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Dictionary of New Testament Background: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship [Hardcover]

Craig A. Evans , Stanley E. Porter
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 15 2000 The IVP Bible Dictionary Series
A 2001 ECPA Gold Medallion Award winner!

The joins the and the as the fourth in a landmark series of reference works on the Bible. In a time when our knowledge of the ancient Mediterranean world has grown by leaps and bounds, this volume sets out for readers the wealth of Jewish and Greco-Roman background that should inform our reading and understanding of the New Testament and early Christianity.

The takes full advantage of the flourishing study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and offers individual articles focused on the most important scrolls. In addition, the encompasses the fullness of second-temple Jewish writings, whether pseudepigraphic, rabbinic, parables, proverbs, histories or inscriptions. Articles abound on aspects of Jewish life and thought, including family, purity, liturgy and messianism. The full scope of Greco-Roman culture is displayed in articles ranging across language and rhetoric, literacy and book culture, religion and cults, honor and shame, patronage and benefactors, travel and trade, intellectual movements and ideas, and ancient geographical perspectives.

No other reference work presents so much in one place for students of the New Testament. Here an entire library of scholarship is made available in summary form. The can stand alone or work in concert with one or more of its companion volumes in the series. Written by acknowledged experts in their fields, this wealth of knowledge of the New Testament era is carefully aimed at the needs of contemporary students of the New Testament. And its full bibliographies and cross-references to other volumes in the series will make it the first book to reach for in any investigation of the New Testament in its ancient setting.

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From the Inside Flap

"The Dictionary of New Testament Background--the last of four dictionaries on the New Testament--is the climax of the series because in this field there is the greatest need of additional information for understanding the New Testament better. Written by acknowledged scholars, many with international reputations, it will be a necessary aid for scholars as well as pastors, teachers and lay people interested in the New Testament and its message. Especially helpful are its carefully selected bibliographies. The reader will be surprised and delighted by the richness of its learned, reliable and interesting content." Martin Hengel, University of Tübingen.

"In the wake of several other fine dictionary efforts, we now have in hand the Dictionary of the New Testament Background from InterVarsity Press. It provides one stop shopping on a host of background issues with up-to-date bibliographies and a coterie of the top scholars writing in their areas of speciality. For anyone wanting to set the New Testament in its proper historical, social, literary and theological contexts, this volume is a must. Clean out the old leaven of outdated background books and put this one on your shelf." Ben Witherington III, Asbury Theological Seminary

"Out of context a text may be manipulated to denote something unimaginable to the author. That has happened to the New Testament authors, especially over the past two hundred years. Texts about love were interpreted to generate hate. The DNTB will help all who are interested in the original meaning of a New Testament text to comprehend the original context and become a more reliable interpreter of the sacred. The DNTB has a wide range of subjects and most are discussed by leading experts. I recommend it." James H. Charlesworth, Princeton Theological Seminary "This, the fourth in the series of IVP dictionaries of aspects of the New Testament, supplements the first three in an essential manner by providing space for detailed discussions of the historical, social, religious and literary context of the early church. Written in many cases by scholars who are internationally recognized authorities on the specific topics covered, these essays cover the ground clearly, succinctly and yet comprehensively, and provide adequate references and bibliography for students to proceed further. The importance of context and background for understanding texts cannot be overemphasized, but there is a danger of simply distilling out the information most directly relevant to a given text and thereby giving a skewed impression of the whole; this is a danger that is avoided by the present volume, which is much more holistic in its approach. Students will bless IVP for this welcome tool for study and pray for the timely appearance of similar volumes devo! ted to the Old Testament." I. Howard Marshall, University of Aberdeen

"The breadth and scope of the dictionary on the one hand, and the depth of scholarship demonstrated on both small and large entries are notably impressive, and it is clear that everything that anyone might wish to know about the background of the New Testament is to be found in this massive work. Not only does it deserve an important place with the other encyclopedic dictionaries in the IVP series, but it will hold a unique place among all dictionaries of this kind. More power to IVP for this bold undertaking, and salutes and best wishes for continued production and success with the entire project." David Noel Freedman, University of California, San Diego

"Where would you go to find a succinct overview about marriage, sex and the family in the New Testament world? Or a brief introduction to any book of the apocrypha? Or a description of a particular philosophy or religion that competed with Christianity in the first century? Or the most important historical and cultural developments that led to the Hellenization of Israel? Or a brief description of the city of Corinth? These and numerous related topics are all addressed in IVP's new blockbuster--Dictionary of New Testament Background. The authors form an all-star cast of scholars from all major branches of Christianity and Judaism, with a heavy emphasis on evangelicals. But expertise is never sacrificed for the sake of a uniform theological perspective, and the contributions are both up-to-date and filled with detailed, state-of-the-art bibliographic references. A must buy for anyone who wants in one volume so rich an array of historical and cultural background information for! the New Testament." Craig L. Blomberg, Denver Seminary

"The Dictionary of the New Testament Background fills an important gap in current, up-to-date resources for serious New Testament study. Taking full advantage of the advances made since mid-twentieth century, due in large part to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi documents, and the review of the whole field they have caused, the editors and authors of this latest InterVarsity Press Dictionary have made us all a tremendous gift in ongoing efforts to understand the complicated world out of which the New Testament arose. It is a gift for scholars and beginning students alike: each article is written by a specialist in the field, thus benefiting specialists in other fields; and each article is written so that neophytes can understand the most complex of issues." James A. Sanders, Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center, Claremont

"The Dictionary of New Testament Background follows in the authoritative, wide-ranging and enormously illuminating tradition of its three magnificent predecessors (DJG, DPL and DLNTD). Articles are written with the power, depth and critical insight of the best contemporary scholarship, while remaining accessible to the student, pastor and teacher. This volume will be especially valued by all who seek to understand the complex of Graeco-Roman and Jewish worlds into which the New Testament church was launched. It combines an excellent and comprehensive guide to intertestamental-period thought, practice and literature, with a veritable treasure trove of selected bibliography. As a research student, I would have sold my shirt for it. Together with the other three dictionaries in the series, it will provide an enduring contribution, and a landmark of twentieth century New Testament scholarship." Max Turner, London Bible College

"This splendid Dictionary will be widely used as a major resource by all serious students of the Bible. Leading international specialists have contributed learned but accessible articles on an impressively wide range of topics. This Dictionary may well turn out to be the finest in the set of four, which together are making a remarkable contribution to New Testament scholarship." Graham Stanton, University of Cambridge

"Yet another superb dictionary from IVP! This, like the others, will be within arm's reach whether I'm preparing a sermon or writing a book, or even just browsing in the fascinating hinterland of early Christianity." N. T. Wright, Westminster Abbey

About the Author

Craig A. Evans is professor of religious studies and director of the graduate program in biblical studies at Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia. He has written extensively on the historical Jesus and the Jewish background of the New Testament era. His numerous publications include Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation (Hendrickson), Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies (Brill) and Mark 8:27--16:20 (Word Biblical Commentary). His edited volumes include (with Bruce Chilton) Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research (Brill) and (with Peter W. Flint) Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Eerdmans).

Stanley E. Porter is research professor in New Testament at the University of Surrey Roehampton, London. He is the author of numerous studies in the New Testament and Greek language, including The Paul of Acts: Essays in Literary Criticism, Rhetoric, and Theology (Mohr Siebeck), Idioms of the Greek New Testament (Sheffield) and Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with Reference to Tense and Mood (Peter Lang). His numerous edited volumes include History of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period, 330 B.C.-A.D. 400 (Brill) and Handbook to Exegesis of the New Testament (Brill).


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Foundational material June 17 2003
By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The 'Dictionary of New Testament Background' is actually the fourth volume in a series that includes:
'Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels'
'Dictionary of Paul and His Letters'
'Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments'
While part of a series, each volume (including this one) is largely adequate as a stand-alone reference. This volume has taken a much different approach to the subject matter than previous volumes. 'It attempts to situation the New Testament and early Christianity in its literary, historical, social and religious context. This volume is concerned with archaeology, geography, numismatics, related writings, various historical figures, political institutions, historical events, peoples and culture. It is not tied to specific writings of the New Testament, as is the case with the three previous dictionaries.'
Taking full advantage of major strides in research, particularly in the areas of archaeology, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and linguistic and cultural studies, this work incorporates essays every major topic, and most minor topics, that have to do with formulating a greater understanding of the cultural, societal, economic, religious, linguistic, and historical background of New Testament times. This is a pivotal time in the history of the world, regardless of one's religious interest or orientation, and this dictionary covers topics that will be of interest to the scholar without theological interest as well as those who are looking to increase their background knowledge for purposes of reading the New Testament.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Accomplishment Dec 6 2000
Format:Hardcover
The importance of a work such as this one cannot be stressed enough. In order to truly understand the New Testament, one must understand the world into which it was born. The Dictionary of New Testament Background gives the reader a comprehensive survey of the historical, social, religious, and literary context of the New Testament documents in a single volume.
Like the three previous dictionaries in the IVP series (Jesus, Paul, Later NT), this one is arranged alphabetically by topic, with plenty of cross-references. Most articles are 1,000 to 7,500 words in length, although a few contain 10,000+ words. In addition, each article is supplemented with a bibliography to guide the reader into a fuller treatment of a given topic.
The scholars who worked on this project are first-rate, most of them having published extensively in their field. Students of the New Testament will undoubtedly recognize the names of many of the contributors. The editors, to their credit, also drew from scholars in other disciplines such as archaeology, history, and classics, therefore ensuring the high quality of scholarship that the reader finds in this work.
The amount of information contained in this one is tremendous, but not overwhelming, and always relevant. It is also clearly written and up-to-date. All students, from the beginner to the scholar, will find this dictionary to be a useful resource in New Testament study. There is nothing negative that I can say about it. Sell your shirt and buy it.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Accomplishment Dec 6 2000
By Chad McDonald - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The importance of a work such as this one cannot be stressed enough. In order to truly understand the New Testament, one must understand the world into which it was born. The Dictionary of New Testament Background gives the reader a comprehensive survey of the historical, social, religious, and literary context of the New Testament documents in a single volume.
Like the three previous dictionaries in the IVP series (Jesus, Paul, Later NT), this one is arranged alphabetically by topic, with plenty of cross-references. Most articles are 1,000 to 7,500 words in length, although a few contain 10,000+ words. In addition, each article is supplemented with a bibliography to guide the reader into a fuller treatment of a given topic.
The scholars who worked on this project are first-rate, most of them having published extensively in their field. Students of the New Testament will undoubtedly recognize the names of many of the contributors. The editors, to their credit, also drew from scholars in other disciplines such as archaeology, history, and classics, therefore ensuring the high quality of scholarship that the reader finds in this work.
The amount of information contained in this one is tremendous, but not overwhelming, and always relevant. It is also clearly written and up-to-date. All students, from the beginner to the scholar, will find this dictionary to be a useful resource in New Testament study. There is nothing negative that I can say about it. Sell your shirt and buy it.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Foundational material June 17 2003
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The 'Dictionary of New Testament Background' is actually the fourth volume in a series that includes:
'Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels'
'Dictionary of Paul and His Letters'
'Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments'
While part of a series, each volume (including this one) is largely adequate as a stand-alone reference. This volume has taken a much different approach to the subject matter than previous volumes. 'It attempts to situation the New Testament and early Christianity in its literary, historical, social and religious context. This volume is concerned with archaeology, geography, numismatics, related writings, various historical figures, political institutions, historical events, peoples and culture. It is not tied to specific writings of the New Testament, as is the case with the three previous dictionaries.'
Taking full advantage of major strides in research, particularly in the areas of archaeology, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and linguistic and cultural studies, this work incorporates essays every major topic, and most minor topics, that have to do with formulating a greater understanding of the cultural, societal, economic, religious, linguistic, and historical background of New Testament times. This is a pivotal time in the history of the world, regardless of one's religious interest or orientation, and this dictionary covers topics that will be of interest to the scholar without theological interest as well as those who are looking to increase their background knowledge for purposes of reading the New Testament.
The editors are Craig Evans, professor of religious studies and director of the graduate programme in biblical studies at Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, and Stanley Porter, research professor in New Testament at the University of Surrey Roehampton, London. Together these editors bring a background of scholars from Jewish and early Christian studies , as well as classical history and scriptural/textual studies. These editors led the team of over 200 scholars from around the world to put together this 1300+ page collection of essays and articles.
The articles range in length -- some no longer than 500 words to others of 10,000 words or more. The length is determined based upon the complexity of the subject and/or the relevance for New Testament research. Each article includes bibliographic information for further research, and most are cross-referenced for further reading within this volume.
Perhaps the best use of this text is in addition to bible study or education planning -- this is not a narrative, sit-down-and-read-it kind of text, although I have found myself many times picking it up for a quick reference, only to find myself an hour later still reading through the links to other topics.
Because this is part of a multi-volume set, the reader may be disappointed occasionally if one looks for certain topics (for instance, 'Gospel') and finds there is no such listing. This would be because the topic is covered in other volumes.
I would have argued for a bit different organisation -- inclusion of non-canonical writings under their titles, for instance, just as Dead Sea Scolls are included (for instance, there is an article of general introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls, but also some 36 other articles on specific Dead Sea Scrolls included under their title names, whereas the article on 'Apocryphal Gospels' includes reference to many of these gospels, but none merits its own article later).
This is a very minor criticism, however, of a generally excellent book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Compendium April 20 2008
By Steve Jackson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Like the other three volumes in this series (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Dictionary of the Later New Testament), Dictionary of New Testament Background is an excellent compendium of generally moderate to conservative scholarship on just about every major topic touching on the New Testament. The articles do a good job integrating the material with the New Testament. For example, the article "Circuses and Games" has a valuable discussion of Paul's use of athletic metaphors.

This work is 1300 pages and so is an excellent value for the money. (The bibliography for each article tends to be a bit lengthy. I don't imagine the typical reader will have access to many of the books and articles cited.)
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable Reference Work March 18 2006
By Rev. Henry Silva - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This valuable work of reference, which is a product of assiduous and serious Biblical scolarship presents itself as an indispensible tool for any advanced student,teacher and pastor in understanding and interpretting the message of the New Testament, in its proper context.

What one can appreciate in this work is the objectivity of handling topics without prejudice.It has also at the same time,avoided dealing with sensitive issues that could harm religious suceptibilities and inter-religious harmony.

Its integral approach to the study of the New TestamentBackground, involving Greco-Roman,Rabbinic,Intertestamental,socio-political and archaeological material is praise-worthy.Hence the topics dealt with tend to be comprehensive so that one could save time and energy, in a quick reference,without having to look for material in several sourses.

Dr.Henry Silva
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great addition to the series April 17 2013
By Zachary Jacob Games - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This volume is in the huge series from IVP on all areas of the bible. This book is a must have for any series pastor or student of the NT. I have used this several times in my study for sermons, papers, or just general questions I have had regarding background issues and the NT. I gave it 4/5 stars due to the need for a second edition. The editors at IVP have already processed the printing of a 2nd edition of Jesus and the Gospels, and I think it's time for a second edition of this volume as well. That being said, you cannot down play the significance of this volume and the series.
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