Introducing the New Testament
Church Times Bookshop £17.10
HENRY WANSBROUGH scarcely needs introduction for readers of the
Church Times: a Benedictine monk from Ampleforth, formerly
Master of St Benet's Hall, Oxford, and currently Professor of
Biblical Studies at Liverpool Hope University. A work like the
present introduction probably represents a distillation of years of
his teaching experience.
This book is designed quite unashamedly as a textbook, modelled
on his own experience of studies as a young monk. "First he read
the chapter on a Book of the Bible, then the Book itself, and then
finally the introductory chapter again, to see what he had missed."
The present textbook is structured in five parts, each concluded by
a set of questions on the content and its implications.
Within this framework, the first part lays the groundwork by
discussing preliminaries: why read the Old Testament if one is
supposed to be studying the New; what do we need to know, to begin
with, about the New Testament's original texts and translations;
and what evidence is there about the politico-religious situation
of the New Testament world? After the preliminaries come two large
parts, devoted respectively to the Gospels and the Acts of the
Apostles, and to Paul's life and letters. The fourth part is
concerned with the Catholic or Universal Epistles. The fifth and
final part is a surprisingly short section - less than 20 pages -
on Revelation. The use here of the term "milleniarism" surprised
me, as a much less familiar synonym to millennialism or
How does this work compare with the range of other introductions
to the New Testament? It is to be commended as a storehouse of
material, including quite recent scholarship, with a balanced
presentation of Roman Catholic and Protestant contributions. While
the coverage is substantial and deals with awkward questions, and
the style is accessible and the author's verdicts are clearly
expressed, neither content nor presentation is quite as
straightforward as the textbook format might lead one to expect.
The contexts of the New Testament are emphasised, with a little
discussion of texts outside the canon. But I would have liked more
space given to assessing such texts as the Gospel of Thomas or the
Apocalypses of John. Significant modern scholarship has taken a
broader view of relationships outside as well as within the New
Dr John Court is Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Biblical
Studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury.