The quality of Zondervan’s book, from the cover art, to the colour pages, even up to the beautiful design within the book makes this new textbook on the New Testament attractive. But added to Zondervan’s intelligent design, two Protestant New Testament scholars have provided an introductory yet still robust introduction to the New Testament.
In one sense, The New Testament And Its World appears to be an effort at summarizing the historical and exegetical work of N. T. Wight over the years. But readers will detect the influence of Michael Bird as well. For example, in a chapter on the pastoral epistles, N. T. Wright is noted as arguing for the authenticity of 2 Timothy; the rest of the argument for the authenticity of 1 Timothy and Titus almost certainly comes from the hand of Bird.
However, it is fairly obvious that TNTAIW basically summarizes and repackages Wight’s voluminous writings and research into the New Testament and its world. For that reason alone, the volume may be worth a purchase.
I will primarily use this textbook as a short commentary on each book of the Bible since it situates each book in history, uses beautiful images to help conceive of the world of the New Testament, and provides tight interpretations of each book of the Bible.
Chapters also appear on topics like canonization or textual criticism. These help fill in the blanks of certain issues that pertain to the study of the New Testament. And it should reduce the number of required textbooks a class on the New Testament will need to require. Hence, students will appreciate the lower cost of books and educators can use a centralized educational tool.
Since the book aims to be broadly accessible, Wright’s sometimes idiosyncratic views on theology basically fall to the wayside. Still, one can detect in the final chapter in the book a disdain for the reformed articulation of the satisfaction theory. No doubt, Wright affirms that Christ paid the penalty for sin as a substitute. Yet the way in which he connects the dots differ from a typical reformed presentation.
In short and a bit too simplistically stated, Wright does not have a place for metaphysics that goes beyond the surface grammar of the text’s narrative. In this sense, Wright privileges the language and story of Scripture over and against theological reflections on the text. I can understand why, but I do think his concern reflects more of the current chaos of theology rather than theology itself.
In any case, Wright and Bird have written a user-friendly, academically sharp work on the New Testament. Zondervan has made the volume beautiful and thereby added to its function and use as a textbook. I suspect that even pastors and professors could use this in their academic work since it flows out of many years of Wright’s research. It packs an academic punch.
Reformed readers may find the book’s discussion on atonement underdeveloped and may even object to how the authors describe inspiration. But these matters can be easily adapted to a Reformed understanding through theological discernment. That might mean that reformed seminaries will want to note the few areas of disagreement in the textbook during class periods.
I assume that pastors who might use this book for sermon prep and teaching prep will be able to spot these theological differences—none of which can ultimately reduce the value of the rest of the work.
With the caveat mentioned above, seminaries, pastors, and students will enjoy and benefit from this work.
The publisher provided me with a review copy.