Introduction to the New Testament. Volume I, History, Culture and Religion of the Hellenistic Age; Volume II, History and Literature of Early ChristianityHelmut Koester (Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1982) Vol. I: 429 pp., $24.95; Vol. II: 365 pp., $22.95
“Introducing” the New Testament, like skinning a cat, can be done in many ways. Some prefer a more focused, literary approach, dealing with the various problems raised by the 27 books of the canon. Others opt for a broader, contextual approach, attempting to place the canonical texts in the framework of contemporary culture and the development of early Christian literature and history. Helmut Koester, Professor of New Testament and Church History at Harvard Divinity School, has long maintained that the best, if not the only, way to understand the New Testament is within a broad historical context. His two-volume introduction to early Christian literature, handsomely produced by Fortress Press, is a remarkably rich and learned work which reflects Professor Koester’s basic convictions about the study of the New Testament.