Author's Bias | Interpretation: conservative

Encountering the New Testament:
A Historical and Theological Survey - Editor's Preface

The strength of the church and the vitality of the individual Christian's life are directly related to the role Scripture plays in them. Early believers knew the importance of this and spent their time in fellowship, prayer, and the study of God's Word. The passing of two thousand years has not changed the need, but it has changed the accessibility of many of the Bible's ideas. Time has distanced us from those days, and we often need guidance back in the world of the Old and New Testament.

To that end Baker Book House is producing two separate but related series of biblical textbooks. The design of these new series is to put us back into the world of the biblical text, so that we may understand it as those early believers did and at the same time see it from and for our own day, thus facilitating the application of its truths to our contemporary situation.

Encountering Biblical Studies consists of undergraduate-level texts, and two surveys treating the Old and New Testaments provide the foundation for this series. Accompanying these survey texts are two collateral volumes of readings, which illuminate the world surrounding the biblical text. Built on these basic survey texts are upper-level college texts covering the books of the Bible that are most frequently offered in the curriculum of Christian colleges.

A related series, entitled Engaging Biblical Studies, provides graduate-level treatments for introduction and theology courses.

Complementing both levels of textbooks is a set of standard reference books that may be consulted for answers to specific questions or more in-depth study of biblical ideas. These reference books include The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Topical Analysis of the Bible, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, and Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.

Encountering and Engaging Biblical Studies series are written from an evangelical point of view, in the firm conviction that the Scripture is absolutely true and never misleads us. It is the sure foundation on which our faith and life may be built because it unerringly leads willing readers to Jesus Christ.

Walter A. Elwell

General Editor

Publisher's Preface

Bible courses must be considered the heart of the curriculum for Christian colleges and evangelical seminaries. For Christians the Bible constitutes the basis for both our spiritual and our intellectual lives-indeed for all of life. If these courses are fundamental to Christian education, then the textbooks used for these courses could not be more crucial.

Baker Book House is launching two separate but related series of volumes for college-and seminary-level Bible courses. Encountering Biblical Studies consists of undergraduate texts, while Engaging Biblical Studies represent graduate-level treatments.

In these two series, Baker will publish texts that are clearly college-level, and introductory and biblical theology texts that are explicitly seminary-level. The textbooks for the basic college survey courses and for the more advanced college courses on individual Bible books will be designed expressively for this purpose.

Texts for the seminary courses in Old Testament and New Testament introduction and biblical theology will induct the student into graduate-level study of the Testaments, even while remembering that many seminarians are preparing for ministry rather than for further graduate study and a career in academia.

Guiding Principles

Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey is the first volume to be published in the college-level Encountering Biblical Studies series. As part of the process of developing this volume, the series editors, authors, and publisher established the following principles for this basic-level college text:

1. It must reflect a high level of evangelical scholarship.

2. It must be written at a level that most of today's college freshmen can understand. While this level should not be so low as to constitute a "dumbing down" of the text, it must be within the reach of most students.

3. It must be pedagogically sound. This extends no only to traditional concerns like study questions for each chapter, but also to the order and manner in which material is presented.

4. It must recognize that most students today are oriented more to the visual than to the verbal, and seek to take advantage of that fact with photographs, maps, charts, and graphs.

5. It must be realistic about the level of biblical literacy characteristic of most incoming freshmen.

6. It must seek to draw in the student, in part by focusing on biblical teaching concerning crucial doctrinal and ethical matters.


The goals of Encountering the New Testament fall into two categories: intellectual and attitudinal. The intellectual goals are to (1) present the factual content of each book of the New Testament, (2) introduce historical, geographical, and cultural backgrounds, (3) outline primary hermeneutical principles, (4) touch on critical issues (e.g., why some people read the Bible differently), and (5) substantiate the Christian faith.

The attitudinal goals are also fivefold: (1) to help make the Bible a part of student's lives, (2) to instill in students a love for the Scriptures, (3) to make them better people, (4) to enhance their piety, and (5) to stimulate their love for God. In short, if this text builds a foundation for a lifetime of encountering God through scriptural study, the author's and publisher's goals will be met.

Overarching Themes

Informing the writing of Encountering the New Testament have been three essential theological themes: God, people, and the gospel as it relates to individuals. The notion that God is a person-on and three- and a transcendent and immanent Being has been woven throughout the text. Moreover, this God created people in his image who fell yet remain the objects of his redemptive love. The gospel id the means, the active personal power that God uses, to rescue from darkness and death. But the gospel does more than rescue-it restores. In confers on otherwise hopeless sinners the resolve and strength to live lives that please God, because they walk in the love that comes from God.


The publisher's aim has been to provide a resource that is unique on the one hand but not merely trendy on the other. Distinguishing features that we hope will prove helpful to the professor and inspiring to the student include the following:

  • Mulitmedia interactive compact disc to enhance the student's learning experience.
  • Copious illustrations, photographs, figures, tables, charts-all in full color.
  • Sidebars providing two types of material. Yellow-colored boxes succinctly explore ethical and theological issues of interest and concern to modern-day collegians. Blue-colored boxes provide primary source material, including biblical and extrabiblical texts.
  • Focus Boxes that isolate key issues and make relevant applications.
  • Glossary presented at the end of the book.
  • Chapter outline and objectives presented a the opening of each chapter.
  • Study questions, review questions, annotated bibliography, and chapter summaries at the end of each chapter. The answers to the review questions are presented a the end of the book.
  • Ancillary items: teacher's manual, test bank, transparencies, and other items.

Supplementary Materials

Three items supplement Encountering the New Testament. The first item, the instructor's manual, is available on a floppy disc. The second is a compact disc attached to the back of the book. The third is a paperback volume consisting of primary source material.

1. Instructor's Resource Manual with Test Items. In addition to including numerous objective-type test items, this resource includes suggestions in using the textbook, chapter outlines, chapter objectives, chapter summaries, key terms, master transparencies, lecture outlines, media resources, and bibliography.

2. Student's Multimedia Interactive CD-ROM. Developed by biblical scholar Chris Miller and educational specialist Phil Bassett, this product provides:

  • video clips of interviews with the authors
  • video clips of biblical lands
  • still photos of biblical lands
  • maps
  • interactive review questions
  • visual organizers

3. Readings from the First-Century World: Primary Sources for New Testament Study. This is a collection of primary source readings related to the New Testament. These readings consist of material written in roughly the same era as the New Testament such as letters, legal documents, and treatises. The readings are arranged so as to correlate with the canonical order of the New Testament.

The publisher is also convinced that this textbook should be as pedagogically sound as possible and that it should reflect the best insights from educational psychology. Educational consultant Janet Merrill, Ed.D., brought her expertise to bear and improved this project significantly. The publisher extends heartfelt thanks to Dr. Merrill for so capably preparing the instructor's manual, test items, transparencies, chapter outlines and objectives, Focus Boxes, review questions, and chapter summaries.

Chris Miller and Phil Bassett of Cedarville College in Ohio developed the multimedia interactive CD-ROM with skill and alacrity. Dr. Miller is a biblical scholar with a Ph.D. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and possesses unusual computer savvy. Dr. Bassett provided extensive educational consulting.

Taken from "Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey; by Walter Elwell and Robert Yarbrough. Used by permission of Baker Book House Company, copyright ©1998. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company. (

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