Best New Testament Survey Textbook???

Best New Testament Survey Textbook??? October 1, 2008

As I look to the future and think about teaching, I am curious which NT Survey I might use and/or recommend to others.  I am instructed with Robert Gundry’s New Testament Survey (Zondervan) which was good but not especially impressive.  I am hoping you, the readers, could help me by voting for your favority NT survey for instruction in seminary/bible college.  Now, I am not tech-savvy so I don’t have a nifty polling program, so please note the options I have listed below (which are my personal picks) and vote in the comments section, but feel free to add another (but don’t list them endlessly, please keep it to one choice).

1. P. Achtemeier, J. Green, and M. Thompson, Introducing the New Testament (Eerdmans, 2001).  I like this one more for its backgrounds material, canonical discussions, and theological analysis.  It is balanced and careful, but yet leans conservative.

2. David deSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods, and Ministry Formation (IVP, 2004).  I really like this one because David is a fanastically gifted writer and scholar; it is accessible, but covers important social and historical perspectives, as well as important issues for pastors and for ‘ministry’.  I will probably try this one out as my own top pick when I teach the course.

3. Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament (SCM, 2003).  Very good on theological themes, but not as excellent in the details of historical circumstances and social factors.

4. Walter Elwell and Robert Yarborough, Encountering the New Testament (Baker, 2005).  Great presentation; very text-booky (which can be good when it means colorful and designed to be appealing to the eye).

5. D. Carson and D. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament (Zondervan 2005).  This is a solid treatment of the NT, but Carson is especially hard on the New Perspective on Paul and, if I recall, it comes out in the introduction here.  But, on the problem of pseudepigraphy in the NT and canonical issues, it is excellent.

6. L. Martin MacDonald and Stanley Porter, Early Christianity and Its Sacred Literature (Hendrickson, 2000).  I have heard as a ‘survey’ it is not quite sufficient, but is good on history and the discussion of canon.

So, please vote in the comments for your one (and only one) top pick!  Mine is deSilva.  Also, you may explain why you chose the particular one you did if you like.  I will tally the results in a week or so and post on what people thought.  If no one comments….well…thanks for nothing.

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  • I rather enjoyed Bruce Metzger’s The New Testament: Its Background Growth and Content, 3rd Ed. (Abingdon, 2003). I have both #s 5 & 6 on your list but I haven’t used either of them enough to know which I think is better.

  • ricchuiti

    no kümmel?

  • Celucien Joseph

    Carson and Moo’s Introduction to the New Testament. I think, it is well balanced and theologically riched.

  • Celucien Joseph

    Carson and Moo’s Introduction to the New Testament. I think, it is well balanced and theologically riched.

  • Celucien Joseph

    Carson and Moo’s Introduction to the New Testament. I think, it is well balanced and theologically riched.

  • Celucien Joseph

    Carson and Moo’s Introduction to the New Testament. I think, it is well balanced and theologically riched.

  • Celucien Joseph

    Carson and Moo’s Introduction to the New Testament. I think, it is well balanced and theologically riched.

  • Thanks for the suggestion of Kummel. Unfortunately does not sell it and their used collection does not have many of the same edition.

  • Oogly

    Nijay, this one is due out in March and the website already has some great endorsements.

  • Mike Bird

    I use deSilva in my NT 101 course with R.E. Brown as an additional resource for distance students (you should have included that one). I would make Porter/MacDonald and Moo/Morris and dead heat for third.

  • andrewbourne

    I can only suggest one book which is head and shoulders above the rest despite Johnson is a good one go to Raymond E Brown`s Introduction to the New Testament don`t even look anywhere else he brings to it all his erudition from the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Nijay beg, borrow or steal it you will not get a better NT introductory text

  • I’ve never met an NT Survey that I’ve liked, sorry to say. But, of the ones I own and have used, I’d go with deSilva, though I disagree on points with him. Carson and Moo is good, too.

    For a slightly different take, you could always go with Witherington’s narrative history book.

  • poserorprophet

    I would also affirm deSilva.

  • jonathan

    Add one more for deSilva

  • K

    I used AGT (Achtemeier, Green, and Thompson) in college. It was decent but most of the other students *hated* it because some of the writing was abstruse. I don’t have enough experience to recommend a better one. Carson’s text seemed decent, if I remember correctly.

    Some schools use Fee’s ‘How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth’ and ‘How to Read the Bible Book by Book’. These volumes were really basic but seemed to appeal to college students a lot more. Personally, I think a survey text like Carson’s or even AGT is more useful. Though I suppose Fee is trying to teach students to fish.

  • I love deSilva.

  • I really enjoy deSilva’s work, although I would agree that Brown is a must-have. I required my students to get Carson & Moo because it is thorough, but we did not find it especially readable — more for reference, less for reading. I was not particularly impressed with Elwell-Yarborough when I assigned it for a Bible-institute level class without having thoroughly perused it first. I am really looking forward to Burge-Cohick-Green (thanks to Oogly for mentioning it!) I’ve enjoyed Burge on John and especially Green on Thessalonians in Pillar. I would imagine Burge-Cohick-Green would be closest to deSilva in orientation.

    What do you think of Guthrie’s older work?

    I suppose next go-round, I’ll require deSilva but require reading from Brown and Carson/Moo. Tough call, embarrassment of riches!

  • Luke Timothy Johnson FOR THE WIN!


  • Well personally I like Gundry since he gets to the point quicker.

    But I am with Estaban – have Johnson as the main text and Carson as the add on – this way they get a theological intro (themes, etc) and a more technical intro (provenance, dates, etc).

    But the one with Gary Burge deserves serious consideration…

  • Nijay,

    I would have to go with deSilva’s. I admit I do have some bias since he was my advisor at Ashland, but his work is monumental, and I think everyone else is a distant second…third…and so forth.

  • deSilva for breadth of coverage, reliability, and practicality for ministerial training.

  • andrewbourne


  • I’m more inclined to prefer Raymond Brown’s first and I think Donald Guthrie’s is a classic also.

  • pls., send me more reference about new testament survey

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  • david

    I’ve consulted and read most of or alot of all the textbooks listed, and a few others not listed, and my favorite is the newest edition of Robert Spivey’s Anatomy of The New Testament. The older ones aren’t so hot, but the 7th edition is excellent. Balanced, solid, realistic, and covers the relevant historical, social, literary and conceptual issues broadly and in some detail. The bibliographies in it are very rich as well. One could easily be launched into the best library of books for related new testament studies based of the bib’s in this book. If i could have only one, this would be it. Brown’s is of course a solid textbook that should always be used, probably my second choice. Porter and MacDonald’s is excellent on historical issues but lacking in some other. Most of the other textbooks, meh.

  • David

    Veteran biblical scholar Arthur Bellinzoni’s The New Testament An Intro to Biblical Scholarship is one of the most scholarly, honest ( yet readable) one volume new testament/christian origins books I’ve ever read. And I’ve read alot of books in this field. Paired up with Gregory Dawes’ The Historical Jesus Question, and a person is on their way to making sober minded sense of the origins of the christian sect and their writings.

  • David

    Arthur Bellinzoni’s The New Testament An Intro to Biblical Scholarship, is a MUST read study.