M. Eugene Boring. An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012. 720 pp. $45.00.
This NT introduction is the fruit of a lifetime of scholarship by a distinguished NT scholar, M. Eugene Boring, I. Wylie Briscoe Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. One distinguishing feature of this NT introduction is immediately apparent: there are nine chapters weighing in at 181 pages before Boring even gets into the NT texts. Many NT introductions dive right into a book-by-book survey, with others supplying a brief chapter or two that provide a broad overview of the Greco-Roman and Jewish backgrounds of the NT. The detailed background from multiple angles that Boring provides sets his volume apart in the world of NT introductions and makes this a valuable resource for the motivated and serious beginning student of the NT.
Boring’s introduction to his introduction covers what the NT is and how it was formed as the Church’s book; it introduces textual criticism, bible translation and biblical interpretation; it provides an overview of the Hellenistic world and Palestinian Judaism within that world; and introduces the quests of the Historical Jesus and the first Christian generation. After this lengthy prolegomenon, the next surprise is that whereas NT introductions typically begin with the Gospels, Boring begins with Paul and ends with the Gospels, Acts, the Johannine letters, and Revelation. The other major unique attribute of Boring’s NT introduction is its theological emphasis, as noted in the subtext. Whereas NT introductions typically do not cover theology, Boring’s volume addresses what he calls the “exegetical-theological précis ” of each book.
For those not familiar with Boring as a scholar, it should be noted that this is a critical NT introduction. This is apparent from methodology as well as conclusions, from issues such as dating and authorship to more significant matters related to the integrity of the NT text. As such, as an evangelical, this isn’t a book I would recommend to the typical person in the pew as an introduction to serious study of the NT. The first NT introduction I’d recommend is hands-down The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles). That being said, for the academically-inclined evangelical who has read a few conservative NT introductions and is somewhat familiar with the terrain, I highly recommend Boring’s volume as a stellar work from a moderate, more critical approach.
For the serious student of the NT, Boring’s An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology is a worthy addition your library. Alongside the conservative must-haves such as Kostenberger/Kellum/Quarles and Carson/Moo, Boring’s volume merits a spot in one’s NT introduction section next to the likes of Raymond Brown and Luke Timothy Johnson.
Thanks to Westminster John Knox for the review copy!