The problem with John Mark Reynolds‘ new book, When Athens Met Jerusalem: An Introduction to Classical and Christian Thought
, is that neither the title nor the subtitle is fulfilled in the book. The book is about Athens with hardly a thing about Jerusalem; it’s about Classical thought with very little about Christian thought. Of course, he might contest that Platonism prepares for Christianity, and I would counter that, well, yes, it did — especially in the 2d and 3d and 4th Centuries. But this isn’t a book about how Greek Platonic thinking influenced profoundly the formation of Christian orthodoxy.
It comes off as trying to sell us the value of Greek thought by bringing up the Bible, but then the author focuses all of his attention on what he really likes: Plato and Aristotle.
So let’s tell the truth: the book is an introduction to Greek thinking — with gentle and comprehensive and informed studies of Socrates, especially Plato, and Aristotle. Perhaps the book could be called Sitting on the Areopagus Listening to Greek Philosophers. The precursors to Plato and Aristotle are adequately covered, too. Reynolds’ style is to use as many short, clipped sentences as he can. The style annoyed me at times. But something I really enjoyed was his clever humor that brought the ancients alive.
Reynolds is a professor at the Torrey Honor Institute at Biola and is himself right in the middle of the turn to Eastern Orthodoxy among Biola students. I don’t know all that much about this program, so maybe I speak out of turn, but I hope they have a biblical scholar and a theologian in the Torrey Honor Institute.
Again, I was led to suspect something else — a book that would show how Greek thought prepared for NT thinking, and all we get are some brief and superficial comments on the Areopagus speech of Paul in Acts 17 and an even briefer sketch of the ideas at work in John 1. So, for me, this is a fine introduction — for young college students — to the Greek philosophical tradition but there needs to be now two more follow up studies: one on how the Greek philosophical tradition shapes the NT and a second on how the same tradition shaped earliest orthodoxy.
The Jewishness of the Bible seems to have escaped notice in this book.