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Making Sense of the New Testament: Three Crucial Questions Paperback – March 1, 2004
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About the Author
Craig L. Blomberg (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen) is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, where he has taught for more than fifteen years. He is the author or editor of more than ten books, including Jesus and the Gospels and Interpreting the Parables.
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Making Sense of the New Testament is especially perfect for a student of a New Testament introduction course, as Blomberg intelligently and efficiently dialogues with relevant scholarship and presents important facts and considerations too often ignored by more critical New Testament scholars and not heard by the general public often enough, even though the bulwark of Blomberg's case has been articulated by other New Testament scholars since at least the 1943 original publishing of F.F. Bruce's The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
Blomberg's first chapter is the largest where he makes an impressive case in 70 pages for the historicity of the gospels and Acts, discussing: the gospels' textual history, authorship, date, genre, the gospel writers' intent and ability to write accurate history, apparent contradictions, hard sayings of Jesus, ancient non-Christian and Christian testimony, archaeology, miracles, and the resurrection. I must echo the previous reviewer's praise for how much breadth and depth Blomberg covers.
The second chapter argues against the theory that Paul founded Christianity, although, the 30 page survey into this debate provided by Blomberg, though a quality one, may not satisfy those unfamiliar with the nuances of interpretation, as this debate centers more heavily around allegedly contradictory theologies gleaned from the New Testament. The final chapter on interpretation and application gives readers a basic framework that will help them avoid cliché misinterpretations and applications, many of which form the basis of apparent contradictions.
Again, a basic understanding of the New Testament and/or ancient history is assumed by this book. A shorter and much less technical presentation of the positive case for the New Testament's historicity is Josh McDowell's classic, More Than a Carpenter. For a good summary of the use and abuse of critical methodologies relevant to the gospels, such as form criticism and literary criticism, try Blomberg's Historical Reliability of the Gospels (which perhaps dovetails more explicitly with undergraduate New Testament introduction courses but is equally excellent).
Little of Blomberg's scholarship is either chincy or one-dimensional, not least of all his defense of the New Testament' historicity. He is well appraised of the full range of relevant scholarship and primary sources, including ancient non-Christian sources, and he tends to avoid inflammatory rhetoric in his nuanced yet persuasive argumentation for what are at times unpopular scholarly conclusions on controversial topics. In short, he is a New Testament scholar of both intellectual caliber and integrity and should be taken seriously by Christians and non-Christians alike.
While a conservative Christian view (giving the inerrant Bible priority) is promoted, the case is built without depending much on a very conservative set of assumptions, so that you can tell someone, "Even if Paul didn't write any of the disputed letters, and they were all written at the latest dates thought reasonable, there is still a tremendous case that what he wrote was the same message that Jesus taught, so that those who say they have different messages are absurd." (Chapter Two)
The Kindle version has no page numbers, even on Kindle devices, so if you need to cite page numbers, get the print book until there's a review saying it's been fixed.
Blomberg's intent in tackling each question is to make sense of the New Testament. Paul Barnett goes as far as to say, "In addressing three crucial questions, Blomberg has given us an imposing, crisply written apologetic that is at once relevant, fair-minded, and comprehensive" (cover). I agree. While reading this book, I saw afresh the continuity of the New Testament and the relationship between Jesus and Paul. So, this introduction to these topics should be highly recommended for those wishing to study the reliability of the message of the New Testament.