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John M Kight
5 Stars Out Of 5
May 7, 2016
John M Kight
Review Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times by Paul Barnett
Paul Barnett (Ph.D., London University) is recognized by many in the field of New Testament studies as one of the most respected historical scholars on the origins of Christianity. As well as being an Emeritus Faculty member of Moore Theological College, Barnett is currently a fellow in ancient history at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and a teaching fellow at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. Barnett has authored numerous books, including a number of commentaries and monographs related to the various aspects of New Testament studies.
Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times has been long acknowledged as a quintessential classic at the top of Barnetts lengthy literary corpus. Barnett guides the reader through the complexities of the Hellenistic backdrop that characterized much of the culture during the ministry of Jesusfrom the incarnation to the resurrectionand the development of the New Testament Church. The approach is both comprehensive and readable, and Barnett firmly roots his research in primary source material. This affords the reader a better grasp of the New Testament from within its historical context, and thus, allows for a better recognition of the significance of the early Jesus movement within the first century world.
The scope of this volume is quite impressive. Not only is the reader exposed to the historical landscape of the New Testament, but Barnett has likewise interwoven detailed interaction with contemporary critical scholarship concerning the Historical Jesus and other related issues. It is here that Barnett does well in demonstrating the historical shortcomings of the critical attempt to construct a chasm between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. Moreover, the reader will certainly appreciate the emphasis Barnett places on the Christological motivation that underlined the missionary effort of the early Christian community, as well as the imperative nature of a bodily resurrection in early Christian worship. This is by any measure a breath of fresh air brought to a table that is far too often plagued with canonical discontinuity and confusion, and for this readers everywhere should rejoice!
Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times by Paul Barnett is an invaluable resource that should be read and re-read by anyone interested in the origins of early Christianity. Barnett is judicious and clear as usual, and his treatment therein is nothing short of comprehensive. Barnett leaves the eager reader with nearly no stones left to turn. This is a volume that should be consulted by many and done so often, both in the church and in the academy. It comes highly recommended!
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
If you want a great book about the NT background, this is a must for you! Dr. Barnes takes us from the OT's spread of Hellenism worldwide, passing through the Maccabean period preparing our minds for the coming of the Messiah and goes through Jesus' life and ministry, to the early church and its expansion by the Holy Spirit through the apostles and evangelists.
This book is a well-annotated argument for the proposition that the "'Christ of faith [is] one and the same as the 'Jesus of history'". This proposition is stated upfront by the author in his Preface. Obviously, it guides both his exposition of historical sources and the inferences which he draws from them.The book, however, is to be read with care, and a critical eye to alternative conclusions.For example, the author, discussing the purported Davidic lineage of Jesus, cites John 7:40-42 to support the inference that "the writer [John] knows ... that Christ was born in Bethlehem." (p.40, hardcover edition). The conclusion is plainly tendentious. It could as well be that some of the people who are discussing the issue among themselves know that Jesus was born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem, and so, to them, he cannot be the Christ. As the author notes: "This is the sole reference to David in the Fourth Gospel. The Christ defined by Davidic descent does not engage this writer [John] as it does Matthew and Luke." (ibid). It may be simply that John is reporting a debate overheard by himself or his source. Likewise, the author fails to note that the famous riddle in Mark 12:35-37 (Matthew 22:42-45; Luke 20:41-44), which I also accept as historically genuine, could be read as Jesus' own repudiation of the idea that the Christ is of the Davidic line. Nevertheless, for those who are serious about a critical analysis of the link between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith, the book is worth reading as a strong challenge to current fashions in skepticism, and a primer in advanced reasoning from historical sources.