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Christian Origins: A People's History Of Christianity, Vol. 1 [Hardcover]

By Horsley Richard (A01)
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Item Number 51351  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   318
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.56" Width: 7.52" Height: 1.08"
Weight:   1.88 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Nov 30, 2005
ISBN  080063411X  
EAN  9780800634117  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
How did the early Christians deal with wealth and poverty? How did slaves and women participate in these communities? How did living in the shadow of the Roman Empire color their religious experience and economic values?

Buy Christian Origins: A People's History Of Christianity, Vol. 1 by Horsley Richard from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780800634117 & 080063411X

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More About Horsley Richard

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Richard A. Horsley is Professor of Classics and Religion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA, and is author of Galilee: History, Politics, and People (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 1995).

Richard A. Horsley currently resides in the state of Massachusetts.

Richard A. Horsley has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Abingdon New Testament Commentaries

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > General   [3788  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Provocative, Interesting, Sobering, Infuriating!  Jun 28, 2006
I was really looking forward to getting this book. It is volume one of a seven volume series on the history of Christianity written from the perspective of the common peasants of the time rather than the usual history written from the viewpoints of kings and famous writers and theologians.

But whenever you teach history from only one side, you are bound to have distortions, and this book is a clear example. Richard Horsley's introductory chapter lays the groundwork for the rest of the volume, as he discusses the peasant revolts of Theudas and Judas and the factors that led some of the common people to go along with them.

But Herzog's chapter on how peasants would have responded to Jesus was where things really got interesting. He contends that Jesus taught in parables to give peasant people encouragement to interpret their world.

But the Bible says just the opposite. It says that Jesus taught in parables "so that they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding" (Mark 4:12). In other words, the parables were a way for Jesus to deliberately teach so that those who were missing the point would continue to miss the point (both peasants and teachers of the law), and by logical extension, those who were alive to the truth would get it (the disciples).

Herzog also states that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus was to encourage the peasants about how there could be a great reversal in fortunes for the poor and the rich.

But Jesus is alluding to eternity beyond this life whereas Herzog seems to think that Jesus was painting a dream of something that could happen on earth. Herzog completely misses the otherworldliness of the context.

Then Herzog somehow interprets the parable of the workers as an example where the boss is the bad guy instead of the good guy who gives everyone a denarius for a day's work.

Then Antoinette Clark Wire has an interesting chapter about the 26 birth stories of Bible heroes told in early Jewish literature from a woman's perspective in the decades leading up to the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. She contends that these stories were told because this is the way the women experienced them, and that they saw the potential and the possibilities for pesant people of faith to overcome obstacles in life. She argues that the stories were just as political as they were theological, in fact, more so.

That may be true for some of the literature she discusses, but this doesn't seem to be true for the infancy narratives in the Gospel of Luke. In fact, the primary message of Luke is explicitly theological and only political in a smaller sense, that Jesus is a Savior for all people (Luke 2:10-11; 32). Having said this, I still thought that this was one of the more exciting chapters in the book, very well done.

Next, Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley contributes a chapter about the Mandaens, a group that descended from the early Christian movement. They practice baptism by immersion as a form of purification, and there are about 100,000 of them in Iraq and Iran today. They have a long series of traditions about John the Baptist, yet they do not accept Jesus as a prophet. They believe that somewhere down the line, Jesus rejected Jewish and Judaic practices. They also reject Pauline and Gentile Christianity. Buckley considers it probable that the Mandaens were in Palestine around 30 AD, and would have witnessed a rivalry between Jesus and His followers and John the Baptist and his followers. (The question I'm sure you're dying to ask is "What rivalry?" Buckley simply assumes one, without elaborating or trying to prove it.

Buckley also believes that Mandaens may well have become the inventors of or at least contributors to Gnosticism.

Next, there is a section of the book about the cities and texts of the common people. Ray Pickett contributes a chapter about the conflicts in the Corinthian church. He is interested in how Paul's letters to this church can tell us more about the beliefs and practices of the people.

The article about Matthew's community was really interesting. Warren Carter talks about how Matthew's Gospel was probably composed in Antioch, and how most of the people there were poor, and how their taxes were orbitant, and that there would have been a lot of anti-Roman sentiment in the city (which had about 150,000-200,000 people). Jesus's battle with the devil reveals the devil as the power behind the Roman government.

Moreover, the section on whether or not the sons of the kingdom should pay taxes to Caesar (Matt 17:24-27) is directly relevant to the questions Antiochan Christians would have been asking in 85 AD.

Carter also points out that the material in Matthew 5:38-48 was a reminder to the believers to give freely to those who are in need.

He also points out that there is a contrast in the gospel between people in need (Matthew 5), praying for their Daily Bread (6:11, 7:11), and the rich and powerful like Herod who can have lavish feasts in a moment's notice (Matt 14:1-12). In contrast to this, Jesus challenges people to have a wider table of fellowship (Matthew 9:9-14), and to not seek positions of status.

Carter also notes that Matthew points forward to the end of the age when God would settle all issues of disparity in society. This was a great chapter by Carter.

There is also a chapter called The Gospel of John as People's History, by Allen Dwight Callahan. He may be overreaching a bit when he contends that there are romantic innuendos in the story of Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4, mainly because the story takes place at a well and Jacob met his future wife Rachel at a well. Nevertheless, the social implications of Jesus saving a Samaritan village that has suffered long and hard under harsh leadership is significant for a people's history of Christianity.

Callahan tremendously misinterprets Jesus' words in John 2:19 as an overt challenge to the Judean authorities to destroy the Temple, when the writer of the 4th gospel makes it clear in verse 21 that Jesus was talking about the temple of His body. I couldn't believe my eyes until I read it again for myself. I kept asking, "How could an accomplished scholar miss the fundamental play on words Jesus is making?"

Not only that, but Callahan somehow sees Mary of Bethany's act of worship in pouring the perfume on Jesus (John 12) as a political act whereby she is anointing Him as King Messiah. But is that the significance of her act? Callahan also says that this is when Jesus becomes Messiah, which cannot be accurate, because Jesus has declared Himself to be the Messiah as far back as John 4:26, and a case can be made from other salient texts that Jesus was always the Messiah (Hebrews 13:8, John 1:1-18).

Moreover, in the chapter about Judeans in the Roman Empire (Disciplining the Poor), Neil Elliot thinks that Paul is being ironic in Romans 13, and (as a result) is not really advocating submission to the governing authorities. Holy cow, what was Elliot thinking?

The next chapter was a real eye opener. Carolyn Osiek discusses the living conditions of the Greco-Roman world at the time of Christ. Disease was widespread, conditions were filthy and unsanitary, there was no knowledge of basic hygiene, girls were often married and barefoot and pregnant before they were old enough for their first menstruation, and urination and defacation were not considered private functions. Most people were poor and didn't live past the age of 40. Women especially were plagued with health problems due to constantly being pregnant (and from such a young age). Child labor laws were nonexistent, and they were harshly disciplined. This chapter knocked me on my duff.

There are also chapters on slavery at the time of Christ and prophets at the time of Christ, the prophet like Moses.

I really enjoyed this book, and I learned a lot, and I am looking forward to reading the next volume in the series. Yet it is numerous misreadings of the scripture such as those noted above that prevents me from giving this book 5 stars. I really wanted to give it 5 stars, because it was provocative and interesting and so different from the usual history books that are written from the perspectives of the powerful.

But such terrible and irresponsible mishandlings of scripture need to be factored in when evaluating books like this. I almost gave the book three stars because the misinterpretations of scripture were so ridiculous. In retrospect, it's hard to believe that you had Ivy League scholars in on this book, the biblical interpretations are that bad! I guess the bottom line is that the book is good history, bad Bible. Order this book from the library or add it to your library, but read with careful discrimination.

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