The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text & Canon

Written by Arthur G. Patzia Reviewed By Kent D. Clarke

On page 14 of The Making of the New Testament, Patzia states that ‘[T]his book is a summary of current and relevant New Testament scholarship. It is written primarily for nonspecialists—students and lay-persons who desire to know how the New Testament came into being but who do not have the time, opportunities or resources to research this type of material’. The author does a remarkable job in accomplishing these goals. Patzia has produced a clear, lucid and comprehensive beginning introduction to matters concerning the origin and formation of the NT canon, textual criticism, and historical criticism.

The Making of the New Testament is divided into seven parts. Part one establishes the foundation of the book by discussing the literary world and background of the NT. Topics introduced here include the Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint, the OT Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Greco-Roman literature. Parts Two, Three and Four, dealing with the Gospels Pauline literature, and other NT literature respectively, focus upon considerations such as source, form and redaction criticism, the synoptic problem, the collection of Paul’s letters, and the Muratorian fragment. Part Five presents the criteria of canonicity, including the authority of the words of Jesus, apostolicity, church usage, orthodoxy and inspiration, and concludes with an excursus on the arrangement of the NT books. Parts Six and Seven, which turn to matters concerning paleography and textual criticism, provide a good discussion on the writing and transmission of manuscripts and subsequent textual variation.

Among the other helpful aids this work provides for the reader, including five brief appendices of relevant material, a glossary, comprehensive endnotes and a select bibliography, Patzia has filled its pages with very useful tables and charts. Ranging from comparisons of the synoptic material and outlines of Pauline letter structure to diagrams detailing the transmission and geographical spread of the NT text, these illustrations further add to the book’s clarity of presentation. Also commendable is Patzia’s openness to consider and present differing views and positions. An apt summary is found in the words of George R. Beasley-Murray, who writes the foreword to The Making of the New Testament: ‘It is good that the publication of such clear teaching is now available to a wider readership, and I warmly commend it to such.’

Kent D. Clarke

Roehampton Institute, London