There is one other general principle that I tried to follow when writing my NT textbook in the 1990s. In my experience, most textbooks – not just in biblical studies, but in all fields – suffer from one ubiquitous problem. They are BORING. A guiding principle for me was to try my best to keep from boring readers to death.
I’ve always been amazed over the years how otherwise intelligent human beings can take really fascinating material and make it dull, uninteresting, soporific, and general snooze-worthy. Take the Hebrew Bible – the Christian Old Testament – for example. It’s an amazing book, filled with incredibly interesting stories, and beautiful poetry, and gut-wrenching reflections on life and the disasters that happen within it. How can you make the boring? Simple! Ask someone to write a textbook on it.
The New Testament too is a really interesting book – even apart from being the most important book in the history of Western civilization. Any textbook written for undergraduates will be, for many of them, their first (and often only) introduction to these fascinating and important books, and to the scholarship that has been devoted to them over the past 300 years. This is an opportunity to bring to life some of the truly crucial literature of our culture. Authors who bore students with this information have earned a place in Dante’s Inferno.
And yet most books about the NT are boring. I didn’t want mine to be. And so I developed several mechanisms to try to make the book interesting.
First, I decided that I would try to write the book…
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