As a pastor I’m always looking for approaches to the Bible that shed light on the dynamics of the early Christian communities. Understanding those dynamics helps me relate the text of scripture to present-day Christian communities (including the one I pastor!). That’s why I’m excited to see the publication of the T&T Clark Social Identity Commentary on the New Testament edited by Brian Tucker and Aaron Kuecker. It’s a one-volume commentary with chapters on each book of the New Testament. Each chapter draws on insights from the field of social identity theory (SIT) with the goal of illumining aspects of the text that may not have been apparent before. SIT is all about how individuals come together to form groups, how they think of themselves as sharing certain traits that define them as a group, and how they distinguish themselves as a group from other groups. Personally, I’ve found SIT to be one of the most useful tools available for thinking about how I appropriate the biblical text as a leader in a 21st century church. It’s aided me in strategy sessions, conflict resolutions, personal leadership style, and more. And considering how those dynamics are at play in the New Testament has deeply shaped my approach to pastoral leadership. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to write the chapters on 1 and 2 Thessalonians for this one-volume commentary. That research and writing was rich preparation for the series of sermons I just wrapped-up on 1 Thessalonians called “People of the Day” (check out the playlist below). This one-volume commentary is a companion to the T&T Clark Handbook to Social Identity in the New Testament, which will take interested folks even further into the theory and how it can benefit our readings of the scriptures. The commentary is a bit pricey, but that is because it’s quite long. If the cost is prohibitive, wait till the paperback copy comes out.
Here’s my sermon series on 1 Thessalonians:
Dr. Matt O’Reilly is Lead Pastor of Hope Hull United Methodist Church near Montgomery, AL, a fellow of the Center for Pastor Theologians, and Adjunct Professor of New Testament and Pastoral Ministry at Wesley Biblical Seminary. He is the author of Paul and the Resurrected Body: Social Identity and Ethical Practice (SBL Press).