Thursday, July 23, 2009

The New Testament Documents by F. F. Bruce (finished)

I just finished The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable by F. F. Bruce.

Mark Dever recommended this book, along with Fundamentalism And The Word Of God by J. I. Packer and Christ And The Bible by John Wenham (Wenham's book is out of print but can be easily purchased second hand through amazon), in a message that he gave at New Attitude 2008. (Note: this message was outstanding and if you can find it on the Internet, I would highly recommend it.) Most books I read are due to recommendations and who better to take recommendations from than Mark Dever. I took a chance, bought these books, and began to read.

The New Testament Documents is an introduction to the historical study of the New Testament. The writing is easily accessible but academic; you do not need a linguistic or historic training to benefit from this book.

The following are the chapter names:
1. Does It Matter?--By the way, the answer to this question is 'yes'.
2. The New Testament Documents: Their Date And Attestations--i.e. what year was each book of the New Testament written? Who wrote each book? How close is the original text compared to our modern New Testament?
3. The Cannon Of The New Testament--i.e. how was inclusion of the cannon decided?
4. The Gospel--i.e. how were the books written? Who wrote what first? Why is the gospel according to John different from the other three gospels?
5. The Gospel Miracles--i.e. did the miracles happen? How did people during the time of Jesus interpret the miracles?
6. The Importance of Paul's Evidence--i.e. does Paul's writing agree with the gospels?
7. The Writings of Luke--This chapter elucidates Acts and describes Luke as a historian of exceptional ability and of the highest caliber.
8. More Archeological Evidence--This chapter describes the corresponding archeological evidence with the New Testament.
9. The Evidence Of Early Jewish Writing--i.e. What early Jewish writings mention Christ and the early church? How did the writings view Christ and the early church?
10. The Evidence Of Early Gentile Writing--i.e What early gentile writings mention Christ and the early church? How did the writings view Christ and the early church?

The book is short, about 125 pages.

It is written academically and Bruce writes eloquently. I was stirred by the serious scholarship of the material and its evenhanded and concise presentation.

Personally, I forget that writings exist about Christ and the early church outside of the Bible. I especially loved the last two chapters, which describe how the Jews and gentiles viewed Christ and the church. I was also affected by how early writings all attest Christ as a historical person. No writing denies the miracles.

This review is too long already--many apologies--so I am going to cut it off here.

Overall, I think that every person who wants to study the Bible, even in a cursory way, should read this book. It wasn't a fast read--you should read it slowly--but it was relatively easy. I highly recommend this book. F. F. Bruce, and those that precede him, has done all the work for us. In exchange for a few hours of our time, we can gain many, many hours (maybe years or even lifetimes) of research and scholarship of absolutely invaluable information. That's a bargain if I've ever heard of one.

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