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Monday, November 9, 2015

"What the NT Authors Really Cared About" (Kenneth Berding & Matt Williams)

TITLE: What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Their Writings
AUTHOR: Kenneth Berding & Matt Williams
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015, (240 pages).

First published in 2008, this second edition has been released to update the book on what is really important in the New Testament. Organized around nine New Testament writers to show their concerns, we learn to study the New Testament intent inductively and not to insert our own concerns and purposes into the texts. We learn to recognize the biblical authors' main concerns and how we can apply the truths and principles into our modern world. Written collectively by 15 NT scholars and professors, the authors offer undergraduate students a colourful and enriching resource to guide their study of the New Testament. With a very extensive introduction about how first century audience would understand, readers learn about how the Assyrians and Babylonians were perceived, marauding invaders who were the cause of Israel's demise. They thought of the Persians who were the foreigners permitting the Jews to rebuild the temple. They were familiar with the Greeks who had a culture of religious tolerance and cultural pluralism. They knew the influence of the wars between the Ptolomies, the Seleucids, and the Hasmodeans. They were also familiar with the history of the Samaritans, the rise of the Pharisees, and the powerful positions of the Zealots, Essenes, and the Sadducees. Of course, they feared the Romans and lived in total submission to Roman rule.

Using a Who-When-Where-Why format, each New Testament author's intent is summarised. Matthew's carefully crafted verses are described as calls for people to repentance for the kingdom of heaven is near.  Mark's intent is simply about telling the story of Jesus and how hope can be found in the Kingdom of God coming through Him. Luke's concerns is about accurate reporting that highlights the mission of Jesus. John wants to celebrate the light, love, and life of Jesus. John's letters bring out the doctrinal, moral, and love tests. In Revelation, John's concern is not just about the end times, but also about exalting God above al. The Apostle Paul is passionate about preaching Christ and to speak the truth of Christ to all the churches. All of his thirteen letters are dealt at length to demonstrate the contexts and the purpose for communication with the churches. Hebrews are concerned with the high priesthood of Jesus while James exhorts the people to persevere on in faith in spite of great trials. The Apostle Peter loves the Church and points the people to the Person of Christ. The last chapter on New Testament Canon summarizes the process of canonization and the authority of Scripture.

There are at least five things I like about this reference book. First, the Introduction portion of each biblical author gives the immediate contexts at a glance. We get a deeper understanding of the person writing it, the time period, the place, the audience, and the purpose of the narrative or letter. Just this one-page summary is already worth the price of the book. Second, there is a concise summary of the passions that drive the biblical author. This enables us to read the New Testament with a big picture in mind. This is important for those of us who can be easily lost in the details. Third, the photos and pictures bring the book to life and give readers an idea of what the original locations and world look like. Though it may unwittingly straitjacket readers into seeing life according to that picture, it is merely a glimpse into the ancient world. I appreciate the maps conveniently located to help us visualize the places described. Fourth, the theological themes are succinctly summarized without being bogged down by jargon. I like the unique contributions by each NT expert who are able to show readers the distinct emphases of each New Testament book or letter. Finally, the key words and concepts give readers a quick overview of what had been covered in the chapter. Sometimes, readers may miss out a concept or two and by looking at the list again, one can be refreshed or prompted to go back to specific portions of the chapter.

One more thing. The appendices are excellent quick reference guides for teachers and students to pick up and go. As a survey of the New Testament, I warmly recommend this book to churches and first year NT Introduction courses. In fact, the content is so clearly written that one can use this book as a personal reference guide when studying the New Testament.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Kregel Academic in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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