Item description for Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity by James D. G. Dunn...
Overview Unity and Diversity in the New Testament is a thorough investigation into the canon of the New Testament, and Christianity's origins. It assumes the reader is familiar with the basic question of who wrote the books, when, why etc and it moves on to look in detail at what were the various emphases in the gospel proclaimed by Jesus, Luke, Paul and John. It also examines primitive Christianity's preaching and teaching, confessional formulae, oral traditions, organisation and worship, concepts of ministry and community, and ritual acts. In the second half of the book, the author maps out the scope of the diversity he found in the fist half's investigation. Here he identifies and traces the major currents within the stream of first and second generation Christianity which includes a study of Jewish Christianity, Hellenistic Christianity, Apocalyptic Christianity and Early Catholicism. The book concludes with a consideration of the repercussions of such findings, for how Christians understand the New Testament, and what it means to be Christian, today. This new edition is further enhanced with the author's consideration of these same themes, 25 years after he first wrote about them. The final chapter is the authors "critical refinement" of the ideas and issues that remain relevant and important for any realistic theology of canon to be considered today.
Publishers Description Unity and Diversity in the New Testament is a thorough investigation into the canon of the New Testament, and Christianity's origins. It assumes the reader is familiar with the basic question of who wrote the books, when, why etc and it moves on to look in detail at what were the various emphases in the gospel proclaimed by Jesus, Luke, Paul and John. It also examines primitive Christianity's preaching and teaching, confessional formulae, oral traditions, organisation and worship, concepts of ministry and community, and ritual acts. In the second half of the book, the author maps out the scope of the diversity he found in the fist half's investigation. Here he identifies and traces the major currents within the stream of first and second generation Christianity which includes a study of Jewish Christianity, Hellenistic Christianity, Apocalyptic Christianity and Early Catholicism. The book concludes with a consideration of the repercussions of such findings, for how Christians understand the New Testament, and what it means to be Christian, today. This new edition is further enhanced with the author's consideration of these same themes, 25 years after he first wrote about them. The final chapter is the authors "critical refinement" of the ideas and issues that remain relevant and important for any realistic theology of canon to be considered today.
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Studio: SCM Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.26" Width: 6.08" Height: 1.6" Weight: 1.65 lbs.
Release Date Oct 18, 2012
Publisher SCM Press
ISBN 0334029988 ISBN13 9780334029984
Availability 0 units.
More About James D. G. Dunn
James D. G. Dunn is Lightfoot Professor Emeritus of Divinity at Durham University and one of the foremost New Testament scholars in the world today. His many other books include The Oral Gospel Tradition; Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels; The Theology of Paul the Apostle; and Jesus Remembered and Beginning from Jerusalem, volumes 1 and 2 of Christianity in the Making.
James D. G. Dunn currently resides in Durham. James D. G. Dunn was born in 1939 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Durham.
James D. G. Dunn has published or released items in the following series...
Christ and the Spirit
Inquiry Into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation
Reviews - What do customers think about Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity?
Quite a challenge Jan 3, 2007
This was one of the most challenging books on the Christian faith that I've ever read. Dunn explores the charactaristics of the early church to explore what the prevailing theology of the time period was. His findings are at times shocking with the diversity of lines of thought and the quite shattered church that he discovers. This book's writing style is quite boring and the amount of footnotes is distracting at times. Unless you love the subject it has a high chance of lull you to sleep quite quickly. Its implications however, are both challenging and compelling.
Great Book! Apr 25, 2001
James Dunn's book, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, is his endeavor to demonstrate the unity and diversity of first-century Christianity. He extends back into the New Testament to inquire whether we can speak of orthodoxy and heresy in early Christianity. He attempts to answer the question, "Was there a unifying strand in earliest Christianity which identifies it as Christian?" (page 6).
The book is divided into to main sections. In the first part, Dunn attempts to find the unifying strand in earliest Christianity, locating it in the " affirmation of the identity of the man Jesus with the risen Lord" (page 227). In this first part, Dunn examines the major kerygmata of the New Testament (of Jesus, Paul, Acts, John, Dunn seems to favor John), the primitive confessional formula (Dunn feels that early faith could be reduced to slogans), the role of tradition, the use of the Old Testament, the ideas of ministry, patterns of worship, sacraments, Spirit and experience, and Christology. Dunn shows a unity, Jesus, in each area he examined, while simultaneously illustrating the diversity of belief and practice.
In second part of the book investigates the diversity in early Christianity, with emphases on Jewish, Hellenistic, Apocalyptic Christianity, and Early Catholicism. Dunn shows that the center of unity here also exists in Jesus, "The unifying element was the unity between the historical Jesus and the exalted Christ" (page 369). He demonstrates that the early Christians accepted a wide range of beliefs and practices provided only that a connection to the human and exalted Jesus was established. This was all that orthodoxy embodied for early Christians, "there is no single normative form of Christianity in the first century" (page 373).
Dunn concludes the book with a chapter on "The Authority of the New Testament." Here he examines the diverse New Testament canon's role for Christians today. He makes a good suggestion that the canon limits the acceptable diversity of Christianity.
What first impressed me about this book was the breadth and at times depth of the material covered. Dunn has selected a wide range of topics to cover, it is a good collection of important issues with very good bibliographical references. Examples of sections that I found helpful are 16.1 "The role of tradition within Judaism," and 22 "Jewish Exegesis in the Time of Jesus," (page 82). These two sections contain good definitions and comparisons of Midrash, Halakah, Haggadah, Targum, and Pesher. The data presented in Section Two on the early sects was also excellent, I like the case for pre-gnostic thought existing in the first century.
In 9,"Jesus is the Son of Man," (page 35) Dunn argues that the Son of Man title grew out of a conviction of the early church, and was a distinctive theology in early Christianity. The expression also occurs in three Jewish apocalyptic works, Daniel, 2 Esdras, and 1 Enoch, although there it is applied to non-human or superhuman figures. The term also appears in some Qumran texts. There is much more debate on the titular use of Son of Man then Dunn gives credit. It's lack of use by Paul is may have been due to its awkwardness in Greek (it works better in Aramaic), and not necessarily a divergent Christology.
The title Son of God (page 45) is found in Dead Sea Scrolls, 4QDanA, and is mentioned by Dunn. The siglum 4Q246 also contains Son of the Most High. Dunn states that the title "came to full flower within the widening mission of Hellenistic Jewish Christianity." If this titles appear in the Qumran texts, wouldn't they have closer ties with Palestinian Jewish Christianity?
Dunn presents his arguments well, and I coincide with him on most issues and with his conclusion. It is one of the better books I have read in New Testament studies, I found all of it interesting. I still feel that in the end I have been short changed with Dunn's findings. Intuitively, I feel there should have been more unifying the early Christians. By claiming Jesus alone to be the unifying force is a not far removed from claiming all early Christians believed in Christ, and therefore shared a common name.
How diverse was too diverse in the early Church? Mar 17, 2001
James Dunn has done a masterful job of portraying the range of beliefs within first century Christianity. The earliest Christians were not a monolithic group who had an official doctrinal statement such as those we find in today's denominations. However, the one central characteristic which gave unity to the term "Christian" was the belief in the continuity between the earthly Jesus of Nazareth and the exalted Christ who was raised from the dead.
In regards to first century Christianity, Dunn examines the different confessions used in reference to Jesus (Son of Man, Messiah, Lord, Son of God). He examines the various ways in which the Old Testament was used or not used. He also covers diversity in worship, sacraments, religious experience, and christology. All of these areas and others demonstrate Dunn's thesis - which is that there was a tremendous amount of diversity accepted within the New Testament churches.
He then examines different segments of Christianity - Jewish, Hellenistic, Apocalyptic, and Early catholic. Within each of these categories he reviews what the dividing line was between acceptability and heresy. For example, Jewish Christianity became heretical if it "persisted in clinging to a limited view of Jesus and his role". The Ebionites were an example of this. As mentioned earlier, the dividing line in each area was in how Jesus was perceived.
One area of disagreement I have with Dunn is in how he overstates his case in some ways by being too simplistic. For example, he seems to treat each New Testament book as if it were a complete summary of the beliefs of the writer of that particular book. This often gives a skewed perspective on things. We know this by examining Paul's letters. If we only had 1 Thessalonians, then we would have a much different perspective on Paul than we do by comparing all seven (or more) of his letters. In the same way, I don't think we can claim as much as Dunn does in regards to the writers of such books as Hebrews, James, Matthew, and others. However, this doesn't detract from the fact that this is a highly informative book which accomplishes its task of showing how diverse Christianity was in the first century.
So, they lied to me in Sunday School! Feb 19, 2001
For the pensive and discerning reader, struggling through Professor Dunn's compact and rich text can be as significant an event, as reading Luther's "Introduction to Romans" turned out to be for Wesley. Certainly for those of us who attended traditional, conservative and orthodox Christian seminaries, this text can be an eye-opener. Similarly, for the laity whose spiritual guides graduated from such seminaries, this book can be liberating.
Contrary to what many of us learned in seminary (and others have simply assumed through denominational hubris), Dr. Dunn goes to great lengths to demonstrate -- from the canon of the New Testament, itself -- that there is no historically-mandated, one, proper way to be a Christian. Bishops and Church Councils may declare what they wish to declare, but often those declarations are simply not supported by the experience of the earliest Christians, as recorded in the New Testament. In one, bold move Professor Dunn minimizes both the teaching magisterium of Rome, and the most confrontive claims of the Protestant traditions.
Quoting extensively from Scripture, Professor Dunn demonstrates that: (1) there was not one expression of the Gospel, but several within the earliest Christian communities; (2) the confessional formulae and their settings for proclamation varied; (3) that the concept and structure of ministry varied widely among the earliest Christians; (4) that the structure and practice of worship was not unified; (5) that different Christian communities experienced the Spirit of the living God in different ways; and (6) that while all of the early Christian communities were unified by centering their lives and proclamations around the risen Christ, all of the early Christian communities did not understand the risen Christ in the same way. In short, Professor Dunn shows us that the earliest Christians were unified in their devotion to the risen Christ, but greatly diverse in the way that they experienced his presence among them, and told his story to the world.
Living in an era when denominational antagonisms are too often glossed over by a thin veneer of polite ecumenicity, reading Professor Dunn's book can be a humbling experience. Buy two copies of this book: one for yourself, and one for your least favorite, pompous member of the clergy
An Eye-Opener Jun 20, 2000
What a book! Christians today, having been indoctrinated by whatever demonination they have aligned themselves with, live comfortably within the unity of their own sect's dogma, presuming that the New Testament lends this dogma unquivocal support. This sort of tunnel vision is certainly true of Catholicism, in any case--*my* sect.
Dunn's book examines early Christianity, and reveals a broad--a shockingly broad--range of beliefs and practices among early Christians, and he bases his examination on an analysis of the New Testament itself. He begins, for instance, by revealing the different "kerygmata"--or messages--among Jesus, Luke (Acts), Paul, and John, and how each emphasizes something different about Jesus, promotes, as it were, a different agenda. For instance, in the synoptic gospels, Jesus preached repentance, proclaimed God, and presented himself, often subtly, as an apocalytpic figure. Paul, however, says nary a word about repentance, and instead of proclaiming God, he proclaims Jesus--the exalted Jesus. He shares Jesus' apocalyptic vision, believing that the parousia is just around the corner (as Jesus did). Both Acts and the Pauline epistles barely touch on the historical Jesus.
There was a fairly wide range of worship, too. Paul, for all his ranting, was remarkably tolerant of different beliefs.
Dunn examines a wide range of diversities within early Christian communities, and in doing so presents a very good introduction to the New Testament, and one that is a far more interesting read than a survey might be (for instance Raymond Brown's Introduction to the New Testament).
The one thing I found annoying about this book--and it is, in my opinion, a problem with many theological works--is a tendancy to cite chapter and verse without actually quoting it. There are far too many scriptural citations to quote them all in this already thick-ish book, but certainly in each group of citations, at least one representative quotation could be given. It is VERY annoying to have to CONSTANTLY stop to look up citations, and after a while, I found myself simply not doing it.
This is a scholarly book, not a feel-good book book on spirituality. It makes demands on the reader, but it is very well organized, with subheadings and numbered paragraphs, making it VERY easy to preview a chapter and make notes. This was my preferred way of reading this book, in fact...I would preview the chapter, and jot down an outline based on the subheadings , and then fill that outline in as I plowed through the body of the chapter. Dunn's presentation of a great deal of information, in other words, is very accomodating.