My review of “The State of New Testament Studies”, edited by Drs. McKnight and Nijay Gupta.
What does this book offer the Church?:
Imagine, for a moment, that you have been dropped in the middle of a forest, with neither a map nor a compass on hand to figure out where you are or where you need to go. Imagine that it is also night time, darkness falling over the forest, and you are without a flashlight. As you grope your way through the forest, you might find yourself falling down a hill, travelling down a dead-end path, or find yourself lost beyond recovery. Imagine, too, that you wanted to explore this forest, and how disappointed you would be once you discovered how difficult it would be to explore.
This is the position that a lot of churches, scholars, and lay people might find themselves in when they approach the field of New Testament scholars. The breadth of studies might seem intimidating to someone new to the field. Well, it’s even intimidating to those who are more familiar with the field. Even as a recent seminary graduate, I am still at times shocked when I remember the breadth of the field. We need a guide, and editors Scot McKnight and Nijay Gupta act as our guide, bringing us to the landmarks hidden in the forest, showing us the ins and outs of exploring the forest and how to stay safe, and showing us all of the options we might have for future explorations.
What are the goals of this book and how successfully does it meet those goals?
The goal of the book is simple: provide an entry point for lay people, scholars, and congregants to start to familiarize themselves with the field of New Testament studies. For those less familiar with the field, they will be delighted to see how many different avenues there are to explore when starting down the path of studying the New Testament. Those familiar with certain aspects of New Testament studies might know that they are only masters of narrow portions of the field, not familiar with every avenue of study available to them. This book offers a great entry point to those discussions to figure out what you’d like to read now, or maybe what you can look forward to exploring later!
One caveat: one should not expect that this book will explore the depths of every aspect of New Testament studies. A reader looking for an in-depth exploration of John’s use of Ezekiel, or exploring the Greek textual variants of 3 John from 7th century Syria might be disappointed. But the book does provide extensive bibliographies, inviting future studies and guiding readers into the possibility of greater understanding.
While this book is technical, it is not hard to read. There are some essays that I enjoyed reading more than others, but that is due to a mix of writing styles, personal interests, and touchstones with other fields and ideas I am exploring and studying now. I do have a Master’s degree, so I am not the best at speaking at accessibility, but I wouldn’t put this completely in a popular level category. There are some technical terms and concepts explored, but with a little work and determination, I don’t think too many readers will feel completely mystified at what is discussed.
This book is not designed to be sat and read over your lunch break. (Yes, that is how I read books that I have asked to review, why do you ask?) But this book is designed to be a companion to other studies, inviting us into deeper understanding of the scholarly world which serves the Church.