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Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament

(Powers #1)

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  232 ratings  ·  21 reviews
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Title: Naming the Powers
Author: Wink, Walter
Publisher: Augsburg Fortress Pub
Publication Date: 1983/09/01
Number of Pages:
Binding Type: PAPERBACK
Library of Congress: 83048905
Paperback, 200 pages
Published January 5th 1984 by Augsburg Fortress Publishing (first published January 5th 1983)
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Steve Wiggins
Dec 24, 2019 rated it liked it
As I admit up front elsewhere I have been negligent in reading Walter Wink’s “powers trilogy.” These books started to come out when I was in college and I heard whispers about the professor who really believed in things such as angels and demons. Now that I’ve sat down and read the first book in the trilogy I have mixed thoughts. One is that, although technical, you have to accept a certain worldview for Wink’s train of thought to work. The Bible, for one thing, has to be inspired (but not neces ...more
Apr 21, 2014 rated it liked it
This might not be a classic, but Wink's book (and the two sequels) are frequently cited. After years of noticing such citations in other books I was reading, I figured I'd go back to the source. Wink's book does a fantastic job in making what the Bible says about spirits/demons/angels and such palpable for modern people. On one extreme are materialists who discount all the Bible, or other literature, says about such things since, well, we modern people know such things do not exist. Wink's book ...more
Michael Walker
This is the first of 3 volumes on the New Testament subject of "the Powers." The author was professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary, New York. Dr. Wink's views are decidedly branded with his Marxist liberation theology viewpoint. Despite this enormous flaw, at least this first work is thought-provoking, the project enormous in scope. In essence he is trying to define the locus of power in the world, whether originating in the classical definitions of Ephesians ("demon ...more
Adam Ross
Dec 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wink's classic study of "the principalities and powers" should be required reading for every Christian. The first half of the book is exegetical in nature, exploring the Greek terms for power in the New Testament carefully and in detail. From this Wink concludes that each of the words for power cover an overlapping range of semantic meaning, that is they are more or less interchangeable. He also concludes that the words for power in the New Testament can be used to speak interchangeably of indiv ...more
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A few years ago I read Wink's The Powers that Be, the one volume summary of his comprehensive trilogy that begins with this book, Naming the Powers. The summary electrified me and altered my thinking on a handful of theological issues.

Wink is largely responsible for recovering the language of powers from the scripture. He contends that there is a spiritual reality to systems and institutions and that when we struggle for social justice, we don't just struggle against physical manifestations of
Dec 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
I liked the first two sections of this book very very much. Wink does a great job exploring the textual evidence of the language of "Powers", and is convincing in his interpretation of the inter-related reality of the "heavenly" and "earthly" powers (or the "spiritual and material" powers). This does significant justice to the text and the early Christian's sense of what the powers were in the ancient world.
He is not convincing in the 3rd section, however. He asserts, without much argument, tha
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beginning of at least a three part exploration into "the powers".

The author spends his time in this first edition setting forth the situation, exploring lexical data and usage, discussing disputed passages, and providing provisional conclusions based on the data. Appendices go into greater detail about the usage of certain words and concepts.

The author sets forth the fundamental challenge: what does it mean to say that a given person or entity has "power"? How is power exercised? Who is behi
Greg Williams
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the first volume of Walter Wink's 3 volume series that explores the "power" language used by the New Testament. In Paul's letters in particular, there are references to "principalities and powers" over whom Christ rules. While this language in Paul often seems to imply spiritual powers, this same language is used throughout the New Testament for human rulers and authority as well. This first volume focuses on the language used when referring to "The Powers That Be".

The first section of
This tastes different than what I am used to. I’m not sure I like it, but there are some intriguing flavors here than entice me to take another bite.

He basic argument is that angelic and demonic powers and all invisible powers are real, but not what you think. The powers are the invisible part of human power structures. The powers are fallen, but neither wholly evil nor whole good. In fact, similar to the idea of the flawed Greek gods who influence various people or nature. Sometimes his idea s
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
While I don't ultimately land in the same interpretative space as Wink, this book is a tremendous, foundational resource to furnish the Christian imagination with the Biblical - and extra-biblical - language of powers and principalities.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I do not agree with Wink on many points, but I love his analysis, this thoughtful reflection on scripture and the insight he brings. Looking forward to reading volume 2 and 3.
Garland Vance
Nov 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I would give this 3.5 stars if I could. I had to read this book for a class that I am taking, so the timing of reading the book was not the best. In other words, I think that this book could have been excellent if the timing of reading the book were a bit different--for example, if I were preparing to fight against some institutional evil and wanted to better understand the social and spiritual forces and how they collude with each other.

The book is divided into three parts:
Part 1 portrays an o
Dec 28, 2009 added it
This book was excellent in starting the Powers Trilogy by beginning to set the stage for a biblical understanding of the powers and their implications then and now(whether earthly or spiritual; good or bad, etc.). Unbeknownst to me I actually read The Powers that Be first several years ago and only discovered after the fact that it was a summary of the trilogy. While at first I felt silly for it, I'm glad that I had that and so the language was familiar as I approached this book. I don't believe ...more
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Another book I wish I had read decades ago. Wink tackles theological issues that most shy away from. His is both a scholarly and compassionate look at how we think about the forces of evil and of good. He addresses the scandal of our calling ourselves monotheistic while naming a plethora of spiritual beings alongside of God. He closes with significant work around the power and usefulness of the stories and myths that we use to think about the powers.

This should be mandatory reading for every yo
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biblical
Sub title: "The Language of Power in the NT". Excellent treatment of the use of the language of "powers" in the NT which often have been not understood or badly interpreted. With this first of three volumes Wink not only gives a clear and forceful interpretation but shows how the often esoteric language of many of texts written as codes in times of persecution can provide for our age the same hopeful and challenging guidance as they did for our ancestors.
Apr 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm very interested in what Wink has to say about power, but I'm not sure that this book would be of much interest to someone who isn't a New Testament scholar. I might recommend that those who are not skip this volume. Not that there's nothing interesting here. Mostly, I just feel unqualified to comment on Wink's exegesis.

Feb 25, 2015 added it
A theological treatise on the concept of "the powers" that situates them neither as simply metaphors of institutions nor literal supernatural entities, but rather as the inner metaphorical subjective "within-ness" of the concretion of power and institutions. Heady stuff but I learned a lot. 3.4 Martinie glasses
Jul 15, 2009 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Jason by: Dr. Bryan Miller
In an odd synchronicity, it turns out that SF author Neal Stephenson has also been turned on to Wink's work. ...more
Dec 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
so thoughtful and helpful in de-mystifying the confusing, shadowy language of the powers. I recently incorporated some of Wink's ideas in church ministry, and it has proved quite effective.
Nov 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: to-read-in-2016
a solid introduction to Winks project. the first 2/3s is fairly dry word study work but the last third picks up substantially.
Susan Mumpower-spriggs
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Jan 06, 2013
Luke Harms
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Oct 07, 2014
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Jul 19, 2014
Patrick Mulcahy
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Jul 25, 2011
Craig Thompson
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Jul 15, 2017
Nate Crawford
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Dec 08, 2013
Bridget Shelly
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Mar 16, 2017
Al Nantz
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Jul 30, 2017
Eddie Zacapa
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Nov 25, 2018
Jamie Arpin-Ricci
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Feb 26, 2012
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Dr. Walter Wink was Professor Emeritus of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. Previously, he was a parish minister and taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In 1989-1990 he was a Peace Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace.

His newer works include:

The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man
(Fortress Press, 2001.)


Other books in the series

Powers (3 books)
  • Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence (Powers, # 2)
  • Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Powers, #3)

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