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Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology [Hardcover]

Paul J. Achtemeier , Joel B. Green , Marianne Meye Thompson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 10 2001
Introducing the New Testament is an outstanding new guide to the literature and theology of the New Testament. Wonderfully readable, eminently teachable, and well supplied with maps, sidebars, photographs, and bibliographies, Introducing the New Testament makes an ideal textbook for seminary and college courses, regardless of theological orientation. Written by three leading New Testament specialists, the book focuses directly on the New Testaments literature, its message, and the issues raised by a careful reading of its pages. Unlike other New Testament introductions that are primarily concerned with historical-critical issues or with what other scholars have said about the New Testament, Introducing the New Testament gets directly to the business of clearly explaining the background and content of the New Testament books as well as of inducting readers of the New Testament into sensitive appreciation and serious awareness of its major figures and concerns. No other text on the New Testament is so classroom friendly, authoritative, balanced, and enjoyable to use.

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The New Testament (NT) is a collection of twenty-seven separate documents that, together with the Old Testament (OT), has exercised such significant influence in the history of the world that its impact would be difficult to measure and hard to exaggerate. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile and interesting Feb. 28 2006
By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
No single volume survey of the New Testament is going to be suited to all tastes. Just as different denominations and traditions have come to interpret and apply biblical teachings in different ways (one must remember that the choice of literal interpretation is still a hermenuetic choice, still an interpretation), so too will they have different documents and teachings that develop their own traditions more fully. However, the broader trend among seminaries is toward a more ecumenical approach, made necessary not in the least by the fact that many (if not most) seminaries can no longer cater to an exclusive denominational pool of potential students, but rather, in order to keep enrollment up and the doors open, must appeal to a wider range of learners.
Thus, there has a been a great number of New Testament surveys written in broad-based, ecumenical mindsets over the past generation. This volume, by Achtemeier, Green and Thompson is one of the latest, best volumes in this field. Designed as a primary textbook for introductory courses in New Testament studies, it approaches the subject through a primarily Western, liberal-theological approach; by liberal I refer here to the traditions of biblical studies that finds root in post-Enlightenment circles in northern Europe, Britain, and later North America, not the ever-changing political term.
The authors cover the primary topics of interest for any such introductory course must address: historical origins of the writing and canonical development, the historical setting of Jesus and the apostles, the cultural setting in which the early church began to form, and various traditions that arose around the gospels and apostolic letters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Helpful Work Feb. 5 2003
Format:Hardcover
There have been a number of helpful New Testament introductions written for the Evangelical community, including the older volume by Guthrie and the newer work by Carson, Moo and Morris. And there have been many fine NT theologies as well. Volumes by Ladd, Caird and Guthrie, among others, have served the Evangelical community well.
This new volume offers a bit of both worlds: introductory matters, as well as theological concerns. Written for students and lay people, it will serve as a good intermediary text. Advanced students may find it wanting in areas, but it does offer, if in brief form, some of the latest scholarship on the NT.
The three authors all teach interpretation at American seminaries. They have all produced a number of outstanding works on aspects of the NT. Green for example has authored the well received New International Commentary on Luke; Meye Thompson wrote on 1-3 John for the IVP New Testament Commentary Series, and Achtemeier did the Hermeneia commentary on 1 Peter.
This volume is especially good on Jesus and the Gospels. Indeed, along with sections on introductory matters and Acts, it takes up the first half of the book. The remainder of the book offers brief chapters on the other 22 books of the New testament. Each chapter concludes with a short bibliography of recent works, usually half of which are commentaries.
The chapters highlight the usual concerns: matters of authorship and historical setting, theological themes and literary issues. Photos, maps and supplementary text blocks all contribute to a highly usable and informative volume.
The study is neither too technical nor too detailed to be lost on a lay person or beginning student. Yet it is scholarly and up-to-date enough to be of use to more advanced students as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spendid treatment of New Testament Literature Dec 17 2001
By Dr. Roy
Format:Hardcover
This book is a bible student's dream come true. It is written in an engaging manner. The scholarship is superb. The book's structure, theological content, and balanced treatment, make it a valuable resource for New Testament Study. At a time when there is a proliferation of books and monographs on biblical subjects, Achtemeier, Green, and Thompson, produce a jewel for the serious student of scripture. This book is destined to become an instant classic.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is a good introduction to the books of the NT for seminary students and lay people. The set up is nice and organized. It also gives the reader a historical background of the NT (pp. 1-87). Like all other intros the book deals with the background, authorship, dating, and summaries of each book. The only problem I have with this book is the New Perspective tendencies. For instance, here is what the authors have to say about the doctrine of justification (the article by which the church stands or falls):
"Justification" in modern English has legal overtones, and justification is often understood as God as judge freeing human sinners from the punishment due their sin. But Paul took this term from the covenantal language of Israel, where it describes being in a right covenantal relationship with God. To be made righteous therefore means, for Paul, to leave a rebellious relationship in which one opposes what God wants and to enter into a positive relationship in which one seeks to follow God's will (p. 308).
The authors, by this statement, have kicked out the foundation by which the church stands. No longer is justification understood as a legal action, but as a familial relational thing. Thus, justification is not about having the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to one's record, but about pursuing God's will (i.e., obeying His commandments). Though Achtemeier, Green, and Thompson would resist all attempts to be labelled Romanists, they have paved the way to Rome by this statement (of course it is no surprise that N. T. Wright recommends this book). Don't discard the whole book just because of that one anti-evangelical statement (like I said above there are good and useful things in the book), but one should be wary of the soteriological perspective that is being expounded here.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Helpful Work Feb. 5 2003
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There have been a number of helpful New Testament introductions written for the Evangelical community, including the older volume by Guthrie and the newer work by Carson, Moo and Morris. And there have been many fine NT theologies as well. Volumes by Ladd, Caird and Guthrie, among others, have served the Evangelical community well.
This new volume offers a bit of both worlds: introductory matters, as well as theological concerns. Written for students and lay people, it will serve as a good intermediary text. Advanced students may find it wanting in areas, but it does offer, if in brief form, some of the latest scholarship on the NT.
The three authors all teach interpretation at American seminaries. They have all produced a number of outstanding works on aspects of the NT. Green for example has authored the well received New International Commentary on Luke; Meye Thompson wrote on 1-3 John for the IVP New Testament Commentary Series, and Achtemeier did the Hermeneia commentary on 1 Peter.
This volume is especially good on Jesus and the Gospels. Indeed, along with sections on introductory matters and Acts, it takes up the first half of the book. The remainder of the book offers brief chapters on the other 22 books of the New testament. Each chapter concludes with a short bibliography of recent works, usually half of which are commentaries.
The chapters highlight the usual concerns: matters of authorship and historical setting, theological themes and literary issues. Photos, maps and supplementary text blocks all contribute to a highly usable and informative volume.
The study is neither too technical nor too detailed to be lost on a lay person or beginning student. Yet it is scholarly and up-to-date enough to be of use to more advanced students as well. As with all theological works, there will be some areas of disagreement.
For example, since none of the three authors comes from a Reformed perspective (not that they need to), there are areas in which one might beg to differ. Perhaps the most obvious example of this arises in the chapter on Romans. One passage in which quite a lot of ink has been spilled is Romans 7 and the identity of the "I" who struggles with sin.
While a number of options present themselves, many argue that Paul is describing his own experience as a believer (and by implication that of all other believers). Pick up any 10 good commentaries on Romans, and perhaps as many as half will argue this position Yet in this volume the authors simply dismiss such an interpretation as "impossible".
One would have thought that careful scholars such as Cranfield, Murray, and Dunn, for example, would not embark upon such impossible hermeneutical assignments!
But leaving aside the occasional theological quibble, this volume well serves its purpose as an introductory text on basic NT matters. Others may go into more background detail (such as the volume by Carson, Moo and Morris, or more fully examine the theological or literary aspects (Ladd, or Caird - in addition to his NT Theology, see his invaluable Language and Imagery of the Bible), but this volume will fill a niche and should enjoy a long run with students of the NT.
27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gospels and Catholic Epistles good; weak on Paul Aug. 7 2006
By Matthew Gunia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Paul Achtemeier, Joel Green, and Marianne Meye Thompson are respected New Testament scholars at Union Theological Seminary (Virginia), Asbury Theological Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary respectively. "Introducing the New Testament" is (as you might guess) an introductory textbook for those just beginning their study of the New Testament; their intended audience appears to be theology majors and those just beginning seminary.

The format of the book lends itself well to classroom use. Of this books 25 chapters, 18 deal with a particular book (or highly related books, e.g. 1, 2, 3 John)--covering its content, its context, its author, and its recipient. It then traces the literary flow of the New Testament book, showing what the author's major purpose and themes are. The section follows with an introduction to some scholarly debates concerning the Biblical book, and some helpful resources for further reading.

The remaining 7 chapters are more topical in nature and are titled "Chapter 1: What is the New Testament?" "Chapter 2: The World of the New Testament," "Chapter 3: The Nature of the Gospels," Chapter 8: Jesus of Nazareth," "Chapter 10: Letters in the New Testament," "Chapter 11: Paul and His World," and "Chapter 25: The Formation of the New Testament Cannon." Each of these covers its subject from a variety of angles and introduces various schools of thought on the subject, while the authors do come down on particular sides of debate, they do so in such a way as to leave the questions open so that the reader can come to his own conclusions. Again, there is a concluding summary and resources for further reading.

This book has been helpful for this reader in many ways. When reading commentaries, it is easy for one to "lose the forest for the trees." That is to say that when one narrow his focus too narrowly--to one particular verse in a Biblical book or the like--he can lose the general argument and flow of the book. Achtemeier, Green, and Thompson do a great service by keeping each book's major argument/theme in mind and show how the particular outline of the book and even particular verses serve to advance that argument/theme. Often, they are good at providing the reader with a memorable summary statement in the book's narrative which speaks to the heart of the issue at hand. Also, this reader appreciated the generous amount of pictures, maps, charts, and "shaded boxes" that speak to tangential issues.

However, while this book has many merits, it is not without its flaws. While its treatment of the Gospels and Catholic (non-Pauline) epistles were excellent, their treatment of Paul's letters was disappointing. Throughout the book, the authors seem to make a conscious effort to attract a wide readership by avoiding doctrinal issues (a bit of a problem in itself), but in the Pauline epistles, they break this pattern and come down forcefully on a particular issue. This issue is not communion, baptism, the relationship between faith and works, or the like, but rather they come down strongly in favor of womens' ordination. In so doing, they appeal to Galatians 3:28 (out of context), they appeal to 1 Corinthians 14(?!), and even appeal to the idea that Ephesians was written by a women, not Paul (?!?!)! Because of these poorly developed, illogical, and speculative arguments, the authors do lose a degree of credibility. Other negative aspects of the book are relatively few and far between. The only others that really stick out are their argument that Scripture is fallible (e.g. p. 456) and that the Book of Revelation is primarily about the first century Church's struggle against the Roman Empire, and not so much about the modern Church's situation.

In all, those who are interested in beginning New Testament scholarship would do well to read this book. Professors who are looking for a basic textbook would do well to assign this one, but I would recommend Martin Franzmann's similar (and more orthodox) "The Word of the Lord Grows." Mildly recommended.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile and interesting July 27 2004
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
No single volume survey of the New Testament is going to be suited to all tastes. Just as different denominations and traditions have come to interpret and apply biblical teachings in different ways (one must remember that the choice of literal interpretation is still a hermenuetic choice, still an interpretation), so too will they have different documents and teachings that develop their own traditions more fully. However, the broader trend among seminaries is toward a more ecumenical approach, made necessary not in the least by the fact that many (if not most) seminaries can no longer cater to an exclusive denominational pool of potential students, but rather, in order to keep enrollment up and the doors open, must appeal to a wider range of learners.

Thus, there has a been a great number of New Testament surveys written in broad-based, ecumenical mindsets over the past generation. This volume, by Achtemeier, Green and Thompson is one of the latest, best volumes in this field. Designed as a primary textbook for introductory courses in New Testament studies, it approaches the subject through a primarily Western, liberal-theological approach; by liberal I refer here to the traditions of biblical studies that finds root in post-Enlightenment circles in northern Europe, Britain, and later North America, not the ever-changing political term.

The authors cover the primary topics of interest for any such introductory course must address: historical origins of the writing and canonical development, the historical setting of Jesus and the apostles, the cultural setting in which the early church began to form, and various traditions that arose around the gospels and apostolic letters. Achtemeier, Green and Thompson devote a chapter each to each of the gospels, as well as a separate, general, somewhat integrative chapter on Jesus of Nazareth. These chapters highlight literary differences, differences in audience and intention, as well as connections between the writings.

The authors look at the Acts of the Apostles and the apostolics letters in logical groupings (the letters to the Corinthians share a chapter, the letters of John share a chapter, etc.). There are independent chapters on Paul, the idea of letters, the book of Revelation, and the canonical development of the New Testament independent from the chapters on the letters themselves. Some chapters, such as that on the letter to James, is longer, dealing with both the letter and the historical figure of James.

Achtemeier, Green and Thompson use the full range of literary and historical tools available in this study -- ancient languages, documentary evidence (including outside writings), literary critical analysis tools, and more. This is not a theological text -- while the authors address different ways in which the text is received and understood, there is no particular dogmatic angle espoused here. No text can be free from bias, but given the intention to produce a text usable by a wide audience, this one does a reasonably good job at remaining objective.

The text itself is interesting and accessible, presupposes no particular in-depth knowledge of languages, history, or theology, although these studies certainly don't hurt! There are boxes, charts, line-art drawings, pictures, graphs, suggestions for further readings after each chapter, and a reasonable index. The look and feel of the book is nice and inviting.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good NT Survey with Only Minor Flaws Sept. 3 2005
By Chip Webb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Paul J. Achtemeier, Joel B. Green, and Marianne Meye Thompson have provided seminary students and other interested Christians with a very good survey text of the New Testament. While generally from the evangelical end of the spectrum, the authors often do not agree with traditional views of authorship, theology, or other elements associated with the text. And regardless of whether they agree with modern scholarship on any given issue, they continually engage with such scholarship, making this text more valuable than one that simply accepts (broadly speaking) traditional views or that lines up with one particular theological tradition.

The structure of most chapters is intriguing. While many texts deal first with questions of authorship and introductory background material, most chapters of Introducing the New Testament take a very different tack. While background information is introduced at the beginning of the chapter as needed, the authors generally get into a short commentary on the book in question as quickly as possible and let many background issues get discussed in that context. Questions of authorship and dating usually are left until the end of the chapter. There are exceptions to this pattern in chapters devoted to more complicated texts (e.g., Hebrews, Revelation), but this structure occurs enough times in the text that it could be considered normative.

The book's few weaknesses are visual and stylistic in nature. More photos and maps would break up the lengthy text and make it more appealing, even if they made for a longer book. And at too many points, the text could have used more editing; many sentences could be shortened for stronger effect.

Still, those are relatively minor complaints. Introducing the New Testament is a book from which most Christians looking to dive into New Testament studies should profit.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spendid treatment of New Testament Literature Dec 17 2001
By Dr. Roy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is a bible student's dream come true. It is written in an engaging manner. The scholarship is superb. The book's structure, theological content, and balanced treatment, make it a valuable resource for New Testament Study. At a time when there is a proliferation of books and monographs on biblical subjects, Achtemeier, Green, and Thompson, produce a jewel for the serious student of scripture. This book is destined to become an instant classic.
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