2 Stars Out Of 5
Written to confirm tradition rather than inform
July 11, 2013
Age: Over 65
Barnett opens with a citation from John Dominic Crossan, 'The Birth of Christianity', provides a number of criticisms of Dominic's views and even (perhaps subconsciously) chose the same title for this book, so we can say he was influenced by Crossan. However, there is a difference in approach. For example, Crossan reviewed the available evidence for Jewish literacy in the first century and concluded from this that it was quite low by modern standards and hardly different from literacy elsewhere in the Roman Empire; Barnett ignores this and simply assumes that Jewish literacy was relatively high, and requires his readers to accept this information.
The book does not follow argument rigorously. It acknowledges that we do not know who the anonymous author of Luke-Acts was, but insists he must have been an associate of Paul, because of the use of 'we' in some passages - from here on it becomes fact, then the associate of Paul becomes Luke the physician. "For convenience," Barnett limits the letters of Paul to 1 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Romans., which he notes are not disputed, but proceeds to use 2 Thessalonians and 2 Timothy as evidence about Paul. I would feel more comfortable if he adopted a single position, even if he chose not to support that position, rather than adopt different positions in different texts.
I found the lists of parallels between Paul's epistles and the gospels useful, although I could debate the direction of flow. Much of this short book is concerned with explaining the New Testament texts, including authorship and chronology, so there is not a lot of material about the early years of Christianity.