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Book Review: Death and the Afterlife In the New Testament

Dale C. Allison, Jr. Interpretation 2008 62: 103 DOI: 10.1177/002096430806200121 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Union Presbyterian Seminary

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Interpretation 103

of women (e.g., daughter, wife, widow) affect hospitable activities, and how papyri letters might illumine the realities of hospitality. In sum, Arterbury's exploration of the social behavior and language of ancient hospitality initiates some crucial insight into an important custom for early Christianity.

Death and the Afterlife in the New Testament

by Jaime Clark-Soles
& Clark, Continuum, New York, 2006. 161 pp. $29.95. ISBN 978-0-567-02912-6. THE TITLE OF THIS VOLUME misleads, for it discusses

death and the afterlife in only portions of the NTthe letters of Paul, the Gospels of John and Matthew, and the two epistles attributed to Peter. (There is also a chapter on Greco-Roman materials.) In her examination of Paul, Jaime Clark-Soles attends especially to 1 Cor 15,2 Cor 5:1-10, and Phil 1:1-26. The apostle, she thinks, believed in "unconscious pneumatic disembodied existence" (p. 105) between death and the end, but she also acknowledges that, because of his imminent eschatological expectation and focus on bodily resurrection, his ideas on the intermediate state remained undeveloped and unclear. The discussion of the Fourth Gospel, which includes an interesting comparison with Epicureanism, highlights the contrast with Platonism, for which the soul is inherently immortal, and with Paul, for whom immortality is bestowed at the resurrection. In John, immortality is God s gift, and it is received already in this life. As for Matthew, ClarkSoles accentuates differencesfromPaul and John. Whereas the latter two set themselves against erroneous ideasPaul battles Hellenistic anthropological categories and John counters a conventional endtime scenario Matthew does not correct another eschatological point of view. With regard to the Petrine epistles, Clark-Soles says little about 2 Peter. Her focus is on 1 Peter, especially 3:20-21, the obscure passage about Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison. She concludes that "just as Christ probably experienced no intermediate state in 1 Peter's view, neither does a discussion of an intermediate state for human beings arise" (p. 209).

The virtues of this book, which is not aimed at academics, are twofold. First, it is clear and will keep the attention of a general audience (although the studies of anthropological terms will slow some down). Second, itrightlyemphasizes that NT eschatology is not a single thing but a plurality: different writers have different views. Indeed, Clark-Soles correctly observes that individuals can even contradict themselves. As for my quibbles, can one really disassociate Matthewfromthe idea of hierarchy in heaven (Matt 5:12,19-20; 10:41^2; 20:23)? And is there ancient as opposed to medieval evidence for identifying Gehenna as a rubbish pit? And, above all, why leave out Luke-Acts, which has so many relevant texts? Clark-Soles promises that she will return to Luke and Acts in a future volume, but comparison with Matthew, John, and Paul within the covers of the present book would have greatly enhanced its contribution.

Saved From Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross

by S. Mark Heim
Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 2006. 329 pp. $24.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-3215-3.

F O L L O W I N G A BRIEF REVIEW of the current crisis in atonement theology, Mark Heim's argument proceeds in three movements. Thefirstclaims that God's forgiveness and acceptance of sinful human beings is not something that has to be bought by the sacrifice of innocent blood. His argument is based on afreshlook at biblical material. Scapegoating violence against the innocent, according to the text, is a human device employed across time and traditions. Heim lays out Girard's analysis of how this device functions in society to quell escalating conflict: by naming a common enemy to hate together and then to victimize. In an odd way, this diffuses the conflict and restores peace. Succinctly put, Heim insists that in the event of the cross, "Jesus didn't volunteer to get into God's justice machine. God volunteered to get into ours" (p. xi). In the second movement, Heim shows how God, by becoming the "visible victim" (in Jesus), exposes the perverse nature of the whole scapegoating system, a component of which is the invis-

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