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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.
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on October 1, 2005
This was by far the best course text on Christianity that I studied while at Harvard Divinity School, and not surprisingly it was written by one of the best professors who taught there. Koester's grasp of the world from which Christianity emerged is simply masterful, and his writing is both clear and succinct.
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on May 15, 2001
In History and Literature of Early Christianity, Helmut Koester concludes his Introduction to the New Testament. Unlike the first volume, readers of this volume will gain a thorough knowledge of the New Testament. Koester analyzes biblical figures from John the Baptist to Jesus, and then the various apostles who established the several early Christian churches.
Koester remains focused on the New Testament throughout the book, differing from Volume I by not subjecting the reader to diatribes on arcane subject matter that only partially involved the biblical world. Any reader of the New Testament will find Koester's analyses helpful in understanding how the several New Testament books were written and learn of at least one solid interpretation as to their intent.
Koester expands beyond traditional New Testament books by including many that most people will be unfamiliar with, but together comprise the majority of early Christian writings. Unfortunately, Koester does not spend much time explaining why some of these writings were considered canonical while others were not; and consequently why some were ultimately included in the New Testament, while others were omitted.
Similarly, Koester does not write much on the confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees, and at times contradicts himself by blaming both the Jews and the Romans as being most responsible for Jesus' execution. Koester's theology never considers the crucifixion as preordained by God.
But Koester maintains his masterful presentation of antiquity and the early church, and this book should be considered essential for serious biblical scholars.
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on July 6, 2014
The item was as described. The price was great. It arrived shortly. A great resource.
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on February 12, 2011
This is an excellent history of early Christianity. Get the first volume as well for a comprehensive, handy set of the ancient setting of Christianity and the Hellenistic world.
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on July 27, 2001
I was disgusted upon reading this book to the point that I could not concentrate. Helmut Koester is obviously an intelligent man, but his writing on the New Testament is blatantly skewed. Almost every page has some sort of unsubstantiated claim that he states as fact (the most common seemed to be: "This is legendary"). This leaves his arguments without legs to stand on. If he has evidence to back up his claims, he should present it; otherwise, I do not know how we can be expected to accept his statements at face value.
Koester also discredits himself by frequently taking quotations out of context. It is absolutely imperative to read this book with a copy of the Bible next to you, in order to check every reference he makes. A number of times, I found that the chapters and verses he quoted had little, if anything, to do with what he was discussing; and if they did, a quick reading of the text preceding or following the citation would often reveal that his interpretation of a particular phrase or sentence failed to take the context into account. This often changed the meaning so much that I wondered how he could even take himself seriously.
To me, it seemed clear that Koester made up his mind about the meanings and history of the New Testament and THEN went to the text in an effort to prove his ideas, instead of using the text to form his opinions. For someone considered a serious scholar, this work is embarrassing.
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