Backgrounds of Early ChristianityEverett Ferguson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987) 515 pp., $24.95, paper
A survey of the New Testament world, Backgrounds of Early Christianity is a most useful introduction to the field for undergraduate students as well as for those embarking on a more intensive study of the period. Ferguson’s work combines wide scope and compact style with helpful, selective bibliographies. He skillfully develops political surveys of the Hellenistic and Roman periods and socio-cultural analyses of the Roman period, while effectively sketching details of citizenship, governmental officials, the scope of Roman law, the modes of public entertainment, and the literary and linguistic styles of the time. Anyone interested in the origins of Christianity can use this book to identify terms, roles, and methods of communication that pervade New Testament writings but which often puzzle the novice and even many who claim to know these documents.