Handbook of Early Christianity: Social Science Approaches.

Author:Snyder, Graydon F.
Position::Book Review

Handbook of Early Christianity: Social Science Approaches. Ed. Anthony J. Blasi, Jean Duhaime, and Paul-Andre Turcotte. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 2002. xii and 802 pages. Cloth. $100.00.

This impressive tome intends to provide for biblical scholars important insights and results from the social scientific study of the Bible and early church. Twenty-six scholars contribute pertinent material from their fields of expertise. Following a general introduction the book is divided into five sections: methodology, the context of the Jesus movement, the role of power, economics, and psychosocial approaches. It is a very useful work in many respects. The bibliography may nearly be worth the rather uncommon cost of the book. There is an extensive list of references (pp. 643-703) and thorough compilations of sociohistorical studies dealing with major themes or sections of the New Testament (pp. 707-51). These can serve to guide further research. The majority of the essays also make frequent reference to pertinent materials.

I can note only a few of the articles here. David G. Horrell, in "Social Sciences Studying Formative Christian Phenomena: A Creative Movement," provides a necessary and quite extensive introduction to social scientific criticism of the New Testament. Jack T. Sanders has two helpful articles. In "Conversion in Early Christianity" he surveys recent theories regarding the conversion of Gentiles to Christianity and examines available early Christian data. From a sociological standpoint Sanders sees conversion resulting primarily from mutual involvement or encapsulation, but as a historian he emphasizes the rational power of the gospel. In her article, "Archaeological and Architectural Issues and the Question of Demographic and Urban Forms," Carolyn Osiek describes...

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