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Backgrounds of Early Christianity Paperback – August 19, 2003
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"The text is excellent -- rich and amazingly detailed. A standard textbook, it would also be a good addition to a parish library."
Bryn Mawr Classical Review
“This book provides a good introduction for students to the historical, cultural and religious environment of the New Testament.”
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Top Customer Reviews
In a field where lots of books are hard to read because they're poorly written, this one is exceptionally well organized, clearly written and easy to read.
It also covers all the subject, from Greco-Roman political history, through Hellenistic-Roman religions and philosophies, on to an excellent section on Judaism and another on early Christianity. Even if you're not an early Church buff, the book is a good introduction to ancient culture.
It's honest. It's written by a proff at a Christian university, but it doesn't slant the scholarship. For eg it gives a good accounting of both sides of the modern scholarship on the contributions of pagan Mystery Religions to the Church, and the _testimonium Falvianum_ is treated fairly -- and dismissed as a later interpolation.
Each section lists a number of books for further reading -- very useful.
A great book!!
The next best thing to Fergusson is C. K. Barrett, "NT Background: Selected Documents." This is a collection of excerpts from 1st Century primary sources. Still, READ FERGUSON FIRST!
Instead, his desire was to craft an introductory textbook as a guide for beginning students. In the preface, he notes that limitations of writing and analysis have forced a compartmentalization (e.g., philosophy versus politics) and viewpoint (e.g., politics, religion, marriage) within his book that did not exist in the ancient world.
Ferguson ensures relevance to the New Testament with frequent references. General bibliographies for broader research are included at the beginning of each chapter. Specialized bibliographies for investigation into more narrow issues are provided at the end of each chapter. All bibliographic references are to works in English except where special circumstances apply. Footnotes are ample and well-chosen. Numerous photographs and tables enliven and clarify content.
In the preface, Ferguson deals with the issue of parallels between Christianity and ancient beliefs and practices. He denies that such similarities demand a naturalistic explanation for the rise of Christianity. This writer agrees and would go further to say that early apologists like Justin Martyr took a similar stance. Moreover, the popular Christian impulse to claim an utterly unique origin for Christianity is a self-inflicted handicap in dealing with the historical evidence. Furthermore, if Christianity were totally unique, it would likely be incomprehensible.Read more ›
Another work, which covers some of the material but is a bit more manageable in length is Jeffers' THE GRECO-ROMAN WORLD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT ERA.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In depth a necessity for any serious student of the New Testament.Published 7 months ago by Harvey Galloway
Good book for general info, and has useful bibliography for further research. Organized neatly for quick reference.Published 8 months ago by mike
This is a well written, well organized, comprehensive, and highly readable book that explains the political environment of the 1st century, 2nd Temple era, society and culture, and... Read morePublished 11 months ago by lwrl
This book is not really for the casual reader. It is not a difficult read, just has a lot of details absent in other books. Having known Mr. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Jason Bentley