In Whenever They Prayed: Dimensions of New Testament Prayer, Rodney A. Werline shifts the scholarly approach to New Testament prayer from source and genre analyses to seeing prayer as a cultural practice, bringing new dimensions of the prayers to light. Assisted by ritual theorists such as Catherine Bell, Pierre Bourdieu, Talal Assad, and Roy Rappaport, Werline illuminates the genius of the New Testament authors and the members of their communities. Through years of embodied practice, these authors and members acquired an aptitude that humans uniquely possess—the ability through ritual practice to navigate and maintain their relationships with one another and, together, with their God. Werline especially focuses on how their actions brought cultural memory to life, assisted in receiving revelations, protected them from demonic powers, and established and fulfilled their obligations to one another and to that God. The full import of these observations, however, is not possible without placing the prayers within their Second Temple Jewish context. Jewish prayers outside the New Testament should not function as mere “background,” but as evidence of a grand cultural enterprise taking place, in which members of the early church actively participated.
Rodney A. Werline is dean of Howard Chapel, Marie and Leman Barnhill Endowed Chair in Religious Studies, and director of the Center for Religious Studies at Barton College.
1. Changing Perspectives
2. Prayer and Memory
3. Prayer and Revelations
4. Prayer and Demonic Powers
5. Prayer and Obligation
This innovative book explores four major uses of prayer in the New Testament allowing us to see the prayers of Jesus, Paul, and others in a new light. The author seamlessly integrates the study of New Testament prayer practice in its broader cultural environment by drawing on anthropological perspectives to illuminate the embedded, embodied, and performative character of prayer. The volume should find its way into the hands of students and specialists alike and prove an indispensable addition to courses on Christian origins and early Judaism.
This book addresses a serious lack in scholarship on prayer in the Bible. Drawing on insights from anthropology, ritual studies, and cognitive sciences, Rodney Werline demonstrates how to take prayer in the New Testament seriously as a social and embodied practice. Focusing on what prayers do rather than merely what they say, Werline explores the shared cultural knowledge they require, offering provocative new perspectives on New Testament prayers. This book makes important contributions to New Testament studies as well as the study of prayer in antiquity in general.
In this book, Rodney A. Werline studies prayers from Second Temple Jewish literature and the New Testament through an anthropological lense. The study offers a methodological innovation and opens up dimensions of prayer texts that were hidden to the eye of the beholder so far. Reading ancient texts in order to reconstruct the actual religious life out of which they originated is one of the most important tasks of biblical scholarship and this book is a fruitful attempt to do so. As such, it is a must-read for both scholars of early Judaism and New Testament scholars.