Friday, July 31, 2009

Bible introductions

We’ve seen a recent uptick in introductions to the Bible, so now is a good time to briefly take stock.

New Testament Introduction

1.Blomberg has now written a two-volume intro to the NT. It’s strong on the historical Jesus.

Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (B&H Academic; 2nd edition, 2009)
by Craig L. Blomberg

From Pentecost to Patmos: Acts to Revelation: an Introduction and Survey (Inter-Varsity Press, 2006)
by Craig L. Blomberg

2.This is a big, conservative, well-formatted, up-to-date intro to the NT. A bonus point are sections on the inspiration and canon of the NT. Between this work and Blomberg's (see above), you’d be very well served.

The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (B&H Academic, 2009)
by Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, Charles Quarles

3.This is not quite as detailed or up-to-date as (2), but it’s a highly competent, conservative intro to the NT. Useful for ready reference.

An Introduction to the New Testament (Zondervan; 2nd edition, 2005)
by D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo

4.Metzger updated this classic work a few years before his death. It has a decidedly apologetic thrust.

New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content (Abingdon Press; 3rd edition, 2003)
by Bruce M. Metzger

5.This wouldn't be my first pick. Porter is one of Carson’s star students. McDonald is less reliable. It’s a bit to the left of some other titles listed here. But it’s also very well informed, with lots of useful information.

Early Christianity and its Sacred Literature (Hendrickson Publishers, 2000)
by Lee Martin McDonald, Stanley E. Porter

6. This is somewhat dated, but the scholarship is rock solid up to the time of the last edition. More of a reference work than ready reference. A monument to conservative scholarship.

New Testament Introduction (InterVarsity Press; Rev Upd Su edition, 1990)
by Donald Guthrie

7.Obviously dated, but the quality of the scholarship endures. Zahn was the most erudite NT scholar of his generation. Generally conservative. And this is available online.

Introduction to the New Testament (1917)
By Theodor Zahn

Old Testament Introduction

1.This is probably the best all-around intro to the OT. Full coverage. Up-to-date. Well formatted. Generally conservative. A bit to the left of Archer, but not by much.

A Survey of the Old Testament (Zondervan; 3rd edition, 2009)
by Andrew E. Hill, John H. Walton

2.This is the most conservative Old Testament intro. Archer was a great scholar. Strong on higher criticism, but weak on literary/theological analysis. It’s the logical successor to E. J. Young’s venerable introduction.

A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody Publishers, 2007)
by Gleason Archer

3.This is the opposite of Archer. Strong on literary/theological analysis, but weak on higher criticism.

An Introduction to the Old Testament (Zondervan; 2nd edition, 2006)
by Tremper Longman III, Raymond B. Dillard

4.To the right of Longman/Dillard, to the left of Archer. Somewhat dated. Strong on higher criticism. Harrison was a representative of the Albright school.

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hendrickson Publishers, 2004)
by R. K. Harrison


  1. I think the Porter/Macdonald introduction is by far the best NT introduction out there (though I haven't seen "The Cradle, the Cross and the Crown" yet). Of all the conservative commentaries it seems to be the one that most openly and rigorously owns up to the real challenges in interpretation. Porter and Macdonald are not afraid to tackle the most difficult questions and problems, and they are most aware of the widest range of scholarship.

  2. Porter is first-rate. But there are some serious problems with Mcdonald. To take one example:


    The final two essays, however, do not prove to be as helpful. Both Mcdonald’s and wilson’s essays
    engage in some problematic argumentation. Mcdonald’s essay has several deficiencies, including multiple logical fallacies and unsupported assumptions. For example, Mcdonald makes an appeal to authority when he says, “most scholars . . . most biblical scholars” without giving names or argumentation for the multiple-source theory of 2 Corinthians (p. 211). He then makes an unwarranted deduction that because none of the extant manuscripts support the multiple-source theory for 2 Corinthians, we must have sloppy manuscripts, and therefore the idea of seeking the “original manuscript” is too complex. (i do not have a settled position on the composition of 2 Corinthians; rather i am using this as an example
    of Mcdonald’s method.)
    Elsewhere Mcdonald engages in an ambiguous use of language to sow doubt and suspicion. He
    states, “Historically, of course, the church has never fully agreed on which books comprise its Bible” (p.
    209). This sentence is deceptive and belies the fact that ecclesiastical bodies have generally agreed that
    there is a canon of scripture, and the various bodies have identified a canon without sinking into despair
    because they are not in absolute agreement with other ecclesiastical bodies. A numerical plurality does not necessarily equate to qualitative pluralism.
    This poisoning of the well does not see m unintentional on Mcdonald’s part. in fact, this doubt plays into Mcdonald’s communitarian hermeneutic, which vests authority in the person of God and not in the text. This in reality is part of Mcdonald’s agenda. He seems to desire to muddy the waters in order to get those ecclesial bodies who do not agree to make their views more provisional. He takes a true statement that all authority is vested in the Lord Jesus Christ as Jesus stated in Matt 28:18: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” From this statement Mcdonald urges Christians not to
    place authority in scripture, with the implication that such a move will somehow practically invalidate Christ’s authority. in other words, Mcdonald is trying to bring up the specter of that dreaded “bibliolatry.”

  3. such veiled moves do not lessen the poisoning of the well or strengthen Mcdonald’s argument. in fact
    it is better to say that Mcdonald spends the first thirty-four pages of the essay raising difficulties in the transmission of the text in order to bring in his alternate theory, which amounts to little more than a priesthood of textual critics. As Adolf von Harnack stated, “the auctoritas interpretiva is invariably the supreme and t2003], 1.63).

    Mcdonald is careful to note that with all the problems in the transmission of the text, the churches are still not left wondering, who is Christ? or what is his Gospel? so despite the various difficulties that Mcdonald raises and the call to worship Christ and not the text of scripture, one is left at the end of the day wondering how the first thirty-four pages and the last two fit together. They seem like what Macbeth called “a tale . . . full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” For after raising jeremiads concerning the lack of recoverability of the urtext of the Nt, Mcdonald out of scholarly honesty is forced to admit, “remarkably, the various translations and biblical canons present in churches today (Greek orthodox, roman Catholic, Ethiopian, and protestant) all reflect the message and identity of Jesus the Christ as well as the obligation of the church for worship and mission” (p. 238). one feels like quoting kenneth kitchen’s response to the biblical minimalists: “Your fantasy agendas are irrelevant in and to the real world, both of today and of all preceding time back into remotest antiquity. Get real or (alas!) get lost!” (On the Reliability of the Old Testament [Grand rapids: Eerdmans, 2003], xiv.)

  4. Where online can you get the Zahn work? (In English.)


  6. Of course, that's a very ironic post coming from the lips of an Episcopalian minister. Given his denomination, he has a very high tolerance for heresy.

  7. In my experience, Steve, it's best to not assume what others do or do not have a tolerance for.

  8. I make no such "assumption." The fact that he's an EPUSA priest supplies direct evidence regarding his level of tolerance.

  9. Actually, Steve, the Episcopal priest you are talking about is me. I'm the blogger at Creedal Christian. And since you don't know me, it's really best to not make blanket assumptions and generalizations about what I do or do not tolerate, believe, etc. on the basis of my denominational affiliation and one blog posting.

  10. It's quite appropriate to judge you by your affiliations. As an episcopalian priest, you have a corporate identity as well as an individual identity. You're a willing representative of your denomination. A denomination with a track-record for heresy going back decades.

    Yet, from that posture, you presume to cite, with apparent approval, the following accusation: "Fr. Stephen charges that the Protestant matrix for interpreting Holy Scripture breeds heresy."

    Yet your own denomination breeds heresy.

    Moreover, you're own denomination is a Protestant denomination. Therefore, your charge is hypocritical.

    Is this just a softening up exercise for you to swim the Tiber? If so, why not come clean about your motives?

  11. "A denomination with a track-record for heresy going back decades."

    Actually, to be more precise and to broaden the scope from the narrow denominational focus of the Episcopal Church to the Anglican tradition of which it is a part (and looking at this from a strict Calvinist perspective), my tradition has a track record of heresy going back much longer than that. Perhaps we could place the date at 1549, when the first Book of Common Prayer was issued. As I recall, the Puritans were never happy with any edition of the Prayer Book because it never went "far enough" to satisfy their desire to "purify" and "reform" the Church in England (note, for instance, their consternation that the doctrine of baptismal regeneration was never expunged from the baptismal rite in succeeding editions of the Prayer Book).

    " ... you're own denomination is a Protestant denomination."

    Actually, Anglicanism (of which the Episcopal Church is a part) is a reformed catholic tradition - neither strictly Reformed in the Calvinist sense, nor (to be sure!) Roman Catholic. I am a reformed catholic and a creedal Christian. Or just a catholic (small "c") for short.

    Lancelot Andrewes, one of the great Anglican divines of the 16th and early 17th centuries, sums it up well: "One canon, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries and the series of the Fathers in that period determine the boundaries of our faith." That is the tradition in which I am ordained and which I represent as a priest. And in fact, Andrewes' understanding of the boundaries of our faith suggests a greater kinship between Anglicanism and the Eastern Orthodox tradition than with Rome. (Quite a few Anglicans/Episcopalians feel that kinship and affinity, including myself.)

    I do not agree with everything the leadership in my particular branch of Anglicanism says or does - not by a long shot! Just as I do not agree with everything that the President or the Congress does, even though I am an American citizen. But I am proud to embrace Andrewes' understanding as one expression of how Anglicanism, at its best, expresses the catholic faith.

    So am I thinking about swimming the Tiber? I don't think so!

  12. That's an improvement over your previous responses.

  13. I'll take that as a compliment and say thanks, Steve.

    I invite you to read more of my blog postings. In particular, the postings under the heading "Anomic Anglicanism" will give you a better sense of where I'm coming from, at least in the sense of where I'm critical of the church I serve and, by implication, what I affirm as the proper norms that correct where we go astray.

  14. Bryan Owen: "I invite you to read more of my blog postings."

    Here's one that I just read titled "Anglican Fudge or Anglican Goo?" whereby Bryan extols and affirms a sermon of The Postulant who describes himself as "I'm actually a priest now, but I've been calling myself "The Postulant" for so long that I've grown attached to the identity, and I think I'll keep it for a while yet. I'm a professor of philosophy and religious studies, specializing in medieval Christian philosophy. I'm a Rite-One-loving, Anglican-chant-singing, Nicene-Creed-believing homosexual -- a Hobartian as a matter of conviction and a ritualist as a matter of taste."

    Bryan comments on The Postulant's sermon (which I invite all to read):

    "This is an excellent teaching sermon, Thomas! It's difficult for me to start on why I deeply resonate with all of this, but perhaps just saying that I've been needing a solid reminder of why I've chosen to be an Anglican, and that this hits the nail on the head, is sufficient.

    And I absolutely love the whole Anglican fudge versus Anglican goo distinction. Seems to me that some of our Church's most vocal critics tend to confuse the latter with the former."