Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
FM 23:1 (Fall 2005) p. 90
An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods, and Ministry Formation, by David A. deSilva. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004. Pp. 932 + Author, Subject, and Ancient Texts Indices.
Because the standard evangelical New Testament introductions are now showing their age, we are starting to see more NT intros hit the market. The one under consideration is by Ashland Theological Seminary professor David deSilva. It is intended to be friendly to both academia and the church. “The academic study of the Scriptures can be used by people of faith as a means to allow the text to speak its own word on its own terms” (19). To execute this purpose, the writer arranges the book around three poles: basic introductory issues, exegetical skills, and ministry formation. I will address these in reverse order.
DeSilva’s basic stance on the introductory, theological, and hermeneutical issues is best described as an example of the left of evangelicalism. He clearly strikes a moderate, liberal, or a rather noncommittal stance on many of these issues. That is not to say that the treatment of every book or corpus is left of center. Conservative students would have little to argue with the presentation of the world of the NT, the intertestamental history, and the introductory issues of the undisputed letters of Paul or Hebrews, for example. For the most part, one finds a good deal of food for thought in the introductory issues. His presentation of the synoptic problem promotes some interesting views on Markan priority. So, even though I disagree with many of his views, I find them to be highly informative of that stream of evangelicalism. In this sense, it has the same function for me as Kümmel and Brown’s Introduction.
His left-of-center stance is revealed by his openness to Pseudepigrapha in the NT (but he rarely makes a solid decision). The authors of the Gospels are writing to their own “communities,” not to mention that more than once I found myself wincing from what I perceived was a swipe at conservatives. Ultimately, deSilva shows a theological genealogy to certain well-recognized works in scholarship on introductory issues (Brown for John, Dunn for Paul, Fee for the Pastorals, Bauckham on the General Epistles, and Aune for Revelation). Thus, he takes an evolutionary approach to the origins of John’s Gospel, embraces the “new perspective of Paul,” an egalitarian interpretation of the Pastoral Epistles, “Peter” as the author of 2 Peter is a “transparent fiction,” and he advocates layers of incorporated material in Revelation.
On occasion this puts him in a difficult situation. The beloved disciple (not the son of Zebedee) is promoted to apostle status (454) to conform somewhat to t...
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