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New Testament History: A Narrative Account [Paperback]

By Ben III Witherington (Author)
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Item description for New Testament History: A Narrative Account by Ben III Witherington...

Witherington, an expert on the social world of the NT, offers a narrative history of the New Testament world from Jesus' birth through the early years of the church.

Publishers Description
Essential to an understanding of the New Testament is a comprehension of the individuals, events, and social movements that shaped the setting from which Jesus and his followers emerged. Unfortunately, many accounts by historians can leave readers feeling overwhelmed and confused. New Testament History provides a worthy solution to this problem. A well-known expert on the social situation of the New Testament, Ben Witherington offers an engaging look into the world that gave birth to the Christian faith.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Baker Academic
Pages   432
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 6" Height: 1"
Weight:   1.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2004
Publisher   Baker Publishing Group
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  0801027691  
ISBN13  9780801027697  

Availability  0 units.

More About Ben III Witherington

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Ben Witherington III (PhD, University of Durham) is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, and is on the doctoral faculty at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He is the author or coauthor of more than thirty books, including The Jesus Quest, The Paul Quest, and The New York Times bestseller The Brother of Jesus. He has appeared on the History Channel, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN.

Ben III Witherington has published or released items in the following series...
  1. New Cambridge Bible Commentary
  2. New Testament in Context
  3. Society for New Testament Studies in Monograph

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible Study > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Criticism & Interpretation
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > New Testament > Study
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > New Testament

Christian Product Categories
Books > Bible Study > New Testament Studies > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about New Testament History: A Narrative Account?

An Excellent New Testament History  Jun 27, 2006
For years, FF Bruce's New Testament History ruled the roost. Now we have an NT history for the 21st century. Ben Witherington tells the tale of New Testament History, beginning way back in the 4th century BC with Alexander's conquest of the western world. Alexander's philosophy of spreading Greek culture and wisdom throughout the world affected the culture and milieu of the New Testament world.

Witherington then speaks of the Ptolemaic rule over Palestine, followed by the Syrian conquest and the Maccabean revolt and then of course Pompey's takeover of Palestine in 63 BC.

It is into this political climate that Christ was born in Bethlehem. Witherington contends vigorously for the historicity of the Lukan account of Christ's birth, and that the story of Jesus' birth bears little resemblance to the birth stories of the pagan gods. Ben also demonstrates that it must have happened around 5 or 6 BC.

He also discusses the Sicarii (the dagger men), showing the likelihood of their existence prior to the reign of Nero in the 60's AD.

He discusses the Pharisees and the Sadducees and their response to the ministry of Jesus.

There is also a irenic discussion of the last week of Jesus' life, and Ben discusses how people were crucified in the ancient world, and he adds the interesting tidbit that crucifixion may have been inaugerated as a Jewish form of punishment that was utilized and adopted by the Romans.

Dr. Witherington also defends the essential historicity of the gospel descriptions of the last week of Christ, as well as the unlikelihood of anyone fabricating a resurrection story where the women believe it and the men don't.

There is also a lengthy discourse on Paul's three missionary journeys and how they comport with what we know from Paul's letters, particularly in the book of Galatians.

Witherington also reveals the essential anti-Semitic character of the Roman emperors, and how they tended to see Christianity as an offshoot of Judaism until perhaps the Neronic persecution of Christians in the early sixties AD.

Ben holds that Mark was the first Gospel written, and that Matthew and Luke relied on Mark as a source.

He also discusses the sad sack of Jerusalem by Titus and his legions in 70 AD, noting that while the Jewish forces out up a good fight for years, internal backbiting and conflicts between differing Jewish leaders helped to seal their doom. Ben is a sympathetic and compassionate guide through the last days of the Jewish nation as he somberly reports the suicide pact that was apparently made at Masada, save for the few who hid in a cistern and survived to tell the tale. Ben also mentions that most of the Christians had fled by the time Titus conquered Jerusalem, perhaps to the town of Pella.

There are sections throughout the book where Ben discusses different topics, such as Magic in the Ancient World and the ransoming of souls. There also capsule descriptions of towns and cities mentioned in the New Testament, as well as sidebar discussions on topics ranging from whether or not Mark is an ancient biography to whether or not Paul grew up in Tarsus or Jerusalem.

The book is subtitled "A Narrative Account," and indeed, the book reads like an engaging story. You really get involved in the lives of those whose stories are told, and even more, you get caught up with the movements inherent in New Testament History.

I highly recommend this book. I have read it two times, and I can't say that, (nor would I want to say that) about too many biblical studies books, tepid as they can be. But Ben is a great writer, and you will want this on your shelf and in your hands.
Good, but...  Feb 6, 2006
Ben Witherington's New Testament History: A Narrative Account is a helpful and easy reading book about the New Testament era. For those looking to begin wading into the life and times of the first century, this is a great book.

Like many New Testament histories, Witherington starts out with the history before the first century - specifically, the rise of Greece. Though this is typical of other New Testament histories, it is necessary in order to understand the politics of Rome and Judah during the first century. It goes on to thoroughly describe the world of the early church.

I guess that its weakness lies in that it didn't grip me. My hope was that a narrative account of history would in some way be different than typical presentations of history. It wasn't. It was a good read. It was historically and Biblically accurate. But it didn't seem to me to be much different than other Christian history books that I've read (Walker, Cairns, Hastings, Gonzalez, etc.).

If you've never read a good New Testament history book, this one is certainly recommended. But, if you have, then you will probably not gain any significant additional insight from this book.

For a full review of this book, go to the blog listed in my screen name above and click on the 'Readings' link under Categories.
Extensive research not only with regard to Biblical sources  Mar 10, 2004
New Testament History: A Narrative Account by Ben Witherington III (Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary) begins with the life of Jesus, and follows the evolving and expanding movement of Christianity through the centuries afterward. Extensive research not only with regard to Biblical sources, but also such fields as Jewish and Roman history, lace the text of this methodically and insightfully presented discourse. New Testament History is a very highly recommended contribution to New Testament and Christian History Studies for students, academics, and non-specialist general readers alike.
Excellent resource book  Mar 26, 2002
Witherington has written an excellent history in this fine book. It is a 10,000 foot view of New Testament issues hung on the framework of a history.

He sets up the meat of the book with the history from Alexander the Great through the Hasmoneans to the time of Christ. It is here that the dynamics and some of the later players are introduced, such as the Hasmoneans, the politicization of the high priesthood and Herod and his family are introduced. It sets the stage and makes the context of the New Testament very understandable. The primary source he uses for his historical framework is Hayes and Mandell's "The Jewish People in Antiquity". They provide the bulk of his footnotes and explanations. He utilitzed them to the extent that I also purchased their book for further reading.

Witherington is not content to give a "just the facts" narrative of the years of Christ and the spread of Christianity. He gives an introduction to Jesus and how His message and ministry was seen as radical. He demonstrates that it was no accident that Jesus went to the cross. The brilliant part in all of this is that he does it without the academic tedium. If you want it, he points you to fuller discussions through the footnotes. These usually point to his other works, primarily "Christology of Jesus" and his commentaries on Mark, Acts, and Galatians. The point is that the text holds together without the fuller discussion. I have the books mentioned and have read Christology. It is interesting reading, but isn't necessary to get full benefit from this book.

Witherington spices up the text and story with theories and other research. For instance, he states that the "Beloved Disciple" is a Judean disciple, not a Galilean, thus ruling out John, son of Zebedee. He presents the Last Supper as a furtively held celebration that would be seen by the powers that be as insurrection. He doesn't stick to the main roads in his presentation while presenting plausible and thought-provoking narratives of the ministry of the Lord.

His presentation of the spread of Christianity presents a lot of great material on the social, cultural and political context into which Christianity spread. These insights almost become a Biblical backgrounds resource. The discussion of the North/South Galatian theory and his background on the major cities and the churches therein make the New Testament come alive. He has many "Closer Look" sections and backgrounds on principle cities that add much insight to the narrative. During the last few chapters, he goes into the writing of the New Testament books. You may disagree with his dates and theories, but he gives his rationale and you understand where he is coming from and how he got there.

I agree with the previous reviewer that the illustrations are sub-par as to quality. Also, there is no bibliography. But, this is a profitable introduction and guide to the history of Christianity and a valuable general resource book. I have read the detailed treatises on Jesus and New Testament studies and still found this book as informative as it was delightful to read.

The Authors of the Gospels Would Be Proud.  Mar 11, 2002
Ben Witherington has written a superb book about the emergence of Christianity. He begins by putting his narrative in appropriate cultural context, and to do this takes the reader back beyond the time of Christ to the days of Alexander the Great and his immense hellenizing influence over the Midlle East. Once the stage has been set, author Witherington meticulously, but without being tedious, takes the reader through Christ's life in the eyes of the gospel writers, appropriately dwelling on Paul's works, then describes the differences between the the Jerulasem Church and the gentile churches denying Judaic influence, the fractiousness of early Christianity, the sporadic, convenient, and, focused violence of the Roman Empire toward the early Church, the origins of apocalytic literature, and finally leaves the Church in the grips of Domitian. Witherington has a firm grasp of the historical contingencies that shaped Chhristianiy's infancy, and uses dialogue boxes effectively to aid the reader in understanding the cultural undercurrents and contexual idioms that guided and limited the gospel writers' efforts.

One small criticism is worth noting: the quality of illustrations does not match the quality of the author's writing. Aside from that small quibble, this is a scholarly work that treats its complex subject with depth and insight and yet is accessible to the general reader. This work is clearly good news about good news. The authors of the gospels would definitely be proud, and, perhaps, actually they are.


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