The New Testament Library offers authoritative commentary on every book and major aspect of the New Testament, as well as classic volumes of scholarship. The commentaries in this series provide fresh translations based on the best available ancient manuscripts, offer critical portrayals of the historical world in which the books were created, pay careful attention to their literary design, and present a theologically perceptive exposition of the text.
This commentary treats Luke-Acts as an apologetic history. It takes with equal seriousness both Luke's literary artistry and his historical interests, fitting his methods comfortably within the ancient standards of historiography. This perspective illustrates in particular that Luke's historical narrative serves a definite religious intent. Tracing that intent through the specific contours of Luke's story is the special contribution of this commentary."
Luke Timothy Johnson explores the letter of James from a variety of perspectives. After a general introduction to James, he looks at its history of interpretation. Johnson then examines James's social and historical situation, its place within Scripture, and its use of the sayings of Jesus. Several exegetical studies take care to place James in the context of Hellenistic moral discourse. Two concluding essays look at the themes of friendship and gender in James.
While seemingly of interest only to professionals, Johnson's "Brother of Jesus, Friend of God will also be accessible to general readers serious about Bible study, and church groups will find this volume to be a fruitful entry into an important portion of the New Testament.
Faced with how to respond to God's leading, the church decides what to do on the basis of two realities: Scripture and discernment. Because it calls the church into being Scripture is the fundamental authority in the church's life. Yet it is not enough for a congregation simply to turn to the Bible when a decision must be reached, for Scripture does not directly address all issues which face the church today, and those it does often reflect greatly differing historical and social contexts than our own.
Thus, added to the authority of Scripture in the church's decision making is a process of discernment, in which the members of the community--under the guidance of the Holy Spirit--recall how God has worked in their lives as individuals and as a community and discern together God's direction for the future. Johnson argues that this very pattern of decision making can be found in Scripture itself, notably in one of the central events of the book of Acts. Beginning with the conversion of Cornelius and culminating in the Apostolic Council of Acts 15, we see how a string of smaller narratives combine to tell the story of God's movement within their midst, and how this narrative became the basis for the reinterpretation of Scripture and the inclusion of Gentiles into the fellowship of the church.
Looking at a number of thorny issues facing the contemporary church, Johnson demonstrates how the interaction of Scripture and discernment can and must become the basis for how we respond to the decisions with which the church wrestles today.
Johnson is convinced that the dominant ways of studying early Christianity tend to miss its specifically religious character, because of a disjunction between formal religion and "popular" religion. He proposes in this book, by means of three case studies -- baptism, glossolalia, and meals -- to show how a more holistic, phenomenological approach can be made. This makes possible the inclusion in the study of early Christianity the world of healings and religious power, of ecstasy and spirit -- in short, the religious experience of real persons.
It is this subtle yet real presence of religious experience that alters the discipline and practice of New Testament scholarship, as Johnson notes: "This is neither history in the strict sense of the term, nor is it theology. That's the whole point: we need a new way of looking in order to see what we can't otherwise see. If I have succeeded at least in whetting an appetite for getting at what these chapters try to get at, I am content, for what they try to get at is important."
Johnson concludes that there is still much to be learned about early Christianity as a religion, if we can find a way to get at the category of real experience. He maintains that early Christian texts reflect lives that are caught up by and defined by a power not in their control but controlled instead by the crucified and raised Messiah Jesus.
In this excellent resource for church professionals, Johnson reclaims Christian belief in miracles as integral to recovering a proper and strong sense of creation, recognizing the validity of personal experience and narrative and asserting the truth-telling quality of myth. His analysis includes:a description of the competing symbolic worldviews that have framed the discussion on miracles, including secular debates and theological imagination;interpretation of miracles consonant with the biblical construction of reality in the Old and New Testaments; suggestions for four areas in the church's life—teaching, preaching, prayer, and pastoral care—that can work together to shape a symbolic world, within which believers can expect, perceive, and celebrate the miracles in everyday life.