Monday, March 21, 2016

Review of Balch, Contested Ethnicities and Images

David L. Balch, Contested Ethnicities and Images: Studies in Acts and Art. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 345. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015. Pp. xx, 479, CD-ROM. ISBN 9783161523366. €159,00.

Reviewed by Davina C. Lopez, Eckerd College (


[Full disclosure: I am a contributor to a festschrift honoring David L. Balch entitled Text, Image, and Christians in the Graeco-Roman World: A Festschrift in Honor of David Lee Balch, ed. Aliou Niang and Carolyn Osiek (Princeton Theological Monographs 176; Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2011)].

In the academic study of the New Testament and related literature, two contentious methodological issues include a) the relationship of the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles to ancient biography and historiography and b) the connections between ancient visual representations and literary materials as related to early Christian discourses. Over the course of nearly half a century, the New Testament scholar David L. Balch has made significant contributions regarding both issues. Contested Ethnicities and Images: Studies in Acts and Arts collects his essays that focus on understanding Luke-Acts in its ancient literary milieu and assessing the utility of ancient art (especially Roman domestic art) for New Testament studies. As the texts of the New Testament do not serve solely as ancient artifacts but also as “scriptures” for a variety of communities, a critical component of these essays is their potential applicability in contemporary conversations in which biblical texts are used to carve out, and contest, claims to identity formation and cultural status.