The Interrelated Communities of the New Testament World

David Booth, author of the fine Post Tenebras Lux has written a couple of short posts giving some comments on a new collection of essays by Richard Bauckham entitled The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences. Mr. Booth's posts can be found here and here.

The Barnes and Noble notes on the book describe the book's thesis as follows:

This volume challenges the current consensus in New Testament scholarship that each of the Gospels was written for a specific church or group of churches. These essays argue, from a wide range of evidence, that the Gospels were intended for general circulation throughout all the early churches and, hence, were written for all Christians.

Loveday Alexander, Stephen C. Barton, Richard Bauckham, Richard Burridge, Michael B. Thompson, and Francis Watson examine such topics as the extent of communication between early Christian churches, book production and circulation in the Graeco-Roman world, the Gospel genre and its audience, the relationships between the Gospels, the faulty enterprise of reconstructing Gospel communities, and the hermeneutical and theological pitfalls of reading the Gospels as community texts. By putting in question a large body of assumptions that are almost universally accepted in contemporary scholarship, this book could fundamentally change both the method and the findings of Gospel interpretation.

Mr. Booth quotes Dr. Bauckham as saying:

"The first thing this information tells us is that mobility and communication in the first-century Roman world were exceptionally high. Unprecedentedly good roads and unprecedentedly safe travel by both land and sea made the Mediterranean world of this time more closely interconnected than any large are of the ancient world had ever been."

Mr. Booth notes that these conditions made expressions of interconnectedness possible, but what made them actual was the theological conviction that they were all one people in Christ. Quoting again from the book:

"The early Christian movement was not a scattering of isolated, self-sufficient communities with little or no communication between them, but quite the opposite: a network of communities with constant, close communication between themselves."

Mr. Booth is very enthusiastic about the book and its thesis, noting that it appears that the our 20th Century churches in the United States are "probably more parochial in our church interests than our brothers and sisters from the first century were." It sounds like a book worth picking up even though it appears that I will need to search for it in used bookshops since it appears to be out of print.


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