Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments: Preface

Author's Bias: Unknown

In previous two companion volumes, dedicated to the parts of the New Testament called "Gospels" and "Pauline Epistle," an attempt was made to introduce readers to those documents with which the readers would be familiar. Hence the respective prefaces acknowledged the foundational character of what the early church called "the Gospel" and "the Apostle."

A different kind of introduction is called for in this third yet complementary reference work. Here-in the remaining books of the New Testament canon-the reader is more than likely to be on a terra incognita. Features such as the complex arguments of the letter to the Hebrews, the moralizing tendency of James the Just, the fierce denunciations sounded in the epistle of Jude as well as the more accessible First Peter and the Acts of the Apostles will come to mind as representing books which cry out for elucidation. And who has not felt the need for scholarly and sympathetic guidance while patiently, if with puzzlement, reading the final book, called the Revelation? This Dictionary will, we hope, be among the first resources a student, teacher and communicator will turn to when seeking assistance.

It is to offer such help that the contributions to the present full-scale Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments were conceived, assembled, composed-and now are offered to the public. The editors are bold to surmise that this volume, perhaps more than the two earlier dictionaries, will fill a perceived gap in the field of reference books on the New Testament. It is designed to come to the aid of preachers, ministers, Christian laypeople and hard-pressed students of theology no less than the editors' colleagues in the academy when called on to teach these often neglected books of the canon.

Mention of the New Testament canon calls to mind a recent (1983, 1995) pronouncement of the doyen scholar C. K. Barrett. Writing on "The Centre of the New Testament and the Canon" (in his collected essays Jesus and the Word [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995] 259-76), he states in support of his position that the norma normans of the New Testament theology, the means of testing theological propositions (or better, he would say, the church's proclamation), is a nuanced version of the slogans sola fide, solus Christus, the "claim that in practice no harm but good results [follow] if we look at all the literary products of the apostolic and subapostalic ages" (his emphasis). To respond to this remark would involve a discussion of the ongoing debate regarding the "center of the New Testament" and the limits and definition of canonical authority. It is sufficient here to note that the coverage in this Dictionary will , we trust, put the readers in a position to see the ways the formulation of the Christian message developed from the Synoptic Gospels and Paul to the remaining New Testament books and then up to about the middle of the second century. Commitment to a determinative canon (embracing the twenty-seven books in our New Testament) should make room for (1) a frank admission that books often thought to be peripheral to the alleged "center" are still held to be normative, for as Dr. Barrett remarks, "there cannot be degrees of canonicity"; and (2) an equally frank acknowledgment that Christian thinking did not cease with the last New Testament book, and it developed in those writings usually called the apostolic fathers.

The decision to take the lines of development up to A. D. 150 was a matter of convenience, since a cut-off point was clearly needed if the volume was to be of manageable size. A certain editorial latitude, however, was granted to contributors who felt it needful to include material from the later patristic period. One reason for this inclusion is to allow developments that come to fuller fruition in the late second and subsequent early centuries to cast their light backward on the obscurities of the period A. D. 100-150. To change the metaphor, germination and flowering of a Christian truth often requires a considerable length of time to appear.

The editors and publisher struggled to find a suitable title for this volume that would do justice to its diverse subject matter and yet stand in continuity with the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels and the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. No prejudicial judgment should be read into the part-title, The Later New Testament. As will be clear, the case, for dating Jude or James anterior to the Pauline letters still continues to be made, even if the tendency is to place these letters in a subsequent decade. By general consensus however, the bulk of the literature covered in this volume was written chronologically after the Pauline chief letters and, in some cases, after the publication of the Synoptics. Again, the adjective "later" is one of convenience, just as the term Developments is in no way intended to blur the line of demarcation the church has accepted (since Athanasius) between canonical and noncanonical, even if the story of the canonization of the New Testament has the ragged edges admitted by Eusebius.

Once more the editors are quick to recognize their debts and pay tribute to all who have made this volume possible. Secretarial help in the production processes and the ready cooperation of our team of contributors, drawn from around the world and across the boundaries of church affiliation, ethnicity and gender, are gratefully acknowledged.

It remains to send out the third member of this ambitious series (which will eventually include a Dictionary of New Testament Background and four volumes on the Old Testament) in the hope that it may, with its partners, serve the interests of readers. It is designed to assist those who seek to understand the remaining books of the New Testament in their historical, literary and religious setting and to observe the flow of church life, thought and history across a diverse spectrum of geography and culture, from Paul and the Synoptic Gospels to Justin in Rome.

Ralph P. Martin, Peter H. Davids

"The Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments is a welcome-and-much-needed-companion to the DJG and DPL. Written by a broad range on contributors, it covers a wide range of topics, not only on the rest of the New Testament but also on the early second-century church. The articles are of consistently high quality, with superb bibliographies that should cause them to be the first place one turns for most of the topics covered in this excellent volume." Gordon D. Fee, Regent College

"This volume is a worthy companion to the two previous ones. Its deep, detailed and rigorous coverage of every topic one can think of in the later New Testament is enhanced by taking the discussion forward well into the second century. A book no serious student will want to be without." N. T. Wright, Lichfield Cathedral

"The Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments continues in the formidable tradition pioneered by the DJG and DPL, covering Acts, Hebrews, James and Jude, the letters attributed to Peter and John, and Revelation. The articles are weighty, written on the whole by people who are experts in the respective areas…. This volume extends the treatment of the various topics into the middle of the second century, by including treatment of the respective themes by the apostolic fathers…. This initiative informatively sets the later New Testament writings in the ongoing historical trajectory of reflection on the gospel and apostolic teaching. The DLNTD will join the two volumes that precede it and the projected Dictionary of New Testament Background as one of the most useful resources of the century available to students of the New Testament." Max Turner, London Bible College

"This volume provides an excellent reference tool that matches the excellent quality of the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Numerous articles offer constructive help and contain very useful up-to-date bibliographies. I gladly commend this volume to students of the subject." Anthony C. Thiselton, University of Nottingham

"The coverage of this Dictionary not only embraces the remaining books of the New Testament but also includes the apostolic fathers and other related topics. The volume will thus provide assistance to pastors and students alike in understanding the broader historical context of early Christianity and its literature. Both IVP and the editors o the volume are to be congratulated on producing such a helpful dictionary." Bruce M. Metzger, Princeton Theological Seminary

"IVP's Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments is a very useful, even indispensable, companion for all scholars working in this field but also for pastors and teachers interested in the Bible and New Testament scholarship. The articles give a solid overview of modern scholarship and basic information., the bibliographies are well founded and concise. The Dictionary should get a standard place in biblical libraries." Martin Hengel, University of Tubingen

Taken from "Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments" edited by Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids. ©1997 by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. (

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