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What's in the Word: Rethinking the Socio-Rhetorical Character of the New Testament

5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1602581968
ISBN-10: 1602581967
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"... [Witherington] easily demonstrates that history and theology simply cannot be separated."―Review of Biblical Literature

"Witherington here shows how fruitful socio-rhetorical perspective can be. His lively and accessible style make for stimulating reading."―Richard Bauckham, Professor of New Testament, St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews

"This book's fascinating observations give stimulating guidance in hearing the texts as they were very likely meant to be heard."―Richard J. Erickson, Associate Professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"This book tackles a series of contentious subjects with clarity and verve. It may even change your mind on some."―Darrell Bock, Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

"... a fascinating discussion. ... [Witherington] is correct that social history and Greco-Roman rhetoric are now more purposely employed in interpretation and have made significant advances in our understanding of the NT―advances he masterfully demonstrates throughout this volume."―Duane F. Watson, Interpretation

"... interesting, varied, provocative, well written and worthwhile."―David Wenham, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

About the Author

Ben Witherington III is Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary. His publications include Troubled Waters: Rethinking the Theology of Baptism (2007), Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord's Supper (2007), The Living Word of God: Rethinking the Theology of the Bible (2007), and The Problem with Evangelical Theology: Testing the Exegetical Foundations of Calvinism, Dispensationalism, Wesleyanism, and Pentecostalism, Revised and Expanded Edition (2015).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 203 pages
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press (June 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602581967
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602581968
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bible scholar Ben Witherington is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. A graduate of UNC, Chapel Hill, he went on to receive the M.Div. degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Durham in England. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies.

Witherington has also taught at Ashland Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University, Duke Divinity School and Gordon-Conwell. A popular lecturer, Witherington has presented seminars for churches, colleges and biblical meetings not only in the United States but also in England, Estonia, Russia, Europe, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia. He has also led tours to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.

Witherington has written over thirty books, including The Jesus Quest and The Paul Quest, both of which were selected as top biblical studies works by Christianity Today. He also writes for many church and scholarly publications, and is a frequent contributor to the Beliefnet website.

Along with many interviews on radio networks across the country, Witherington has been seen on the History Channel, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, The Discovery Channel, A&E, and the PAX Network.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Anyone interested in biblical studies and ancient history would find these essays fascinating reading.

Witherington insists it is time for a "paradigm shift" in NT studies. Various disciplines have shown that "ancient texts are not really texts in the modern sense at all--they are surrogates for oral communication" (p 3). All documents in antiquity were expected to be read aloud. Ambrose famously was regarded as singular in that he actually read without moving his lips.

Witherington also points out forcefully that it is long past time to reassess the social background of the NT writers. Their very literacy argues that they were part of the social elite, not the poor. The documents they left behind "reflect a considerable knowledge of Greek, rhetoric, and general Greco-Roman culture" (p 9). Among the types of rhetoric employed by the NT writers were "rhetorical questions, dramatic hyperbole, personification, amplification, irony, enthymemes, and the like...for example...the chereia" (p 13).

In his essay on 'Canonical Pseudepigrapha' he points out that by the second and third century we see that the early Christians had clear objections to any sort of forging or misnaming documents. "Furthermore, we find evidence that when falsification was discovered, there were moves to correct the problem" (p 19).

I also found Witherington's essay on the Beloved Disciple, whom he identifies with Lazarus, to be well thought out and interesting, even though, ultimately, I find Hengel and Bauchkham's arguments more persuasive.

Witherington is at his best on his essay on porneia.
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Format: Paperback
Ben Witherington makes good arguments for looking at scripture through a socio-rhetorical lens. Sadly we moderns/postmoderns have lost any sense for classic rhetoric which Witherington believes is essential for truly seeing the text of the NT.

Understanding the voice of the speaker in the text is shown to be as important, if not more so, than our modern understanding of authorship. Tipping our understanding of authorship on it's ear voice gives us better insight into who is telling the story. A refreshing perspective. I am looking forward to reading Witherington's commentaries that present this perspective.
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Format: Paperback
"What's In The Word?" is a short approach for laymen to starting to understand what is going on in socio-rhetorical looks at the NT. Ben Witherington is most certainly an authority in this field having spent decades studying it and having written numerous commentaries on books of the NT along the lines of this view point.

What is it? It's looking at the NT in its social setting and seeing the writings for their strong rhetorical value realizing they are in many ways, oral writings. These were not meant to be read privately and silently as we often do today, but meant to be read publicly and quite likely, by someone who knew how to read them the way the author wanted them to be read.

This kind of look has serious ramifications for how we approach the NT. Witherington shows us that the writers of the text took from the social background of their time, including the use of rhetoric, and wrote their information in a style to be engaging with the audience and draw their attention and form a powerful argument.

This also has an impact on the idea of forgery. For someone to do a good forgery they would have to know how to write to a specific audience concerning a specific problem and do so in a way while avoiding the audience knowing who they really are. Witherington considers this possibility highly unlikely in the light of socio-rhetorical studies. Of course, he knows that this did happen in the ancient world, but many of these writings were general treatises and not dealing with specific situations by specific people. He notes also that there is no knowledge we have of "schools of Paul and James" where someone would learn to write in their style to honor them like one would write in the style of Pythagoras.
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I have purchased most of these books for my husband and they are all very good and helpful.
I cannot elaborate on content, but he is a religion major and all of these have been super helpful and chalk full of information.
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