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Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament

Author: 
Walter Wink (Author)
Collection: 
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Description

"The reader of this work will search in vain for a definition of power. It is one of those words that everyone understands perfectly well until asked to define it. … Our use of the term 'power' is laden with assumptions drawn from the contemporary materialistic worldview. Whereas the ancients always understood power as the confluence of both spiritual and material factors, we tend to see it as primarily material. We do not think in terms of spirits, ghosts, demons, or gods as the effective agents of powerful effects in the world. …

"Thus a gulf has been fixed between us and the biblical writers. We use the same words but project them into a wholly different world of meanings. What they meant by power and what we mean are incommensurate. If our goal is to understand the New Testament's conception of the Powers, we cannot do so simply by applying our own modern sociological categories of power. We must instead attend carefully and try to grasp what the people of that time might have meant by power, within the linguistic field of their own worldview and mythic systems. …

"I will argue that the "principalities and powers" are the inner and outer aspects of any given manifestation of power. As the inner aspect they are the spirituality of institutions, the "within" of corporate structures and systems, the inner essence of outer organizations of power. As the outer aspect they are political systems, appointed officials, the "chair" of an organization, laws—in short, all the tangible manifestations which power takes. … This hypothesis, it seems to me, makes sense of the fluid way the New Testament writers and their contemporaries spoke of the Powers, now as if they were these centurions or that priestly hierarchy, and then, with no warning, as if they were some kind of spiritual entities in the heavenly places."

—from the Introduction
ISBN: 
9780800617868
Price: 
$25.00
Release date: 
August 1, 1984
Pages: 
198
Width: 
9
Height: 
5.94

Endorsements

"Wink knows the distinction between what is meant in New Testament times and what is meant for today. But he also recognizes that sometimes risks must be taken if one is to bring the two horizons into touch . . . These and other matters he explores are crucial issues for reasons of theology, pastoral care, social justice, and nothing less than the salvation of the world. One is grateful for the erudition, the spiritual depth and imagination, and the controlled passion which Wink has brought to them."
--Frederick Houk Borsch
Virginia Seminary Journal


"This book . . . is timely, well-grounded, and provocative. It is timely because it examines what the New Testament has to say about power in its super-human or corporate manifestations, thus addressing modern concerns for guidance in this area. It is well-grounded because it reviews and evaluates virtually all the extant literature on the topic through an exegesis of the primary texts. It is provocative because it challenges a number of modern assumptions, roughly one-third of its content being devoted to how one moves from what the texts meant 'back then' to a method for interpreting the powers."
--John Koenig
Journal of the American Academy of Religion