Monday, April 23, 2007

A Definition of Mission

Later in the year I'm returing to the topic of mission or proselytism in the ancient world. I think that alot of the arguments about whether or not second-temple Judaism was a missionary religion or not comes down to a matter of the definition of mission and the differences between conversion and adherence - balancing sociological and theological factors also contributes to the definition. For example James C. Paget defines a missionary religion as ‘one which, in a variety of ways, makes it clear that conversion to that religion is a good thing’. Based on his work on mission-commitment in Judaism, John Dickson defines mission as ‘the range of activities by which members of a religious community desirous of the conversion of outsiders seek to promote their religion to non-adherents’. Martin Goodman identifies different types of missionary activity including: information, education, apologetic and proselytization. For him the latter consists of: 'Those who approved of proselytizing mission believed that, as members of a defined group, they should approve of those within their number who might choose to encourage outsiders not only to change their way of life but also to be incorporated within their group'. What started me thinking on this subject was Scot McKnight's much under read book Light Among the Gentiles: Jewish Missionary Activity in the Second Temple Period (1991) which is well worth checking out.

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