On the Way

Religious Experience and Common Life in the Gospels and Letters of Paul

Course instructors considering a book for adoption will be provided a complimentary copy.
$19.95
Digital Books

Kevin McCruden’s introduction to the four Gospels and letters of Paul combines a thorough familiarity with serious scholarship and a sensitivity to the important questions that new readers bring to these ancient texts. Within a framework defined by religious experience and the common life and with a view to their impact on modern interpreters, McCruden offers a sensitive reading rich in insight. His work is a superb tool for introducing undergraduates to the critical study of the New Testament.

Harry Attridge
Yale Divinity School

Professors of New Testament as well as leaders of Bible study groups often find themselves searching for outside sources in the biblical field that go beyond the strictly academic analysis of the New Testament texts to address the personal experience of the community members and how that holds coherence with our current reality.

It is precisely for this reason that Kevin McCruden’s On the Way distinguishes itself from other scholarly introductions to the Gospels and the letters of Paul. Without any mitigation of the scholarly knowledge necessary for the understanding of each document, and with his gift for gracefully communicating erudition in a smooth readable style, McCruden trains his special focus on those most pertinent texts that evince the convert’s personal life and his or her desire to commit to community, and then moves to discussions of contemporary heroes and issues of religio-socio-political recent history.

As a result, McCruden effectively connects the Gospels and letters of Paul to our own world, as vibrant conversation partners from across the millennia, where we find common ground in their evidence of personal transformation and a community commitment that becomes a passion and joy.

Wendy Cotter, CSJ
Loyola University Chicago

Kevin McCruden has convincingly traced the thread that runs through a significant portion of the canonical New Testament, the four Gospels, and the undisputed letters of Paul. Each of these books originated in the lived experience of the communal encounter of the Risen Christ, shared by its author and immediate audience. By identifying the power of the shared religious experience of the communities of the New Testament in all its diversity, McCruden has opened a horizon for contemporary readers to understand more deeply their own encounter with the same Christ. A wide audience that includes students, teachers, and pastors will benefit from his insightful, focused, and lucid reading of the Gospels and Paul.

Alan C. Mitchell
Georgetown University

In On the Way, McCruden consistently offers insightful interpretations of the relationship between the religious experience of God and living life in community as this relationship is reflected in the four Gospels and the letters of Paul. He writes in an enviably clear and delightful style. The reader not only learns a great deal but does so with pleasure. McCruden has a knack for clarifying without oversimplifying.

Thomas H. Tobin, SJ
Loyola University Chicago

About This Book

Overview

This quest for meaning and purpose often starts with personal encounter—the kind of transformative experience that results in a commitment to new ways of living. These new commitments yield communities: a common life with shared goals and practices. In turn, these communities can bring about more opportunities for personal encounter and transformative experience.

This pattern of personal encounter and communal commitment is evident even in the ancient texts and world of early Christians. In On the Way: Religious Experience and Common Life in the Gospels and Letters of Paul, Kevin McCruden explores this dynamic with rigor and religious sensitivity. By examining the historical critical, and theological significance of the four Gospels and the undisputed Pauline letters, McCruden makes space to explore the link between religious experience and communal life. This unique approach is aided by chapter summaries, review and reflection questions, and definitions throughout the book. Accessible, readable, and immediately relevant to the lives of students, On the Way offers a way into the New Testament studies that invites students to consider encounter, transformation, and community as it’s reflected in both Scripture and their lives.

Details

Weight .55 lbs
Dimensions 5.375 × 1 × 8.25 in
Print ISBN

978-1-59982-793-3

Format

Softcover

Item # 7093

Customer Reviews

Kevin McCruden’s introduction to the four Gospels and letters of Paul combines a thorough familiarity with serious scholarship and a sensitivity to the important questions that new readers bring to these ancient texts. Within a framework defined by religious experience and the common life and with a view to their impact on modern interpreters, McCruden offers a sensitive reading rich in insight. His work is a superb tool for introducing undergraduates to the critical study of the New Testament.

Harry Attridge
Yale Divinity School

Professors of New Testament as well as leaders of Bible study groups often find themselves searching for outside sources in the biblical field that go beyond the strictly academic analysis of the New Testament texts to address the personal experience of the community members and how that holds coherence with our current reality.

It is precisely for this reason that Kevin McCruden’s On the Way distinguishes itself from other scholarly introductions to the Gospels and the letters of Paul. Without any mitigation of the scholarly knowledge necessary for the understanding of each document, and with his gift for gracefully communicating erudition in a smooth readable style, McCruden trains his special focus on those most pertinent texts that evince the convert’s personal life and his or her desire to commit to community, and then moves to discussions of contemporary heroes and issues of religio-socio-political recent history.

As a result, McCruden effectively connects the Gospels and letters of Paul to our own world, as vibrant conversation partners from across the millennia, where we find common ground in their evidence of personal transformation and a community commitment that becomes a passion and joy.

Wendy Cotter, CSJ
Loyola University Chicago

Kevin McCruden has convincingly traced the thread that runs through a significant portion of the canonical New Testament, the four Gospels, and the undisputed letters of Paul. Each of these books originated in the lived experience of the communal encounter of the Risen Christ, shared by its author and immediate audience. By identifying the power of the shared religious experience of the communities of the New Testament in all its diversity, McCruden has opened a horizon for contemporary readers to understand more deeply their own encounter with the same Christ. A wide audience that includes students, teachers, and pastors will benefit from his insightful, focused, and lucid reading of the Gospels and Paul.

Alan C. Mitchell
Georgetown University

In On the Way, McCruden consistently offers insightful interpretations of the relationship between the religious experience of God and living life in community as this relationship is reflected in the four Gospels and the letters of Paul. He writes in an enviably clear and delightful style. The reader not only learns a great deal but does so with pleasure. McCruden has a knack for clarifying without oversimplifying.

Thomas H. Tobin, SJ
Loyola University Chicago

About the Author

Kevin B. McCruden

Kevin McCruden is a professor of religious studies and chair of the religious studies department at Gonzaga University. He received his doctorate in New Testament and Early Christianity from Loyola University Chicago.

Table of Contents

Contents

Preface for Teachers

Chapter 1       Religious Experience and the Common Life

Chapter 2       Encountering Mark: The Way of Messiahship and the Way of Discipleship

Chapter 3       Encountering Matthew: Jesus as Teacher of Living in the Kingdom of Heaven

Chapter 4       Encountering Luke: The Journey of Faith in Community

Chapter 5       Encountering John: The Mission of the Word of God in the Lives of the Children of God

Chapter 6       Encountering Paul: Reflections on Reconstructing the Historical Apostle

 Chapter 7       Religious Experience and Common Life in the Letters of Paul: Participation in Christ and Ethical Transformation

 

Chapter 8       Common Life in Crisis: Paul’s Response in Letters to the Corinthians and Romans

 

Index

Professional Reviews

Kevin B. Mccruden, On the Way: Religious Experience and Common Life in the Gospels and Letters of Paul (Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2020). Pp. 209. $19.95.

Kevin McCruden’s book has the aim of making NT studies relevant for the lived experience of students. With this goal in mind he investigates the subjects of religious experience and common life in the Gospels and Pauline letters. According to McC., “The essential point of the study is that these writings function, at their most fundamental level, to articulate powerful experiences of personal encounter that result in the commitment to embody new patterns of living within the community” (p. 10).

In the first chapter, McC. explains what he means by religious experience and the common life. Religious experience is said to be very personal, life-changing, and relational, involved in encountering a reality that is wholly Other. It is also “of the fundamental faith claim of the first Christians that Jesus was a living presence who embodies the ultimate purposes of God” (p. 28). The common life is one that is communal (not individualistic) and characterizes the sensibilities of NT authors. This means that such a life is highly concerned about personal faith commitments and living out those commitments in the midst of community.

The next four chapters cover the Gospels, beginning with Mark. After this, in chap. 6, McC. deals with reconstructing the historical Paul, Paul in Acts, and 1 Thessalonians. Then in chap. 7, McC. covers religious experience and common life as they relate to par- ticipation, ethics, and Paul’s imprisonment (in Philippians, Philemon, and Galatians). A final chapter addresses Paul’s responses to the Corinthians and Romans. Similar patterns are followed for each chapter including a section on the literary and structural features of the biblical writing (Gospels), the historical context (Mark, Matthew, Paul), and samples of religious experience and the common life throughout. The chapters routinely end with a summary, “Questions for Review,” which may be useful for quizzes or exams; “Questions for Reflection,” which may be helpful to prompt in-class discussions; and “Further Read- ing.” Sources listed in the latter include a mixture of scholarly monographs and commentaries. One setback here is that many of these titles were published decades ago, which means that undergraduate students—a number of them not even alive when these books first hit the market—might perceive these works to be rather dated.

Among McC.’s topics that support his thesis are the identity of Jesus as Son of God, the redefinition of family in Mark’s Gospel, kingdom values from the Sermon on the Mount, parables of the Good Samaritan and the Rich Man and Lazarus, Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman, Paul’s participation in Christ, faith and Torah relationship, the inversion of power in 1 Corinthians, and the strong and weak members in the community of Rome. Students will appreciate the various pictures and ways McC. compares biblical topics with popular modern examples such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s premonitions in his mountaintop speech, and Dietrich Bonheoffer’s teaching on the cost of discipleship.

McCruden states at the outset that he makes no claim about giving a definitive treatment of religious experience and the common life, and the slender size of his work attests to the selective way he addresses the sources. He is also candid about his intention to employ critical contemporary methods in scholarship and to honor “the complexity inherent in the origin and function of the scriptural text” (p. 24). An example of this is the way he distinguishes between modern and ancient forms of biography with the Gospels reflecting the latter—such narratives were rarely comprehensive and did not have as their primary goal historical objectivity.

Problematic with McC.’s approach is that sometimes he does not discuss formidable alternative viewpoints; I noticed this especially in the Pauline chapters. For example, he states Krister Stendahl’s assertion that Paul was “called” rather than “converted” (p. 147) without mentioning Alan Segal or others who contest the claim. Another example is that he sees the Lucan Paul’s rhetoric in Acts as a foil to Paul’s own disavowal of rhetorical ability in 1–2 Corinthians (p. 138). But there is no acknowledgment that this language may simply reflect the Corinthian perspective of Paul’s oral deliveries when compared with his rivals and Apollos, and, rather than disavowing his skills, Paul reacts with self- deprecation similar to rhetoricians like Dio Chrysostom (Or. 42.3). When McC. states that Paul is “non-controversial” with regard to Jewish customs in Acts (pp. 139–40), how then do we interpret his being stoned and beaten by his Jewish opponents in Acts 14 and 21?

Alternative viewpoints are extremely helpful for students to think critically about biblical interpretation and to prompt an examination of the texts for themselves. When only one side is given a voice, however, critical methods and complexity are not being very well honored. Despite such shortcomings, this book is still a useful resource when it comes to reading NT texts through the lens of religious experience and common life.

B. J. Oropeza
Azusa Pacific University and Seminary School of Theology

On the Way: Religious Experience and Common Life in the Gospels and Letters of Paul. By Kevin B. McCruden. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic. $19.95. Horizons.

In a crowded market of New Testament introductions, On the Way: Religious Experience and Common Life in the Gospels and Letters of Paul attempts to prick the curiosity of students by introducing the New Testament through the twin lenses of religious experience and communal response. The author holds that “the writings of the New Testament … offer resources for wrestling with the complexity of issues that impinge upon [the students’] lives” (09) and desires to demonstrate “the relevance of the study of the New Testament for lived experience” (01).

To that end, McCruden focuses on the canonical gospels and the undisputed Pauline letters, suggesting that both offer “different windows” into early Christian understanding of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The author does not explain why he begins with the Gospel of Mark, rather than the letters of Paul, which he acknowledges predate the Gospels, and therefore reflect the earliest Christian reflection on religious experience. But this placement may be due to his desire to focus on Paul’s contribution to the transformation and renewal of common life (391).

The book opens with a “Preface for Teachers,” which articulates the author’s motivation and goal for the work. In “Chapter : Religious Experience and the Common Life,” McCruden discusses how religious experience is variously defined, the role of creativity and culture in interpretation, and the significance of the communal life, particularly in the first century. He does make a rather sweeping statement about American individualism in comparison to the communal sensibilities of the New Testament authors. Given the increasing percentage of undergraduates from ethnic/cultural communities that uphold collectivist values, a more nuanced statement would better speak to a diverse audience.

The second through fifth chapters explore the Gospels, highlighting the evangelists’ unique interpretation of the experience of Jesus. Each chapter contains well-footnoted historical background and provides discussion questions and suggestions for further reading at the end. Given the twin concerns of religious experience and communal life, McCruden then chooses specific pericopes that explore these topics in detail.
In the second chapter, the author presents the actions and attitudes of Martin Luther King as a modern example of the Marcan Jesus’ recognition that a life of service frequently leads to suffering. In the third chapter, “Encountering Matthew,” a sidebar introduces Bonhoeffer, though a direct link is not made in the body of the text between the Matthean Jesus and this example. In the following chapters, no further examples are provided. This seems a missed opportunity that could have helped students more readily see the relevance of the gospel in the twenty-first century.

Whereas the gospel chapters are general introductions exploring the religious experience as recounted by the evangelists, the last three chapters turn to Paul and the undisputed Pauline letters. After “Encountering Paul: Reflections on Reconstructing the Historical Apostle,” chapters 7 and 8, “Religious Experience and Common Life in the Letters of Paul: Participation in Christ and Ethical Transformation” and “Common Life in Crisis: Paul’s Response in Letters to the Corinthians and Romans,” focus more fully on the common life of early Christianity. Curiously, chapter is the last word, since McCruden didn’t include a conclusion to his book. Perhaps because resources for further reading are presented at the conclusion of each chapter, there is no bibliography, but the book does include a helpful index.

Attending to visual learners, On the Way has numerous images and charts that illustrate the content. It would have been helpful to have the charts referenced in the body of the text so that readers could more easily align the information in the charts with the topic in the text.

McCruden envisioned his monograph as a text for undergraduates, and his writing is clear, concise, and free from abstruse jargon. But his fulsome footnotes and additional references make the book useful for a seminary or lower-level graduate course. The text’s readability also makes it accessible and interesting to the adult learner or Bible study group.

Laurie Brink, OP

ON THE WAY: RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE AND COMMON LIFE IN THE GOSPELS AND LETTERS OF PAUL . By   Kevin B.   McCruden  .  Winona, MN:  Anselm Academic ,  2020 . Pp. 209. Paper, $19.95.

Modern introductions to the NT at times devolve into amateur histories of early Christianity. Such surveys tend to treat NT literature as mere fodder for historical reconstruction. They focus on the realities depicted in the text, as opposed to those presumed by the text’s existence. McCruden deftly avoids this foible by treating the NT documents as literary articulations of shared religious experience. His purview consists less of personages and events described in such texts and more on the communities behind them whose lived experience gave rise to the “articulations” which comprise the NT. For this reason, his surveys of various NT documents, which include the four canonical gospels and six of Paul’s uncontested letters, are self- consciously quite selective. Each chapter, however, contains enough scholarly signaling to orient readers to the vast land-scape of modern NT studies. Especially helpful in McCruden’s work are his uniform chapter conclusions, which feature a summary, questions for review and reflection, and a bibliography. Ultimately, with no chapter exceeding thirty pages and with its elegant yet accessible prose, McCruden’s work is an invaluable introduction to the NT for students and lay readers alike. While readers accustomed to the types of surveys mentioned above might shiver at McCruden’s methodology (i.e., using the experiences of the texts’ original “users” as an overriding interpretive lens), his treatment of the NT as an  articulation of religious experience  appears quite congenial to confessional use. In short, college and graduate school professors, Christian teachers and ministers, and lay readers interested in Christian history and spirituality would be hard pressed to find a NT introduction more appealing than McCruden’s.

Jonah Bissell    Freeport, ME

Jonah Bissell
Freeport, ME
12/31/2021

Kevin B. McCruden, On the Way: Religious Experience and Common Life in the Gospels and Letters of Paul. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic (www.anselmacademic.org), 2020. Pages, 209. Paper, $19.95

Here is a valuable study that bridges the space between a historical-critical analysis of the gospels and Pauline writings and the quest for religious meaning and spirituality. McCruden, professor of religious studies at Gonzaga University, centers on the fundamental components of religious experience of the transcendent and the striving to form community. In Christian terms the experience of the transcendent—an experience that is transformative and leads to community—comes throughout the person and mission of Jesus Christ. This core belief is traced in an examination of the four gospels and Paul’s Key letters. The author’s goal is to present an introduction to these New Testament writings that will also meet the religious quest of contemporary students.

The Bible Today May-June 2021
2/18/2021

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