Inquiry into the New Testament

Ancient Context to Contemporary Significance

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David T. Landry
  • Winona, MN: 
    Anselm Academic
    , December
     468 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Inquiry into the New Testament: Ancient Context to Contemporary Significance, written by David T. Landry with John W. Martens, offers an informative introduction to the history, literature, and theology of the New Testament. In a market that is crowded with introductory textbooks about the New Testament, this survey by Landry and Martens will certainly engage students. They have written an introductory textbook that surveys the critical methods, various interpretations, and necessary background information that will equip students to understand the New Testament.

Landry and Martens have organized their textbook into twenty-two chapters. Each chapter explores a particular subject, text, or group of texts. The basic premise of this textbook is that an unbiased interpretation of the New Testament requires the reader to pay attention to the literary and historical context of the verse, passage, and book under examination. With this premise in mind the authors follow a similar pattern of examining a subject, text, or group of texts by introducing students to the methods of biblical criticism in connection to their practical application in each chapter.

Although Landry and Martens acknowledge that their textbook follows the same approach of Bart Ehrman’s popular New Testament textbook, which introduces the various methods of biblical criticism inductively, they point out that their textbook is unique in at least two ways. First, their textbook is shorter because it does not discuss the post-apostolic literature of early Christianity.

Instead they have chosen to focus only on Christian literature produced in the first century. Second, Landry and Martens recognize that most undergraduate students enroll in a New Testament course because they have to be there and not always because they want to be there. In order to make the New Testament more appealing to such an audience the authors have chosen to focus more on what historians often call the “so what?” question, which they understand as the relevance of biblical texts to modern people.

A critical evaluation of every chapter in this textbook is out of the scope of this review. Instead, this review will provide a short summary of the textbook and highlight some content and features that might appeal to both the student and the teacher.

Landry and Martens provide the necessary background information to understand New Testament texts in the first chapters. They explore the formation of the New Testament, Greco-Roman religions, ancient Judaism, and the Roman Empire. The subsequent chapters introduce students to the Gospels, the methods of biblical criticism, and the apostle Paul.

While some chapters focus on individual texts, others discuss a group of texts. The authors group together the following texts: Paul’s correspondence with the Thessalonians, Philippians, and Galatians; the Johannine literature (the Gospel of John and letters of John); the Deutero-Pauline and Pastoral Epistles; and the general epistles (James, Jude, 1 and 2 Peter, and Hebrews). Perhaps some of the most unique chapters of this textbook discuss source criticism and the synoptic problem, the quest for the historical Jesus, and the New Testament in the modern world.

This textbook has some unique content and features that may appeal to students. First, each chapter begins with an introduction that engages the student with interesting background information about a subject, text, or group of texts. Second, each chapter includes textboxes with discussions about interesting topics. For instance, the chapter about the Acts of the Apostles includes a textbox that discusses the historical reliability of Acts. Another example is the introductory chapter to Paul, which includes a textbox that asks whether Paul was the inventor of Christianity. The teacher may certainly find these textboxes useful for generating discussion in the classroom. Third, the chapters are written in clear language that the non-expert will easily understand. Fourth, the chapters are not very long so they will maintain the students’ attention.

This textbook has some unique features that may appeal to the teacher too: 1) important key terms and phrases are in bold to more easily capture the attention of the students; 2) the authors have included helpful footnotes that can direct the students’ attention to other resources; 3) the authors have included a list of key terms, review questions, discussion questions, and suggestions for further study at the end of each chapter.

There are some other unique features in this textbook that deserve recognition. The publisher has included images of biblical events or historical locations. In addition, a few chapters have helpful charts or tables for the purpose of organizing or summarizing biblical concepts. Moreover, this textbook includes a few maps, such as Paul’s journeys in Acts.

Landry and Martens have written a textbook designed for undergraduates that will engage them with a thoughtful discussion about historical, literary, and theological interpretive issues within the New Testament. The textbook is logically organized and written in clear language. Overall, this textbook will provide students insight into the critical methods to interpret the New Testament while highlighting the historical context and significance of verses, passages, and texts in the modern world.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Steven Shisley is an Instructional Designer at Eastern Kentucky University.

Date of Review: 
April 22, 2020
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

David Landry is Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas.



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