The Church and Its Mission in the New Testament and Early Christianity

Essays in Memory of Hans Kvalbein

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David E. Aune, Reidar Hvalvik
  • Tübingen, Germany: 
    Mohr Siebeck
    , May
     330 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


This volume is a collection of fifteen essays on the theme of the church and mission in the New Testament and early Christianity. The essays were collected in memory of Hans Kvalbein, and amongst the essays are a survey of Kvalbein’s academic career and a bibliography of Kvalbein’s academic publications. The editors selected four essays to represent the Gospels, four essays for Acts, two for Paul, two for later New Testament contributions, and two for the Early Church. Preceding the essays, David Aune wrote an introduction which contains an abstract for each chapter.

All the essays focus on the theme of mission and the early church as prescribed by the title, but the articles vary in their direct correspondence. Following the essays, Reidar Hvalvik presents the bibliography of Hans Kvalbein’s scholarly publications. Alongside the editors, the volume includes notable contributors who have published many books with some of whom have contributed to the WUNT series such as Ernst Baasland, Reinhard Feldmeier, and Karl Olav Sandnes. This work is in keeping with the WUNT 1 series by providing interdisciplinary work from international scholars about the traditions and themes of the New Testament. Students and scholars alike will benefit from reading this volume.

The number of essays prohibits a detailed review of each essay, but space allows for an overview of the work as a whole, along with a closer review of standout essays. The editors organize the volume well and carefully curated the essays. Aune’s introduction is clear and accurate, and his essay summaries provide greater detail than traditional abstracts. It would behoove one to read Aune’s summaries prior to engaging with corresponding essays. Aune’s summary can provide clarity to the corresponding essay or allow the reader to learn in advance if the article is suitable for their research or interest. The editors found cohesion, which surpassed the broad category of the church and its mission. Two articles discuss Luke’s use of the term “The Way” and an additional article relates to describing Peter on his Way. Also, two essays from the Paul section write on Galatians 3 and Romans 4, two texts which have long been studied together. Cumulatively, the articles provide quality biblical research and paint a picture of the early church and its mission.

Two essays stand out in the volume: “John’s Prophetic Commission and the People of the World” by Aune, and “Mapping ‘πάντα τά ἔθνη’: The Geographical Horizon of Early Christian Mission” by Oskar Skarsaune. Aune examines the prophetic calls in Revelation (Rev 1:9-20; 10:8-11) to show that God is addressing both Jews and Gentiles (211). Aune presents two prominent literary features of prophetic writings, which distinguish prophetic writing from apocalyptic writing (212). With an inner-biblical examination, Aune reexamines the textual similarities of Rev 10:8-11 and Ezek 2:8-3:4, and Aune proposes a different translation and understanding of the passage in contrast to Aune’s previous understanding of the passage in Aune’s commentary on Revelation (Aune, Revelation 6-16, Zondervan, 1998). In the essay, Aune finds that Rev 10:11 calls John to prophesy about many peoples and nations and tongues and kings (216). Aune then provides an analysis of the four groups that occur seven times throughout the book of Revelation. This analysis concludes that the book of Revelation is for Jews and Gentiles (225).

Skarsaune’s essay stands out because it rounds out the interdisciplinary work with a geographical look into the 1st century. Skarsaune provides insight into the cognitive environment of 1st-century people by examining their understanding of the geography of the world via maps. Skarsaune uses the “Table of Nations” in Genesis 10 and “The Map of the World in Jubilees 8.10-9.15” (286). Skarsaune concludes that early Christians would not have conceived of reaching “all nations” as an abstract concept, but early Christians would have envisioned names of real people groups and places on maps (297).

Like all anthologies, there are slight discontinuities. On a macro scale, the final two chapters do not fit as seamlessly with the others. The discontinuity may be because of moving from research from within the Bible, a cohesive work itself, to research in extra-biblical texts. Other discontinuities occur between the essays, but their impact is negligible—for example, both Jesus and Paul are said to be the main protagonist of Acts (174).

The volume is suitable to scholars, students, and pastors, but the volume may be most accessible to scholars specializing in historical or biblical studies and pastors or scholars interested in Aune’s research in Revelation. Out of the many essays in the volume, historical or biblical scholars may find the interdisciplinary study by Halvor Moxnes most difficult to understand. In the essay, Moxnes examines Pauline literature via a memory analysis or psychoanalysis, “Who are the Children of Abraham in Romans 4? Retelling the Memory of Abraham ‘our Ancestor.’”

The Church and Its Mission in the New Testament and Early Christianity is another excellent volume in the WUNT series by Mohr Siebeck. The book presents a cohesive body of work07/1, which delivers on the promise inherent in the title. New Testament scholars will benefit most from these essays, which provide fresh insight into the early Church and the Church’s mission.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Ross D. Harmon is a doctoral student in Biblical Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Date of Review: 
July 10, 2020
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

David E. Aune is Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame.

Reidar Hvalvik is Professor in New Testament studies at MF Norwegian School of Theology.


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