The Making of Christian Morality

Category: ALL, Interviews, Outreach

David G. Horrell
The Making of Christian Morality: Reading Paul in Ancient and Modern Contexts
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019.
Available at Eerdmans and Koorong.

This volume of collected essays by David Horrell covers aspects of Paul’s churches, Pauline ethics, and ethical readings of Paul.

There are some definite highlights.

In “The Letters for All (Local) Christians” Horrell does for Pauline communities what Bauckham did for Gospel communities, viz., shows that Pauline churches were not independent and isolated communities but were (mostly) part of networks that were engaged with non-Pauline groups. There’s a good essay on Philemon called, “Farewell to Another Wealthy Patron?”  which  states that we just don’t know how wealthy Philemon was and if anything he was probably not among the local elite but among the “middling groups in the urban non-elite, with relatively modest resources, perhaps an artisan like Paul, Prisca, and Aquila, who employed a slave or two in his workshop, or perhaps owned or rented an apartment in an insula.” The essay on “Idol Food, Idolatry, and Ethics in Paul” is mandatory reading for anyone doing Paul’s ethics and 1 Corinthians, Horrell shows that Paul’s ethics are not concerned about things but about relationships in the church community; Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 8-10 is grounded in christology, which provides the basis for a focus on individual and collective bodies; group identity is marked by union with Christ and avoiding idolatry; and Paul is concerned with a stark contrast between church and external idolatry and promoting peaceful co-existence within the church. Horrell also analyses Phil 2:5-11 to show how Paul contributes to the importance of humility in Christian ethics. One of the more interesting pieces is Horrell’s “Paul among Liberals and Communitarians: Models for Christian Ethics” which is a great introduction to how to do contemporary ethical reasoning with Paul. The volume closes with two essays on ecological readings of Paul which are both timely and relevant to our own situation in the twenty-first century.

All in all, a very good collection of essays by David Horrell, touching on numerous areas of Paul, ecclesiology, and ethics that will benefit readers.