Beginning From Jerusalem: v. 2 (Christianity in the Making) Hardcover – 1 Apr 2009
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"Dale C. Allison Jr."-- Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Mastery of the primary and secondary sources, creativity balanced by sound judgment, and breadth of treatment based upon thorough attention to the details: this is what we have come to expect from James Dunn, and this is what we have in this book. A magnificent review and evaluation of all the major critical issues regarding the first forty years of the Christian religion. Larry W. Hurtado-- University of Edinburgh This mega-study of earliest Christianity combines panoramic scope, attention to specific issues and relevant evidence, familiarity with current scholarship, and a readable style. The vigorous but cordial treatment of disputed matters will not always convince but is invariably stimulating. One can only admire the bold breadth of coverage. This is vintage Dunn, a harvest of his scholarly career. David P. Moessner--University of Dubuque Theological Seminary and University of Pretoria James Dunn's "Beginning from Jerusalem" is a teacher's dream come true. In this sequel volume to "Jesus Remembered, " Dunn steers his readers through a whirlwind of beginnings in the most formative period of Christianity, 3070 ce, visiting both New Testament scenes and significant Greco-Roman sites that bring those texts to life. But unlike the usual broad-brush approach to Christianity's origins, Dunn probes into the heartthrob of these texts such that his readers experience the historical surprises and existential mysteries of this emerging faith' as it pulsates from within Judaism and courses out into the Gentile world. . . . Combining both Dunn's enormous learning and his original insights, this very readable volume will quickly become the preferred textbook of university and seminary classes alike. "
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Top Customer Reviews
I am still struggling with volume one: it is an excellent piece of scholarship by James D. G. Dunn but, at a thousand or so pages it test my ageing stamina!! Meanwhile this volume two appears to be of the same fine quality of the first volume, though I will only formally receive it from my wife on Christmas Day. During 2011 I may become more familiar with its content, and that will be one of the joys of the New Year.
I'm looking forward to Christmas 2011 by which time James Dunn may have produced volume three of the trilogy -- and I have no doubt that I shall receive the same excellent service!
Thanks to everyone involved.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
of the earth(Acts 1:8). And getting to the end of this book at times
seems less daunting, but the second volume of James Dunn's
"Christianity In The Making" is well worth the effort.
A comprehensive review would be exhaustive and lengthy,but Dunn
provides fascinating ideas and observations for the novice as well as
the informed, so we may at least review a few of the salient features
of this massive survey, with an eye on what other scholars think.
*Dunn believes Christianity in it's earliest days was characterized
by considerable diversity(p.7/n14),contrary to the opinion of the more
conservative Luke Timothy Johnson("The Real Jesus",p.118),and that
the variety of terms used for the Christians indicates their inchoate
character, so that earliest Christianity was not a single "thing"(p.16).
Dunn thinks that while Acts wants to highlight the Christian sect's unity,
the epistles of Paul tell a different tale, and "any suggestion that
Christianity began with an idyllic apostolic age,with all apostles working
in close harmony all the time, begins to look doubtful" (p.85/n126).In
this outlook Dunn seems to be in agreement with Joseph Fitzmyer,who
thinks that while Paul believed in one God, one Lord, and one Gospel,
he could not bring himself to speak of "one church"(Anchor Bible vol.32,
*Dunn sees a substantial gap between memories of Jesus' self-estimation and
the proclamation of Paul(p.24-5),yet sees the apotheosis(glorification)of
Jesus as having it's origin in a Jewish matrix(p.27),and as having been
already well-developed in the 40s of the first century(p.18/n75).This is a
remarkable fact, since "in the faith of the (religious) community, the
image of the founder usually takes on superhuman features", as with
Zarathustra, Confucius, Mani, Muhammed and Buddha, but while these
features took centuries to develop in the aforesaid examples, in the
case of Jesus the process seems to have taken place almost overnight,
in just a few years(Oepke in Theological Dictionary Of The New
*Dunn sets aside the theories of some other scholars that Gnosticism
had already developed to a substantial degree before the advent of
Christianity(p.41-2),and in this he is in agreement with both Fitzmyer
(Anchor Bible vol.31,p.404)and Oepke(Theological Dictionary Of The
New Testament vol.3,p.582/n37),though it has been acknowledged that
"proto-Gnostic" elements appear in many portions of the New testament
(See Fitzmyer, Anchor Bible vol.31,p.404):(Meier,"A Marginal Jew"
*Dunn thinks the speeches in the early chapters of Acts have a
primitive look but lack the theology of atonement(p.90-2),as observed
also by Ben F.Meyer("The Aims Of Jesus",p.61)and Ernst Haenchen,who
observes that the absence of atonement theology is true for Luke in
general ("Acts Of The Apostles",p.131):(cf.Conzelmann, "Theology Of
*Dunn is uncomfortable with the idea of Jesus traditions owing their
origins to the needs of the early Christian communities,in direct opposition
to the form-critics(p.111/n236),beginning with Rudolf Bultmann,the chief
pioneer of this school of thought("History Of The Synoptic Tradition",p.11,
374):(cf. Mack," The Lost Gospel",p.32).
*Dunn thinks early church tradition is not associated with leading
disciples (as noted also by Haenchen, "Acts Of The Apostles",p.35)
because it was the tradition itself,not it's carriers which bore the stamp of
authority,citing rabbinic parallels(p.114-5).We might note that this brings
to mind the observation of Burton Mack, that none of the disciples named
by Paul or Mark are named in the Sayings Source Q("The Lost Gospel"
*Dunn refutes the view that oral tradition blocks access to the historical
Jesus(p.175n23),in disagreement with, among others, John Dominic
Crossan ("The Birth Of Christianity",p.403).
*As the Messianic proof-text of Psalm 16:8-11 is used only in Acts(2:25-
28):(13:35):(p.90),Dunn thinks it was likely "tried and then discarded"(p.
190/n83),suggesting a possible shift of emphasis in the Christian message
as the Christian target audience shifted, from promoting Jesus as the
Messiah to Jews, to promoting Jesus as the path around full law-observance,
*Dunn does not think Jesus was initially remembered for speaking of his
parousia(the second coming of Christ):(p.225),and indeed it seems that in Q
the "Son of Man" is to be "revealed"(Luke 17:30),not seen "coming"(James
Robinson, "The Gospel Of Jesus",p.53), for "erchomai"("to come"), as used
in the New Testament, often means "to come out in the open" or "to come
forward publicly"(Schneider in Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament
*Dunn thinks the claim that God has "made (Jesus) Lord and Christ"(Acts
2:36) is unlikely to reflect "deep thinking" about the divinity of Jesus(p.220-1),
since Jewish thought was already familiar with divine roles being attributed
to mortals, as reflected in the visionary literature of the time(Jubilees 4.17-24):
(First Enoch 12-16),as well as in the Dead Sea Scrolls(11Q Melch 13-14).In
this Dunn differs with Fitzmyer(Anchor Bible vol.31,p.260-1) who thinks Acts 2:36
implies equality with God, and that the Christians took over and used titles
applied to Jehoveh and applied them to Jesus at an early date(but cf. Phil 2:6).
*Dunn postulates that "confessional formulae" were translated into Greek
very early for the "Hellenists" of the church at Jerusalem(cf.Acts 6:1),since he
posits that these "Hellenists" were called such because they spoke only
Greek(p.231).This would allow for the possibility that the dominical "logia",the
sayings of Jesus, might also have been translated into Greek for the Hellenist
members of the very early church, since Helmut Koester has opined that such
a process must have taken place "several decades" before the earliest Gospel
(Mark)was written(c.70 C.E.):("Introduction To The New Testament" vol.1,
All these ideas are found in the first 20% of Dunn's work, and one could go
on at great length extolling the great care and extreme erudition that has gone
into "Beginning From Jerusalem". It is an essential resource for anyone who is
serious about the study of earliest Christianity, but would also serve as a
suitable reference source for the more casual student. I highly recommend it.
Mustard Seed: On The Growth Of Earliest Christianity
BEGINNING FROM ANTIOCH?
In the First Phase of the earliest Christian community in Jerusalem, Dunn argues for a Hellenistic origin to the sacrificial theology evidenced by the Christian creed in 1 Cor 15:3f: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…” The Hellenists were likely from Antioch and elsewhere in the diaspora, and the confessional formula was “composed by and for the Greek-speaking converts” (232). The testimony of Acts, according to Dunn, “tells decisively against the possibility that Jesus intended to establish a new cult in place of the Temple” (233; but whence Mark 13’s Olivet Discourse?). The summary here closed with a question: “Is it simpler to deduce that the understanding of Jesus’ death as an atoning sacrifice had never been clearly expounded in the church in Jerusalem?” (235). For Dunn, the sacrificial death motif is found in Hebrews and, to a lesser extent, in the epistles of Paul. The theory of a Hellenistic provenance for a sacrificially atoning death by Jesus continues to inform ch. 24 (241-321). The theory can be summarized neatly as follows: (1) Saul’s persecution scattered the earliest believers in Jerusalem, resulting in Hellenists taking the Jesus traditions to Antioch. (2) Upon their return to Jerusalem, the Hellenists had new insight into Jesus’ death, understanding it both as a sacrifice for sins and as subversive of the Temple cult in Jerusalem. This is why no pre-formed Aramaic tradition of the creed can be discerned behind 1 Cor 15:3f, according to Dunn, since the tradition is said not to begin with the Hebraists. While the study is impressive, the reader of Dunn cannot help but ask: Is it really plausible that the earliest Greek-speaking Jewish Christians, after being scattered and catechized anew in Antioch, returned to Jerusalem with a fresh counter-Temple doctrine, and successfully instructed the Apostles themselves on the meaning of Jesus’ death? Or that they held to and taught their own novel tradition successfully and alongside the true apostolic witnesses?
THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL AND THE ANTIOCH INCIDENT
In many ways chapter 27, “Crisis and Confrontation,” is the most important in the book since it demonstrates with great skill how Dunn understands the distinctiveness of Peter’s gospel to the circumcised and Paul’s gospel to the uncircumcised (Gal 2:7), and how each apostle’s mission was answerable to James in Jerusalem, and answerable to one another. “Crisis” designates the Jerusalem Council’s decision on gentile circumcision (Acts 15:5); and “Confrontation” denotes Paul’s confrontation with Peter in Antioch over Peter’s return to Jewish dietary laws (Gal 2:11-14). Faith alone is unquestionably (and rightly) the chief principle involved in the theology of Paul, according to Dunn (see subheadings “b” and “c” under §27.5, 484f; here 487): “The events at Antioch showed Paul that the teaching had to be sharpened – faith in Christ and not works of the law.” And again: “In defining acceptability to God, and therefore of believers to one another, nothing should be added to the gospel’s call for faith; faith in Christ alone is the sole basis for Christian unity.” The last quote given demonstrates that there is a common core holding Christianity together at this early stage, which is faith in Christ – though for James and Peter it is not faith alone. Nevertheless, it is this core that forms the basis of fellowship between Jew and Gentile. This basis of unity also does not eliminate the distinctive features remaining between the Jewish Christianity of Jerusalem, with James at the helm and Peter as its missionary, and the Gentile Christianity of Paul’s diaspora missions, which taught a more homogenous gospel with former divisions such as Jew and Greek evidently absorbed entirely into Christology.
It seems the Apostolic Decree delivered by James which declared that circumcision was not required by Gentiles (God accepts Gentiles precisely as Gentiles; cf. 442-5, 461-9), still retained a Torah-abiding Jewish Christian gospel that was in fundamental disagreement with Paul’s Torah-less gospel. Again, Torah-keeping Jewish Christianity is upheld by James (461-9; esp.467; cf. also James’ “law of liberty” in Jas 1:25; 2:12, pp. 1141-2), and Gentile converts are expected to respect their customs, even where these customs cause them to be set apart from Gentiles. Dunn tantalizingly notes Ernst Haenchen who explains that the Decree is actually consistent with Torah legislation concerning foreigners in the land of Israel (466 n.222; 468 n.231; citing Lev 17:8-9,10-14; 18:20,26; Acts 15:23-29). This indicates a Torah-respecting expectation among Jew and Gentile relations within earliest Jerusalem Christianity (467). The decision of the Jerusalem Council was only enforceable where the Jerusalem mother church held influence; the daughter churches being Antioch and Cilicia (468). Dunn further points out that fundamental for the decision reached by the council was the recognition that the Gentiles had been given the Holy Spirit just as the Jews in the beginning – though Paul leaves this part out.
The Confrontation, i.e., the incident at Antioch, follows next (470-89). Galatians 2:14, Dunn says, should not be taken “to indicate that Peter and the Jewish believers had totally abandoned the law governing relations between Jews and Gentiles” (473). Faith alone was Paul’s answer for the Antioch incident (487), but Peter does not seem to have acquiesced. This confrontation concerning the place of Torah becomes a clash of apostolic titans (491), resulting in an effective fracture between Peter and Paul and their respective churches (491), with Antioch and Cilicia following Peter, and Paul continuing, as his corpus shows, to vie for his gospel against the Judaizers within his Asian and Aegean churches.
Dunn notes Acts 16:4, which states that Paul and Timothy delivered the findings of the Apostolic Decree to Paul’s previously evangelized churches. Dunn writes that this “may also indicate a concern on Paul’s part to ensure that these churches did not follow the path chosen by Peter and the Antiochenes” (665). The context of Acts 16 verse 4 does lend credibility to Dunn’s schism thesis since it suggests that Paul may have only circumcised Timothy to avoid trouble with the Judaizers. Overall, however, the findings of the chapter, as argued by Dunn, do not clearly follow from his presentation. While he demonstrates a contrast, or disagreement, over Torah between Paul and the Jerusalem Pillars, Dunn concludes that it is actually a fracture (489-94), with Jerusalem prevailing and Paul’s influence in areas of Jerusalem influence significantly curtailed (494). This means a full break between Paul and Peter and James.
In sum, concerning the confrontation between Peter and Paul over Torah “it was Peter who prevailed,” though the reader of Paul’s account would not have known it (490). Again, though, has Dunn really demonstrated that the clash of the titans was a schism – a split of the churches according to their apostolic leaders? The intensity of the schism as described by Dunn speaks to F. C. Baur’s continued influence in the thinking of Dunn, and of early Christian studies.
JAMES AND PETER
In stark contrast to his treatment of Paul (over five-hundred pages; pp. 495-1057), Dunn briefly sketches James (1122-47) and Peter (378-415; 1058-76). Since the primary thesis of the book is to demonstrate the variegated nature of early Christianity, that is that James, Peter, and Paul makeup different types of Christian subgroups, it is somewhat disappointing that two of the Pillars (Gal 2:9) of nascent Christianity are given so little treatment.
In his examination of the Epistle of James, Dunn identifies several aphorisms of Jesus mostly drawn from the Sermon on the Mount/Plain (1135). The aphoristic teachings are considered by Dunn to be indicative of the impact of the earthly Jesus and of his oral teaching. In this regard James acts as a valuable window into the earliest Jewish Christian followers of Jesus in Jerusalem and Judea. Dunn further finds support for orality in James’ use of wisdom tradition stemming from the Second Temple period, such as the Wisdom of Ben Sira and the Wisdom of Solomon (1133). The noted wisdom citations are not fixed but fluid, indicating a lively, oral presence. It is a nice complement to Dunn’s orality thesis and continued focus.
James’ discussion of “works of law” is further seen as a deliberate affront to Paul, or at least those who have misunderstood Paul (1142, 1144). This is shown to be the case by recognizing the common themes on the discussion in their respective letters: (1) the issue is posed in terms of faith and works (Rom 3:27-28/Jas 2:18); (2) God is claimed as “one” (Rom 3:29-30/Jas 2:19); (3) Abraham’s example is integral to the understanding of faith/works righteousness (Rom 4:1-2/Jas 2:20-22); finally (4) both cite Gen 15:1 (Rom 4:3/Jas 2:20-22) and (5) Gen 15:6 (Rom 4:4-21/Jas 2:23). One might also add the “apart” motif, seen in Rom 3:27 “faith apart from works of the Law,” and seen also in Jas 2:18 and 20, “show me your faith apart from works,” and “faith apart from works is useless.” For Paul it is faith alone, as Dunn impressively points out (482-94); for James it is faith and works together.
James concern for Torah distinguishes him from Pauline Christianity, but not to the degree that F. C. Baur had envisaged, at least according to Dunn (1174). It is rather that they worked together despite their differences of opinion concerning the place of Torah. James’ more conservative Jewish Christianity based in Jerusalem was Torah-keeping, while Paul’s Torah-free gospel was proclaimed in the diaspora among Jews and Gentiles. Peter is seen as a mediating figure who equivocated on the principle, although in Dunn’s work Peter ultimately aligns with James and Torah-based Christianity (1060). But Peter did come to accept, as did James, that due to the movement of the Spirit of God, the Gentiles were accepted precisely as Gentiles (465 n.216), i.e. without circumcision (464).
Aphorisms are also found in 1 Peter (1154), and they too are largely from the Sermon on the Mount/Plain. Refreshingly, concerning the Pauline flavor of 1 Peter, Dunn points out that it is Paul himself who learned from Peter (Gal 1:18), so the direction of transmission may have started with Peter, a point often overlooked. Further, Peter himself should not be considered to have made no impact on his followers, with the result that his epistles cannot in any meaningful way be identified with him (1156). First Peter also reveals no meaningful tension between Jewish and Gentile Christians (1152, 1159), which would speak for an earlier date. On the contrary it presupposes a Jewish audience empty of a gentile presence (see p. 1159; cf. 1 Pet 2:12, 4:3). Dunn concludes that the epistle is very consistent with what we know of Peter’s commission to the circumcised: “the impression is more of one who has had to deal primarily with believers among the Jews of the diaspora, living in hostile Gentile territory” (1159-60).
It seems that the missions of Peter and Paul ran somewhat counter with one-another, or at least can be thought of as competing in some areas, in Dunn’s thought. Though they can be, to be sure, plotted along a spectrum of Christianity holistically understood, the tensions involved in their differing emphases do seem to generate factions within the whole. James and Peter espouse a continuing role for Torah in the life of the Christian communities founded, while Paul adamantly does not (Gal 3:1) – and his many churches are frequently troubled by Judaizers seeking to persuade believers in Messiah Jesus to obey Torah. In the aftermath of the 60s – complete with the loss of many leaders in the Jerusalem church, including Peter, as well as the Jewish War and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple – the ritualistic, Torah-keeping Christianity established in Jerusalem lost its prevailing voice. It will be sometime in the aftermath that Paul’s Torah-less gospel prevails. Or as Dunn tantalizingly closes the volume: “A particular issue will be whether the effective loss of the Jerusalem end of the spectrum was a foreshortening of the spectrum which changed the character of the whole” (1174).
Tantalizing indeed. What is the student to make of such a masterpiece? Greek-speaking Jewish Christianity is not only responsible for originating counter-Temple doctrine and the teaching of the death of Jesus sacrificially understood, but the Hellenists were also formative of, following the Temple’s demise, the eventual theological shape of early Christianity. The increasing Hellenization of early Christianity solidified it as a predominantly Gentile religion in later generations. As a fresh student in early Christianity, the hagiographical impression of the early church Pillars I once held has now been challenged – and challenged deeply. The new lens given by Dunn is carefully crafted, and when the student examines the New Testament with such a lens, many of his theories do seem to make great sense of the data. So where does this leave one so perplexed? A few answers follow.
It has not been convincingly established that a Temple/Torah free gospel is without some precedence in the Jesus tradition (cf. Mark 7:19; 8:31; 9:31; 10:45; 13:1ff.). Peter’s own influence seems closely associated with Torah-free traditions (seen particularly in Mark 7:19b; Acts 10:14; Gal 2:11-14). Nor is Dunn’s hypothesis about an Antiochene/Hellenistic provenance for counter-Temple doctrine – where the first rumblings of a sacrificial death of Christ are said to be located – convincing. Are we to ignore the triple tradition of the Olivet Discourse? Further, the theology of Peter and Paul, in terms of Jesus death understood as sacrificially atoning, stand united in many regards that it seems far-fetched to envision the sort of schism that Dunn does. Faith in Jesus Christ holds the core together, but even here it cannot be agreed that it is faith alone. In sum, too much is made of diversity at the expense of unity.