The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts  -     Edited By: Joel B. Green, Lee Martin McDonald
    By: Edited by Joel B. Green & Lee Martin McDonald
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The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts

Baker Academic / 2013 / Hardcover

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Gain a comprehensive view of culture, society, and everyday life in the New Testament era.

Knowledge of the historical, social, and political contexts of ancient Rome are crucial components of accurate New Testament interpretation. Scholars regularly uncover new evidence, artifacts, or events that significantly impact how the gospels, epistles, and other New Testament writings should be read. In The World of the New Testament a team of preeminent scholars introduces students to social, historical, and cultural elements that must be understood before they can become competent interpreters of the New Testament. Forty-four essays are classified under five broad rubrics including the Jewish historical context, Roman culture, the Jewish people in Roman culture, literary context, and geographical context.

Contributors Include
  • Everett Ferguson
  • Lynn Cohick
  • Ben Witherington
  • James D.G. Dunn
  • Joel B. Green
  • Michael F. Bird
  • Nicholas Perrin
  • James Charlesworth
  • Lee Martin McDonald
  • and many more!

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 616
Vendor: Baker Academic
Publication Date: 2013
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0801039622
ISBN-13: 9780801039621

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Author Bio

Joel B. Green (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is dean of the School of Theology and professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Theological Interpretation and has authored or edited numerous books, including the Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics.

Lee Martin McDonald (PhD, University of Edinburgh), before his retirement, was professor of New Testament studies and president of Acadia Divinity College. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including The Story of Jesus in History and Faith, The Biblical Canon, and coeditor of The Canon Debate (with James Sanders). McDonald now lives in Mesa, Arizona.


Green and McDonald have designed a work comprising numerous topics essential for engaging the historical context of the New Testament and earliest Christianity, and they have assembled a good team of experienced and emergent scholars, who give concise and informed discussions of these topics. The result is a valuable volume, especially for students and general readers but also for scholars who want to catch up on any of the topics included.
-Larry W. Hurtado,
emeritus professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology and Honorary Professorial Fellow, New College, University of Edinburgh

This excellent book contains a wealth of information concerning the various contexts (e.g., Jewish, Hellenistic, historical, geographical, literary, sociological) in which the New Testament emerged. Since a knowledge of these contexts is supremely important for the interpreter, a comprehensive yet detailed overview is very welcome indeed. Here is a handy reference volume, produced by leading scholars, that every serious interpreter will be glad to have.
-Donald A. Hagner,
George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

The depth and breadth of The World of the New Testament will make it a standard work for libraries and the bookshelves of both pastors and scholars across a wide range of traditions. Here in one judiciously edited volume, readers will find ready access to information about Hellenistic philosophy, Jewish history, Jewish and Greco-Roman customs, and much more. The abundance of illustrations, maps, and diagrams brings the material to life. This will prove to be an invaluable resource for years to come.
-Susan Eastman,
associate professor of the practice of Bible and Christian formation director, Doctor of Theology program, Duke Divinity School

A number of books illumine either ancient Judaism or the non-Jewish Greco-Roman world, but only a few competently address both. The World of the New Testament assembles many of today's most competent scholars on the ancient world to address in readable language key points for the entire range of ancient sources and history. If I were teaching a New Testament backgrounds course this semester, this is the textbook I would use.
-Craig Keener,
professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary

This fine collection of essays will surely become a standard introduction to the world behind the New Testament. The various institutions, practices, groups, writings, and beliefs of both Second Temple Judaism(s) and Roman Hellenism are fluently and carefully covered, with notes and bibliographies added to extend each essay. Not only will these studies break fresh ground for more advanced research, but together they construct a richly textured context that will produce a more wakeful study of the church's Scripture.
-Robert W. Wall,
The Paul T. Walls Professor of Scripture and Wesleyan Studies, Seattle Pacific University

Product Reviews

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  1. Michigan
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: Male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Phenomenal Introduction the World of the New Testament
    October 4, 2015
    John M Kight
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: Male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Joel B. Green is the Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary. Green has written or edited more than 40 books, including several award winners. Lee Martin McDonald is President Emeritus and Professor of New Testament Studies at Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University, Nova Scotia. McDonald has written or edited 20 books and over 100 articles and essays on various New Testament topics. Together these two individuals have impacted, and continue to impact for that matter, the arena of New Testament studies far beyond many colleagues in the field. In The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts, edited by Green and McDonald, the boundaries have been pushed once again.

    The World of the New Testament brings together household names from within the field of biblical and New Testament studies to guide the reader through the cultural, social and historical milieu of the New Testament. The World of the New Testament has brought together scholars such as, Ben Witherington III, David A. DeSilva, Micheal F. Bird, James H. Charlesworth, James G. D. Dunn, Bruce Chilton, and many more, to address vital topics relating to the New Testament. The articles are vast and variegated in scope, aligned under five sections: (1) Setting the Context: Exile and the Jewish Heritage, (2) Setting the Context: Roman Hellenism, (3) Jewish People in the Context of Roman Hellenism, (4) The Literary Context of Early Christianity, and (5) The Geographical Context of the New Testament. Within these major sections, the reader is skillfully guided through the backdrop of the New Testament world chronologically from the exile to the early Church. The articles are largely summaries of broader conversations within the field, and include such topics as, The Hasmoneans and the Hasmonean Era (pp. 38-53), Greek Religion (pp. 105-123), Women, Children, and Families in the Greco-Roman World (pp. 179-187), Jews in the Diaspora (pp. 272-290), Josephus and the New Testament (pp. 398- 404), and much, much more.

    I found The World of the New Testament to be one of the most helpful resources that I have ever interacted with on New Testament backgroundsboth in the breadth and scope of the articles and the overall layout of the book. In regards to the former, I really enjoyed the vast array of topics this book discusses. Each article was well written, well documented, and authoritatively addressed. Some of the standout articles will include, Healing and Healthcare by Joel B. Green (pp. 330-341), Noncanonical Jewish Writings by Daniel M. Gurtner (pp. 291-309), and the entire section on the literary context of early Christianity (pp. 343-435). Also, many will enjoy the chapter, Jesus Research and Archaeology by James H. Charlesworth (pp. 439-466), which provides an up-to-date summary and collation of two independent, and yet imperative fields of study. In regards to the latter, the overall layout of the book, I found the chronological arrangement of the material well-structured and thoughtfully executed. I also enjoyed the various photographs, maps, tables and diagrams. At some points, the photographs are difficult to discern due the lack of color, but this is to be expected with a black and white image. Lastly, each article concludes with an annotated bibliography that is certain to point the curious reader in the right direction (I followed a few rabbit trails, I mean research trails myself).

    The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts brings together some of the leading voices of biblical and New Testament studies into a single volume. The articles are clear, concise, and comprehensive. The scope of the book is exhaustive and the layout strategically structured with the reader in mind. If you are a pastor, teacher, or student of the New Testament you will need this resource. It is hands down one of the best starting points for all things related to the cultural, social, and historical context of the New Testament. If none of that describes you, and you are simply interested in the world behind the pages of the New Testament you will still benefit greatly from this volume. I couldnt recommend it more!

    I received this book for free from Baker Academic in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
  2. California
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    an Essential Reference Work for New Testament Stud
    November 13, 2013
    Dr Nicholson
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute (

    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

    The book for this review was provided free of charge by Brazos Press a division of Baker Publishing through This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and 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,, or the publisher.
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