The Writings of the New Testament

 
9780334027874: The Writings of the New Testament
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A thorough revision of the author's highly successful interpretation of the New Testament.

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About the Author:

Luke Timothy Johnson is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

I have written this book for those who want to understand the origin and shape of the New Testament writings but are unable to find a comprehensive introduction that is neither repellingly technical nor appallingly trivial. I have called it an interpretation rather than an introduction for the simple reason that most volumes going by the name of introduction are either handbooks devoted to the communication of information concerning a narrow range of scholarly issues or popularized versions of conventional scholarly wisdom for college students. In contrast to both, I have tried to provide a genuine interpretation of Christianity's earliest writings. By so doing I draw the reader into the most important critical questions concerning their understanding. In this sense, every interpretation is also an introduction. By no means is every introduction an interpretation.

The organization of this book, its argument, and the choice of topics have all been dictated by the desire to make these writings intelligible and alive for the contemporary reader who want to meet and understand them more than scholarly discussions of them. I have considered all the critical issues pertinent to the understanding of the writings, but I have gone beyond presenting a consensus of scholarly opinion. The reader will find in these pages a signal "reading" of the evidence from beginning to end---my own. My approach to the writings and the critical issues is independent. It is not, I think, idiosyncratic. I have learned more than I can ever credit to my teachers and to the reading of other scholars. But in this book I advance my own understanding of the New Testament in its origin, in each of its parts, and as a collection. Sometimes I agree with the majority of scholars; sometimes I disagree. I have tried to indicate the reasons for both. As in every attempt to deal with the whole of a subject within a reasonable space, much has been eliminated or abbreviated. More advanced readers should recognize in my sometimes elliptical remarks a thoughtful response to critical scholarship.

In order to keep my argument and presentation clean I have not used footnotes, nor do I refer to other scholars by name in the text. The reader will, I hope, forgive the inevitable air of omniscience that results. It seemed better to restrict reference to primary sources, above all the texts of the New Testament itself. Occasionally even these are so numerous as to make the detection of decent prose a problem. At the end of each chapter I have provided an annotated bibliography. Some entries support my presentation, others provide alternative points of view, still other give the reader additional resources for study. With very few exceptions I have included only literature in English, since the notes are meant to be an aid to the reader rather than a demonstration of learning. Given the rate of translation, not that much of great value is missing. I have also tried to refer to literature that is reasonably available. Translations of primary sources are acknowledged at the head of each bibliographical section. ---Preface to First Edition

The first edition of The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation appeared in 1986. The manuscript for that edition was completed in 1984. The bibliographies were fairly up-to-date but included only a few items from 1984. The contents of the books are therefore almost fifteen years old. Despite the usefulness of the first edition---it went through thirteen printings---it is clearly time for a new edition.

I have not changed the basic philosophy or design of the book. I have simply tried to update and improve it. The updating takes two basic forms. The first is the completely revised bibliographies. Some older items are eliminated; many more recent items are included. I have continued to use only English-language references for the reasons stated in the first edition. The second updating is found in two appendices. One deals with newer methods that have developed over the past fifteen years; it is only a sketch but it shows the general lines of development and its bibliography provides some starting points for reading. The other appendix deals with the question of the Historical Jesus. I explain why I continue to omit this topic from the body of the book, and try to indicate some of the critical questions and sources to consult.

The improvement of the book is found in the line-by-line editing. Every sentence has been assessed for accuracy and clarity. Many passages have been rewritten, some have been omitted, some added. The argument of each chapter remains the same, though I hope it is clearer and more accessible. All of the references have been checked and corrected. I have also added study questions at the end of each chapter to make the book an even better teaching tool. ---Preface to Revised Edition

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