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New Testament World, Third Edition, Revised and Expanded: Insights from Cultural Anthropology (Revised, Expanded) Paperback – 1 Feb 2001
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About the Author
Bruce J. Malina is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity of the Department of Theology at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
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"The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology" attempts to explain the culture of the 1st century Mediterranean world with particular emphasis on the Jews of the Bible. Honor, patronage, kinship, and ritual purity are covered as you might expect, but it plumbs them to a much greater depth. Here are some of the cultural facets that Malina attempts to explain:
1) Honor - what is it? How can honor be earned or lost? What is considered honorable? What is expected of an honorable male or female, lower class, or elite class member? What kind of examples in history demonstrate honor and shame in action?
2) Marriage - what values were attached to marriage in the 1st century? Who were eligible to be married and where would they seek their marriage partner? What role did marriage play in the kin? What marriage strategies were used in the different time periods of the Bible? What about divorce? When is divorce acceptable?
3) Kinship - who was considered kin? How important was your kin? What duties must one perform or live up to?
4) Relations with people outside of kin - what is a dyadic contract? A patron-client relationship? When would you seek such a relationship? How did one repay debts?
5) Ritual purity - what are purity maps? What purpose did they serve? Do we have parallels in our modern culture to ritual purity? What did one have to do to be considered ritually pure and what did one have to do should they defile themselves to be restored to purity?
6) Personalities of the First Century - how did a 1st century Jew view themselves? What kind of personality did they have? How does this relate to any other cultural consideration (honor, purity, and so on)?
7) Social activist groups - how common were they? How did they form? Why did they form? How does Jesus' little group of followers relate to other social groups of His time?
And above all, Malina attempts to tie all these in to Biblical accounts. One thing is for certain - if you can read and you read it with an open mind, this book will teach you things. You will never read your Bible the same way again.
Each chapter ends with a nice summary, there are several useful graphs to help you understand difficult, abstract concepts, and the book ends with study questions that you can use to test your understanding. All in all, this is a solid book for understanding the social context of the Bible.
So was there anything bad? Well, Malina tends to repeat himself at times and maybe it was just me, but he would at least appear to go off on tangents and explain things that might be considered irrelevant (at least to me); but there's nothing really obviously bad with this book. It's throughly documented, and the index in the back is invaluable as it lists topics with page numbers and a list of scripture references.
Final verdict - a definite buy, provided you don't mind swimming in deeper waters as opposed to some more novice-friendly books such as HPKRP.
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