THE STUDY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT: A COMPREHENSIVE INTRODUCTION, TOOLS FOR BIBLICAL STUDY 3Written by Pinero, J. Pelaez Reviewed By Christoph Stenschke
Books designed to introduce students to the scholarly study of the New Testament come in all sizes, prices and orientations. Most students buy one and perhaps will use two or three similar volumes for their undergraduate work. Thus it is worthwhile to choose carefully.
The authors of the present introduction are Spanish Catholic scholars who are well known for their contributions to the academic study of the NT and specifically to issues of language and linguistics. Its particular strengths therefore lie in these areas.
The volume opens with a history of NT interpretation up to the present. Chapter two succinctly surveys the study of the text of the NT (canon, text criticism and the history of the NT text). Of special interest is the chapter on the language of the NT, describing the languages spoken in Palestine at the time of Jesus, giving an outstanding introduction to ‘Koine and the NT’ (including a description of its distinctive features) and identifying other linguistic influences. It will be hard to find a similar treatment of this quality at this level! In the section on the historical-literary context (‘Study of the substratum of the NT’) the authors survey the NT world, foreign influences, the heritage of the Hebrew Bible, Qumran, Judeo-Hellenistic literature, Philo and Josephus, Rabbinic literature, Gnosis and Gnosticism and the relationship between the NT and Hellenistic culture.
Next come methods and approaches in NT study. Under the heading ‘Diachronic study’ the authors describe history of religions approaches, historical critical methods (literary criticism, form criticism and redaction criticism) and sociological methods. ‘Synchronic study’ includes semantic analysis, lexicography and lexicology, narrative-structural analysis, literary stylistics and rhetorical analysis. An Appendix on the translation of biblical texts is followed by a detailed survey of resources for NT study, including the Septuagint, intertestamental literature and other literature. An index of biblical references and names closes the volume.
This is a well balanced, demanding but not too technical introduction and point of departure for (university) students seriously interested in engaging in scholarly NT study and biblical languages. Throughout the authors are—in what they do cover—sure guides to all the issues involved and to the present state of research. Most sections could hardly be improved.
My only criticism is what is not treated separately, e.g. feminist, liberation or contextual hermeneutics or canonical criticism (understandably omitted because of the otherwise welcome emphasis on philological-historical interpretation). The NT is also a theological book. What is New Testament theology? How is it done? What are the major issues involved in the undertaking? Study of its theology has to be grounded on the interpretation of texts. How does one apply the NT? How can it be the foundation for Christian belief and practice? The authors rightly note that scientific study of the NT is the prerequisite from which systematic theology can develop: ‘If positions … have no basis in a correct interpretation of the texts, the theology built on them will be without a solid foundation. The contributions of philological-historical study are the necessary point of departure for eventual theological interpretations, which must always be rooted in the text and its meaning’ (3). Thus the volume is an excellent introduction to The Study of the New Testament (text) and less a comprehensive introduction to NT Studies as an academic discipline.
The translators, P. Ellingworth and D. Orton, have put us in their debt. This book is of a high quality, in terms of both content and production. Good companion volumes would be the less technical and thoroughly evangelical volume by W. W. Klein, C. L. Blomberg, R. L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation(Dallas, London: Word, 1993) and J. B. Green’s (ed.), Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995).
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