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Jewish Law in Gentile Churches: Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics Paperback – November 1, 2003

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801027581 ISBN-10: 0801027586

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Editorial Reviews


'Markus Bockmuehl has written a very important book. He shows with great learning in Christian and Jewish primary sources and the vast secondary literature how much the issue of law lies at the heart of Early Christian thought. He persuasively argues that Early Christianity remained much closer to ancient Jewish nomianism than many have believed. A contemporary benefit of this book is that it can be an excellent resource in making the issue of law itself the commonality needed for a new and positive Jewish-Christian relationship in the present.'
Professor David Novak, University of Toronto
'Here is a bold argument: that Christianity staked its claim within Graeco-Roman culture on the basis of the Torah's address of Gentiles as Gentiles. In order to make his case, Dr Bockmuehl deftly draws on his expertise in both Judaic and Christian literature. By moving beyond the tight circle of the canonical New Testament alone, he invites us into the genuine world of early Christianity, where ethics and purity were not abstract concerns, but daily issues.'
Professor Bruce Chilton, Bard College
'This is an outstanding study of a neglected topic. Dr Bockmuehl encourages his readers to consider from new perspectives major ethical issues and familiar New Testament passages. This lively book will spark off keen discussion among a wide readership. I shall continue to learn a great deal from it.'
Professor Graham Stanton, University of Cambridge

Reviewed in: Church Times, 23 March 2001 Highlights: "This is a densely packed and erudite book with many themes, by a scholar for scholars. It needs to be read slowly, with a Bible at hand and a some knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and even Latin and German…The book breaks fresh ground by providing, through the use of Jewish texts, a Jewish background of NT ethics. The author writes modestly, admitting that many of his themes need more investigation…It will become required reading for those taking an honours degree in NT theology."

"This is an immensely learned and comprehensive study, with extensive use of rabbinic material…What I find particularly appealing is the way his approach to Christian ethics sets the ethical teaching within the social and cultural context of the early church and thus makes sense of the ethics in a way that a simple contrast between 'law' and 'grace' fails to do. It also takes full account of the Jewishness of Jesus and the first Christians and attempts to bring into the open what they took for granted."—Expository Times, April 2001

"In this significant and learned book, Markus Bockmuehl presents a series of essays which focus on the content and development of early Christian ethics from Jesus to the early apologists of the second century…it is a contribution which should be widely and carefully considered, with far-reaching implications not only for the historical understanding of the development of Christian ethics but also for the contemporary tasks of promoting understanding between Jews and Christians and of articulating Christian ethics in the public sphere."
- Theology, July/August 2001

"The combination of these excellent articles in a coherent book adds to their importance and persuasiveness." —Theological Book Review Feed the Minds

"The task which Bockmuehl sets in this book is undoubtedly one of worthy scholarly attention." —The Heythrop Journal July 2002 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Markus Bockmuehl (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is a fellow of Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge and a lecturer in New Testament studies. He is the author of Philippians in Blackís New Testament Commentary series, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Jesus, and translator and editor of Stembergerís Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (November 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801027586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801027581
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,262,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"...one can perceive some suggestive and subtle contributions to the ongoing discussions concerning New Testament ethics with respect to Torah and apologetics. The book as a whole seems to lack comprehensiveness and an overall cohesiveness in its presentation. Many of the chapters are from articles or lectures that he has done for various occassions, and the author readily admits that there were probably many more things he could have read or said. Nevertheless, each chapter and major section is pregnant with possibilities ready to explode into volumes of their own, and the incompleteness served only to further my interest. The bibliography looks impressive and up to date, especially with respect to interactions with new perspective writers. His exegesis, while obviously not free from an interpretive grid, seems reasonable and restrained from dogmatic agendas. Even when he seems critical of protestant/reformed exegetical consensus, his criticisms remain compatible with reformed confession, in my opinion. At some points (e.g. synoptic relationship), he draws from some higher critical assumptions, but in a fashion that is not incompatible with faith and the inerrant authority of Scripture. The reading level is somewhat challenging with its appeals to original languages and modern theological vocabulary, but he usually provides enough context for those who have not been through seminary. Overall, I believe that Bockmuehl provides a convincing case for the underlying Jewishness of Christianity with respect to ethics and public discourse. Those interested in a diachronic and synchronic treatment of biblical natural theology, ethics, and church apologetics should be careful not overlook this book."
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Being a Jew I came to the subject matter already having an understanding of Jewish law and my interest had already lead me to investigate the laws of Noah which were considered binding by Jews on Gentiles at the time Gentile Churches came into existence. The author was a Christian scholar and coming to the topic from the opposite direction. In any case we met in the middle.

Christians are astonished when I inform them that the word "Jew" appears 202 times in the New Testament and 82 times in the Gospels, while "Christian" does not show up at all in the Gospels and is mentioned only three times in later parts of the New Testament -- the first mention is when Paul is preaching in Antioch years after the crucifixion (Acts 11:26). Why is "Christian" absent from the Gospels, which span Jesus' life and ministry? Because there was no Christianity during Jesus' life.

As the Christian Scripture put it, the Jews and their teachers “sit in Moses seat” as the “authorized custodians” of God’s Law. (Matthew 23:2) Paul produced the world most quoted list of Noahide laws. There are many other Gospel references.”

The Torah of Moses also includes universal laws based in the covenant God made with Noah in Genesis 9:8-9 that were considered binding on the nations but which did not include Jewish ritual commandments nor all the details the law of Israel imposed upon Jews.

I already had an interest and knowledge in the subject matter. This interest is probably why I enjoyed the book as much as I did. It filled in a lot of missing details and made sense of what for most is a confusing subject. The text was written by an academic.

This is the type of book one reads more than once. Highly recommended.
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Jewish Law in Gentile Churches: Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics
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