At a distance of 2000 years, the text and world of the New Testament can be difficult to understand. To supplement your study of the New Testament this year, we have compiled some helpful resources. This first installment covers introductions, overviews and commentaries—a second part will include books that focus on specific topics/aspects of the New Testament. Since the works written by non-Mormon scholars may be unfamiliar, we have provided a summary from the publisher as well as brief thoughts from our perspective. Many of these titles (particularly from the non-LDS authors) will need to be special-ordered, so please let us know as soon as possible if you would like to purchase any of these books.
From the publisher: From the experience of a lifetime of scholarship, preaching, teaching, and writing, Raymond E. Brown covers the entire scope of the New Testament with ease and clarity. He walks readers book by book through the basic content and issues of the New Testament. While a wealth of information is contained in these pages, the work’s most impressive features are the basic summaries of each book, a historical overview of the ancient Greco-Roman world, discussions of key theological issues, and the rich supplementary materials, such as illustrative tables, maps, bibliographies, and appendixes. Using this basic data, Brown answers questions raised by today’s readers, relates the New Testament to our modern world, and responds to controversial issues, such as those raised by the Jesus Seminar. Every generation needs a comprehensive, reliable Introduction to the New Testament that opens the biblical text to the novice. Raymond E. Brown’s An Introduction to the New Testament is the most trustworthy and authoritative guidebook for a generation seeking to understand the Christian Bible.
Our thoughts: Brown is perhaps the most well-respected New Testament scholar of the last fifty years. His work is always clear and moderate. The organization of the book-by-book treatment is very helpful—sections for authorship, dating, etc, allow for quick reference. His introductory chapters are very helpful in providing context for the New Testament as a whole. Extensive and clear, this is the best single-volume introduction to the New Testament.
From the publisher: Featuring vibrant full color throughout, the fifth edition of Bart D. Ehrman’s highly successful introduction approaches the New Testament from a consistently historical and comparative perspective, emphasizing the rich diversity of the earliest Christian literature. Distinctive to this study is its unique focus on the historical, literary, and religious milieux of the Greco-Roman world, including early Judaism. As part of its historical orientation, the book also discusses other Christian writings that were roughly contemporary with the New Testament, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the letters of Ignatius.
Our thoughts: From the “rock star” of New Testament studies comes this very engaging introduction to the New Testament. It is designed as an undergraduate textbook (which is not unusual) but it very readable (which is a bit unusual). Ehrman’s popular approach is backed with solid conclusions—as always, he hammers home the diversity in early Christian times, with discussions of different beliefs and groups. He is also very good at putting the New Testament in context, showing how elements of this book of scripture were actually not so unique for that era. Despite the textbook-like price, this is probably the most readable of all the introductory texts.
From the publisher: This beautifully written and engaging survey offers an up-to-date New Testament introduction for undergraduate students and general readers. Powell presents disputed and controversial issues fairly, neither dictating conclusions nor privileging skepticism over faith-based perspectives. The book is written in a lively and engaging style and includes helpful sidebars, maps, tables, charts, glossary, diagrams, and suggestions for further reading. In addition, this full-color book includes beautiful artwork illustrating the reception of the New Testament through various times and cultures. A companion Web site through Baker Academic’s Textbook eSources features a video introduction from the author and a wealth of additional resources.
Our thoughts: A very approachable introduction. Designed as a textbook—each chapter has questions for further thought. It is written from a somewhat conservative viewpoint but is in line with the majority of biblical scholars—for example, he agrees that Paul was very likely not the author of Hebrews. Despite its size (560 pages) there are less chapters covering background and contextual topics than other introductions. Powell is a well-respected scholar and has written or contributed to many other books. A very nicely done book for the price.
From the publisher: Some introductions to the New Testament highlight the historical contexts in which the New Testament literature was written. This introduction gives particular attention to the social, cultural and rhetorical contexts of the New Testament authors and their writings. Few introductions to the New Testament integrate instruction in exegetical and interpretive strategies with their customary considerations of authorship, dating, audience and message. This introduction capitalizes on the opportunities, introducing students to a relevant facet of interpretation with each portion of New Testament literature. This introduction by David A. deSilva sets a new standard for its genre and is bound to appeal to many who believe that the New Testament should be introduced as if both scholarship and ministry mattered.
Our thoughts: DeSilva’ strategy of combining “devotional reading “ and “academic study” (instead of considering them being “posed antagonistically against one another) is obviously very appealing to thoughtful Mormons. His method of introducing an “exegetical skill” (such as textual criticism, historical criticism or interpretation of parables) gives the reader a hands-on way to see how scholars approach the biblical text. The writing style is very approachable—despite the seemingly daunting length of the book, it doesn’t bury the reader in detail. His goal of “ministry formation” in writing this commentary seems like it will apply well to Gospel Doctrine settings.
From the publisher: In this concise, engaging book, noted New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson takes readers on a journey back to the time of the early Roman Empire, when the New Testament was written in ordinary Greek (koine) by the first Christians. The author explains how the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, and Revelation evolved into the canon of sacred writings for the Christian religion, and how they reflect a reinterpretation of the symbolic world and societal forces of first-century Greco-Roman and Jewish life. Equally important, readers will find both a positive and critical reading of the New Testament–one that looks beyond its theological orientation to reveal an often-surprising diversity of viewpoints. This one-of-a-kind introduction engages four distinct dimensions of the earliest Christian writings–anthropological, historical, religious, and literary–to provide readers with a broad conceptual and factual framework.
Our thoughts: Sometimes is it very helpful to read the most concise treatment of a topic before diving into specific matters. Johnson—a former monk and longtime scholar of the New Testament—looks at a few key issues that impact the study of the New Testament. His analysis of the role of resurrection in assessing the New Testament is very helpful as is his brief discussion of the necessity and nature of interpretation.
From the publisher: This one-of-a-kind presentation of the New Testament world and its archaeological treasures provides a new, more complete understanding of the world in which Christianity was born. Through lavish photographs, architectural plans, extensive maps, and detailed charts, you can explore the landscape of Nazareth where Jesus grew up; sit at the shores of Galilee where he preached; and enter the streets and temple of Jerusalem where his ministry was fulfilled. An experienced archaeologist and biblical expert will guide you throughout your journey around Israel and beyond—on the Mediterranean voyages of Paul to the homes and synagogues of the Roman Empire, where he planted the seeds of Christianity. Visit Emperor Nero’s “Golden House,” witness the desperation of the Jewish revolutionaries at Masada, and explore the magnificent basilicas of Constantine the Great.
Our thoughts: A beautifully illustrated companion that provides helpful context for the life of Jesus the ministry of the apostles and the period immediately following the New Testament. The author, who has extensive experience in digs throughout the area of the New Testament, writes in a concise, readable manner that benefits from the most current research. A great resource at a fantastic price.
The Life and Teachings of the New Testament Apostles: From the Day of Pentecost through the Apocalypse. 358pp. Hardback. $34.99. Deseret Book. These essay collections by Latter-day Saint scholars (contributors include Eric Huntsman, Brian Hauglid and Kent Brown) present current research and analysis of the Savior’s life as well as the ministry of the apostles. These books provide the benefit of recent scholarship viewed through the lens of the Restoration. Rather than functioning as a traditional verse-by-verse commentary, these essays focus on topics such as “From Jesus to the Written Gospels: The Oral Origins of the Gospel” or “The Continuing Influence of the Family of Jesus in Early Christianity.”
Verse by Verse, The New Testament Vol. 2: Acts Through Revelation. Hardback. $29.99. Deseret Book. Written by two long-time BYU professors, Verse by Verse features In-depth scripture commentary supplemented with photos, painting, drawings, charts, maps, and other invaluable study helps. They explain the doctrines taught by Jesus and the ancient apostles on a wide variety of subjects, including the divinity of Christ, charity, faith and works, grace, the pre-mortal world, the Resurrection, the Last Days, and other vital topics. They demonstrate repeatedly the harmony between the teachings of the ancient apostles and the principles of the gospel restored through Joseph Smith.