Into the World of the New Testament: Greco-Roman and Jewish Texts and Contexts

9780567657428Daniel Lynwood Smith orients readers of the New Testament to its historical and cultural settings, introducing the cast of characters, and illuminating key concepts by exploring their use in ancient texts. Smith includes quotations from many primary sources including Josephus, Tacitus, the Qumran Community, Pliny the Younger, and other carefully chosen texts from lesser-known ancient sources. These texts are all carefully woven together with commentary, to provide a narrative framework for the material and guide students through the text. A glossary of complex terms is provided, to make everything as clear as possible for the newcomer to New Testament studies.

Bloomsbury have also provided a copy of this for review.

Smith begins his work with a simple question: What is the New Testament?  He offers his answer in three parts: The Setting, The Cast of Characters, and Reading Old Words.  The first is self explanatory, in which S. discusses two key aspects of NT interpretation- the Kingdom of God and the Roman empire.  In part two topics include John the Baptist and other segments of Judaism, the life of Jesus, the Disciples, the Jews, and Paul.  The final segment looks at key concepts – the Cross, Faith, and the Apocalypse.

All of this is followed by a postscript on the Canon, a glossary, and indices of ancient sources and subjects.  Smith’s approach to what boils down to a hybrid New Testament introduction and New Testament theology is quite different and quite good. Not only does he set the New Testament firmly in the Greco-Roman world but he also sets it in its Jewish context.  And he manages the task in less than 230 pages, which also includes several maps and illustrations.

Beginning students in particular will find this book very informative.  Old hands at the discipline will find it very suggestive for their own presentations and courses.

His aim is praiseworthy. In his own words he suggests

1And that is a worthy goal indeed.  Focusing on the text is exactly what this book does.  Which, of course, is what all scholarship should attempt to do and what good scholars achieve.

Smith, again, emphasizes both at the beginning and throughout his aim of bringing students into contact with the text, writing a bit later on (the highlighting is my own)

2This book is brilliantly executed.  It is one of those rarity’s in 21st century academia: it isn’t boring.  I recommend it to those teaching New Testament introduction and to students taking New Testament introduction (even if it isn’t a required text).  And I commend it to the attention of those who are taking no courses, attending no school, seeking no grade; to those who simply want to know more about the New Testament itself.  It is highly comprehensible and very much worth the pittance charged for it.



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