The Gospel to the Nations: Perspectives on Paul’s Mission edited by Peter Bolt & Mark Thompson

The Gospel to the Nations: Perspectives on Paul’s Mission edited by Peter Bolt & Mark Thompson (Leicester: Apollos, 2000).

This is a collection of essays commissioned in honour of Peter Thomas O’Brien, the Vice-Principal of Moore Theological College, Sydney and distinguished Pauline scholar. The list of contributors is suitably awe-inspiring, including (amongst others) Paul Barnett, Peter Bolt, Don Carson, William Dumbrell, Graeme Goldsworthy, Peter Jensen, Edwin Judge, Andreas Köstenberger, Richard Longenecker, I. H. Marshall, Ralph Martin, David Peterson, Donald Robinson, Moisés Silva, David Wenham, and Bruce Winter.

The book opens with a short appreciation of O’ Brien by Peter Jensen. The rest of the book is structured around the themes of “Paul’s Mission in Biblical Theological Perspective”, “Paul’s Mission…”, “…To The Nations”, and “Paul’s Mission and Later Developments” with several essays presented under each heading. Most of the articles interact in a significant way with O’ Brien’s work not merely to flatter the recipient of this festschrift but, one suspects, because his own work in these very areas has been so stimulating and significant over the years.

Particular highlights for this reviewer were Shead’s essay on the new covenant; Peterson’s article on maturity, where he focuses on Paul’s reference to maturity as the goal of his mission and the consequent ministry of proclamation that he adopted; Kruse’s examination of “Ministry in the wake of Paul’s mission”; Köstenberger’s judicious treatment of Pauline practice in regard to women which looks at both narrative passages and doctrinal teaching, concluding that women were “thoroughly integrated in the Pauline churches” and had a vital role with significant, but not ultimate, responsibility; Bruce Winter’s fascinating article on the logistical difficulties and personal dangers involved in Paul’s mission, where he concludes that “there has never been an ‘ideal’ age where society found the Christian message one that was amenable to its aspirations” (page 294); and the excellent example in Thompson’s final essay, of what I call “integrated theology”, where Biblical, Doctrinal, and Pastoral concerns are related in a learned yet powerfully relevant way. These are only highlights: almost every contribution was a joy to read.

It would be nice to have the footnotes at the foot of the page (where they belong!), and I was surprised not to find a complete bibliography of works by Peter O’ Brien at the end of the volume, but these are minor quibbles which it is almost churlish to mention. To sum up, this is a thoroughly nutritious 24-course meal which is both a delight to the eyes and food for the soul, containing a balanced diet of meaty scholarship, refreshing insight, and tasty application. Being cheaper than a three course meal in an average Italian restaurant (only £16-99!) this is a book which every scholar and pastor can store on the shelf and nibble at when in need of spiritual sustenance.

This review was first published in Churchman 115/2 (2001).

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