Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BETS 8:4 (Fall 1965) p. 175
Paul and James. By Walter Schmithals. Translated by D. M. Barton. (“Studies in Biblical Theology,” No. 46.) London: S. C. M. Press, 1965. 117 pages plus bibliography and indices. 18s. (= $2.52).
Three Crucial Decades. By Floyd V. Filson. London: Epworth Press, 1964. 118 pages. 10/6 (= $1.47).
Reviewed by Dr. Richard N. Longenecker, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.
Two small, yet significant, works on early Christianity have recently reached the English-speaking public. Walter Schmithals’ Paul and James was published first, in German in 1963 and now in English in 1965. Floyd Filson’s Three Crucial Decades represents the Smyth Lectures at Columbia Seminary in 1962, but took printed form only in 1964. While both deal with similar matters, their treatments are decidedly different in style and metholology — and often in conclusions. Schmithals writes as an academician with extensive footnoting; though, sadly, with a narrow and heavily weighted selection of sources. He follows Dibelius’ form-criticism and had a profound skepticism of the historical value of Acts. Filson presents his material in popular fashion, gives only an occasional footnote, and has a high regard for the narrative of Acts. His constant attempt is to understand Acts on its own terms before attempting any reconstruction of the narrative, and his judgments reflect a broad range of scholarship.
In opposition to Tuebingen, and following the lines laid out in his 1956 Die Gnosis in Korinth, Schmithals’ thesis is that the Pauline opponents in all of the apostle’s churches (Galatia as well as Corinth) were Jewish or Jewish-Christian gnostics who as such had little or nothing to do with the primitive Jewish-Christian church; that Paul and the Jerusalem church (the whole, and especially James) were always concerned to preserve the unity of the church, and differed only in their sense of mission.
In demonstration of his thesis, Schmithals enters into a reconstruction of apostolic history. And in the process he makes many significant observations; e. g., on the practical necessity for the Jerusalem Christians to keep the Law if they would retain a measure of peace and their mission to Israel, on Paul’s recognition and appreciation of the difficult straits the Jerusalem Christians were in, on the collection for the saints as an expression of unity without the connotation of a legal levy, and on Paul’s willingness to keep the Jewish law in his last visit to Jerusalem. But in his acceptance of “Luke” as a second century author and of Acts as requiring twentieth century reorganization, the “ought to have beens” and “must have beens” dominate to the detriment of sound h...
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