The A to Z of the A to Z of the New Testament

The A to Z of the A to Z of the New Testament November 15, 2023

Reviews are starting to appear of The A to Z of the New Testament. Alden Swan wrote on Amazon, ‘This is an outstanding resource for anyone who wants to understand the New Testament, and it’s a very enjoyable read. McGrath is extremely knowledgeable and also has a great sense of humor, and the clever “A to Z” organization makes for a very interesting read as he touches on nearly every topic of NT study that you can think of.’ Also on Amazon Jordon Jeffery Wright writes, “If you’re looking for a fun and accessible introduction to the New Testament, look no further! James McGrath is a brilliant scholar who also happens to be a gifted writer. Which means he knows how to take the findings of New Testament scholarship and communicate them to beginners. But don’t think this is just a book for new students of the New Testament. This book is great for anyone who is interested in learning more about the New Testament!”

Jim West offers a review in which rightly pushes back on one of the slogans Eerdmans used in publicizing the book. As someone who teaches adult Sunday school, and whose experience doing that informs the book, that choice on their part was ironic. Here is an excerpt from his blog review:

Adults need to attend Bible Study too.  And Sunday School is just another name for Bible Study.  One never ‘graduates’ from studying the Bible, of that I can assure you.

The book blurb on the back cover notwithstanding, this is a genuinely interesting and well written book.  McGrath crafts an artful piece of biblical scholarship in language accessible to people who are not trained New Testament scholars…

Each section asks readers to think about a basic issue like the Christmas story or the notion of hell and then McGrath provides the ‘scholarly consensus’ (and I would emphasize both words here- the SCHOLARLY and not the dilettantish; and the CONSENSUS and not the extremists) for each topic broached.

McGrath provides readers with a bibliography at the end of each chapter and, regarding this I am genuinely quite impressed and appreciative, in each instance save 4 he provides the name of at least one woman New Testament scholar and their work on the issue.  McGrath includes a range of perspectives, in other words, that other New Testament studies do not.

This is an interesting, informative, useful, and well written book.  There’s an index of subjects and a Scripture index as well so readers can go right to the thing they’re looking for without having to go through the whole thing till they find it.  I truly enjoyed it.  And I am positive that you will too.

One final thing worth drawing to your attention- be sure to read the acknowledgements at the end of the book.  It contains a beautifully touching remembrance of one of James’s students and you need to read it.  Please don’t skip it as an irrelevancy.

I am really grateful for that last point he emphasized. The Acknowledgments explain the dedication at the beginning of the book.

A Facebook friend shared a quote from the book:

Most religious people doubt the claims of other religions, and they critically examine the arguments that are brought by those who disagree with them. The historian cultivates and hones precisely these tools, the key difference being that they seek to apply them fairly across the board. This too is at the very least compatible with Christian values, if not indeed an expression of them. Jesus taught us to do to others what we would want done to us. We should treat the arguments and claims of others the way we want our own to be treated. Conversely, if we treat the claims of others with what we consider appropriate skepticism, we should be willing to subject our own assumptions and views to the same sort of skeptical analysis. Far from being something antithetical to faith, this rigorous analysis can be considered an expression of faith. If we take God seriously, then avoiding deception and error ought to be a high priority. If we are unwilling to allow our assumptions and views to be challenged, how will we ever discover if we are wrong about something? Historical tools are skeptical, and for that very reason Christians should embrace them, however difficult and painful the result may be.

– James McGrath “The A to Z of the New Testament: Things Experts Know That Everyone Else Should Too” (2023: Eerdmans), 138.

When I asked if he is enjoying the book then he said “Very much so. Around halfway through and am already thoroughly recommending others buy a copy.” Such casual recommendations to friends and social media are ever bit as valuable, and as meaningful to me, as “official” reviews, and sometime more so. With each of my recent and one of my forthcoming books there have been things people have said that I love would to add onto the back cover alongside the official blurbs.

I have also had some video conversations about the book. I like the image that Jacob Berman came up with (presumably AI generated but still hilarious)!

A conversation on the Potential Theism YouTube channel.

If you will be at ETS or at SBL/AAR in San Antonio, I gather that Eerdmans will have a 50% discount there while supplies last. If you won’t be attending, Christianbook.com still has the best price on the book.

In other news, the cover of the Romanian translation of What Jesus Learned from Women has been revealed. Also, I gave a talk about my John the Baptist research at Butler University that you may find interesting:

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