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An Introduction to the New Testament

An Introduction to the New Testament: 2nd Edition

Charles B. Puskas
C. Michael Robbins
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Lutterworth Press
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    An Introduction to the New Testament
    Book Description:

    This second edition of An introduction to the New Testament provides readers with pertinent material and a helpful framework that will guide them in their understanding of the New Testament texts. Many new and diverse cultural, historical, social-scientific, sociorhetorical, narrative, textual, and contextual studies have been examined since the publication of the first edition, which was in print for twenty years. The authors retain the original tripartite arrangement on 1) The world of the New Testament, 2) Interpreting the New Testament, and 3) Jesus and early Christianity. An appropriate book for anyone who seeks to better understand what is involved in the exegesis of New Testaments texts today.

    eISBN: 978-0-7188-4087-7
    Subjects: Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. iii-viii)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. ix-ix)
  3. List of Figures, Charts, and Maps (pp. x-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Preface to the Second Edition (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Introduction (pp. xix-xx)

    Probably no group of religious writings has influenced the Western world more than the New Testament. Its appealing message of the life and work of Jesus Christ has profoundly influenced and even transformed millions of lives. It has inspired the authors of such literary classics asThe City of God, Paradise Lost, andPilgrim’s Progress. New Testament stories are read, rehearsed, and recited during the Christmas and Easter holidays. The Protestant work ethic derived from the New Testament. In the academic areas of ethics and philosophy, this provocative collection confronts the contemporary person with the ageless questions of ultimate concern:...

  7. PART 1: The World of the New Testament
    • 1 The Greco-Roman Context of the New Testament (pp. 3-26)

      Understanding the historical context is crucial for the serious study of any important document, person, or event. Using a modern example, no earnest interpreter of the U.S. Constitution can ignore the importance of eighteenth-century mercantilism and the prevalent teaching of social contract and popular sovereignty. Historical context is crucial for understanding. We will return to this same analogy in chapter 5.

      For an ancient example of the above point, note the apology of Plutarch (ca. 110) regarding his own limited presentation of the historical figure, Cicero. Plutarch pleaded with an aphorism of Ion of Chios: “Worthless on land is the...

    • 2 The Jewish World of the New Testament (pp. 27-52)

      Heredity or environment? Which of these factors most determines the behavioral development of a child? This question has been debated vigorously among psychologists and behavioral scientists. No doubt most would conclude today that both hereditary and environmental factors are important and that both should be considered. This is also the case with the development of early Christianity, if we may employ an analogy between human growth and the historical development of a religious movement. What later became rabbinic Judaism and Christianity were both developments out of Judean state religion. Jesus and his disciples were Jews, and for some time Christianity...

    • 3 The Language of the New Testament (pp. 53-62)

      In what language was the NT originally written? Almost all of the NT authors were Jews, but not a single book was written in Hebrew or Aramaic (a related Semitic language).¹ All of the NT books were written when Rome ruled the Mediterranean world, but none were written in Latin. Therefore we must turn to the one language prevalent during that period: ancient Greek. We have over five thousand manuscript copies of the NT written in Greek from the mid-second to the twelfth centuries. The earliest versions of the NT were in Syriac, Coptic, and Latin (as early as the...

    • 4 The Text of the New Testament (pp. 63-74)

      Certain questions are essential for interpretation. One question to be addressed before asking what a text originally meant is, did the text originally state that? For example, if we want to understand what the author of 1 John originally meant by the phrase “the Spirit, the water, and the blood” (5:7–8), we had better be certain that the author of 1 John composed it.¹ How reliable are the Greek manuscripts on which our modern translations are based?

      All extant (existing and known) Greek manuscripts of the NT are in codex (book) form, and those before the ninth century were...

  8. PART 2: Interpreting the New Testament
    • 5 The Historical Methods of Criticism (pp. 77-102)

      Why does a “popular” collection of writings require such careful interpretation to be understood properly? Readers might raise this or a similar question after noting the technical title of this chapter. But this predicament of interpreting popular writings is not restricted to the NT. It also applies to the United States Constitution. To use a simple analogy: both the NT collection and the U.S. Constitution were written for the benefit of “common people,” and both require careful interpretation to be understood properly.

      The reasons for the predicament in interpretation are analogous for the two documents. First, both are a diverse...

    • 6 The Genres of the Gospels and Acts (pp. 103-133)

      He once entertained the envoys from the Persian king who came during Philip’s absence … He won upon them by his friendliness, and by asking no childish or trivial questions … [T]he envoys were therefore astonished and regarded the much-talked-of ability of Philip as nothing compared to his son’s eager disposition to do great things.¹

      This excerpt from Plutarch’sLife of Alexanderis a species of story similar to the story of twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41–51). The heroes of both stories were boys, precocious in that they both spoke with relevance beyond their years to the...

    • 7 The Ancient Letter Genre (pp. 134-143)

      In the previous chapter we looked at NT books composed in a basic narrative framework: the four Gospels and Acts. Although they include large amounts of direct discourse, such as sayings, speeches, and dialogues, the Gospels and Acts mostly contain narrative materials (e.g., miracle stories and historical legends). Also, the direct discourse in these books is joined by narrative comments and summary statements that permeate each work. The epistolary literature is primarily direct discourse. Its small amount of narrative material is mostly autobiographical. Much of its hymns, sayings, and teaching material is part of a dialogue between author and reader....

    • 8 The Genres of the Apocalypse (Revelation) of John (pp. 144-158)

      As we tried to imply in the last two chapters, the disclosure of literary genre is intended to be a momentous event in the introduction of a text, tantamount perhaps to the discovery of an edible species of plant by a starving explorer. Despite the promise of such an occasion, however, in actual practice it can sometimes be frustrating, offering less of a hermeneutical advantage than is sometimes anticipated. But take courage! It is a bit like the great dialogue of Plato,Theaetetus, where knowledge and understanding are discussed and debated. One begins by thinking s/he knows what knowledge is,...

  9. PART 3: Jesus and Early Christianity
    • 9 Reconstructing a Chronology of Jesus’s Life (pp. 161-168)

      How challenging is this venture? First, if our interest is in the last few years of a life lived two thousand years ago, of which we have multiple records (with challenging parallels), any one of which can be read in one to four hours; second, if they may be based upon numerous different ancient calendars in the target multicultural world each with different cultural points of interest and different annual calendar systems, both lunar and solar; and third, if our goal is to develop a chronology of that life with this diverse information, then many may conclude that it is...

    • 10 The Historical Jesus (pp. 169-180)

      We began in the previous chapter with the task of recovering a chronology of the life of Jesus with its challenges of minimal external points of reference, multiple calendrical systems within which to insert data, multicultural varieties of fixing days or holy days or years within an annual calendar, and the like. Knowing as much as possible about Jesus and his world certainly makes the venture worthwhile, but the writers of the early “biographies” of Jesus seemed little concerned about certain time issues and quite unsuspecting of the obsessions that we as their eighteenththrough twenty-first-century readers would entertain.

      Furthermore, known...

    • 11 The Message of Jesus (pp. 181-194)

      Judging from the Apostles’ Creed, which jumps from the birth of Jesus to his death (Lat.Natus ex Maria virgine; passus sub Pontio Pilato), the details of neither Jesus’s life nor his teaching carried much creedal significance. But if one important function of such a creed was for baptismal instruction and for profession at baptism when the convert renounced the devil and his works, and if part of Jesus’s life was in fact a battle with evil (victory’s being a fait accompli through his death and resurrection), then perhaps in the loosest terms one can see Jesus’s life suggested between...

    • 12 A Chronology of Paul’s Life (pp. 195-205)

      The problems of Pauline chronology are similar to those in the study of Jesus. Evidence is sparse and scattered, and the sources are often dominated by literary and religious purposes. Factors that are distinctive for a chronology of Paul are that (a) we have the apostle’s own words about certain events in his life; (b) references to Paul’s life in Acts sometimes coincide with statements in Paul’s letters; and (c) an ancient inscription confirms the Lukan account of Paul’s appearance before Gallio (Acts 18:12–17).

      The document of primary importance in determining a chronology of Paul is the Gallio Inscription...

    • 13 The Major Phases of Early Christianity (pp. 206-227)

      What can be learned about the origins and development of Christianity from the NT and other relevant documents? Along with its presentation of the life and work of Jesus Christ, the NT also includes useful data for reconstructing the beginnings of Christianity. Who were the earliest followers of Jesus? What did it mean to follow Jesus the Messiah in the first century? How can the NT and related writings help us to understand these questions? In this chapter, we will attempt to respond to these and other queries.

      Historical reconstruction (to underscore previous discussion) is a difficult but necessary task....

    • 14 Emerging Christian Orthodoxy: Part 1 (pp. 228-242)

      “Christianity Adjusting to the World and Becoming an Institution,” “The Period of Consolidation,” “Early Catholicism,” and “The Emerging Great Church”—these are some descriptive titles that have been given to this formative stage of early Christianity. This phase was characterized by a general loss of expectation for Christ’s immediate return, a break with Judaism as the “parent religion,” doctrinal solidarity, and a fixed organizational structure.¹

      Historian Adolf von Harnack (1851–1930) described this period of early Christianity as a time when (a) the inner dynamics of the apostolic period were exchanged for laws and rules, (b) the original spontaneity gave...

    • 15 Emerging Christian Orthodoxy: Part 2 (pp. 243-256)

      In reaction to the internal threats of Gnosticism and in response to external pressures from both Judaism and the Roman government, early Christianity began to consolidate and define itself as a distinct institution. The passage of time, which brought further delay to the hope of Christ’s near return, also prompted some rethinking about the church’s identity and mission in the world. What resulted from these developments is typical of most religious groups of the third and fourth generations.

      In this chapter we shall look at the following characteristics of emerging orthodoxy: a fixed organizational structure, efforts to preserve the apostolic...

  10. Appendix A: The Formation of the New Testament Canon (pp. 257-270)
  11. Appendix B: English Translations of the New Testament (pp. 271-280)
  12. Bibliography (pp. 281-324)
  13. Back Matter (pp. 325-325)