Sunday, December 7, 2014

Needed: More Voices in the "Chorus" (for James and the Parables)



I got a pleasant surprise this week: A very positive review of my reception history commentary on James: James Through the Centuries. More on why this review is important for my parables reception history project in a moment.

The review was written by Mariam Kamell (Assistant Professor of New Testament, Regent College, Vancouver, CA), who co-authored a commentary on James with Craig Blomberg (published by Zondervan).

Kamell's review has (for me) an auspicious beginning: "I have rarely read a commentary with such pleasure." 

She also writes a number of other complimentary things about the commentary. I will only quote the conclusion, but you can see the entire review here, if you would like:
Overall, however, this book does a remarkable job of bringing to light interpretations that have long been sidelined. Gowler retains his own voice throughout, but also opens worlds of art, theatre, and poetry that have intersected with this little book, revealing that perhaps the history of the reception of James has not been as neglectful as some of us fear. Gowler writes in an engaging manner, drawing us into the lives and work of those who have wrestled with the text of James, and the reader leaves this book refreshed intellectually to deal with the challenges James presents us, but also confronted pastorally with the relevance of this practical text. This book should be on the shelves of academics and pastors, and used regularly by both.
Two other James scholars, John Kloppenborg and Alicia Batten, have also said very positive things about the commentary (both graciously wrote blurbs for the back of the volume), and it is gratifying to have Mariam Kamell also write such a positive review. I am grateful for her thoughtful critique.

So, what does this review of my James commentary have to do with my present project on the reception history of the parables? One important thing that Dr. Kamell observes is that although the commentary goes to great lengths to highlight voices that often have been "sidelined" (e.g., African American, feminist, liberation theology, etc.), the book would have been stronger if it contained more African and Asian voices. That is true.

In this book on the reception history of the parables, I already have a few African and Asian contributions on which I plan to write, such as the Son of Man film from South Africa (and Augustine is from Africa as well) and He Qi, but Kamell's review reminds me that I need to be on the lookout for more. The problem is that I only have about 50 "slots" for the entire book. There are so many brilliant examples of responses to the parables that the hardest part of writing the book is picking "voices" to serve as representative examples. But more African and Asian voices certainly need to be included.

Thank you, Dr. Kamell, for reminding me of that.

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