Featuring vibrant full color throughout, the fifth edition of Bart D. Ehrman's highly successful introduction approaches the New Testament from a consistently historical and comparative perspective, emphasizing the rich diversity of the earliest Christian literature. Distinctive to this study is its unique focus on the historical, literary, and religious milieux of the Greco-Roman world, including early Judaism. As part of its historical orientation, the book also discusses other Christian writings that were roughly contemporary with the New Testament, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the letters of Ignatius.
This textbook is unique because it approaches the New Testament from a historical vantage point rather than from a theological or literary perspective. In it, Bart Ehrman is primarily interested in the history of early Christianity and how the writings of the earliest Christians simultaneously reflected and shaped that history. He discusses the dates, authors, sources, and significance of the books of the New Testament as well as noncanonical Christian writings that are roughly contemporaneous.
Several chapters of the book are devoted to the historical Jesus, a topic often neglected in New Testament introductions. In addition, issues such as the life and missions of Paul; Christian relationships to Judaism and paganism; the rise of Christian anti-Judaism; and the role of women in the early church are discussed by placing the literature firmly in the social and political milieu from which it grew. Greco-Roman religions and Judaism, therefore, are presented as essential, not peripheral, to understanding early Christianity.
Another unique aspect of this introduction is its discussion of a variety of noncanonical Christian writings. The addition of these texts illustrates the range of theological, christological, and soteriological beliefs in early Christianity. Understanding these doctrinal differences is essential to understanding the rise of Christian orthodoxy.
This introduction takes a comparative approach to Christian writings: rather than focusing on a single meta-narrative, Ehrman leads students through explorations of Gospels, Epistles, and Apocalypses to reveal their similarities and differences. This goal is accomplished through the application of a variety of interpretative methods to the text (literary-historical, thematic, comparative, redactional, socio-historical, and contextual).