Archive for February 22nd, 2010

The “Best” NT Introduction(s)?

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

I have not taught a basic NT survey in more than a decade, but I am now supervising an independent-study NT survey and am both thinking about writing a NT survey text with a theological bent and possibly teaching the course again.

So I am wondering (1) which NT intro(s) others like, or dislike, and why, and (2) whether you think there is a need for another one (of the making of NT intros there is no end!). If you say yes to #2, what would be the elements of the ideal NT intro, or at least the one you think needs to be written?

Here are some thoughts about the ones I have known and used:

1. Luke Timothy Johnson’s second edition from Fortress is my favorite because he attends so carefully and richly to the NT text in its literary and theological dimensions. It is not at all user-friendly, however—no illustrations or even maps—but I hope the third edition, soon to be out, will correct that problem.

2. The one I am using with the student this term is Mark Alan Powell’s new book from Baker. I always like Powell’s work, and this book is no exception. It has tables (I love tables!) and art and maps galore. It’s very user friendly, but it is a bit thin for a text at the seminary or graduate level, so I am supplementing it with some videos by Luke Johnson, NT Wright, and Bart Ehrman.

3. My old friend Bart Ehrman’s Oxford intro, now in its 77th edition and 17th form (abridged, abbreviated, condensed, full-length, etc.) ( :-) ), is a model of clear writing and user-friendliness, with tables, art, and other graphics. It’s good as far as it goes, but it deliberately displays no theological interests.

4. I used Raymond Brown’s massive Doubleday tome with a class when it first came out and was surprised at how well it was received, especially since it looks like an encyclopedia. Brown was a good writer and master of the secondary literature. There are good summary tables of basic data (who/what/when/where, etc.) for each writing but only a few other graphics. His treatment of the gospels is basically a mini-commentary on each from beginning to end; the rest of the NT is treated differently and more topically. I would not use it again as the main text, however.

5. I have only skimmed parts of David deSilva’s equally massive IVP NT introduction, with its stress on application to ministry. I’ve had some former students use it with him in the D.Min. program at David’s school, but I think it would only work in certain settings. (Our student body has more lay people than current or future clergy.)

6. The Eerdmans NT survey by Joel Green, Marianne Meye Thompson, and Paul Achtmeier is solid and well done, though less thorough than some and not as theologically rich as, say, Johnson.

So what do you all think?

A Good, “Storied” Lent to All

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

I am back from a wonderful trip to Turkey and Greece, about which I will blog in the near future. Our Turkish guide with whom I have worked for years, is a kind and sensitive man who has a deep respect for Christians. He had never before been with me and a group on Ash Wednesday, so he asked me at breakfast how he should greet everyone. “Happy Ash Wednesday?” he asked. “Happy Lent?” I was a bit surprised by both the question and his suggested greetings, but quickly and rather unreflectively responded that the greeting felts a bit oxymoronic (or some similar term) and explained why, while also noting that in my experience no greetings were used at the beginning of Lent. So I suggested either to say nothing or to wish people a “Good Lent.”

So what might a good Lent look like?

Having had no time to blog for 10 days, I was happy to find Daniel Kirk’s post called “A Storied Lent” upon returning this morning. By “storied,” Daniel means recalling and re-living the story of the cross. I will have more to say about this subject, too.

Wishing all a good, storied Lent.