Saturday, January 24, 2009

Book Notice: Jonathan Knight, Christian Origins

Jonathan Knight
Christian Origins
London: T&T Clark, 2008.
Available in the USA from
Available in the UK from T&T Clark/Continuum.

Jonathan Knight is Research Fellow of the Katie Wheeler Trust and Visiting Fellow in New Testament and Christian Ministry at York St John University. He is the author of Jesus: An Historical and Theological Investigation (T&T Clark, 2004), Luke’s Gospel (Routledge, 1998) and The Ascension of Isaiah (Sheffield Academic Press, 1995).

Anyone trying to do all of "Christian Origins" in one volume is embarking on an ambitious task given the size and scope of the project. However, it is refreshing to have a single book on the subject as opposed to the multi-volume tome's by Wright, Dunn, and Hengel on early Christianity which take a life time to write and read.

The advantage of this volume is that it is concise, sufficiently critical where it needs to be but never esoteric, it posits the historical Jesus as a messianic claimant, it roots the early Christian movement firmly in apocalypticism (in fact Knight has a book forthcoming on that very topic), and deals with complex issues like Paul's conversion and the parting of the ways between Christianity and Judaism with simple and fair judgments for the most part.

Knight is clearly more at home in the Gospels than in Paul and I would contest some of his judgments in places. I think he is very light on Graeco-Roman context too. As for being a text book, I'm not sure if I prefer Knight's outline of Christian Origins over Christopher Rowland's book, but Knight is certainly in the same ball park in terms of value and a worthy alternative.

Table Of Contents

Part One: From Judaism to Jesus

1. About Christian Origins
2. The Nature of the Sources
3. In Search of Ancient Israel
4. The God of Ancient Israel
5. The Interpretation of Scripture
6. The Synagogue
7. The Temple
8. Jewish Parties
9. Diaspora Judaism
10. Jewish Eschatological Hope

Part Two: Jesus and His Mission

11. An Approach to Jesus
12. A Brief History of Jesus
13. The Message of Jesus
14. Who Did Jesus Think That He Was?
15. The Trial of Jesus
16. The Resurrection of Jesus

Part Three: Paul and His Christian Beginnings

17. On Paul the Apostle
18. Christianity before Paul
19. The Writings of Paul
20. Paul and Christian salvation
21. Paul and the Future
22. Pauline Ethics

Part Four: The Birth of Early Christianity

23. The Eschatological Framework of Christianity
24. The Post-Pauline Writings of the New Testament
25. The Emergence of Beliefs about Jesus
26. The Breach between Christianity and Judaism
27. The Symbols of the Kingdom
28. The Development of the Christian Ministry
29. Early Christian Ethics
30. The Rise of Gnosticism
31. Summary and conclusion

Appendix: The Gospels as Sources for Jesus

You can can read another review at at kata ta biblia.