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Social-Science Commentary (6 vols.)

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Overview

These volumes in the Social-Science Commentary series present a pioneering alternative commentary genre that offers a contextual approach to the study of the New Testament, thoroughly grounded in the original audience’s first-century cultural setting. These commentaries cover the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, the book of Acts, the Deutero-Pauline letters (Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Thessalonians), the letters of Paul, and the book of Revelation. Complete with orienting introductions, illustrative charts, and other supplements, this collection offers rich insights into the the New Testament text through the lens of the original recipients and shows how they would view the world through their experiences, cultural idioms, history, and both aural and written genres. This socio-cultural background drawn from anthropological studies of the Mediterranean social system offers significant clues for filling in the unspoken or implicit elements of Scripture as a Mediterranean reader would have.

In the Logos editions, these valuable volumes are enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture and ancient-text citations link directly to English translations and original-language texts, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. With these social-science commentaries in your library, the Passage Guide, Sermon Starter, and Topic Guides will bring up the relevant sections in a click, so you spend more time studying and less time searching. Tablet and mobile apps let you study on the go. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

For more social-science commentaries from Fortress Press, check out the Social-Science Commentary on the Book of Acts and the Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul.

Key Features

  • Pioneering social-science commentaries
  • A thoroughly contextual look at the New Testament
  • Orienting introductions and illustrative charts and tables

Individual Titles

Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels

  • Authors: Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh
  • Edition: 2nd
  • Series: Social-Science Commentary
  • Publisher: Fortress Press
  • Publication Date: 2003
  • Pages: 456

Sample Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

In this commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, the authors build on their earlier social-scientific work and enhance the highly successful commentary model they developed. This volume is a thoroughly revised edition of this popular commentary. It includes an introduction that lays the foundation for their interpretation, followed by an examination of each unit in the Synoptics, employing methodologies of cultural anthropology, macro-sociology, and social psychology.

Following an invaluable introduction, the authors apply to each of the synoptic Gospels the fruits of several decades of social-science research on the world of the Bible. For each pericope, the reader is provided with a translation, brief textual notes, and appropriate ‘reading scenarios,’ which assist in recapturing perspectives from a first-century peasant world-view . . . The book provides a lucid introduction to the heir apparent in the tradition of historical criticism—the application of the social sciences to the Bible.

Interpretation

With this ground-breaking book, [the authors] initiate a new genre of biblical commentary. They present fresh information drawn from the social sciences about the agrarian, pre-industrial, eastern Mediterranean cultural context in which the Synoptic Gospels originated . . . Every reader will learn something new from this book.

Critical Review: Biblical Studies

The information is clarifying and helps to make this book a valuable companion to the Synoptic Gospels. Would that every preacher make the effort to use it.

Louvain Studies

Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John

  • Authors: Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh
  • Series: Social-Science Commentary
  • Publisher: Fortress Press
  • Publication Date: 1998
  • Pages: 336

Sample Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

This commentary on the Gospel of John builds on the unique format and success of the Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels and includes illustrations and photographs for maximum socio-cultural content. Unlike the usual historical, exegetical, or theological commentaries, this rich and engrossing work assembles and catalogs the pertinent values, conflicts, and mores of ancient Mediterranean culture. Its Gospel outline, detailed textual notes, and “reading scenarios” bring life and light to the social circumstances the Gospel text relates about childhood, money, divorce, military service, farming, family life, cities, demons, patronage, and a host of other aspects of the ancient world. The “reading scenarios” sections present the perspective of the original audience drawn from anthropological studies of the Mediterranean social system, offering clues for filling in the unspoken or implicit elements of the writing as a Mediterranean reader would certainly have done. The authors argue that, in many ways, the Fourth Gospel addresses an alienated anti-society, fundamentally at odds with the predominant culture. With its format, charts, and photos, this social-science commentary is the ideal companion for the study of the Fourth Gospel.

This is a splendid guidebook through the dense language of John’s Gospel. The authors unmask new depths of meaning for any who puzzle over the Fourth Gospel. It is going to be a very important book.

Robert Kysar, professor of preaching and New Testament, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

This indispensable guide presents the Johannine reality in its first-century perspective. It is the best attempt yet to locate John within a specific cultural complex of meanings, and in the same accessible style that characterized the author’s previous volume . . .

Carolyn Osiek, professor of New Testament, Chicago Theological Seminary

Social-Science Commentary on the Book of Acts

  • Authors: Bruce J. Malina and John J. Pilch
  • Series: Social-Science Commentary
  • Publisher: Fortress Press
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Pages: 254

Sample Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Like earlier volumes in the Social Science Commentary series, this volume situates Acts squarely in the cultural matrix of the first century Mediterranean world, elaborating its codes of patron and client, mediatorship, honor and shame, healing and sickening, wizardry and witchcraft accusations, and the understanding of the Spirit of God as well as deities and demons as personal causes of significant events.

Social-Science Commentary on the Deutero-Pauline Letters

  • Authors: Bruce J. Malina and John J. Pilch
  • Series: Social-Science Commentary
  • Publisher: Fortress Press
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Pages: 208

Sample Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

This commentary on the text of the Deutero-Pauline letters provides a contextual approach to the study of Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Thessalonians that is thoroughly grounded in the original audience’s ancient socio-cultural setting. This volume provides essential “reading scenarios” on specific cultural phenomena in these letters, including forgery, normative conflict, paideia (training), and household codes. The “reading scenarios” sections present the perspective of the original audience drawn from anthropological studies of the Mediterranean social system, offering clues for filling in the unspoken or implicit elements of the writing as a Mediterranean reader would certainly have done. This volume also presents what the authors call “the transformation of the memory of Paul” in early Christianity that reflects the concerns and interest of the Pauline communities after Paul’s death.

Malina and Pilch have done it again! They have produced a commentary that is incisive, insightful, and full of new ways to read the texts, as well as challenges to old ways of understanding them.

Walter F. Taylor Jr., Ernest W. and Edith S. Ogram Professor of New Testament Studies, Trinity Lutheran Seminary

Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul

  • Authors: Bruce J. Malina and John J. Pilch
  • Series: Social-Science Commentary
  • Publisher: Fortress Press
  • Publication Date: 2006
  • Pages: 432

Sample Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

This latest addition to the Fortress Social-Science Commentaries on New Testament writings illuminates the values, perceptions, and social codes of the Mediterranean culture that shaped Paul and his interactions—both harmonious and conflicted—with others. Malina and Pilch add new dimensions to our understanding of the apostle as a social change agent, his coworkers as innovators, and his gospel as an assertion of the honor of the God of Israel.

If you are tired of reading the same 'new' book on Paul over and over, this is the place to go next. In addition to traditional material on rhetoric and background, this social-scientific commentary brings to the fore necessary, significant and enlightening ways of understanding the social role of Paul and his social dynamics with the churches he founded. In this it is unique. . . The Reading Scenarios are themselves worth the price of this book.

Jerome Neyrey, professor of New Testament, University of Notre Dame

Social-Science Commentary on the Book of Revelation

  • Authors: Bruce J. Malina and John J. Pilch
  • Series: Social-Science Commentary
  • Publisher: Fortress Press
  • Publication Date: 2000
  • Pages: 296

Sample Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

The author of Revelation presents himself as John, the astral seer, who professes faith in the resurrected Jesus and who belonged to the house of Israel. John writes of traveling into the sky; but this perspective of “sky-visions” is completely neglected in the traditional commentaries and studies on Revelation. Malina and Pilch demonstrate the necessity of taking ancient sky-interpretation seriously for reading the book of Revelation in its first- century context. Building on their earlier works on Revelation, and using the highly successful socio-cultural commentary model, Malina and Pilch have charted a new direction for Revelation studies. In addition to their focused commentary, Malina and Pilch include illustrative drawings, photographs, charts, and diagrams on ancient Mediterranean astrology.

Product Details

  • Title: Social-Science Commentary
  • Authors: Bruce J. Malina, Richard L. Rohrbaugh, and John J. Pilch
  • Series: Social-Science Commentary
  • Publisher: Fortress Press
  • Volumes: 4
  • Pages: 1,296
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About the Authors

Bruce J. Malina is professor of New Testament at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska. He is also the coauthor of Social-Science Commentary on the Book of Acts, Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul, and A Time Travel to the World of Jesus.

Richard L. Rohrbaugh is professor of biblical studies at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. He is also the author of The New Testament in Cross-Cultural Perspective and the editor of The Social Sciences and New Testament Interpretation.

John J. Pilch is professor emeritus of New Testament at Lewis and Clark College. He is also the coauthor of Social-Science Commentary on the Book of Acts and Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul.

Reviews

3 ratings

4.74.74.74.74.7

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  1. Randy

    Randy

    4/1/2020

    I think it's beneficial to study the background culture for sure. The only caution I would make, is that placing too much emphasis on the culture of the day in which it was written, fosters the notion people's culture should determine the meaning of the Bible, rather than the Bible determining what our culture should be (cultural relativism). One can't read the Old Testament without coming to the conclusion that Israel was thoroughly corrupted because they conformed to the culture of their day, rather than basing their culture on what the Bible teaches. The New Testament likewise warns us not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers, not to conform to the patterns of this world, and not to love the world's patterns of life. Jesus strongly rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for setting aside the meaning of Scripture, for the sake of their own, man-made traditions. Unless the text of the Scripture itself, clearly indicates that what it is teaching is only relevant to the culture in which it was originally written, we should consider it a timeless principle of godliness for all generations.
    Reply

  2. jth

    jth

    10/13/2019

    55555
  3. MDD

    MDD

    4/5/2017

    55555
  4. JR Woods

    JR Woods

    3/1/2015

    44444
    As far as digging into the world of the New Testament, you cannot do better than Malina, Rohrbaugh, and Pilch, in my opinion. After interacting with many people inside and outside the church, I have found every answer to the difficulties people have with many of the difficult passages of the New Testament find their answers in understanding the value systems, and economic/government/sociological structures under girding the unspoken understanding behind the text of the New Testament. I like to tell my parishioners that understanding the New Testament communication is analogous to Bob Ross painting one of his master pieces: he always starts with the furthest background pieces (first sky, clouds, background mountains, etc) and only then works his way to the foreground pieces (closest trees, bushes, shoreline ripples, etc). These authors send that message again and again: do NOT start with the text (i.e. foreground), but start with the context (background), and then you will come back to the text much closer in understanding to the way the original audience would have. A quick illustration can be found in the oft-repeated indictments attributed to Jesus of statements against these unnamed folk called "the rich": they have a hard time getting into the kingdom, they cannot serve two masters, their cares choke out the Word of God's fruitfulness in their lives, etc. In today's free-market economic world, a predominantly non-agrarian one, a predominantly democratic-work-your-way-up-the-ladder world, how are we to see these statements? Well, as Malina and his associates rightly point out: coming from today's world, we cannot. But if we see these statements in light of the Mediterranean hierarchical, top 10% aristocratically run, slave-trading, 90% agrarian, fiercely patron-oriented world, Jesus' words begin to take on new significance and color. For all the limitations that using Models of this world may have, this reviewer has never read works that bring the text of the New Testament off of the floating-fluffy-cloud world of theology, and firmly planted back into the ground of the real world where people live, eat, breath, and love with all their soul and strength. Highly recommended.
    Reply

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