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Improved version of original version
on September 20, 2000
Helmut Koester,the retired professor of NT and Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School,has produced an improved version of the 2nd volume of his Intro. to the NT,which was originally an English translation of his German work.The first edition of this work is considered the premier NT Introduction from a traditional historical,higher critical perspective,from a Bultmannian perspective.(Rudolph Bultmann was his doktorfater ("doctoral adviser".)
The unique geographical and chronological perspective of this volume,explaining the historical development of Early Christianity,while placing the discussion of its literature,canonical and noncanonical,in this context(a la Walter Bauer),has not changed,there is a greater attempt to explian these writings from a literary perspective,something that the original volume didn't do very well because of its historical focus.For example, the treatment of Mark, Luke-Acts,and the Pastoral Epistles are masterful in this edition.He even ventures some discussions of the theological implications of the development of certain trajectories for the life of the church as it has impacted us even to this day.
One area of improvement in this version is the language:it's simpler and thus makes reading Koester's somewhat dense writing style much easier.This makes this edition more user-friendly for an upper-level undergraduate.
THe bibliography has been updated and,to a certain degree,certain viewpoints have been moderated, or he is less dogmatic about them.For example,his identification od the author of the Pastoral Epistles as Polycarp he acknowledges as a minority opinion.And in his much improved section on Jesus,he firmly sides with the "Third Quest" scholars in terms of the proper methodology for ascertaining an accurate portrait of Jesus.(This is ironic sense in the bibliography for this chapter he does not cite the major works associated with this perspective:Jesus and Judaism by E.P. Sanders;Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright;or Jesus the Millenarian Prophet by Dale Allison.
The only caution I have about this work is that for a person who is beginning NT study a work like this would not give them a balanced view of the breadth of "mainstream" critical views in NT studies. This book propogates Koester's mature views,which many critcal scholars would disagree with,and since he doesn't explicitly interact with other viewpoints by citing opposing authors in this book,this could give a skewed perspective on the state of contemporary NT studies which can be very contentious when it comes to issues such as the role of noncanonical literature(e.g., Gospel of Thomas,the Dialogue of the Savior,the Apocryphon of James)as being crucial in understanding the earliest stage of the development of the gospel traditions).
But,in terms of his perspective,this is by far the best treatment of the NT and early Christian writings. There is none to compare.