Thursday, April 19, 2007

Early Christian Mission

For some time now I have wanted to read the two-volume work by Eckhard Schnabel, "Early Christian Mission." In these books Schnabel seeks to explain the rise and expansion of the mission of the early Christians. The first volume examines the mission of Jesus and the twelve while the second volume looks at Paul and the early church. I have just begun reading the first volume and have found it to be well written and engaging so far. I hope to continue to post my thoughts and favorite quotes from this book as I read through it. I expect that it will generate some great questions for discussion. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the preface:

"Missiologists, missionaries, and representatives of missionary societies seek to promote interest in cross cultural dialogue and witness and to encourage and develop the involvement of Christians, young and old, in active outreach to non-Christians. As laudable as these endeavors are, their proponents have not always sought to provide exegetical explanations or to engage in theological discussion when presenting models for missionary work and paradigms for effective evangelism."

"Typically, understanding among evangelicals about the early Christian period and about the endeavors of the earliest Christians is, more often than not, unconsidered, and sometimes naive or romanticized."

"Views that fail to take into account the historical and social conditions of life in the first century are potentially problematic."

"One example is the view, naive despite the notice in Acts 4:32, that the early Christians were a united group of activists, uniform in their theology and thick as thieves in their relationships, who were willing and eager to subordinate differences of opinion and behavior to the missionary mandate. This view fails to recognize, for example, that the conflict whose solution is recorded in Acts 15 evidently was not supported by all missionaries based in Jerusalem, or that Paul was willing to separate from missionary coworkers as a result of differences of opinion, or that churches recently established by Paul were visited by Jewish-Christian missionaries whose goal was to influence them theologically and institutionally."

"Before we can develop 'lessons' for Christians today, we need to heed the facts as they present themselves in the New Testament."

"Scholars need to attempt comprehensive descriptions of the history and proclamation of Jesus and the early church so that the church that carries the name of Jesus Christ and accepts the witness of the apostles as normative criterion of faith and practice may render an account of its identity, purpose, and goals."

I have already been challenged by these few short quotes. I expect that these books will help me to think more critically and accurately about the mission that Jesus has called us to. In addition, I hope the quotes and thoughts I will post concerning these books will edify you as well.


Alan Knox said...


Very interesting quotes. I'm interested to learn more about the conflicts in the early Church. Obviously, there were conflicts. We see these recorded in Acts, and we know that the NT writers exhorted believers to live in unity - there would be no reason for this if there were no conflicts.

I am also interested in his discussion of "cross cultural dialogue". If I remember correctly from his lecture at ETS, he does not believe anyone in the NT participated in cross cultural dialogue. He believes they all lived in the same culture.


Theron said...


I remember him making that comment at ETS as well. I would think he will discuss the topics you mentioned and more given that the two volumes total almost 2000 pages.