Contextualization in the New Testament
From Cairo to Calcutta, from Cochabamba to Columbus, Christians are engaged in a conversation about how to speak and live the gospel in today's traditional, modern and emergent cultures. The technical term for their efforts is contextualization. Missionary theorists have pondered and written on it at length. More and more, those who do theology in the West are also trying to discover new ways of communicating and embodying the gospel for an emerging postmodern culture. But few have considered in depth how the early church contextualized the gospel. And yet the New Testament provides numerous examples.
As both a crosscultural missionary and a New Testament scholar, Dean Flemming is well equipped to examine how the early church contextualized the gospel and to draw out lessons for today. By carefully sifting the New Testament evidence, Flemming uncovers the patterns and parameters of a Paul or Mark or John as they spoke the Word on target, and he brings these to bear on our contemporary missiological task.
Rich in insights and conversant with frontline thinking, this is a book that will revitalize the conversation and refresh our speaking and living the gospel in today's cultures, whether in traditional, modern or emergent contexts.
"Contextualization in the New Testament is a welcome addition to New Testament and missiological scholarship for several reasons. First, Dr. Flemming has brought current New Testament scholarship into an effective dialogue with missiological and cultural specialists. Second, in a balanced way he has rightly taken contextualization as a New Testament missional concept for Paul and his first-century colleagues beyond the neutral sense of communication of the gospel into the realm of proclamation as an intentional engagement with cultural and political discourses. Third, this move promises some very fruitful rethinking of what, in the context of conflicting cultural and religious 'stories,' doing mission meant then and indeed what it should mean now. Finally, Dr. Flemming's lucid style allows easy access to a profound discussion that will impact our understanding of the church's gospel task both ancient and present."
"The past generation of biblical scholarship has served us well in providing an abundance of volumes rooting the source of the theological convictions of the various New Testament writers in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism. In the process, however, many have neglected to grapple with how the New Testament writers shaped their messages in a sensitive and relevant way to their specific cultural contexts. Dean Flemming has taken up this question and has produced an exceedingly helpful and convincing volume. This book is a must read for anyone who teaches the Bible."
"This is the mature work of a careful and caring teacher who has worked in the Philippines as well as in Europe and is well-qualified to handle the questions of how to set the Bible free to speak to different audiences and how we can follow the example of the first missionaries in the settings in which we find ourselves. This is a fine example of biblical scholarship serving the church in its task of holding fast to the apostolic gospel while presenting it in a sensitive, contextualized manner to our contemporaries."
"An outstanding and needed book in which Flemming wrestles with New Testament contextualization from the position of deep engagement with New Testament scholarship. He brings to the table the right instinct for missiological issues together with the depth of New Testament study that missiologists are often lacking. This is a must read!"
Active mission practitioners, missiologists, and theologians will benefit from and enjoy this excellent volume.
. . . a fresh, timely and much needed resource. . . . a must-read for those who desire to reach persons--in their own contexts--with the gospel.
Flemming has provided an excellent resource which will prove useful to both those preparing to work in other cultures and those engaged in gospel work in today's "postmodern" and increasingly globalized societies.
List of Abbreviations
1. Contextualization in Acts: Bridging Cultural Boundaries
2. Contextualization in Acts: The Preaching of Paul
3. Paul's Letters: Doing Theology in Context
4. Paul and Culture: Engaging the Greco-Roman World
5. Paul as Interpreter: Contextualizing Scripture and Tradition
6. Case Studies from Corinth: The Gospel, Food and the Future
7. Colossians: The Gospel and Syncretism
8. The Gospels: Contextualizing the Story for a Target Audience
9. Revelation: The Gospel and the Empire
10. Contextualizing the Gospel Today