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Friday, November 9, 2012

"An Introduction to the New Testament" (M. Eugene Boring)

TITLE: An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology
AUTHOR: M. Eugene Boring
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, (720 pages).

This is a heavyweight textbook. With 28 chapters, more than 50 figures, multiple textboxes of illustrations of key points, over 760 pages, this book covers the entire New Testament and more. Written with three different perspectives, of historical, of literature, and various theological angles, it stems from a conviction that the New Testament interprets the events of history as "revelatory acts of God" for the salvation of the world. Through the Church, the book is appreciated from the perspective of community. Through history, the New Testament is reflected through the life of Jesus and his disciples, and the early Church. Written with the beginner student in mind, this book leaves very few stones unturned. Boring weaves in many historical contexts, the literary styles, as well as the theological ideas framed inside the 27 books of the New Testament. Words like "testament," "narratives," "covenant," "gospel," "epistle," "textual criticism," and many other technical terms needed for a decent study of the New Testament are introduced and described in ways that first timers can appreciate. Abbreviations are stated. Bibliographies are included as a way to encourage further research by the eager student.

This book is particularly strong in the historical description and the sources. From the land of Palestine in the early centuries (0-30 CE), the Apostolic Era (30-70 CE), the sub-Apostolic Period (70-100 CE), and covering the Roman, the Greek / Hellenistic eras, and beyond, the author breathes life into the historical facts, archeaology, and the artifacts. In textual criticism, readers are introduced to the early manuscripts, how it came about, how it was used to preserve the ancient texts, explaining the critical apparatus, the more than 5000 Greek manuscripts, the LXX, the invention of printing to the modern digital age. Care is also taken to describe the early beginnings of English translations, from the KJV to modern editions like the NIV. Boring also provides descriptions on interpretations, how the Church interprets, how the Jews, and modern techniques like higher criticisms. I was delighted to find a mini-listing of the different biblical criticisms as well as the different kinds of theological studies described. The later parts of the book touches on the gospels, the epistles, and the interpretation of them all. The author meticulously highlight recent developments too. Like the Quest of the Historical Jesus, the different schools of interpretation, hermeneutical theories, and many more.

As expected, there is ample coverage of the individual gospels and the epistles. Like a typical NT introductory book, Boring touches on the authorship, sources, traditions, dates, its historical, social, and cultural contexts, its theological themes, as well as how modern readers can study and appreciate the texts for contemporary eras. With helpful structures and outlines, students will find the book a very convenient reference book. For students at an advanced level, this book works well as a good refresher course.

This book has nearly everything a beginner student of the New Testament needs. I give strong marks for The historical sketches help modern readers understand the historical period. The outlines give its historical sketches, a good framework for learning the key themes of each book, and of course, the very accessible way it has been written. The illustrations and textboxes give tired eyes a break from the texts. The bibliography is strong. The description of the various people groups (Sadduccees, Zealots, Hellenists, etc) gives readers a useful insight into life in Palestine during Jesus' time. For an introductory level book, this book is hard to beat, for it has set a high standard for clarity, for comprehensiveness, and for concise descriptions of all things New Testament.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Westminster John Knox Press and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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