3 Stars Out Of 5
Decent Intro for Beginning Students
February 10, 2016
Berding and Williams have taken a standard type of work (NT surveys) and have brought a slightly different approach to reading the books of the NT. A collaborative work of NT scholars (from a largely conservative approach), this project seeks to hone in one what the writers of the NT books were most concerned with. While the books contributors do address traditional introductory matters, e.g., authorship, date, provenance, etc., the bulk of their writing is devoted to an issue that sometimes receives comparatively less attentionthe issue of the biblical books purpose. The end result is more discussion of prominent themes in each book. It is also important to note that the approach of the contributors is geared toward undergraduates, who presumably have had less exposure to the introductory matters of the NT.
In terms of features designed to assist those who are relatively new to the enterprise of NT interpretation, there are several. In addition to the items mentioned above (color photos, marginal captions, et al), each chapter concludes with a word bank of terms considered to be significant to that chapter and, presumably, chosen to prompt further study of the books key themes. Additionally, each chapter features a very brief bibliography to serve as starting points for additional readings on each section. These bibliographies consist of 23 titles, which is suitable for starting points for broader and more in-depth exploration.
Id also like to comment on the design of this book. While Kregels volumes are always well done, the ones Ive read have always been designed with a more utilitarian slanttheyre made to be read, not so much to be appreciated visually. However, this volume has been designed with much more attention to the aesthetics. Not only are the pages semi-glossed, but they also include numerous hi-resolution, full color photos, along with the various sidebars and info boxes. These elements make for a visually appealing work. This volume reminds me of many of Zondervans worksa compliment to be surewith its visually intense layouts and eye-catching designs. One may also make comparisons to Elwell and Yarbroughs Encountering the New Testament, now in its third edition.
Overall, this is a well-designed and helpful introduction to the NT. However, I think its important to note that this volume is written from a very conservative approach. I dont necessarily mean that to be a criticism or a fault, but a point of note for those considering purchasing this volume. When it comes to conservative intros to the NT, they are legion, so this volume is certainly not breaking any new ground or vying for any top spots in that category. However, when compared to other standard intros from a conservative viewpoint, e.g., Carson/Moo, Kstenberger/Kellum/Quarles, this volume stands out as more overtly conservative and less inclined towards discussions with critical scholarships at which the various authors may be at odds. However, I must reiterate that the authors audience should be kept in mindconservative Christian undergrads with minimal exposure to the world of higher criticism. As such, this volume will serve as a decent start on the path to seeing the primary themes in each canonical book. Also, as mentioned earlier, the limitations posed by the authors audience necessarily preclude lengthier discussions of matters considered to be of critical importance by scholarship. Controversial issues, e.g., Marks messianic secret, the ending of Marks Gospel, the New Perspective on Paul, various interpretive approaches to the book of Revelation, do not occupy a great deal of space.
As with any book, there are also a few negative points. First is the use of transliterated Greek. I continue to puzzle over why publishers employ transliteration. If you dont know the language, it is of no real value. Just being able to haphazardly pronounce a particular word serves no purpose in the work of exegesis and thus is unnecessary. Second, a number of the captions in the margins are somewhat hokey. For example, in the opening chapter (which discusses the historical backgrounds of the NT) one caption (p. 26) reads Those from Qumran spent a lot of time copying and reading the Word of God. They would ask us how much time we spend in the Word. Now, let me say that this may not be wrong on its face, but comes across as overly simplified and presumptuous. Perhaps the scribes there would ask moderns that question, but I have my doubts it would be toward the top of the list. Another example is found in the chapter on Acts, which reads Luke would be delighted to remind us that God uses people to fulfill his plan (p. 109). Again, its not wrong per se, but seems simplistic and overtly obvious. Third, on p. 27, the writer claims that apocrypha means unveiling. Frankly, I find this surprising. The term apocrypha derives from the word αποκρυπτω, which means to hide/conceal. The term αποκαλυπτω means to unveil, so Im not sure how this made it through editing.
In sum, I think this volume is helpful for its intended audience, but for those who are more familiar with the NT and its contexts, numerous other volumes are available for more in-depth study.