an historian of the 19th and 20th century Atlantic migrations, the "law" attempts to explain how immigrant Scandinavian families assimilated into American culture generation by generation. Of three hundred odd cites of the "law" I was able to raise, all were concerned with 19th and 20th century immigration matters except two. Both were by Malina in this and a later work. The "law" is time specific and can not even be applied to much late 20th century immigrant behavior. Peter Kivistos', "Hansen's Law After Fifty Years," which is the current authority on the application of the "law" definitively indicates that Malina's use of it is both anachronistic and inappropriate. This leads the author to an odd four generational analysis of the early Jesus movement that is neither persuasive or always factually accurate. As "Hansen's law" is an intellectual linchpin of Malina's book, the blatant misuse of this theory discounts the value of this book down to almost zero. There are other methodological errors in this book but space prohibits further examples.
As to polemics, Malina refers to the cultural anthropology concepts of "collectivistic" and "individualistic" societies. He posits that "collectivistic" societies are more harmonious and peaceful. He then spends some time excoriating contemporary American society and culture. All in all, this is pedestrian Marxist analysis purporting to be objective scholarship. Malina finds first century Mediterranean societies to be "collectivistic." That their histories and societies were peaceful and harmonious defies historical fact. Any peacefulness present was due to the "Pax Romana" which maintained order in the occupied territories of the Roman Empire through a system of remarkably brutal repression. The next example is totally gratuitous, and I quote, "... third generation Palestinians want to know the story of their grandparents prior to the Zionist criminal takeover of their lands ... they are proud of their grandparents' stand in the face of continued Zionist atrocities and attempted genocide." Malina is welcome to his politics and polemics, but I fail to see how they advance his explication of first century social and group realities.
A repetitious conclusory assumption that Malina uses in his latest works is the concept that when Paul refers to "Greeks" he is really referring to diaspora Judeans. No persuasive argument as to why this might be has ever been offered by the author. The result of this construction would be that Paul only preached to Judeans and not to gentiles. Others, elsewhere and often, have taken exception to this assumption, and I will leave it at that. Malina commenting on circumcision in the first century claims that it did not remove any of the foreskin. He offers no convincing or extensive argument in favor of this unusual conclusion. And, his explanation of the physiological process of foreskin restoration is riddled with factual errors. Also, most amazingly, in relating the story of the translation of the Torah from Hebrew into the Greek, the Septuagint, Malina gives a factually incorrect version of the legend. I could go on and on, but this will have to suffice. The author does indeed provide some cursory information regarding Paul's social network in this work. However, given this book's absolutely atrocious scholarship and blatant polemic, I would suggest a potential reader interested in this topic should look for some other source of information.