Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Sep• 05•14

Pagola, Jose Antonio. 2009. Jesus, an Historical Approximation. Miami, Fla.: Convivium Press.

This is the English translation of Pagola’s book on Historical Jesus originally published in Spanish in 2007.  Studies on historical Jesus are plenty but Pagola’s work stands out among them as he attempts to reconstruct Historical Jesus from a faith perspective.
To quote: ‘In any case, an encounter with Jesus is not the fruit of historical research or of doctrinal reflection. It only happens through personal commitment and faithful following.’
Though Jesus re9781934996096constructed through historical research is not essential for our faith, the faith demands that we use the methods available to us to have a better understanding of his historical dimension and his concrete human life. Pagola argues that this is required because Jesus Christ was incarnate in our history and he is a person of history.
However, Pagola’s work is not just a pious retelling of the story of Jesus of Nazareth. But throughout this book he interacts with other Jesus scholars and sifts in an immense amount of insights on the Roman and Jewish world of first century produced by contemporary scholarship. The result is: ‘a profound and extensive scholarly theological reflection about Jesus’ as the blurb claims and any reader would discover. It is certainly a feast to the mind and to the heart!

See also: Pagola, Jose Antonio. The Way Opened Up by Jesus: a Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. 1st ed. Convivium Press, 2012. Pages: 256. ISBN: 978-1-934996-28-7.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jan• 03•14
9781934996201Vanhoye, Albert. A Different Priest: The Letter to the Hebrews. Miami, Fla.: Convivium Press, 2011.

Though it is popularly known as “the letter to the Hebrews,” Scholars were divided if this book is a sermon or a letter. It seems to show the characteristics of both. Vanhoye has a very simple solution to this debate. According to him the book is a homily and the writer is an itinerant preacher. However, the sermon is written down and sent to Christian communities far and wide by adding epistolary material (13:22-25) after its conclusion (13:20-21). Take the epistolary intrusion away, it is a great sermon.

This understanding of the book as a homily from beginning to end is the basis of the rhetorical analysis of in the present work. Being a homily, it is rhetorical in nature. However, the rhetoric of the book of Hebrews is not very much in line with that of the Greco-Roman world. Vanhoye argues that the author/preacher has Judaeo-Hellenistic education. However, his rhetoric style is very much Semitic in style.

Albert Vanhoye is a French Jesuit who taught scripture in a number of schools and is a noted biblical scholar on the Book of Hebrews. He was appointed Cardinal by Pope Benedict xvi in 2006. This book is the fruit of his many years of work on the study of Hebrews.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 24•13

Antonio, Gonzalez. God’s Reign and the End of Empires. Miami, Florida: Convivium Press, 2012. pages. 365. ISBN: 978-1-934996-29-4

Here we have a great work on social theology which is contemporary, incisive and amazingly relevant for the world that we live in. This work of social theology helps us to focus on the threat of globalization and seeks biblical alternatives. Though Christian faith communities have voiced their concerns about the adverse effects of globalization a comprehensive social theology was lacking. This work is a great contribution to fill th

Gonzalez. Reign of God

Gonzalez. Reign of God

at lacuna. In the chapter ‘Problems of the Global Village’ the author opens our eyes to realities of globalization. Globalization creates and maintains poverty and inequality besides causing serious threats to our ecology, democracy, etc. thus threatening our life and existence. Gonzalez strongly believes that globalization is not going to solve any of our problems but will not only worsen it. However, in stating this he is not ignoring the positive aspects of globalization.

In the context of globalization which poses a serious threat to human life and existence he moves on to find a biblical basis to formulate a social theology. In the second chapter he goes to analyse Genesis 3-11 to give a biblical diagnosis of the problems that plague humanity. However, this is not limited to the time of Genesis but a diagnosis of the contemporary world as well. In the third chapter the author continues his biblical analysis through the rest of the Old Testament. Though Genesis 11 ends with gloom, the call of Abraham is the light at the end of the tunnel as Abraham is presented as the figure-head of a new humanity. The analysis that begins with the call of Abraham and goes through

the rest of the biblical traditions concludes that, ‘The biblical alternative to poverty and injustice consists in something quite exceptional, namely, the formation, on the margins of the system, of a different kind of society, one over which God reigns directly. This society will be radically egalitarian and truly fraternal and, as such, will be an alternative that is unique and yet highly attractive to all the earth’s peoples, who will be invited to make a final pilgrimage toward it.’ (p. 105).

In chapter 4 he looks at solution that Jesus Christ offers to all these ills. Faith in Jesus Christ solves what the Mosaic religion could not solve. The reign of God is experienced through the people transformed by their faith in Jesus Christ. The message of Jesus has tremendous relevance for our society. However, Jesus’ message of social transformation lost its thrust as the church spiritualized its message as time went by.

In the fifth chapter titled, ‘The Messianic Communities’ the author first of all gives us an overview of the Roman world and its social stratification. This part is basically a re-presentation of the work of E. Stegemann. The Roman society was a highly stratified one. It was dominated by a small (5% of the population) of the social elite. Social mobility was minimum and social violence at the highest. It is into this society that the Christians entered with a message of the Reign of God. This was possible because the proclamation of the reign of God did not end with the ministry of Jesus but continued on through the preaching of the Apostles and the early Church.

The early church was not composed of entirely of poor people nor of rich. But it was a mixture of all the different social strata of the Roman world probably excluding the ruling class. He argues that the Christian communities as the household of God were organized structurally different from that of the Roman world. ‘It was not a structural change decreed from the palaces of the emperors; rather it was one brought about immediately and from the grassroots.‘ (187). These were communities that challenged the social and gender barriers of the Roman world.  However, these were not utopian ideals nor limited to the early church alone. But persisted throughout history among various groups to the present. They certainly pervaded the first three centuries of Christian history.

In chapter six he presents that the transformation that was brought out in the Christian communities were not limited to these communities but was meant to be universal affecting the entire society as well. However, by the advent of ‘Contantinism’ or the nationalization of the Church, the Church gained political power but lost the power that the Reign of God gave to the believing communities. Though the general picture is one of gloom, there were always believing communities who lived out the ideal that Jesus had established. The transformation of the society without power and political influence. He also ends with a positive note that the signs of the times also indicate that the biblical ideal doesn’t belong to the past but is highly possible in our own days.

The author argues that the time is ripe now for such communities to continue. The dream of the transforming communities where the reign of God is experienced is possible because the signs of our times points in that direction. This is the concern in chapter seven titled, ‘The signs of our Times.’ The new popular economy, the relevance of non-violence that has been discovered by contemporary movements, the new forms of dissidence that is possible in the network society all indicate the possibility of emerging new communities away from power structures.

Chapter eight thus leads to clarify his proposals. The solution of alternate communities is defined mostly in negative terms. It is not communitarianism, not biblicism, not ecclesiocentrism and certainly not sectarianism. It is building a new world up from the grass-roots up. Gonzalez is optimistic that such a project is possible and it is for our day and not for future.

This is an English translation of the Spanish work by the same title.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Dec• 04•12

Pagola, Jose Antonio. The Way Opened Up by Jesus: a Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. 1st ed. Convivium Press, 2012. Pages: 256. ISBN: 978-1-934996-28-7.

This is not an exPagola. Matthewegetical commentary but a homiletical one. This means that the readers will not find lengthy discussions on the background, critical issues, theology, lexical or word studies here. It is based on the simple, plain message of the scripture. In his treatment of the Gospel of Matthew, Pagola first of all shows the reader what a given passage means. Then he goes on to show us how these passages challenge the modern Church and its adherents. It offers in-depth, incisive critique of our modern society.

For example, the focus of the commentary on Matthew 16:13-20 is not a study of the concepts or words but narrows down to the question of Jesus: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ The commentator suggests that this question should not be understood philosophically or theologically. It is not on the identity of Jesus but about the identity of those to whom the question is directed. ‘… that question, more than a test of our orthodoxy, is a call to a Christian way of life.’ Then he goes on to explain that Christian way of life expected from our modern world. Or, take for example his treatment of Matthew 5:13-16 where he sharpens the focus on being the salt of the earth. Then he helps us to understand how the Church could add more flavour to our world, the world where the driving force is profit and with corruption at its foundations.

Don’t expect a verse by verse commentary of the entire book of Matthew. This is a commentary based on selected passages. The basis of selection is those passages that ’emphasize the Good News of God proclaimed by Jesus, an inexhaustible source of life and compassion for all.’ Not only the passages selected but the passages omitted will show us that the Pagola like to present the book as a book of hope that challenges the modern believer. For example, 11:12-124 which has condemnatory tones are included, especially woe sayings against the cities.

This is not a surprise anyway; in the introduction, Pagola has already stated that his purpose in life is, not ‘…to condemn, but to liberate. I do not feel called by Jesus to judge the world, but awaken hope. He has not sent me to quench a flickering flame, but to light a candle of faith that is trying to ignite.’ This does not explain why the significant portion of the passion narrative 26:1-27:38 is left out as well as some other passages that are not condemnatory at all.

This book is of great value for those who would like to know the contemporary significance of the Gospel of Matthew. Pagola’s analysis of the contemporary context is thorough and incisive. Those who struggle to bridge the gap between the world of Jesus and of our own from the pulpit will find this extremely helpful.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Feb• 15•11

Meynet, Roland. A New Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels (Miami, Florida: Convivium Press, 2010). ISBN: 9781934996119

This title is the English translation of the French Une nouvelle introduction aux evangiles synoptiques (2009).

This rhetorical critical study of the Synoptics is based on a notion that rhetoric is not just Greco-roman as the West understand but there is Hebrew Rhetoric which is very different from that of Greek and Roman. The New Testament follows this Hebrew Rhetoric and so this could be called Biblical Rhetoric which is akin to Akkadian, Ugaritic and other ancient texts. This Rhetoric is shared by not only Hebrew Bible or New Testament but also the Quran.

Meynet deviates from the traditional approach to the study of Synoptic Gospels where the pericopes are put in parallel columns but he insists that one should study the whole pericopes, the sequences and subsequences. He likens his approach to the study of three architectures of a building than comparing the stones of three similar buildings.

He applies this study to a number of selections from the Synoptics.

This is indeed a trail-blazer in Synoptic studies. The fact that the French original is made available in English within a year of its publication is remarkable. This means that the influence of this novel approach to the Synoptics will be farreaching in the scholarly community.