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An Introduction to the New Testament by Carson and Moo gives an in-depth summary of the NT books about content, authorship, genre, date, place of authorship, and audience, among others, within historical contexts. The text further draws parallels between liberal and conservative perspectives, considers dissenting opinions, and explains the theological foundations of the individual NT books in standalone chapters. It considers not only the theological contributions of the NT books, but also their historical parallels, literary styles, and sociological aspects. This paper presents a review of the text to paint a detailed picture of the theological and historical perspectives on each of the NT books.
Chapter 1 offers a brief overview of the book. It uses a book-by-book approach to analyze the 27 NT books. Chapter 2-5 considers the three Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The authors identify the similarities of these books in terms of organization, content, and intensity related to the ministry of Jesus as aspects setting them apart from the Gospel of John. Notably, Jesus’ “healings, exorcisms, parable teachings, and last-supper narrative” in the Synoptic Gospels are missing in John. The authors consider the synoptic origins and historicity, literary forms, and a coherent message about Jesus propagated by the gospels. They conclude that the Synoptic books converge on their historical discussions about Jesus’ ministry. However, they diverge on the chronological relation between the episodes, an observation ascribed to the gospel authors’ temporal indifference.
Chapter 3 considers the book of Matthew, including its geographic, literary, and structural markers, while Chapter 4 depicts Mark’s story as a fast-paced narrative and earliest Gospel of Christ’s ministry recounting His healing, exorcisms, and teaching. Luke’s account of the Christian beginnings, Jesus’ journey in Galilee, and later in Jerusalem, the crucifixion and resurrection are given in Chapter 5 in substantial details. While the three Synoptic Gospels follow a common sequence, John’s Gospel dwells on Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem. John’s eschatological tone, contributions, sources, and audience are explicated in Chapter 6 of the text.
Chapter 7 focuses on the Acts of the Apostles considered to be authored by Luke. The Chapter examines Luke’s account of early church history, miracles, and the spread of the Gospel in the Gentile world through the eyes of Peter and Paul. The authors identify the heroic deeds of the apostles and historical events such as Stephen’s martyrdom and the Pentecost as the genres of Acts. They argue that the book’s aim is to edify believers by narrating how God’s plan was manifested in the early church.
Chapters 8-18 focus on the letters of Paul, the apostle, and theologian, his contributions to early Christianity, the righteousness of God revealed in the Scriptures and the edification of God’s grace among Christians. Paul’s epistles are letters addressed to the Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus, and Philemon and speaks against the Greco-Roman society. The authors note that 21 of the 27 NT books are letters authored by Paul. The authors write that the choice of letters as a mode of communication by the Apostles in 21 of the NT books was because they represented “atypical and convenient method of religious instruction among Jews”. Letters were also a means of ministering to people from distant lands. The authors analyze the content, contribution, and destination of each of the letters based on historical and scriptural evidence.
Chapter 18 examines the book of Hebrews that draws heavily from Old Testament texts. It explicates the book’s central message, and perspectives on its uncertain authorship, geographical provenance, and date. According to the authors, Hebrews is primarily written for Christians, who are “urged to maintain their confessions”. Chapter 19 analyzes the letter of James, its message of faith seen through the works, provenance, addressees, and theological contributions while Chapters 20-21 focuses on the letters of Peter and his message of atonement for sin. Chapter 23 discusses three short epistles of John, their structure, addressees (Gaius), authorship, provenance (Ephesus), and its message of first witness testimony.
Chapter 24 highlights the contents, authorship, contribution, and destination of the book of Jude. According to Carson and Moo, the writer of Jude comes across as a dogmatic bigot of conservative ways reminiscent of early Catholicism. They ascribe the book’s neglected status to the writer’s dogmatic stance. In Chapter 25, the authors discuss the message, authorship, contemporary discussions, and sources, among others, in the book of Revelation. Finally, in Chapter 26, Carson and Moo give an epilogue on the origins of the New Testament canon and its relevance to the Old Testament.
A key strength of this text lies in its clear organization and methodical analysis of the books. Each Chapter contains a complete and independent study of various aspects of an individual NT book. The authors perform an in-depth study of each book’s core message, authorship, addressees, the date of authorship, and theological contribution, among others. They also give a balanced analysis by examining dissenting views and criticisms to paint an accurate picture of each book to readers. They use historical evidence, anecdotes, and textual references to support or refute interpretations of the NT books. Each aspect of the book is scrutinized from historical, literary, and socio-anthropological perspectives to determine its theological relevance.
The contextualization of the writers of the NT books helps the readers to understand the historical forces that shaped the literary forms in the individual books. The authors also contextualize the addressees and environments for Paul’s letters, which helps portray a clear picture to show the rationale for their authorship. The historical and contemporary controversies surrounding each book are analyzed in a scholarly tone based on evidence. The authors offer a critique of the dominant perspectives and draw useful conclusions for the reader.
The authors provide substantial footnotes at the end of each Chapter to help a reader seek further information on the issues discussed. Further, the book-by-book analysis follows the New Testament order and the significant contributions of each book to theology are highlighted. In addition, scriptural reference is made to support the arguments made or refute certain positions. However, in spite of its balanced nature, the book contains criticisms of dominant perspectives and positions on the Synoptic Gospels, John’s gospel, the apostle’s letters, and Revelation.
This text gives an in-depth overview of the NT books that greatly benefits the readers. The scholarly analysis of multiple perspectives, historical evidence, and scriptural references strengthen the authors’ conclusions on the content, contribution, geographical provenance, and authorship of each of the NT books and makes it a valuable text for bible scholars.
Carson, Andrew, and Douglas Moo J. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2005.