The connecting web, marking the present collection of biblical studies, is the application of the sociological method for the interpretation of the texts of the New Testament.
The extensive introductory chapter examines the historical emergence and development of the sociological method of interpretation of the biblical sources of Christian faith, which followed, from the 1970s and on, the already prevalent historical-philological, the morphohistorical method, as well as the one of the final compilation and edition of the texts. There is emphasis on the dynamism acquired by biblical hermeneutics with the application of this new method and a brief mention of the work of pioneers of this method (G. Theissen, W.A. Meeks, A. Schreiber, B.J. Malina etc.). Also, there is an examination of the adoption of useful heuristic tools and methodological points of view, deriving from social or cultural anthropology.
In the next chapter, the author discusses the economic, political and social dimensions of the commandment in the book of Revelation for abstinence from the consuming of idolothytes. In the third chapter, the sociological method of interpretation is applied to the Gospel and, therefore, to the community of Apostle Matthew, which is in a transitional phase, from the initial agricultural phase of Christian communities, where the Judean-Christian element prevails, to the urban phase, where Hellenistic believers change social standards and call for new theological approaches.
Afterwards, follows an extensive study-comment on the symbolism of food and the social signification of the stipulations about “cleanliness” in the Judean tradition, the problems that the specific practices caused to early Christian communities, as well as the overcoming of these problems by means of the ecumenical and eschatological opening of Christianity. Classical studies of cultural anthropology (Mary Douglas and Edmond Leach) are exploited here for the social dimension of the legislation about cleanliness.
The next text is structured on two levels, the theological and cultural-anthropological one, which refers to the sacrament of Penitence in the Orthodox Tradition. Help on the behalf of anthropology comes from the thematization and conceptualization of the ritual in primitive societies (rites of passage, eulogy, invigoration), so that a theology of penitence is articulated on the basis of a worship of communal-Eucharistic and not juridical character.
In the sixth text of the volume, ap. Paul’s two Epistles to Thessalonians and the existential for the first Christian communities issue of the “delay of the Presence” of the Lord provide the author with the chance to develop and comment on the various answers, which were given to the issue of the teaching about eschata by the first Christian communities and their theologians, particularly by Paul, and to emphasize the authentic eschatological presence of the Church mission in history.
This collection of studies concludes with a hermeneutic comment of the parable of the “great banquet” (Luke 14,15-24), which, while, according to the author points to the sociological context of the “patron-protégé” relationship, it reverses traditional relationships, as it replaces the relations of reciprocity with the redistribution of goods to those who have naught. The whole issue is part of the theological strategy of Luke in favor of a Eucharist, in which the Judean and ethnic Christians participate without distinction.