Book Notes: Earliest Christian History (Mohr Siebeck)

martin hengelA few weeks Mohr Siebeck graciously sent a review copy of the recently published collection of essays honoring Martin Hengel entitled Earliest Christian History: History, Literature and Theology. Edited by Mike Bird and Jason Maston, these essays originated with the Tyndale Fellowship in Cambridge. Some of the contributors include former students and close associates of Hengel like Don Hagner, Seyoon Kim, and Roland Denies. Each of the essays represent areas of study that Hengel spent his life teaching and writing on.

I just finished reading the first to chapters of the book, both of which are biographical sketches on Hengel: “Martin Hengel as Theological Teacher” by Jörg Frey and “Martin Hengel: Christology in Service of the Church” by Roland Denies. These two chapters do much in introducing Martin Hengel’s influence in NT studies and the motivation and desire he had to serve the Church. They portray Hengel not just only as an astute historian, but also a man deeply engaged in the theological study of the NT. Hengel was a man who loved to teach and a man who never stopped learning. He is presented as a warm man, always approachable and interested in the work of his students, both while they were working on a PhD and after they already secured teaching posts. It is always nice when I hear such recollections of men that I look up to from afar, and Hengel is such a man. He loved the Bible and never tired of learning from it. Jörg Frey offers this memorable memory of Hengel in his opening paragraph:

The scene was unforgettable. During the orientation days for new students of Protestant Theology—beginning winter semester 1983/84—representatives of the famous Tübigen Faculty in the Evangelischen Stift had to introduce the various theological disciplines. Every one of them tried to feature the importance of their subject for theology as a whole, but they all missed to create that real tingle that could have fascinated the novice. Only one went beyond limits. He did not keep talking about his scholarly field for very long, but instead he put great emphasis on its object, the New Testament. Whilst pulling a little heavily worn blue booklet—his old “Nestle-Aland”—out of his pocket, swinging it through the air, he urged his audience with great vigour: “Read this book! In Greek! It’s a good book.

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