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  • The Open Mind: Essays in Honour of Christopher Rowland ed. by Jonathan Knight, and Kevin Sullivan
  • Dirk G. van der Merwe
Knight, Jonathan, and Kevin Sullivan, eds. 2015. The Open Mind: Essays in Honour of Christopher Rowland. Library of New Testament Studies 522. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0567658517. Pp. 312. $122.

The Open Mind, with Jonathan Knight and Kevin Sullivan as editors, is a Festschrift in honour of Christopher Rowland, published in the series of the Library of New Testament Studies. It is a compendium of essays from former doctoral students and friends of Rowland. The one thing that they have in common is angels in the thought world of developing Christianity. The significance of Jewish contributions to the developing Christian ideology is critically assessed. The impact of original Jewish sources on the earliest Christian belief is evident.

In this volume, Angelology and Christology emerge as the central themes. The choice for the title The Open Mind was inspired by publications from Rowland himself: The Open Heaven and subsequent publications in which he redefined the concept of apocalypticism and opened new vistas on the understanding of first-century Christianity.

This compendium consists of thirteen chapters with authors mostly from the United Kingdom (Crispin Fletcher-Louis, Paul Foster, Andrew [End Page 223] Gregory, Jonathan Knight, J. W. Rogerson), and from the United States (April D. DeConick, Charles A. Gieschen, Phillip B. Muñoa, Andrei A. Orlov, Kevin P. Sullivan). Then there is one from Germany (Tobias Nicklas), one from South Africa (Jonathan A. Draper) and one from Brazil (Vicente Dobroruka).

Chapter one: “Escape from the Wheel of Time: The Cognitive Basis for Gnostic Ascent Practices” (DeConick). According to DeConick, diversity exists in Gnosticism. Nevertheless, he is convinced that across the vast spectrum of gnostic groups, a common deep structure exists to stabilise the variety. In this chapter he tries “to describe this deep structure and suggest where it might come from” (3). He then presents a new model “to explain both the structural uniformity and local variance” (3).

Chapter two: “On Trees and Visionaries: The Role of the Cosmic Tree and Related Material in Baruch, Daniel and Pseudo-Danielic Literature” (Dobroruka). In this chapter Dobroruka tackles the relationship between vines, trees, and gardens on the one side, and the apocalyptic material of Baruch and Daniel on the other. For him a kind of crossover exists between the apocalyptic visionary traditions that occur in Baruch and Daniel. His conclusion is that “trees and plants in general played a special role in visionary experiences both in Baruch and Danielic-type apocalypses” (30).

Chapter three: “Performing the Cosmic Mystery of the Church in the Communities of the Didache” (Draper). Draper responds to a statement made by Rowland that “there is a missing link in current understandings of apocalyptic visions, ‘What is not clear … is the content and origin of such visions’” (37). Draper’s interpretation of this statement is that “some knowledge of the context and performative aspect of the claim to prophecy and mystical experiences is essential in answering the kind of questions raised by apocalyptic visions” (37). In this chapter he takes up this challenge and investigates the valuable clues embedded in the text of Didache.

Chapter four: “The Similitudes of Enoch (1 Enoch 37–71): The Son of Man, Apocalyptic Messianism and Political Theology” (Fletcher-Louis). According to Fletcher-Louis, 1 Enoch conveys an apocalyptic text, a particular political theology and “not an escape from this world and from political realities” (60). Therefore, the transcendent messianism of 1 Enoch (37–71) in all likelihood draws on older biblical priestly notions of identity to create a distinctive messianic expectation in response to the prevalent political and religious circumstances of his day. In this chapter Fletcher-Louis [End Page 224] makes three proposals to contribute to the thinking that the Similitudes is a mainstream, pre-Christian Jewish text and its content is crucially important for a proper understanding of Jesus and the gospels.

Chapter five: “The Open Hell: A Study of the Apocalypse of Peter” (Foster). According to Foster, descriptions of the underworld are rare in Rowland’s apocalyptic surveys. In his detailed analysis of the Apocalypse...


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