An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology by M. Eugene Boring is a unique achievement in the field of New Testament studies. It is the fruit of a lifelong pursuit into the world and literature of the New Testament, and the result of decades of thorough research by a well-respected New Testament scholar.
An Introduction to the New Testament begins with a substantial introduction at over 200-pages. It is here that the New Testament is introduced to the reader as the Church’s book. For Boring, the Church wrote it, selected it, edited it, preserved and transmitted it, translated it, and interpreted it (p. 12). It is within this persuasion that Boring is able to comprehensively guide the reader through issues of New Testament composition, transmission, translation, interpretation, etc.
Following the establishment of the New Testament as the Church’s book, Boring positions the conversation historically as he guides the reader through the Hellenistic World and into the various facets of Palestinian Judaism and early Christianity. This section provides a helpful overview of the historical context of the New Testament literature and better prepares the reader for the investigation that follows.
As the introductory material comes to a close the reader encounters roughly 80-pages of discussion on Jesus and Paul. Boring provides a well-written, but brief summary of the quest for the historical Jesus, and a more substantial overview of the earthly ministry of Jesus and its overlap with that of Paul. Lastly, Boring sketches a more detailed portrait of the life and ministry of Paul and prepares the reader for his unconventional approach in the following chapters with an introduction to the epistles.
In the shadows of the introductory material Boring directs the attention of the reader to the literature of the New Testament. The reader may be surprised to discover that Boring begins with the Pauline epistles—specifically 1 Thessalonians, Philippians, and Philemon—before discussing other New Testament epistles and the gospels. This approach is intentional and appropriate for the critical mindset that Boring is seeking to cultivate. Boring is thus able to construct critical thought around Paul and the other epistles in a way that better positions for the reader, his critical approach to the gospels and Jesus.
I found Boring to be both clear and comprehensive throughout. Aside from the usefulness of the content found within the book, I also found the layout and organization of the book to be extremely helpful and easy to use. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of a “For Further Reading” section at the end of each chapter. Boring provides a number of excellent suggestions for the interested reader looking to investigate more deeply. However, I did notice that his suggestions are typically, and more often than not, those that align with his own critical approach.
I often found myself in contention with the conclusions and assumptions that Boring propagates throughout the book. However, with that said, I greatly appreciate Boring’s scholarship, and his willingness and desire to cultivate a mindset within the reader that looks to think through the issues rather than simply be told what to believe is admirable. It is here that Boring has truly provided the Church and academy something special and unique.
An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology by M. Eugene Boring is a comprehensive engagement into the deepest corners of the New Testament and New Testament studies. While this is not the first New Testament introduction that I will pull from my bookshelf, nor the first New Testament introduction that I will recommend, it will be off my bookshelf often and I would certainly recommend it to others. If you are a serious student of the New Testament looking for a critical engagement therein that is easy to read and useful for reference, this present volume is an excellent resource that will fulfill your needs well.
I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and 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.