Monday, October 19, 2009

Mark Allan Powell, Introducing the New Testament

I was delighted to receive in the post a copy of Mark Allan Powell, Introducing the New Testament: A Historical, Literary and Theological Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009). In the interests of full disclosure, I should explain that I was asked to write an endorsement for the book and chose not to do so because of what I regarded as its deficiencies in the discussion of the Synoptic Problem (and so it is particularly nice of Baker to send me a copy anyway!). I will explore its treatment of the Synoptic Problem a little more in a future post, but before doing so, I wanted to take a post to enthuse about the book lest my future post seemed to be trying to take out the speck in my brother's eye.

Powell's introduction looks splendid. It is beautifully illustrated, with well chosen colour pictures from Christian art across the centuries. And the layout is splendid, with the text constantly broken up with nice little boxes and sidebars, bulletpoints and charts. It is very easy to navigate, rightly boasting that it is the kind of textbook you can dip into at any point. The discussion is crystal clear, easy to read and usually fair and accurate.

My guess is that it will be a direct rival to Bart Ehrman's Historical Introduction, now in its fourth edition, and now, just in the nick of time, with similar lavish illustrations. It will be a while before I can get a feel for whether Powell could do the unthinkable and replace Ehrman as the first-stop introduction, not around here in the heart of the Triangle, of course, but in places further afield.

One of the values of the new book is a website called Introducing the New Testament, a companion site that features lots of extra hand-out style student resources.

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