Book Review – Reading Romans in Context: Paul and Second Temple of Judais

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Reading Romans in Context: Paul and Second Temple of Judas, provides a very incisive look at an academic art work that argues clearly the need for the recognition of the Jewish roots of Christianity’s most sacred text, “The Holy Bible.” The writers were doctoral students at Durham University and it is pleasing to note that inherent their work is the a contribution of several women.

There is an elaborate introduction and an overview of the Second Temple Period and the writings it produced. The overview starts us off with Abraham with the intention of placing the time period firmly within the historical time frame. In particular, the introduction provides a very interesting rejoinder to John Piper’s sceptism about about utilization of background resources to interpret NT texts.  It is brief, clear and precise.  There are footnotes and a great many bibliographies hence anybody wanting to find and learn more about any topic or about the times in general will easily access the good  resources inherent this book.

“Reading Romans in Context,” is in summary an essay collection that looks at various themes found in Romans and in Second Temple Jewish literature. Paul sometimes counters an argument that he believes will be brought against his teachings, but it is not clear what that argument is. By looking at Second Temple Jewish literaturelike the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha and the writings of Philo, we make a sterling discovery of what other Jews around thay time were teaching. The authors endeavour to compare these to Romans to find similarities and where the teachings diverge.

Theres a stark realisation that the authors had a good understanding of Pauls teachings and they use the comparison to add insights and nuances to our understanding of Romans but not to reinterpret them. The essays are extremely interesting and the most outstanding of them is the one on distinctive food habits. It is very easy to follow their arguments. The glossary is placed at the back but the terms in it are well defined that theres no neeed to refer to the glossary.

The phrases and themes that were studied in the text were: “son of God,” God’s wrath and divine justice, circumcisiom and covenant identity, “works of the law,” “righteousnessof God,” the faith of Abraham, suffering of the righteous, death through Adam, slavery to sin or to righteousness, the law’s role, evil desires, human glorification linked to death, why God blesses or curses a person, righteous by law Vs by faith and one’s ability to keep the law, gentile inclussion, right living, self mastery vs divine enabling, how one should interact with the government, distinctive food habits, God’s role in our giving to the poor , and women in church ministry and leadership.

In my opinion, Reading Romans in Contextseems to provide answers to those wondering how their cultural background affects their understanding of the Bible and may be wished there was a way to know how early christians understood the scipture. The material in this book tries to explain what the Bible meant to the early church.  The book seeks to demonstrate for non- specialists the benefits that accrue when we study the Scripture alongside extrabiblical texts. It focusses on “how Paul and his contemporaries understood ‘getting in’ and ‘staying in’the people of God.

Theres no way everything discussed in Reading Romans in Contextcan be covered in a book review because the book is indeed immense and very rich in content. Overally, the the book is readable; its articles were short, precise and to the point. The book is logically structured and well explained especially if one was to follow Paul’s arguments in Romans. The different authorial styles blended so well that the work had a flow and not jerky as one would expect. The major reinforcement I got from reading this work wsa the fact that Jesus brought something totally new to our world. I did find the discussion on righteousness and suffering very helpful just as was  the Christian and the state and the final chapter on women.

Reading Romans in Contextis to me is a book to read and absorb and perhaps digging further deep into areas that are especially interesting. While reading this text, readers can expect to have their belirfs challenged, and their minds enlightened. This is a worthwhile text that can be very well utilized aspart of one’s daily devotional time. I recommend it to the entire makind.

About the authors:

Ben C. Blackwell

Ben C. Blackwell (PhD, Universityof Durham) is Assistant Professor of Christianity at Houston Baptist University and is former research assistant for N. T Wright and John Barclay. He is the author of Christosis: Pauline Soteriology in Light of Deification in Irenaeus and Cyril.

John K. Goodrich

John K. Goodrich (PhD, University of Durham) is assistant Professor of Bible at Moody Bible institute, Chicago. He is the author of Paul as an Adminstrator of God in 1 Corinthians.

Jason Maston

Jaston Maston (PhD, University of Durham) is Lecturer in New Testament at Highland Theological College UHI (UK). Heis the author of Divine and Human Agency in Second TempleJudaism and Paul: A Comparative  Approach and contributor to and co- editor (with Michael F. Bird) of Earliest Christian History: History, Literature and Theology. Essays from the Tyndale Fellowship in Honorof Martin Hengel.

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