A reprint edition of this classic has been published.
Normally reprint’s aren’t considered grist for the review mill but sometimes a glance back at a real classic is beneficial for a new generation of biblical scholars. Many may not be familiar at first hand with Lietzmann’s work and they would benefit, greatly, by being introduced to it.
First published in 1933 by Knopf, and thoroughly revised and reworked by Lietzmann, the fifth edition appeared in 1949. Thus, the work first appeared on the cusp of the Second World War and went through four editions until reaching its final incarnation in 1949, just a few years after the war ended. Incredibly, given those historical facts, the presence of an absolutely astonishingly fair representation of Judaism in the NT era is noteworthy on its own. Add to that the remarkable thoroughness and the abiding relevance of many of the details, and this book is seen to be what it truly is: a wonder.
The book begins with a relatively brief overview of the language of the New Testament. Next follows a very thorough examination of the textual witnesses available for study of the New Testament, including a survey of text critical methods, a description of the most ancient texts, the earliest witnesses in translation, the citations available in the Church Fathers, and the history of the printed text. Finally, there is discussion of the contemporary (at the time) textual theories of Westcott and Hort.
Immediately following the text critical orientation of the volume, the early Christian literature is described. Paul’s letters, the deutero-paulines, the letters of the Apostolic Fathers (!), the gospels, the apocryphal gospels (!), Acts, the Apocalypse, the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, 2 Clement, and the Apologists all receive analysis.
The canon of the New Testament is next investigated. Following this, the New Testament era is treated as a discreet topic, and this includes an examination of the Judaism of the New Testament period. Hellenistic culture is next up to bat.
The sixth part of the volume is devoted to the beginnings of Christianity and guides readers into a clearer understanding of Jesus and his preaching, the apostolic age, Paul and his mission to the Gentiles, and developments from Jesus to Paul.
Next up is a look at the church from around 70 AD till 150 AD.
As easily seen, this is a very complete work in terms of its focus on introducing readers to the texts, literature, and world of the early Church. All of it is based on one simple premise as brilliantly stated by the author:
Der Theolog steht in der Nachfolge der Apostel und ist Erbe ihres Amtes, Gottes Dolmetsch zu sein.
Never has a finer brief definition of the expositional task been written.
This book may be nearly 100 years old, but it is well worth reading right now. It has much that is valuable in it. It teaches much. It is a genuinely important book.