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World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age 1st Edition

5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195377873
ISBN-10: 0195377877
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Editorial Reviews

Review

a remarkable blend of biblical and historical scholarship, theological erudition and ethical reflection. Grant Macaskill, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

About the Author


C. Kavin Rowe, Assistant Professor of New Testament, Duke University Divinity School
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195377877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195377873
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.3 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,600,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This is a book which has depth and latitude, a journey which leaves one with much to ponder and which considers many dimensions of Luke's Acts. Why did the Gospel of "peace" create such an uproar? Why was Paul, like Jesus, put to death by Caesar even after being declared innocent? Why did the fledgling Christian community of Acts, which had no designs on political power and no thought of insurrection, come under the fierce opposition and murderous persecution of Caesar?

These are, of course, all familiar issues to anyone who has considered The Acts of The Apostles but Kavin Rowe, like all gifted authors and original thinkers, causes his reader to consider the the work afresh. His is the genius which leads one along a familiar and oft-trod path to point out important things which have gone unnoticed, and familiar sights cast in a whole new light. What is more, the careful and thorough scholarship of the guide reassures one all along the way.

My particular interest is epistemology and I found Rowe's observations of the knowledge vantage point of belief in Jesus Christ versus unbelief to be nothing short of brilliant. Those outside of Christ could prove no charge nor sustain any accusation, yet they rightly perceived that their whole world was threatened by this new message and this new community. Even while they refused to acknowledge Jesus Christ as "Lord of all" - no, because they refused - they somehow knew that the very foundation of their world was threatened. Because they refused to honour Christ, they could not grasp the message, but even in their blindness they knew that the message was their undoing. Profound ironies!

There are powerful implications in "World Upside Down" for the modern Church. Is Caesar still Caesar?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the most sophisticated pieces of Biblical scholarship I've ever read, Rowe's work is a refreshing re-assessment of Acts in Graeco-Roman context. The most amazing part of his argument is his ability to "think the tension alongside the author of Acts." What precisely is the tension? The early Christians' reputation for simultaneously (1) upsetting the Roman status quo through their proclamation of another Lord named Jesus and (2) their status as "righteous/innocent" (diakaios) in the eyes of Roman jurisprudence. Early Christianity, as narrated by Acts, was neither subversive nor complicit with the Roman way of life. It didn't fit harmoniously with Graeco-Roman culture, but neither could that culture completely condemn it as an outright challenge to the Pax Romana. In Rowe's words, Christianity exhibits a completely different way of "being in the world" or "total way of being" that doesn't fit neatly in the categories of Roman life. His argument, in nuce, tries to untie this complex tension (a nice dialectical reading in the tradition of Hegel, Barth, Bonhoeffer, etc.): "The Christians are not out to establish Christendom, as it were. New culture, yes--coup, no. The tension is thus set."

The taughtly drawn thread that holds this tension together, according to Acts, is a set of fundamental Christian practices/a habitus that the early Church carried out. Three core practices were essential: the proclamaition of Jesus as Lord; meeting together to physically constitute the Church; and mission.

In an age of specialization, Rowe's work is satisfyingly multidisciplinary. He blends philosophy (McIntyre and Charles Taylor), theology (Barth figures prominently - I love the opening paragraph of Ch. 2: "God is not derivative of human culture, but generative"), classic studies (esp.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
C. Kavin Rowe has produced a work that is special. It is special because it engagingly wrestles with long held views held the academy regarding Acts and Luke's purposes; is well written, and I think, can be easily understood by those who 'work' for a living; and presents a bold view of the purpose of Acts, which if taken seriously, has radical implications for the Church, especially in the West.

Rowe posits a "tension" in Acts. Luke's view that though the Church is not seditious, the faith, if taken seriously, has radical cultural implications. Put simply, Christianity and paganism are mutually exclusive. One's belief will change the way one lives.

This, in itself, will rock the boat of most 'seeker friendly', 'emerging' churches, let alone the vast swath of evangelicalism in North America, of which, I consider myself a part. I regret that Rowe's fine work was not available five to six years ago when I was writting my dissertation on the concept of indwelling in Colossians. Most of what Rowe has written would have augmented my own argument, except that his arguments are more lucid, cogent, and well written!

Rowe's work has spun off a great deal of commentary already. I am sure it will continue to do so for years to come. This is not a book for just scholars but also for pastors who work daily to see their charges formed in Christ.
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Format: Hardcover
Kavin Rowe's is a scholar's book, directed to the academy, but with profound implications for the church.

The book raises some critical questions about Acts' posture toward culture, and Rome in particular, arguing for a more nuanced both/and position than is often given: Yes, the Romans proclaim Paul innocent at every turn, and yet, the Gospel still creates tumult wherever it goes. And Rowe argues that the latter must necessarily be so.

So long as the church proclaims Jesus as an alternative king to Caesar, it will engage in a worldwide mission, by which it will be creating alternative communities, and will therefore continue to "turn the world upside down."

I did an in-depth review on my blog in two parts:
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