I started this thread thinking that I would devote it to discussing the changes that I am making in the sixth edition of my textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. But I realized, once I started, that I needed to explain more fully what the textbook was at its inception back in the mid 1990s before talking about changes that I’m making now. And so my past few posts have been about how I imagined the book to be a distinctively *historical* introduction to the New Testament and about what that actually meant in terms of how I approached the task.
One other aspect of this being a historical introduction (as opposed to a theological or principally interpretive or mainly literary introduction) is that I wanted the book to be rigorously comparative in its orientation. What I mean is this.
When people read the New Testament, they naturally assume that it is *one* book. After all, you buy it as one book. It has covers. It has a table of contents. It has a beginning. It has an end. It seems like one book. Yes, there are different books within this one book. But it’s all one book. And so that’s how people read it.
Now when you read a book as if it is really one book, then any part of the book makes sense in light of every other part. And so if you’re reading a science book that has 30 chapters, say, you expect the information in chapter 27 to be different from the information in chapter 12, but it will be completely *consistent* with what you find in chapter 12. And often, you need to know what is in chapter 12 to make sense of what you find in chapter 27. So chapter 12 helps you understand the later chapter.
When people read the Bible….
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