This study focuses on a very basic theme, the tender art of living together in community. T.S. Elliot posed the question succinctly: "What life have you if you have not life together?" He thereby pointed to a truth verified both by social scientists and by our own practical experience: we receive life, we foster life, and we pass life on within the context of fellow humans. But how varied is the quality of life experienced by different humans, or even by the individual at different stages of life! Any thoughtful sensitive person is deeply aware of the fragile treasure that life is, with remarkable potential for warmth, friendship, joy, creativity, and generosity, yet so frequently threatened or destroyed by anxiety, bitterness, greed, anger, and hostility. The Bible presents a rich pageant of life in community. Its stories, hymns, and proverbs cover the whole range of human feelings and experiences, It gives the story of a people who puzzled through the riddle of life from the midst of life, and came to a conclusion strikingly similar ro Eliot's: "There is no life that is not community. And no community not lived in praise of God."
In this unique work, Paul Hanson traces the concept of "community" from its early biblical origins through the end of the apostolic age. This edition includes a chapter devoted to the contemporary implications of this concept and in his new introduction, the author further explores the importance of this theme.
Paul D. Hanson is Florence Corliss Lamont Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he has taught since 1971.