Eckhard J. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission: Jesus and the Twelve (vol. 1); Paul and the Early Church (vol. 2). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004. 1928 pp. Cloth. ISBN: 0-8308-2790-0 (set). $90.
Schnabel, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has compiled an impressive survey of Christian missions from the era of the Old Testament and Inter-testamental Judaism (including Apocrypha, Qumran and Rabbinical sources) to the era of Christ and the apostolic church. Focusing on the message of Jesus as an evangelistic missions proclamation (inclusive of Jew and Gentile), Schnabel details the unfolding attraction of the message of God's Son as it spreads through the Greco-Roman world of the first century. As such, we have in these two volumes a virtual encyclopedia of the first Christian century from the advent of Christ to the end of the apostolic period. In many ways, this set is a detailed commentary on the gospels and the book of Acts. We have meticulous details on places (geography), names (history) and gospel message (theology) from Christ's proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Mt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15) to Paul's (Acts 28:30-31). The whole is copiously footnoted with a bibliography of nearly 200 pages.
Yet Schnabel is a defender of the accuracy and historicity of the biblical recorda refreshing confirmation of more traditional views, even as he explores the voluminous literature in search of support for that apologia. In the process, he provides a carefully worked out chronology of the era of Christ and the apostlesespecially the missionary journeys of Paul. His defense of Paul's release from his first Roman imprisonment authenticates the Pastoral Epistles as well as the fabled mission to Spain (1262ff.). Critical fundamentalists will reject this excursus, but perhaps it is their bias in favor of deutero-Paulinism which may be surrendered without regret.
As a comprehensive exegesis of Christian mission theology and strategy in the first century A.D., these volumes are a tour de force. They are also, in the main, a refreshing confirmation of conservative and orthodox conviction about the New Testament. The reader is not only stimulated by the detail, he is encouraged by the theology of mission as it arises from Christ and his inspired apostles. Indeed, they undergird our mission from the transformation of the ages which dawned upon us when the Word became flesh and commissioned us as his witnesseseven to the end of the age!
James T. Dennison, Jr.