5 Stars Out Of 5
an Essential Reference Work for New Testament Stud
November 13, 2013
This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute (www.desertbibleinstitute.com).
It was during the process of looking for a book that could bridge the gap between our New Testament survey courses and our other New Testament courses (individual books, theology, prophecy, worldview, etc.) that I received The World of the New Testament. This introductory reference book seems just the answer to the ongoing issue of textual continuity between or course selections as well as a good way to introduce the use of scholarly articles to our new students.
One the advantages I noticed with this book is how the editors decided to organize it. The first section is comprised of articles that deal with what precedes the New Testament world. Articles range from relevant issues during the "exile" all the way up to Herod the Great. The authors of this section explain how the message went out in a Greco-Roman context. There is a clear focus how, due to the Hellenistic audience, the message was presented, it was received, and the impact that it had on that society. The focus of the text at this point turns more introspective as it looks at the Jewish people and culture. Most of the writing seems to put emphasis on who the Jews were, what primary sects (Pharisee, Sadducee, Essene, Zelaot) they were comprised of, and what philosophies were embraced in that culture.
The fourth part of the book is perhaps the most interesting. It focuses on the literary context of early Christianity. This section starts with a general overview of the various literary forms seen in the New Testament and then gets more specific by looking at the influence of specific authors or styles of writing. Finally, the book concludes with a focus on geography by respected archeologists. Until recently, many books on the New Testament have been written by either theologians or archeologists. Here we see a balance of both allowing readers a fuller appreciation of the various topics and society. Additionally, this balance of science and theology shows how the two areas of study compliment, rather than disprove, one another. These articles walk the reader through the various cities that Jesus and the apostles ministered in giving insight into who these people were and the challenges that Jesus and his followers must have faced. This book is rich with supplementary materials as well. It contains 15 maps, 75 illustrations, and a wealth of diagrams and charts to help with terms, measurements, and references unique to this geography and time period.
It is important to keep in mind when reading this book that it is intended as a reference book for bible and seminary students, with the intention of it being a supplement that would be useful in every course on New Testament studies. While it could, and perhaps should, be a primary text for a New Testament survey class, this is not it sole (or even primary) function.
An overwhelming, and obviously important element of study throughout this book is the concept of context. One of the advantages of this book is its study of the context of the New Testament for both Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures. The text not only offers significant information on both but also blends the two since to both cultures were intermingled politically, geographically, and to a growing extent spiritually. The chapters of the book are succinct and are clearly meant to be a summary rather than an exhaustive study of the topic. This allows the author to offer highlights of a given topic in general while delving into some specifics to give students a flavor of what is being discussed.
It is clear that the editors had students in mind when writing this book. Not only is the work set up in a logical, progressive order; but also it was written in such a way that topical questions students might have are largely addressed. A boon for using this book in a classroom setting is the existence of an annotated bibliography at the end of each chapter. Here it seems the author chose some of the best or most useful books, on the topic that they are writing about, and included them at the end of the chapter. This allows not only students a resource for further study, but it also allows professors to easily assign paper topics or extension activities to enrich their students.
I plan to introduce this book into our curriculum for our students in New Testament studies for the next school year.. I think that they will find it to be comprehensive work that will cover any reasonable topics a new student would likely come across. This will also prove a handy reference resource for our professors in the same field. I appreciate, as a curriculum developer, having such a thoughtful resource written by so many international experts in their various fields.
Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Desert Bible Institute, President
Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert Bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson's blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.
The book for this review was provided free of charge by Brazos Press a division of Baker Publishing through NetGalley.com. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and not DBI, NetGalley.com, or the publisher.