Friday, March 4, 2016

New Testament Introduction (Fourth Edition) - Donald Guthrie


No serious scholar should be without this masterful analysis.

New Testament Introduction (Fourth Edition)
Author: Guthrie, Donald
Publisher: IVP Academic (www.ivpress.com)
Pages: 1161

Can there be a finer introduction to the New Testament? I don’t see how any other volume could exceed this exhaustive work. The fourth edition of New Testament Introduction by Donald Guthrie represents a lifetime of study and it’s now available in paperback, which makes it more affordable.

No Bible institute, college or university, and no theological library should be without it. It provides detailed analysis of the form and content of every book in the New Testament. Form and content are the key words. Like nothing else that I have read, it goes to great lengths to examine structure and theories of origin.   

It’s a scholar’s and academic’s dream. Extensive footnotes are found on every page. There is also a lengthy bibliography. The author’s command of the material is astonishing.

The one drawback is that it may be a little unintelligible and tedious for the non-academic. That’s not to discourage anyone from trying to read this, although it will be easier to consult, rather than read from beginning to end.

Unfortunately, many Christians will never go this deep, and that is a shame, because the material is important. It matters. It’s wrestling with the Scriptures on a different level, and in some instances the outcomes have had a negative impact.

More liberal thinkers call into question the history and reliability of the Scriptures. This is where the various theories of source and form criticisms come into play. There is no denying that this is difficult reading, but the competing arguments and analysis are useful in defending the faith. Fortunately, Guthrie is an evangelical, one committed to thoughtfully examining all the relevant data. We can learn from how he handles it.

Any pastor, theologian, scholar and serious Bible student can benefit from even a general knowledge of the material. On the other hand, they could easily dismiss the relevance, by imagining little in terms of return in pastoral ministries, which is a narrow, questionable view. This is an outstanding reference work that belongs on their shelf so that they can consult it if and when needed. Who knows what truth may be gleaned and what fruit it will bear?

There are subject and author indexes in the back, but no Scripture index. With so many references that might have been a difficult undertaking. Plus, each New Testament book is exhaustively covered in its own chapter. So if someone is studying a particular book, like The Epistle of James, they can easily turn to that section and learn about authorship, the addressees, date, purpose, literary form and style, and get a synopsis of the contents, plus find the many Scripture references pertaining to that section.

This also covers in detail the differences and problems associated with the synoptic gospels. If you want to learn about the hypothetical document know as “Q,” you will find a wealth of information, along with the speculation around other supposed documents or oral traditions.  

Don’t expect commentary and application. This has more to do with technical aspects. Yet, it can have some use for sermon preparation, especially when covering an entire book, or even just a few messages drawn from a bible book.  

For those looking to add a New Testament introduction to a theological library, you can’t go wrong with this. It provides more than most people will ever use.
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