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Social-Science Commentary On The Letters Of Paul [Paperback]

By Bruce J. Malina (Author) & John J. Pilch (Author)
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Item description for Social-Science Commentary On The Letters Of Paul by Bruce J. Malina & John J. Pilch...

Malina and Pilch add new dimensions to our understanding of the apostle as a social change agent, his coworkers as innovators, and his gospel as an assertion of the honor of the God of Israel.

Publishers Description
This latest addition to the Fortress Social-Science Commentaries on New Testament Writings illuminates the values, perceptions, and social codes of the Mediterranean culture that shaped Paul and his interactions - both harmonious and conflicted - with others. Malina and Pilch add new dimensions to our understanding of the apostle as a social change agent, his coworkers as innovators, and his Gospel as an assertion of the honor of the God of Israel.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Fortress Press
Pages   432
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.01" Width: 6.01" Height: 0.9"
Weight:   1.27 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 2006
ISBN  0800636406  
ISBN13  9780800636401  

Availability  56 units.
Availability accurate as of Sep 20, 2017 03:45.
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More About Bruce J. Malina & John J. Pilch

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! 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.

Bruce J. Malina has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Paul's Social Network: Brothers & Sisters in Faith

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Bible & Other Sacred Texts > Bible > New Testament
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > Commentaries
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Criticism & Interpretation
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Bible Study > Commentaries > New Testament
Books > Bible Study > Commentaries > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Social-Science Commentary On The Letters Of Paul?

Very strongly recommended reading for all students Pauline theology  May 6, 2006
Ably co-authored by Bruce J. Malina (Professor of New Testament at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska) and John J. Pilch (Visiting Professor at the Stadium Biblicum Franciscanum, Hong Kong and at the University of Pretoria, South Africa), Social-Science Commentary: On The Letters Of Paul is a truly in-depth study of the God of Israel and the apostle Paul's commentaries on the God of Jews and Christians. Tactfully presenting an intriguing re-definition of the scriptural collections attributed to and about Paul, On The Letters Of Paul is a scholarly analysis providing a literary understanding through the Pauline books of the New Testament and their social values, perceptions and cultural influences on the thought and theology of the foremost evangelical apostle of the fledgling Christian movement. On The Letters Of Paul is very strongly recommended reading for all students of Pauline theology, as well as the secular vision of Paul the Apostle and his collective interpretations and ideologies within the context of the early Christian church.
Social Sciences vs. Pauline Theology  Feb 22, 2006
Conservative Pauline theology has primarily focused on what church theologians have exegeted from the commonly accepted version of the Greek New Testament. It is only until recently that religious scholars have been including subjects like sociology, anthropology, psychology, and linguistic studies in their understanding of correct hermeneutics. While "Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul" bears more on liberal theology and not all of its arguments can be taken seriously (from either a faith-based or scholarly response), the book is an invaluable aid to the study of New Testament theology in general and Pauline theology in particular. It does raise important questions for the study of Pauline theology, some questions that liberal scholars need to look at more closely and some questions conservative scholars are afraid to ask. Highly recommended for college, university, and seminary level text books, or for personal use.
Long-awaited commentary from the Context Group  Feb 18, 2006
Pauline commentary has been dominated by introspective cliche more than any other part of New Testament study, and members of the Context Group can rid us of this malaise better than anyone. Malina and Pilch, as expected, put the reader on ancient soil where honor and shame were matters of life and death, saving face more important than wealth and honesty, and soul-searching a foreign intrusion. In many ways their commentary lives up to expectations, though in others it disappoints.

The commentary follows the structure of Malina and Rohrbaugh's (second-edition) commentary on the synoptic gospels, and like its predecessor is a useful tool for identifying and understanding biblical cultural cues. The complete text of Paul's seven undisputed authentic letters is laid out in sections followed by the commentary, with pointers to more detailed reading scenarios at the end of the book.

Five letters -- I Thessalonians, I & II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians -- are explained as products of Paul's missionary activity among Greek-speaking Israelites. Only in Romans do we see a presence of Gentiles, acknowledged briefly (Rom 11:13-32) and in most unflattering terms (pp 273-274); even in this letter Paul is presumed to addresses mostly Israelites in an attempt to persuade them how much he has much in common with them, and to "rectify the distorted gossip they may have heard about him" (p 24). Finally, Philemon shows Paul acting legitimately as a mediator between a slave and his master.

That the recipients of Paul's letters were Greek Israelites (diaspora Jews, in other words) is by far the most controversial claim staked out in the commentary, resting on the idea that circumcision was introduced into Judea only in the Maccabean period, while elsewhere Israelites shunned the practice and other "barbaric" Torah-customs. Devotion to God, the figure of Abraham, and the cries of the prophets for a forthcoming theocracy added up to the few commonalities shared among Judeans and Greeks. So Paul's converts weren't necessarily Gentiles just because they were uncircumcised. "Temple and Torah" were largely about the Judean way of being Israelite, not the Greek way.

While there's no denying the diversity of Judaism in the first century -- and while it wouldn't surprise me in the least to learn that certain aspects of the Torah weren't practiced in the diaspora, or even Galilee for that matter -- the idea that Paul confined his mission exclusively to Israelites won't hold water. The way Paul describes his converts' former lives points to non-Israelites. I could potentially buy the idea of uncircumcised Israelites (Gal 5:2), but not worshipping idols (I Thess 1:9; I Cor 12:2) (about which the authors say these "Israelites" had been "far along the way of assimilation, including adopting local worship patterns" (p 38).) "Pagan" may not be the best translation of ethne, as Malina and Pilch claim (p 79), but it certainly refers to "the other peoples", and that's exactly what Paul calls his converts in I Cor 12:2. To shift the meaning of ethne in this case to refer to a "social standing" (p 114) is getting a bit desperate.

The rest of the commentary is easy to swallow and helpful, often making sense of passages critics have had problems with. For instance, I Thess 2:14-15 is seen as authentic, plausible as coming from Paul, and compatible with I Cor 2:8. Both the Judeans and imperial rulers killed Jesus. "Judeans are proverbial killers of the prophets" (p 41), while "the rulers of this age rule by controlling people [the Judeans] who do their bidding." (p 70) This is an obvious place where a precise translation of Ioudaios clears up confusion and does away with interpolation theories owing to modern concerns.

Paul's real genius surfaces in the way he continually turns something shameful into something honorable. For instance, he boasts in his weakness (II Cor 11:30), not because he's endorsing a lame form of double-speak, as if to imply that "your weakness is my strength". Rather, in surviving hardships (II Cor 11:23b-28) through his weakness, the manly virtues of endurance, strength of resolve, and courage are demonstrated in the long run (p 158). Paul was able to turn shameful things about Christianity into something honorable, but in ways that could actually have been acceptable -- to at least some -- in a world of Mediterranean machismo.

Noticeably lacking in the book is any discussion of lying and deception. This is surprising, not only since Pilch has done so much excellent work in this area, but because Paul offers plenty of missed opportunity. I would have liked to see the authors treat Paul's deceptive rhetoric in places like I Cor 1-4, I Cor 9:19-23, and II Cor 3:7-4:6, and see how their honor-shame treatments contrast with Mark Given's sophist approach in Paul's True Rhetoric.

In the end, despite certain problems and shortcomings, this commentary belongs on the scholarly shelf, especially if the shelf is top-heavy with theological or literary intertextual approaches to Paul. It's not as sharp as Malina and Rohrbaugh's commentaries on the gospels, but it's the first of its kind for Paul, and necessary at that.

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