Nijay K. Gupta. A Beginner’s Guide to New Testament Studies: Understanding Key Debates. Baker Academic, 2020. See here to purchase the book.
Nijay K. Gupta teaches New Testament at Portland Seminary. This book presents and assesses the spectrum of scholarly positions on key debates within New Testament studies. The topics include the synoptic problem, the historical Jesus, the historicity of the Gospel of John, a comparison between Jesus and Paul, Paul’s theological perspective, Paul’s view on the Jewish law, the Book of Revelation, pseudonymity, the stance of the New Testament towards Roman imperialism, women in leadership in the New Testament, justification by faith and judgment according to works, the interpretation of the Old Testament in the New, and the religious application and use of Scripture. Each chapter concludes with a bibliography of books that are significant in the debate.
Obviously, not every perspective is covered in this book. Christ-mythicism was absent in the chapter about the historical Jesus. But the book does cover a variety of perspectives, concisely highlighting their arguments. For some chapters, I already went into them with an overall knowledge about the debates. If the chapters did anything for me, they provided me with fuller context or names of scholars I can read to gain a further understanding of certain perspectives. In some chapters, I actually learned something new. N.T. Wright’s discussion of why he omitted consideration of the Gospel of John when he wrote Jesus and the Victory of God was noteworthy: the Gospel of John’s historicity was less believed in scholarship at that time than it is now. Also standing out to me are complementarian arguments that Junia was not an apostle (Romans 16:7), and the argument that Colossians was not written decades after Paul because Colossae was in ruins at that time, due to an earthquake. Gupta also has a fairly interesting interpretation of judgment according to works.
Some of the perspectives are irreconcilable with one another. On some, though, I agree with Gupta when he asks why it has to be either/or rather than both/and. Some say Paul believed in individual salvation, whereas others say he stressed community and the inclusion of the Gentiles. Why not both?
Gupta’s discussion of social memory stood out to me because I remember the buzz social memory created in the biblioblogosphere. Some seemed to talk as if the conventional criteria of historicity were a dead end and have been replaced by social memory. I wondered what exactly social memory contributed to the discussion. Reading Gupta, I am still not clear as to what the significance of social memory is to debates about historicity, but I appreciate that it is an intriguing dimension to pursue, perhaps as a supplement to other scholarly approaches.
I agree with what Joseph R. Dobson says on the back cover of the book: “With each chapter I read, I honestly thought, This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. The content is clear and evenhanded and is as comprehensive as possible while remaining appropriately concise. In addition to that, it’s remarkably relevant, engaging, and fun.”
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.