“Book Review.” Lohfink, Gerhard. Jesus and Community. 1984. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Gerhard Lohfink lectured to the clergy of the dioceses of Limburg and Rottenburg-Strutgart in 1981 on “The Idea of Community in Jesus and the Early Church.” He is an Ordinarius Professor for the NT on the Catholic Theological Faculty at the University of Tubingen since 1976. He also wrote The Bible–Now I Get It, which is what made his name well-known in the states.
“What did Jesus think of community? How did Jesus will community?” (:5). The thesis comes in the form of the simple question, but the short answer, and part of this thesis, is a contrast-society.
The book is organized into four main categories, each complete with sub-headings to develop and explain in a more in depth analysis. The categories consist of: Jesus and Israel; Jesus and His Disciples; The New Testament Communities and Discipleship of Jesus; and The Ancient Church in the Discipleship of Jesus.
The first quarter of this book, sets the stage for the the development of Christian community. John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus and His message. Then Jesus arrives on the scene and chooses the very symbolic twelve disciples. This basic step of inviting the representative twelve men was a sign of the hope and prophesy of the restored community of salvation (:10). They were chosen as twelve to be sent out to all of Israel, spreading the Word and opening up the community of Christ. Jesus heals the sick, continuing to gather Israel. Later, the mission is opened up to all nations. God chose this one group of Israel in order to reach the nations with a message of salvation.
The next section focuses on Jesus and the disciples. Lohfink discusses Jesus’ call for a new family. Those who followed Him would have to leave their biological families. Jesus is creating a new family comprised of Christians. This new “spiritual family” was a new form of community to minister within the community, and to reach those outside of their circles, as well. Jesus also begins to give guidelines for this Christian community, such as peace and compassion, and total reliance on God, even to the point of putting themselves in danger by giving up their sandals (which were needed to flee from robbers). Each of Jesus’ ideas for this new community were counter-cultural.
The final two sections give a glimpse into the communities of the early churches. The eschatalogical implications of the early churches were vast, just was they were with the formation of the twelve disciples. The Christian movement spread from Jerusalem (:75). The New Testament Church community was full of the Spirit and its empowerment. It was taken for granted that wherever Christians were present, miracles, healing and transformation took place. Equality and inclusion was portrayed as the NT churches included orphans, widows, Samaritans and the others shunned from traditional Jewish society (:89). In the ancient church, the concept of fraternity seemed to continue to develop. Jesus makes it clear that all national lines had been diminished in the contrast-society. Christian refusal was also an important part of the ancient church, which led to pagan’s mistrust. The church existed within society, as a living example, just as Israel was called to do for the nations.
The author raises many critical issues about Jesus’ ideas of community. While he makes it clear that the early churches were not perfect, it seems unbalanced that he does not delve into the problems early Christians faced when trying to enter into Christian community. What about addressing the bickerings and divisiveness of the NT churches? What about the corruption and power struggles that were faced while trying to be a light to society? Perhaps these questions do not necessarily reflect on the thesis, but they are important issues that the church and Christians need to face when trying to form a cohesive community in following the examples of Jesus and the early churches.
More specifically, how can Christians be intentional about forming community when out on a mission field? Lohfink points to Jesus’ nomadic ministry and how the disciples went out, while sometimes people came and followed. But what about the missionary engaging a new culture where they are not accepted, and there are still racial or sociological boundaries? How does one cross over those in order to create the inclusive community? I hope this class further addresses these questions and gives insight into how to properly minister to all cultures, specifically the urban poor.

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2 Responses to ““Book Review.” Lohfink, Gerhard. Jesus and Community. 1984. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.”

  1. masaki Says:

    I liked the series of questions at the end.

  2. JR Rozko Says:

    Kaitlyn, you are on the right track with the book review. However, a thesis cannot be a question, in fact, it is the opposite, an answer to a question. This would have strengthened your review. Also, try to offer a tought or two on how the material intersects with your life/ministry.

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