Book Review: The World of the New Testament

15863581Joel B. Green is the Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary. Green has written or edited more than 40 books, including several award winners. Lee Martin McDonald is President Emeritus and Professor of New Testament Studies at Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University, Nova Scotia. McDonald has written or edited 20 books and over 100 articles and essays on various New Testament topics. Together these two individuals have impacted, and continue to impact for that matter, the arena of New Testament studies far beyond many colleagues in the field. In The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts, edited by Green and McDonald, the boundaries have been pushed once again.

The World of the New Testament brings together household names from within the field of biblical and New Testament studies to guide the reader through the cultural, social and historical milieu of the New Testament. The World of the New Testament has brought together scholars such as, Ben Witherington III, David A. DeSilva, Micheal F. Bird, James H. Charlesworth, James G. D. Dunn, Bruce Chilton, and many more, to address vital topics relating to the New Testament. The articles are vast and variegated in scope, aligned under five sections: (1) Setting the Context: Exile and the Jewish Heritage, (2) Setting the Context: Roman Hellenism, (3) Jewish People in the Context of Roman Hellenism, (4) The Literary Context of Early Christianity, and (5) The Geographical Context of the New Testament. Within these major sections, the reader is skillfully guided through the backdrop of the New Testament world chronologically from the exile to the early Church. The articles are largely summaries of broader conversations within the field, and include such topics as, “The Hasmoneans and the Hasmonean Era” (pp. 38-53), “Greek Religion” (pp. 105-123), “Women, Children, and Families in the Greco-Roman World” (pp. 179-187), “Jews in the Diaspora” (pp. 272-290), “Josephus and the New Testament” (pp. 398- 404), and much, much more.

I found The World of the New Testament to be one of the most helpful resources that I have ever interacted with on New Testament backgrounds—both in the breadth and scope of the articles and the overall layout of the book. In regards to the former, I really enjoyed the vast array of topics this book discusses. Each article was well written, well documented, and authoritatively addressed. Some of the standout articles will include, “Healing and Healthcare” by Joel B. Green (pp. 330-341), “Noncanonical Jewish Writings” by Daniel M. Gurtner (pp. 291-309), and the entire section on the literary context of early Christianity (pp. 343-435). Also, many will enjoy the chapter, “Jesus Research and Archaeology” by James H. Charlesworth (pp. 439-466), which provides an up-to-date summary and collation of two independent, and yet imperative fields of study. In regards to the latter, the overall layout of the book, I found the chronological arrangement of the material well-structured and thoughtfully executed. I also enjoyed the various photographs, maps, tables and diagrams. At some points, the photographs are difficult to discern due the lack of color, but this is to be expected with a black and white image. Lastly, each article concludes with an annotated bibliography that is certain to point the curious reader in the right direction (I followed a few rabbit trails, I mean research trails myself).

The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts brings together some of the leading voices of biblical and New Testament studies into a single volume. The articles are clear, concise, and comprehensive. The scope of the book is exhaustive and the layout strategically structured with the reader in mind. If you are a pastor, teacher, or student of the New Testament you will need this resource. It is hands down one of the best starting points for all things related to the cultural, social, and historical context of the New Testament. If none of that describes you, and you are simply interested in the world behind the pages of the New Testament you will still benefit greatly from this volume. I couldn’t recommend it more!

I received this book for free from Baker Academic in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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