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The New Testament: A Very Short Introduction

1 rating: 2.0
A book by Luke Timothy Johnson

As ancient literature and a cornerstone of the Christian faith, the New Testament has exerted a powerful religious and cultural impact. But how much do we really know about its origins? Who were the people who actually wrote the sacred texts that became … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Luke Timothy Johnson
Genre: Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
1 review about The New Testament: A Very Short Introduction

What was he thinking?

  • Jun 4, 2010
Rating:
+2
I am a big fan of writings and scholarly work of Timothy Luke Johnson and have greatly benefited from his scholarship and insights. He is somewhat left-leaning but very orthodox Christian religious scholar. In The Real Jesus : The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels for instance he debunks many of the outrageous claims by the so-called "Jesus Seminar." His The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters is a passionate and well-reasoned modern defense of the basic tenants of orthodox Christian faith and their importance in today's world. So when I took up to read this very short introduction to the New Testament I was expecting a very interesting and scholarly work that would also largely do justice to the traditional Christian outlook on the New Testament. Unfortunately, what I had found was something that is as far from the perceptions of the New Testament as they come. From the opening pages of this book the author assumes an overly apologetic attitude to the New Testament and the early Christianity. I feel like he tries to bend way backwards in order not to offend any of the current politically-correct attitudes to anything Christian, and in fact this short introduction seems to try to validate some of the more dismissive attitudes that have become prevalent in today's academia and media. I have read many short introductions in this series that deal with other religious texts (including, but not limited to, The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions), The Koran: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions), and The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)) and not a single one of those other books has assumed such a dismissive attitude towards its subject.

As someone who has read the New Testament several times and has generally been well disposed to historical accounts of the early years of Christianity I appreciate when books try to take you a bit out of your "comfort zone" and attempt to present those historical events from a new perspective. However, this very short introduction has taken that to a whole new level and for the first several chapters I felt like I was reading about a completely unfamiliar movements and literary works. It doesn't help at all that the author has a penchant for using the kind of language that is more often found in new age and pseudo-psychology books, such as phrases "Christ cult," "energy of the Holy Spirit," "cognitive dissonance," "resurrection experience," and many, many others.

Despite the problematic approach to the New Testament and many puzzling choices of words, there is still some interesting material in this book that may benefit anyone who is interested in this important and momentous book. Nonetheless, this is not the best introduction to the subject, or even the best secondary source. At best it is an idiosyncratic and peculiar little book that can add a few interesting insights, but is more likely to give a completely wrong impression on someone who is not familiar with the New Testament to begin with.

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