BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 10, 2015

Cover ArtAt Exegetical Tools, Warren Campbell reviewed Stanley Porter’s How We Got the New Testament.

“Porter’s work will not only benefit the student as a substantial introduction to the many issues involved with the production, establishment, and transmission of the Greek New Testament, but it will also function as an excellence recourse for further study.”

Lindsay Kennedy, at My Digital Seminary, reviewed Encountering the Book of Romans by Douglas Moo.

Bob on Books reviewed Paul Heintzman’s Leisure and Spirituality.

“Many of us still struggle with reconciling the ideas of leisure and spirituality. After reading Heintzman’s book, these are a bit less of an oxymoron for me.”

Jennifer Guo, at Grace for Sinners, reviewed Praying with Paul by D. A. Carson.

At Learning While Teaching, Jerry Hillyer reviewed Karl Allen Kuhn’s The Kingdom according to Luke and Acts.

“I cannot say enough about how important and well done this book is and how, if you are a preacher, you should buy it, read it slowly, and carefully consider how you will challenge your congregation to live up to the high call of God.”

Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament by Stanley Porter was reviewed at Diglotting.

At The Gospel Coalition, John Starke discussed James K. A. Smith’s excursion on “catching sleep” in Imagining the Kingdom.

Norman Wirzba’s forthcoming From Nature to Creation was included in the Englewood Review of Books25 Books to Watch for in the 2nd Half of 2015.

 

Taxation and Slavery in the Roman Empire – an Excerpt from The Kingdom according to Luke and Acts

The following is an excerpt from The Kingdom according to Luke and Acts, by Karl Allen Kuhn.

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Rome heavily taxed its subjects. Scholars estimate that between one-quarter and one-third of the goods harvested or produced by peasants, artisans, and tenant farmers were required for various taxes, tolls, and tithes.

A. Ben-David estimates the combined Roman and Israelite taxes for Roman Palestine at 33.1 percent. Such heavy taxation on the underclass resulted in a precarious existence for peasants and artisans, with the vast majority of them living slightly above, at, or below a subsistence level. Speaking of Roman Palestine in particular, Rohrbaugh writes, “The wealth of the elite was based primarily on land ownership and taxation, which effectively drained the resources of the rural areas. The ‘redistributive’ economic system, as it is called in economic anthropology, served to expropriate peasant surplus and redistribute it among those in control.”

Cover ArtAggressive taxation also contributed to the high rate of debt suffered by peasant farmers. This debt, combined with onerous lending policies and unmercifully high rates of interest established by the elite, resulted in a massive foreclosure of ancestral landholdings in the years leading up to the Common Era. Keith Hopkins estimates that from 80 to 8 BCE, about 1.5 million people, roughly half the peasant families of Roman Italy, were forced from their ancestral lands. These figures are likely representative of conditions throughout the provinces of the empire, including Roman Palestine.

Still another resource that greatly benefited the elite was their control of relatively cheap labor. Slavery was the engine that drove the economy, as Rome “created an institutionalized system of large-scale dependence on slave labor for the major portion of basic production.” Estimates on the number of slaves in the Roman Empire vary among anthropologists, ranging from 25 to 40 percent of the population. But the number of slaves could have easily swelled to the higher end of that range during the years surrounding the Common Era due to Rome’s conquest of the Mediterranean (including Palestine) and beyond, augmenting the ranks of those enslaved because of debt.

As more and more arable land shifted to the elite, tenant farming, sharecropping, and day labor also became central to agricultural production throughout the empire. Along with many other peasants, these field laborers migrated at or below a subsistence existence, and sharecroppers were in perpetual danger of becoming slaves themselves. Gildas Hamel notes that “especially in the case of sharecropping, the factors of production provided by landowners (land, seeds, traction, tools) were set at a very high rate, usually amounting to half of the total value of the crop, a circumstance which, together with the smallness of the acreage under contract, guaranteed the fall into indebtedness.”

In sum, aggressive taxation, an elite-controlled market system that “nickeled and dimed” the underclass through rents and tariffs, lending policies that routinely resulted in the foreclosure of peasant landholdings, and the cheap labor of slaves, artisans, and agricultural workers all ensured the flow of wealth and resources from the underclass to the elite. This was, as declared by G. E. M. de Ste. Croix, “a massive system of exploitation of the great majority by the ruling class.”

©2015 by Karl Allen Kuhn. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on The Kingdom according to Luke and Acts, click here.

New Release: The Kingdom according to Luke and Acts

Cover ArtThis substantial, reliable introduction examines the character and purpose of Luke and Acts and provides a thorough yet economical treatment of Luke’s social, historical, and literary context.

Karl Allen Kuhn presents Luke’s narrative as a “kingdom story” that both announces the arrival of God’s reign in Jesus and describes the ministry of the early church, revealing the character of the kingdom as dramatically at odds with the kingdom of Rome. Kuhn explores the background, literary features, plotting, and themes of Luke and Acts but also offers significant, fresh insights into the persuasive force of Luke’s impressively crafted and rhetorically charged narrative.

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“Karl Kuhn’s groundbreaking monograph on Luke-Acts will reset modern interpretation of these books and influence New Testament studies for years to come….Pastors, teachers, or anyone who looks to Luke’s writings for guidance on how communities of faith might live responsibly in a secular world will want to read and treasure the insights of this book.” – Mark Allan Powell, Trinity Lutheran Seminary

“Kuhn provides a rich introduction to Luke’s two-volume work, carefully unraveling its thick, interwoven tapestry of literary patterns, rhetorical strategies, social networks, political tensions, and theological themes. This book is beautifully written and structured (aptly for Luke’s ‘orderly’ narrative) and chock-full of carefully explained examples from Luke’s text. While helpfully assessing the current state of Lukan scholarship, Kuhn also offers many fresh insights.” – F. Scott Spencer, Baptist Theological Seminary

“Building on recent conversations about early Christian resistance to the Roman Empire, Kuhn provides us with a well-written, thorough, and helpful introductory textbook for the study of Luke and Acts. While addressing historical, social, literary, rhetorical, and theological elements, Kuhn effectively highlights the Lukan call for readers to abandon allegiance to Rome and embrace God’s kingdom.” – Andrew Arterbury, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

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Karl Allen Kuhn (PhD, Marquette University) is professor of religion at Lakeland College in Plymouth, Wisconsin. He is the author of Having Words with God: The Bible as Conversation, The Heart of Biblical Narrative: Rediscovering Biblical Appeal to the Emotions, and Luke: The Elite Evangelist.

For more information on The Kingdom according to Luke and Acts, click here.