By giving special emphasis to how the New Testament has helped shape the church’s identity and theological outlook throughout the centuries, as well as the role it has played within the broader cultures of both East and West, this introduction also seeks to assist readers in exercising creative, informed leadership within their own communities of faith and in bringing a deeper understanding of early Christianity to their conversations with the wider public.
Along with separate chapters devoted to each New Testament writing, there are chapters explaining how this collection of texts emerged as uniquely authoritative witnesses to the church’s faith; why they were recognized as canonical whereas other early Christian writings were not; how the four canonical Gospels are related to one another, including a discussion of the Synoptic Problem; how the Jesus tradition––his teachings, stories from his ministry, and the accounts of his suffering, death and resurrection––originated and developed into Gospels written in narrative form; and how the Gospels relate to Jesus Christ as he was and is.
Also included is a chapter on the writings of Paul and how they emerged as a collection of authoritative texts for the church. This chapter includes a discussion of ancient letter-writing, special considerations for interpreting the Pauline writings, and Paul’s decisive influence within the history of the church and western culture.
A distinctive feature of this introduction is its simultaneous publication in two versions. There is a standard, printed version with comprehensive yet detailed coverage of each writing and supplementary chapters on related introductory questions. There is also an expanded CD-ROM version, which gives fuller treatment (and supporting endnotes) to numerous issues introduced in the printed version; provides extensive, annotated bibliographies on each chapter; and includes additional maps, diagrams, charts, and other resources for classroom use and personal study.