Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, Revised Edition Paperback – February 1, 1994
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Top international reviews
Banks is, first and foremost, a scholar. He does not shy away from the various issues that recent research has raised about the new testament texts of Paul's (such as, which ones are actually his), but nor does he just take the latest ideas as true. He presents a very well thought out and coherent view of Paul's thought, showing him to be a truly radical thinker whose ideas of Christian community fit neither his own times nor ours, but offer a new and better way to all who will dare to accept it.
This is not a how-to book. Bank's doesn't give you a list of how to be church. What he does do, very well, is to pull out the themes, the underlying principles, that Paul uses to create his communities. These are the real gems, the unchanging values that need to be re-fleshed in every generation and society.
Finally, this is a book by a scholar, but it is not a "scholarly" book. It is written with the serious student in mind and is accessible to anyone willing to think through the issues of the new testament. It won't appeal to those looking for quick answers or to those looking to bolster an existing mindset, but to those who want to know what Paul actually said and thought, it is a must-read.
People that aren't ready to have their assumptions challenged and practices critiqued should steer clear of this book. The interesting thing is that Robert Banks doesn't jump in your face with his critiques. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find any real, upfront criticism of church practice. He moreorless leaves that alone. But he puts things in such a way that if you think about the implications of what's actually been said, you may find it difficult to remain the same.
In the book, he takes a detailed look at how the apostle Paul came to spell out what a God directed community of people should be. It's in that 'looking at' that the surprizes occur. It also leaves us with the sobering thought that the church as originally envisaged is light years away from what currently exists- for the most part. If you've come to find yourself bored or unsatisfied with your church existence, or simply aware that there's "more" but can't put your finger on it, this is one of a group of books that should take up permanent space on your shelf for the next while.
It can be a bit of a heavy read. I struggled to get past the first couple of chapters. But from there on it was rivetting !
Banks does a good job in correcting a lot of simplistic and populist ideas about the early church and grounds his analsys in first century contemporary culture and the biblical record. Unlike many of his contemporaries he does not restrict himself to the so-called 'seven indubitable texts of Paul but draws on the whole corpus.
A thorough work, an accessible and enjoyable style makes this an excellent read.