Book Reviews

text reports. It is in the space between text and implication that this study flourishes. Taylor has explored that space in all its extensions. The book is an enjoyable study, and it will be an important reference work on the subject for the coming years. It is innovative to place Philo’s treatise in the social and cultural ambiance of first-century Alexandria. Taylor’s analyses are well argued, and her broad background in the history of Judaism outside Alexandria gives the work an extra dimension for readers interested in Judaism. The author gathered a vast amount of modern bibliography in the many ways and byways of her investigation. We congratulate her on this result. ANNEWIES VAN DEN HOEK, Harvard Divinity School. KEENAN, JOHN P. The Wisdom of James: Parallels with Mahayana Buddhism. Newman Press Biblical Studies Series. Mahwah, NJ: Newman, 2005. vi 266 pp. $24.95 (paper). John P. Keenan’s The Wisdom of James expands his growing body of work that seeks to read the New Testament with Mahayana Buddhist philosophy as hermeneutic. A lengthy introduction is followed by the author’s own translation of the letter of James from the Greek, analyzed piece by piece with commentary that, while engaging existing commentaries, defends Keenan’s own insights drawn from reading through a Buddhist lens. Keenan makes good use of his linguistic skills (he knows Greek, Sanskrit, and Japanese) and clearly demonstrates his command of the Jamesian scholarship as well as Mahayana Buddhist philosophy. Although acknowledging that James has often been marginalized owing to its differences when compared to the Luke-Acts pattern and Pauline theology, Keenan sees James as important because it is “the most extended discussion of wisdom and its implications in the New Testament” (1). James represents for Keenan an early, alternative voice that should be retrieved, one that quite possibly traveled south and eastward from Palestine, that eventually lost out to the dominant tradition but regarded itself as “the true mother-church of Christendom” (10). Although written in Greek, James embodies for Keenan the possibility of the Christian message elaborated through a non-Greek system (50). The virtues of a Mahayana reading include the possibility of focusing our attention on ideas otherwise lost, unifying seemingly unrelated passages, and solving current debates in interpretation. Keenan understands wisdom in James as apocalyptic, engaged, and as the abandonment of discrimination. For Keenan, the apocalyptic calls into doubt human measures of the world. “Waiting for the coming of the Lord is waiting for the maturation of wisdom into deeds that will construct a realm of justice and peace” (154). According to Keenan, James is very concerned with language’s role in fostering delusions and attachment, offering a critique of religious speech that is deeper than previous commentators have realized. It empties “even the most cherished categories of religious thought” (109). Thus, the absence of doctrinal content in the letter is deliberate, for it does not propose another view but changes how we understand all views, leading to true religion. As with Keenan’s previous work, readers may continue to worry about his appeal to ineffable silence and unmediated experience (e.g., 39, 163). There is a formally similar problem with his treatment of Christianity as if it were


specifically Christian teaching” (3). although Keenan purportedly writes in the service of illuminating the Christian message. Minneapolis: Fortress. but it is hard to know what he means when he also says that it was written “before there was any developed body of Christian doctrine to serve as a norm for identifying one as Christian” (8) and admits that the text “does not contain much. The Keenan corpus is an impressive system. the cumulative effect of which is forceful and coherent. Wilson begins this study by discussing the origins and various usages of the terms “apostasy” and “apostate. there is an absolute in that claim itself. and sums up the main themes of this book. his moves and conclusions are remarkably similar to many Buddhist inclusivist ones. xviii 158 pp. In the concluding chapter (110–35). according to my own research.The Journal of Religion something that can be extracted from any interpretive framework and plugged at will into Greek. WILSON. Perhaps the matter ultimately rests in one’s judgment of Nagarjuna’s success in addressing this difficulty. KRISTIN BEISE KIBLINGER. The bulk of the book (23–109) then applies these definitions to ancient reports of apostates and possible apostates in order to determine the motives and the process of apostasy as a sociological and religious phenomenon (see 3).” For his own purposes. I recommend this book for those interested in a new approach to James. Another indication of problems in this area is that. to have abandoned the main practices and/or beliefs of their religious community” (22). and paganism. those whose understanding of Mahayana might be assisted by reference to Christian concepts. or were considered by others. He says that he accepts James as a Christian work. This he distinguishes from heresy. Keenan’s work remains some of the most stimulating and skilled comparative theology available. 2004. But is the insistence that such deconstruction is needed not itself a viewpoint? In the claim that the New Testament message is amenable to many philosophical approaches and that no one approach should be taken as more than convention. ¯ ¯ All of that being said.00 (cloth). which is dissent but not necessarily departure. and other mediating systems. $25. Wilson discusses the theoretical assumptions of several modern writers. One central such move is his use of emptiness as somehow exceptional in comparison to other hermeneutic tools because it alone insists on deconstructing any viewpoint. identifying apostates from Judaism. Christianity. I question whether the reading of Christian texts can ever be separated fully from Hellenistic culture while remaining Christian in any recognizable sense. both biblical scholars and sociologists. 18). if any. and heretics. he defines apostasy as defection from a religious group (2–3) and apostates as “those who considered themselves. Leaving the Fold: Apostates and Defectors in Antiquity. These reports span the period from (roughly) the second century BC to the midfourth century AD. Mahayana. Winthrop University. STEPHEN G. 150 . and especially those interested in comparative theology done well. who often remain within the communities from which they dissent (11. Most of my concerns would be dispelled if Keenan simply framed what he was doing as an instance of Buddhist inclusivism and then developed the most ideal methods for that. Keenan has responded to this criticism in the past by denying that such an objection has fully grasped the meaning of emptiness teaching.

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