Item description for History and Literature of Early Christianity (Introduction to the New Testament) by Helmut Koester...
Among the striking features that distinguish this comprehensive two-volume work, now complete in its second edition, from other books of similar title are its wide historical scope, its treatment of early Christian literature in the chronological sequence, and the inclusion of over sixty noncanonical Christian documents.
Volume 2, after considering problems related to the interpretation of early Christian writings - transmission, canon, text, form criticism, literary criticism, and narrative and rhetorical criticism - unfolds the story of the early Christian communities and their literature from John the Baptist and Jesus to Justin Martyr, Valentinus, and Polycarp.
This narrative has been written in a readable, nontechnical style, supplemented by current bibliographies for each selection that include listings of the best editions of original texts as well as the most accessible English translations. An essential work for students, teachers, and clergy, this set will also appeal to the educated layperson looking for a scholarly treatment of the New Testament and its background in the world of Jewish and Greco-Roman antiquity.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.48" Width: 6.34" Height: 1.1" Weight: 1.68 lbs.
Release Date Dec 1, 2000
Publisher Walter de Gruyter
ISBN 3110149710 ISBN13 9783110149715
Availability 90 units. Availability accurate as of May 24, 2017 08:00.
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More About Helmut Koester
Helmut Koester is John H. Morison Professor of New Testament and Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School, author of Ancient Christian Gospels (Trinity), and editor (with Holland L. Hendrix) of Archaeological Resources for New Testament Studies (Trinity).
Helmut Koester was born in 1926 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Harvard Divinity School Harvard University Divinity School.
Helmut Koester has published or released items in the following series...
Hermeneia: A Critical & Historical Commentary on the Bible
Reviews - What do customers think about History and Literature of Early Christianity (Introduction to the New Testament)?
Good panorama of early Christianty Jun 26, 2008
Helmut Koester, of course, needs no introduction to serious students of the N.T., having been- along with James M. Robinson- at the forefront of modern historical N.T. research and interpretation for decades. Anyone interested in early Christian developments by necessity needs to become familiar with his many contributions to the field, somewhat displayed here in his two-volume Introduction to the N.T., but more so in his collaboration with Robinson on "Trajectories through Early Christianity", and also his numerous journal articles scattered throughout the scholarly literature.
This, however, isn't the place to document his vast influence on modern biblical scholarship. Here, I will just offer a brief speculation on some possible motivations of his work. Fortunately for our task, Koester laid out his orientation clearly in an important Society of Biblical Literature address delivered in 1991 (later published in the scholarly journal JBL in Spring 1992), entitled "Jesus the Victim". In my opinion, anyone who wants to understand why much of the modern N.T. critical studies took the direction it did should digest the implications in this article. Koester lays out his vision for Jesus studies here, agreeing with critics who saw too much devotional, uncritical material in earlier Jesus studies. Hence, a need to weed out this devotional worldview from critical studies of the Gospels, clearing the way for seeing Jesus anew as a real human being. We shouldn't be surprised that this was Koester's direction, being as he is a disciple of the famous Rudolph Bultmann.
Well and good, after all, this motivation has been the foundation of modern N.T. scholarship and has been very fruitful, so we shouldn't quarrel with the inherent reasonableness of it. But it is interesting to see how this goal played out in subsequent years. For instance, the now (in-)famous Jesus Seminar took the impetus from Robinson and Koester and turned out material that has been highly controversial among scholars, in the interest of finding a truly "human" Jesus. For example, the oddball conclusion that Jesus is best described as an egalitarian, homily-spouting 1st-century cynic is a case in point. And the the non-apocalyptic gospel promoted by the Seminar springs directly out of the peppery studies blazed earlier by Robinson and Koester, and not a few scholars have been suspicious that this effort was perhaps fueled by personal desires to make Jesus more "presentable" to moderns... After all, an apocalyptic Jesus is a thorn in the side for anyone's sensibilities of the Perfect Human (TM) for today's needs. But what if Jesus actually was an apocalyptic prophet, much to our modern chagrin?
And therein lies the problem for Koester's orientation, and also for the predominant orientation of peppery groups like the Jesus Seminar. The big question is, at what point does personal desire to mold Jesus into our own image leave off and unbiased critical examination take over? But, some will object, surely Koester and Co. are shining examples of uncommitted, even-handed scholarship... Hence, it is worth quoting a passage from Koester's article mentioned earlier, and letting the reader come to his/her own conclusions: "We are again on the way toward a human Jesus who is just like one of us, one who holds values that are very close to our ideological commitments, a Jesus who is a social reformer and who attacks patriarchal orders, a Jesus who, as a real human person, can stand as an example and inspiration for worthy causes."
Surely the above quote will find approval among those scholars emotionally invested in making Jesus more attractive to moderns. But the hundred-dollar question remains: does it have anything to do with actual 1st-century Palestine realities?
Very informative; a must read! Sep 26, 2006
As a religiously observant Jew, I found this book to be an excellent read. It details the background and culture of the Hellenistic age. Though it does not get into many details of the syncretism of Hellenistic ideas with direct comparisons to the "New Testament" a person who is well read in the NT will see the parallels immediately. If you want to understand the language and contexts in which the NT was written, this book will help you understand the likes of the diatribe, gymnasia, and the like.
Though I found his treatment lacking on the Jewish side - obviously with biases from a German-scholar's standpoint - it was still overall a good summary. I would recommend "The Jews in the Time of Jesus" by Wylen or "How to Read the Bible" by Brettler for a better liberal scholar's work on 2nd Temple Judaism. If you're looking for more conservative Jewish views, a search for counter-missionary organizations can provide what you are looking for.
I assume many mainstream traditional Christians may shy away from this book since it is a liberal theological approach to their scriptures, but I know of no other easy-to-read book that will detail the Greek language, culture and religion as well. Though it does not give as many details as more focused books can on more precise subjects, this is an excellent beginning book for the curious.
Absolutely essential for any person who studies comparative religions!
Insightful scholarly analysis of early Christianity Oct 2, 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.
Excellent Reference Mar 11, 2003
This book provides an excellent reference source on the background of the NT. It is not the sort of book meant to be read straight through, but one which I have found myself returning to again and again to look up this or that name, movement, or event. A must have for students and pastors.
presuppositions, self-contradictions, and bias Jul 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.