A Book Review
New Testament and Old Testament introductions are useful reference tools for any Bible student. I keep several on my shelf and consult them regularly when I need an overview of a specific book of the Bible. General editors Adam McClendon and John Cartright have produced one of the NT variety titled Approaching the New Testament: A Guide for Students. This book from B&H Academic is an up-to-date reference that provides the introductory material you would expect with a welcome emphasis on personal application that you might not expect. According to the introduction, “This book is designed to bridge the gap between the highly informational commentary and those resources that lean toward application” (2). This book strikes that balance well.
Apart from two bonus chapters, the books of the New Testament are discussed using the same three-part outline: Connection Point, Setting, and Highlights. The Connection Point begins with the same question every time: “What relevance does this first-century writing have for us today?” The contributing author answers that question and offers a thematically-related prayer before proceeding to Setting. I’ve included this prayer from the chapter on James as an example.
All-wise Father, as we meditate on the treasures of this letter, may our hearts be filled with your great love and our minds enabled to flourish from the truth we find within it. As we struggle to love you with all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves in the midst of a changing and challenging world, we pray for your wisdom to guide us in each moment. Amen (298).
Under the Setting section, the author discusses the book’s recipients, theme and key passage, and purpose and occasion. The Highlights section summarizes each book according to its major sections. A short bibliography concludes each chapter. There are also plenty of sidebars, colorful maps, and relevant photographs that make this book even more engaging.
I mentioned two bonus chapters. The first one is Chapter 1: “Influences on the New Testament World.” Here, Matthew Kimbrough does an excellent job of highlighting seven influences on the New Testament world (e.g., the biblical covenants, Alexander and his generals, Jewish sects, and more). The other bonus chapter (“A Case for the Resurrection” by Gary Habermas) is useful apologetic material, but it felt out of place given the contents of the rest of the book.
My only criticisms deal with the physical book. The pages are glossy. It’s my personal preference, but I would prefer uncoated paper. And it doesn’t smell great. I don’t normally mention smells in a review, but this one is rather unpleasant. Hopefully, it will wear off.
This book would be most appropriate for an undergraduate audience or layperson, but the applicational emphasis is useful and relevant for everyone. As the final words of the introduction challenge the reader: “It’s never merely a matter of whether or not you have the Word; it’s also a matter of whether or not the Word has you (3).
Special thanks to B&H Academic for a free review copy of this book. This did not affect my thoughts in any way, so far as I’m aware.