Review of Timothy J.M. Ling,The Judean Poor and the Fourth Gospel. Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series, 136

Peter Phillips
2010 The Bible and Critical Theory  
This is a slightly revised version of Ling's PhD thesis in which he outlines the concept of the religious virtuoso as social actor in first century Judea and then highlights the importance of this concept for the thought-world of, and background to, the Fourth Gospel. Ling also has in his sights the Context Group's analysis of a pan-Mediterranean honour/shame culture which he considers to be a simplistic generalization which needs some prudent revision. As such, throughout the work, aspects of
more » ... e work, aspects of the Context Group's analysis and its members' theses are repeatedly critiqued. It is no wonder that Bruce Malina's own review of this work (RBL, 2008) is so bellicose. In fact, despite the title, the Fourth Gospel plays second fiddle in this book. Ling is concerned much more with an exploration of social actors over against social modeling, although the difference between the two seems to be relatively moot. Ling seeks to undermine one social model which he argues does not have the sophistication necessary for an understanding of the specific situation in Judea, but then proposes in its place a social model, in all but name, drawn from alternative contemporary sociological theories about ascetism and the religious virtuoso. So, whilst Ling is happy to criticise the Context Group for applying their (anachronistic?) model back onto the Gospel text, his own (anachronistic?) theoretical agenda seems to be immune from the same criticism. Ling proposes that the difference between his 'interpretivist' model and other social-scientific approaches to the text of the Fourth Gospel is that he explores the role of social actors (especially the poor, women, religious virtuoso), whereas others have only looked at abstracted systems. The reader will need to decide whether this difference is either relevant or real. The book commences with a clear introduction, setting the parameters of the work, before launching into a major assault on the Context Group reconstruction of Mediterranean hon-
doi:10.2104/bc100010 fatcat:pc7fn4zd3jamlfhrpd7mkioowa