- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: Wipf & Stock Pub (June 30, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1592447473
- ISBN-13: 978-1592447473
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament: The Sarum Lectures 1960-1961 Paperback – June 30, 2004
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Top customer reviews
The book is comprised of a series of eight lectures covering many details of the history of the NT. The final lecture is on the question of historicity, and Sherwin-White's arguments reach their zenith. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. He compares the Gospels and Acts with other ancient histories such as those by Tacitus, Suetonius, and Herodotus. He argues that application of the same methods used by higher critics of the NT would not call into question the basic historicity of these sources. Thus he can say that "it is astonishing that while Graeco-Roman historians have been growing in confidence, the twentieth-century study of the Gospel narratives, starting from no less promising material, has taken so gloomy a turn . . ."
At a mere 193 pages this book is a goldmine of scholarly arguments against some of the sheer skeptical nonsense floating around the internet these days. While amateur skeptics (and some professional ones who should know better) debunk the New Testament with one absurd fact-free theory after another, Sherwin-White is a reminder that such theories have no solid foundation in historiography. These arguments place a much greater burden on the skeptic who would insist that the Gospels and Acts have no basis in history and make it a much more difficult task for them to explain them away as myths and legends that developed over a long period of time.
This book is highly recommended for those interested in historical apologetics of the New Testament. Those who are interested in a neutral but scholarly perspective on higher criticism of the New Testament in the light of ancient Roman historiography will also benefit from giving this one a thorough read.
It is a small book, but its size is inversely proportional to its weight. It is useful for the Christian who wishes to inform his understanding of the juridical aspects of the narrative. It should be a part of every Christian's library, but it is also valuable to the student of the period or of Roman law in general, irrespective of his religious beliefs.
I have no regrets investing in this one. It's also just a plain old interesting read. Its numerous citations to other works in this field will prove useful to anyone who is interested in this subject.
Note- I plan on rereading this one. That is a testament to both its detail and its worth. Although being somewhat literate in Latin and Greek would help the reader, the author does provide translations much of the time.
Why only 4 starts then? Well, let's call it 4.75. I ding it a quarter star simply because, as an adaptation from lectures, the flow is not as smooth as the reader might like. The reader can slog a while between natural divisions or breaks, wishing for a new chapter or at least a subheader so he can bookmark it until his next sitting, but that speaks more to our modern preference for reading in sprints than it does to the merits of this book, I suppose.
But let me close with this: if you have any interest at all in the study of the NT, or of Roman Law for its own sake, your library is incomplete until you acquire Sherwin-White's magisterial treatment on Roman Law in the NT.
Sherwin-White notes that Greco-Roman historic "romances" of the 1st-2nd centuries CE commonly, no matter what "person" the narrative had been voiced in up to that point, switch to first person plural when the protagonist is about to embark on a shipboard voyage, then switch back when the voyage ends. Except for one alternative in one portion, but not all, of the Western text with one of Paul's voyages, the "we" sections in Acts conform perfectly to that.