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HALL OF FAMEon 22 June 2005
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.
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on 3 March 2013
At first sight I was a little wary of this book as I thought it would be a bit too academic for my style of learning - but I couldn't have been more wrong. It is very comprehensive and yet incredibly accessible and understandable. It's a book that is good for a long reading session and yet is also good to pick up and put down. I would recommend for anyone studying theology or indeed anyone just wanting a really good insight into the New Testament. I'm sure I shall refer to this book again and again.
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on 16 November 2012
Been using the book for an NT course and so far it's been very good. Good mix of depth and ability to read
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on 19 October 2015
Very good book for understanding the new testament.
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