January 6, 2022

“Given the postmodern culture of contemporary America it is not surprising that every major denomination is discussing issues of sexuality these days—and looking for help. Many will find it here. Collins discusses topics one needs: divorce and marriage, adultery, sexual terms in vice catalogues (impurity, licentiousness, debauchery, homosexuality, male prostitution, etc.), subjection or equality in marriage, and so on. He picks up all of the key passages in the New Testament, from the teaching of Jesus and Paul (I Thessalonians, I Corinthians, Romans) to the deutero-Pauline letters (Colossians, Ephesians, and the Pastorals) and the later books of the New Testament.

This is an immensely practical book. As an outstanding biblical scholar Collins does not develop a theology of sexual ethics but deals directly with key texts in their historical context. His conclusions on pp. 190-94 are helpful. He reminds us that translations from Greek are immediately an interpretation—often of terms that are difficult to translate to English; that the New Testament contains material from very different literary genres that relate to sexual issues (stories, vice catalogues, Haustafels, etc.); that they speak to people in cultures very different from ours; that they did not know the results of modern scientific research; and that they ‘do not offer a comprehensive and systematic sexual ethics’ (p. 191). He holds that one cannot ‘immediately induce from Paul . . . a set of rules for sexual conduct’ (p.192); that one must incorporate the changed view of women in society that was foreign to the first century; that New Testament writers wrote in a patriarchal society; and that the love command must underlie any sexual ethics drawn from the New Testament. Each of the eleven chapters contains helpful notes that point to additional discussions or helpful material.

While Collins does not provide a systematic New Testament sexual ethics, his book is a good starting point for anyone who wants to ‘think on these things.’ Understandable, stimulating, perceptive writing, it is a good read on a complex topic.”

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