BMCR 2007.03.23

The New Testament and Early Christian Literature in Greco-Roman Context: Studies in Honor of David E. Aune. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 122

, The New Testament and Early Christian Literature in Greco-Roman Context: Studies in Honor of David E. Aune. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 122. Leiden: Brill, 2006. xv, 468. $195.00.

Table of Contents

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The distinguished New Testament scholar David Aune, who turned 65 in 2004, is honored in this volume by an impressive range of papers by senior colleagues and former pupils in both the United States and Europe. Among his several books, the magisterial three-volume commentary on Revelation perhaps comes to mind first as his major contribution to New Testament studies. His other books include the recent Westminster Dictionary of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and Rhetoric (2004), which has received high praise. From the immense number of articles penned by Aune for dictionaries and encyclopedias, it is clear that he has been able to speak with authority on almost every topic connected with the New Testament and its world.

The essays in this volume range over the New Testament and Early Christian Literature, always, as the title indicates, with a view to some connection with the Greco-Roman world in which they came into being. The remarkable richness of the material still available to this line of approach is demonstrated by these quality essays. I select some for brief summary, not to discriminate among them but to give some idea of the character and content of the contributions (21 in all).

Part one opens with Calvin J. Roetzel’s paper, intended to raise “tough questions” in the spirit of Aune’s scholarship. He explores the surprising layers of meaning in the terms Ioudaios and Israelites as used by Paul and the unfinished business of describing them. Peder Borgen’s paper aims to demonstrate, from Pauline texts, especially Romans, and from parallels outside the New Testament, Paul’s understanding that Christ was indeed executed by crucifixion as a criminal, but from the Christian perspective he did not die for his own crimes, but for ours. John Fotopoulos applies archaeological expertise to show that the fountain called Lerna was some distance from the Asklepieion temenos, not within it, as has been supposed. The Asklepieion had its own spring and dining room complex where sacrificial food was unquestionably served. Some New Testament commentators on the idol-food issue in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians have been led on a false trail by the misidentification. Troy W. Martin’s paper is worth reading just for its opening dedication. It brings to the discussion of Paul’s pneuma statements something neglected so far, the context provided by ancient medical texts.

In part two, Loveday Alexander takes us into the fascinating world of an actual travel itinerary and related documents in the archive of Theophanes. Though later than, and very different in kind from the literary travel narrative in Acts, these documents offer very suggestive parallels and data. John T. Fitzgerald’s interesting essay on perjury compares Homeric practice with the current law of the United States and finds differences that are not widely appreciated. Though the New Testament and its world do not figure, the essay offers useful pointers for future study of that period and, indeed, for a whole history of perjury, as the author suggests.

In part three, Jörg Frey takes issue with Aune himself on the significance of the Roman Imperial cult for interpreting the Book of Revelation. Whereas Aune’s commentary now works with a theory of two editions and downplays the importance of this aspect, Frey disagrees and takes us back to Aune’s “pioneering” 1983 article on the subject as a better foundation. David L. Balch taps a rich vein of enquiry in exploring the question of what mythological frescoes and the like John and his hearers would have actually seen around them in their houses and temples at the time when his word-pictures were composed. Balch’s most important thesis is that John’s portrait in Rev 12 of a woman bearing a son threatened by a monster “is a visual/verbal representation that subverts the Imperial visual representation of a pregnant Io/Isis/Venus.” Seven plates of artworks from Pompeii and Rome illustrate the discussion.

In part five, the first paper, by Margaret M. Mitchell, both agrees with the importance attached to the ancient rhetorical handbooks in New Testament exegesis today and stresses the need for greater sensitivity and depth of acquaintance in using them. A case discussed in detail shows an early Christian exegete explicitly referring to the rhetorical handbooks in a refutation of Origen, but this is a rarity among writers who took for granted the common ground of their training in the rhetorical arts. Reidar Hvalvik’s powerful essay on the so-called “transmission of the law” motif in art and literature provides the key to its true interpretation. It is in essence a representation of Christ giving the gospel message to the disciples, represented by “the two princes among them,” Peter and Paul, and commissioning them to preach it to the nations. All the elements in the scene and the links to biblical passages are convincingly explained.

This book is both a splendid tribute to David Aune and a valuable contribution to the general field and the specific topics addressed by its learned contributors. The volume is attractively produced, though not without the usual crop of errors in Greek accentuation and spelling (see, e.g., pp. 32, 77, 78, 82, 91, 98, 117, 131, 136, 158, 160, 161, 325, 340, 343, 344, 346, 357, 358, 363, 364).



Calvin J. Roetzel, ” Ioudaioi and Paul.”

Peder Borgen, “Crucified for His Own Sins — Crucified for Our Sins: Observations on a Pauline Perspective.”

John Fotopoulos, “The Misidentification of Lerna Fountain at Corinth: Implications for Interpretations of the Corinthian Idol-Food Issue (1 Cor 8:1-11:1).”

Paul Hartog, “‘Not Even Among the Pagans’ (1 Cor 5:1): Paul and Seneca on Incest.”

Dennis C. Duling, “2 Corinthians 11:22: Historical Context, Rhetoric, and Ethnic Identity.”

Thomas H. Tobin, SJ, “The World of Thought in the Philippians Hymn (Philippians 2:6-11).”

Troy W. Martin, “Paul’s Pneumatological Statements and Ancient Medical Texts.”

PART TWO: γοσπελσ

David P. Moessner, “‘Listening Posts’ along the Way: ‘Synchronisms’ as Metaleptic Prompts to the ‘Continuity of the Narrative’ in Polybius’ Histories and in Luke’s Gospel-Acts. A Tribute to David E. Aune.”

Loveday Alexander, “The Pauline Itinerary and the Archive of Theophanes.” Urban C. von Wahlde, “Judas, the Son of Perdition, and the Fulfillment of Scripture in John 17:12.”

John T. Fitzgerald, “Perjury in Ancient Religion and Modern Law: A Comparative Analysis of Perjury in Homer and United States Law.”

Hans Kvalbein, “The Kingdom of the Father in the Gospel of Thomas.”


Jörg Frey, “The Relevance of the Roman Imperial Cult for the Book of Revelation: Exegetical and Hermeneutical Reflections on the Relation between the Seven Letters and the Visionary Main Part of the Book.”

Jan Willem van Henten, “Ruler or God? The Demolition of Herod’s Eagle.”

David L. Balch, “‘A Woman Clothed with the Sun’ and the ‘Great Red Dragon’ Seeking to ‘Devour Her Child’ (Rev 12:1, 4) in Roman Domestic Art.”

James H. Charlesworth, “Prolegomenous Reflections on Ophidian Iconography, Symbology, and New Testament Theology.”


Torrey Seland, “Philo, Magic and Balaam: Neglected Aspects of Philo’s Exposition of the Balaam Story.”


Margaret M. Mitchell, “Rhetorical Handbooks in Service of Biblical Exegesis: Eustathius of Antioch Takes Origen Back to School.”

Robert M. Grant, “Views of Mental Illness among Greeks, Romans, and Christians.”

Reidar Hvalvik, “Christ Proclaiming His Law to the Apostles: The Traditio Legis -Motif in Early Christian Art and Literature.”

James A. Kelhoffer, “Early Christian Ascetic Practices and Biblical Interpretation: The Witnesses of Galen and Tatian.”