Reviews - What do customers think about How to Read the New Testament?
Further Travels Dec 6, 2003
Another volume in the stellar series by the Crossroad Press, like the other volumes in this series, 'How to Read the New Testament' by Etienne Charpentier comes from the French series by Les Editions du Cerf. It can be read as volume two, following Charpentier's book 'How to Read the Old Testament', or as a volume by itself.
This is in some ways a guide for those who don't know how to read the Bible. It is in some ways done as a travel guide - the Bible is the destination, but like most geographic places, there are actually a variety of landmarks and stops to make in any location, and these will all vary.
This book is richly illustrated with maps, line-art drawings, side-bar boxes and pull-boxes, and other graphic-design features that make reading an adventure. One can read through each chapter as a narrative, and then return to fill in the blanks with the sidelined information.
The first twenty pages are a sort of preparation for the journey. It looks at the basic structure of the New Testament. It looks at three stages of development in the formation of the New Testament: the life and teaching of Jesus, the original communities and their shared stories, then the final redaction and writing of the texts. Then, Charpentier looks both at the literary genre of the Gospels, and the literary genres found in the Gospels. One of Charpentier's very interesting observations is that it is fortunate for us that we do not have a photograph of Jesus - we might even feel, by extension, that we are fortunate to have the ambiguous textual story of him that we do.
The chapters that follow roughly the historical order of the three stages of development: the world of the first Christians, the Easter event celebrated, the person and work of Paul, a look at each of the Gospels and other writings (Mark, Matthew, Luke/Acts, the Gospel and Letters of John, the Apocalypse), and ends with the enigmatic yet meaningful discussion of the beginnings of the Gospels - the Gospels are never ending, in a very real sense. Each chapter has a narrative section of history, with a second section looking at a key idea or piece of importance for later Christian development and practice.
This guide can be used individually or as part of groups in church or school settings. It's outline would make for a good one-semester course on the New Testament at the undergraduate or even advanced high school level, a Sunday school or Bible school series, or for an individual to use as 'traveller's friend' while going it alone.
This book assumes the reader will have a copy of the Bible to use side by side with the text - it does not replace the Bible or the necessity of reading the actual texts in the New Testament. The author recommends the Revised Standard Version or the Jerusalem Bible; both of which have also been updated since the original writing of this volume.
Charpentier gives a good but somewhat dated list for further reading in New Testament and Gospel studies. He also gives a list of the writings of the Early Church Fathers for a look at the further development of Christian writing prior to the closure and formation of the canon of the New Testament.
A great study aid, interesting and useful. Fr. Etienne Charpentier dedicated much of his effort to encouraging Bible study, particularly among his fellow Catholics. He gives tribute to those who worked with him in Chartres and across France as co-workers in the production of this volume.