The New Testament and Literature: A Guide to Literary Patterns

The New Testament and Literature: A Guide to Literary Patterns

The New Testament and Literature: A Guide to Literary Patterns

The New Testament and Literature: A Guide to Literary Patterns

Synopsis

The New Testament may be the most influential book of all time, from both a religious and a literary standpoint. But while the New Testament's impact upon people's religious beliefs and practices has been analyzed-and continues to be analyzed-at enormous length and in intricate detail, amazingly little has been written about the New Testament's impact as literature.

Excerpt

This book is not primarily theological, historical, or devotional. It does something uncommon, something often mentioned or recommended but rarely attempted in a serious way. It looks at the New Testament both as a distinctive work of literature and as a productive influence on later works of literature.

Many books have been written about “the Bible as literature.” For some, the phrase means, in effect, the Old Testament as literature. For many others, it means the study of historical issues that have little to do with the special characteristics of New Testament writing. Few books are willing to assess the literary quality of the New Testament. Fewer still are written for intelligent readers who may not already be very familiar with the Bible or Christian teachings.

Making the New Testament accessible as literature does not mean examining its techniques in abstraction from its vital message. Nor does it mean tracing its themes in abstraction from its literary methods. The New Testament and Literature approaches its subject by identifying certain patterns, certain combinations of ideas and methods, that give the New Testament its distinctiveness and coherence and its ability to create resemblances to itself in later literature. I call these patterns the DNA of the New Testament.

Part I (my first eight chapters) explores these patterns, identifying specific elements of the New Testament’s DNA, and examining their effects on the four major types of New Testament literature: gospel, epistle, church history, and apocalypse. The chief examples are the gospels of Luke and John, the Acts of the Apostles, the epistles of Paul to the Galatians and the Corinthians, and the Revelation.

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