Constantine R. Campbell and Jonathan T. Pennington. Reading the New Testament as Christian Scripture: A Literary, Canonical, and Theological Survey. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020. 432 pages. $54.99 (hardcover).
Writing a New Testament introduction is a risky endeavor. Like commentaries, introductions can feel repetitive and are often overly technical or too simplistic. In addition to these issues of writing and audience, the volumes can also become outdated almost instantly with the speed at which new scholarship is produced. It is one of the unusual books in NT studies that inevitably resists the category of “standard”; that is, scholars almost never agree on which survey gets it just right. However, Reading the New Testament as Christian Scripture: A Literary, Canonical, and Theological Survey, the recent NT introduction from Constantine Campbell (formerly Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL) and Jonathan Pennington (Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY) seeks to avoid these common pitfalls. This work has several intriguing aspects which make it a distinctive contribution to the field.
The first reason for the book’s potential is its robust approach to the NT. The volume looks at the history, literature, and theology of the Scriptures with a confessional bent. The sidebars are full of thought-provoking material that give the main text a certain fullness. Historical issues are in blue boxes, literary notes are in yellow, reception history are in beige, theological issues are in purple, and “canonical connections” are in pink. Second, the structure of the chapters is simple to follow and consistent throughout the text. Each chapter is sectioned off into “Orientation, Exploration, Implementation.” This model is well known in hermeneutical circles but creatively used here to give each chapter a pattern that moves the reader from exegetical insights to action. The chapters end with key verses and “Christian reading questions” that provide material for reflection. Each chapter’s length is proportional to its respective subject. Larger books have more pages, while smaller books are shorter chapters. Interestingly, the Pastorals and Johannine epistles are grouped together and given their own chapter, while the Petrine epistles are separated into two chapters.
Third, the book is careful in its conclusions and does not attempt to settle every debate among biblical scholars. For example, the chapter on the person of Paul (chapter 11) notes the ongoing debate concerning the New Perspectives on Paul. In the engagement, the authors suggest what can be taken from the debate while leaving the rest up for more “discussion.” The material on women’s roles in the church in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy is similarly handled (though they do affirm complementarianism in a side note). These sections inspire more research for the inquiring mind.
Overall, this volume is well-suited for undergraduate and graduate courses alike. Besides being beautifully designed, this survey looks to be a permanent fixture in an ever-changing landscape.
CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. CBS book notices are not full academic book reviews. The present book notice was written by Charles Nathan Ridlehoover (Ph.D.), a secondary teacher at North Raleigh Christian Academy, Raleigh, NC, who also teaches New Testament and Greek courses at Columbia Biblical Seminary, Columbia, SC.