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Neues Testament


Piñero, Antonio, and Jesús Peláez


The Study of the New Testament. A Comprehensive Introduction. Transl. by D. E. Orton and P. Ellingworth.


Leiden: Deo Publishing 2003. XXII, 579 S. gr.8 = Tools for Biblical Study, 3. Geb. £ 39,95. ISBN 90-5854-006-5.


Peter-Ben Smit

With the publication of a translated edition of this Spanish introduction to the study of the New Testament, as the third part in the DEO-series Tools for Biblical Studies, the publishers hope to achieve a double aim: to close the gap between Spanish biblical studies (Spanish contributions are indeed discussed and referred to extensively) and its English and German speaking counterparts as well as to enrich the market of introductions to the New Testament with a volume, that stands out because of its comprehensiveness and format.

As the authors state in their preface, they do not so much want to provide the readers with a history of early Christian literature or an introduction to the New Testament as Udo Schnelle and Raymond E. Brown have done, respectively, for the German- and English-speaking scholarly communities. Instead, the aim of the XXII+579-page volume is to provide the philologically oriented student of the New Testament with a reference manual providing orientation in the different areas of New Testament study and providing knowledge of the tools needed for working in the chosen sphere (XVI). This Piñero and Peláez indeed do, while leaving a discussion of the actual books of the New Testament to introductions with a different format. All in all they come closest to the German work of Conzelmann/Lindemann, but treat the various subjects more extensively.

Aside from prefaces by the authors and publishers, the work consists of an introduction (1-4), five chapters and two appendices, as follows: The History of New Testament Interpretation (1-69), The Study of the Text of the New Testament (70- 120), The Language of the New Testament (121-204), The Historical-Literary Context (of the New Testament, 205-336), Methods and Approaches in New Testament Study: Diachronic and Synchronic (339-514). Appendix I (515-522) deals with the translation of the New Testament, and the extensive appendix II (523-552) provides the reader with an annotated bibliography on all the subjects covered in the chapters 1-5. An index of biblical references as well as one of names concludes the volume. Unfortunately there is no subject index.

The extensive chapter on the history of New Testament is not only informative, but also comprehensive, as it treats the whole history of the discipline, including the most important controversies and discoveries that made an impact on the study of the New Testament (Nag Hammadi, Qumran, etc.). At the same time, this survey serves the important aim of informing students about the historical context of their discipline, which is indispensable in light of the pluralistic debate now surrounding this literary corpus. Slightly disappointing, however, is the fact that the history stops with Klaus Berger's historical-psychological approach and the emerging rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. Gender criticism and contextual approaches are missing here as well as in the section on method. Even if these approaches cannot be regarded as methods in the same way as structuralist analysis is, they are certainly part of the canon of methods for the study of the Bible, as well as part of its recent history.

The chapter on the textual history and textual criticism begins with a short sketch on the development of the canon of the New Testament and its various causes and goes on to include an overview of present day Protestant and Roman-Catholic positions. This, indeed, can be regarded as the highest meta-level of textual criticism and has of course been of enormous influence on the transmission of (now) canonical and (now) extra-canonical texts. This provides a competent overview of the various types of texts, versions, which gives the beginning student a considerable amount of background to the critical apparatus of her/his Nestle-Aland27. Here, the work is not entirely up-to-date, however, as, contrary to the future tenses claim (on 113), the Münster institute for textual criticism has in the mean time already published part of her editio critica maior, still something of the future in the work discussed here. Overviews of the methodological principles of New Testament textual criticism - a comparison with classical philology would have been helpful, as far as conjectures are concerned - as well as of printed editions of the New Testament to conclude the chapter. Curious is also the apparent acceptance of 7Q5 as Mk 6:52-53 (84, cf. for the Spanish discussion on this fragment a. o.: Moises Mayordomo-Marin, "7Q5: Un fragmento del evangelio de Marcos en Qumrán?" in: Alétheia: Revista Evangélica de Teología 8:2 [1995], 17-34).

Very helpful for any beginning student of the New Testament will be the chapter on the language of the New Testament (70-120), as many neophytes are left quite helpless when it comes to the characteristics of koine-greek as well as the specifics of the Greek of the individual New Testament authors (even if there is very little on this in this chapter). Certainly as the importance of philological knowledge in theological faculties has diminished considerably in recent decades. Not only the New Testament Greek qua koine is discussed, but also the problems of Aramaisms (together with the problem of the ipsissima verba Jesu), Semitisms in general, Septuagintilisms, Latinisms etc. The final section on the study of the New Testament in the context of contemporary linguistics (199-204) is also illuminating.

Next is an overview of the historical-literary context of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament (205-336), discussing separately and in a well-informed manner the influence of the Hebrew Bible, the (earlier and) parallel literary developments in Qumran, Judeo-Hellenistic literature, Philo and Josephus, as well as the developments of Gnosticism and Rabbinic theologies and literature in order to conclude with a section on the New Testament and Hellenistic culture, which mainly concentrates on concepts and titles (Jesus as Kyrios, as Saviour, as Son of God etc.), whereas a discussion of Hellenistic literary forms could also well be imagined here (now, as logically as well, included under literary criticism).

The core chapter of the book (339-514) is that on diachronic and synchronic approaches, which indeed succeeds in covering nearly all the relevant methods for today's exegesis of the New Testament. Some apparent omissions have already been referred to above. Piñero and Peláez are aware of them and provide a list on pp. 513-514: feminism, liberation theology, autobiographical criticism, post-colonial criticism, but discussion remains far too limited in view of the more than considerable scholarly output using these approaches and less liberal approaches such as canonical criticism ought also to be taken notice of. The sections on those approaches, which Piñero and Peláez do discuss are, however, helpful and truly introductory indeed. Laudable is, for example, the relatively extensive discussion of the presuppositions of philological and historical exegesis and its limits (such as not being able to say much about divine causality, cf. the convenient list adapted from Donald A. Hagner's work on p. 351). Under historical-critical methods literary/source criticism (including questions of genre), form criticism and redaction criticism (including an overview of the research) are clearly and accessibly discussed, whereas sociological approaches to the New Testament are discussed in a separate paragraph.

The sections on semantic analysis, lexicography/lexicology as well as the one on literary stylistics among the synchronic methods, provide (as the sections on the language of the New Testament) many highlights, including a comprehensive list of stylistic characteristics of many of the authors of the New Testament (unfortunately little on anything beyond the major authors: Synoptics, John, Paul). To introduce (beginning) students of the New Testament to semantics, on the one hand, and lexicography, on the other, as Piñero and Peláez do, is indeed quite a necessary thing, as too often dictionaries and the like are used without posing further questions. This can lead to the temptation for scholars only to use the Bauer-Aland dictionary, and claim to work synchronically. Informative sections on narrative-structural analysis as well as on rhetorical analysis are included in this chapter as well.

Directly connected with the section on semantics and lexicography/lexicology is of course the first appendix, which deals with translating and gives a good introduction to formal equivalence translation as well as its counterpart, dynamic equivalence translation, with some insightful discussion of the history of both methods. As was to be expected, both authors express their preference for the dynamic equivalent way of translating.

The second appendix gives a bibliographical survey of resources for New Testament Studies, which indeed covers most of the available tools for the study of the New Testament, the LXX and most important non-canonical writings (Dead Sea Scrolls, Pseudepigrapha of the Old and New Testaments etc.), omitting, however, most electronic tools (TLG, BibleWorks, Bible Windows, ATLA, Theoldi/Bildi, various websites, e. g. NT Gateway etc.), even though these are becoming more and more important, especially for the kind of student for whom this volume is intended.

All in all, the volume leaves the reader with mixed feelings. On the one hand the format is refreshing and adds much to the toolkit of a (beginning) student of the New Testament. The decidedly Spanish outlook of the volume is, as such, also more than welcome, opening up horizons of scholarship, previously unknown and much less accessible to the non-spanish-speaking student of the New Testament. On the other hand, the volume suffers from a number of shortcomings as well. Some of these can be attributed to the editors and translators (the index is, for example, not always accurate, text-critical signs have not always come through correctly); others however, clearly are the responsibility of the authors, such as the omission of electronic tools for biblical studies, and bibliographies, which are not always entirely up to date.

In addition, the often extensive discussion of Spanish scholarship and the references to bibliographical sections of Spanish journals, valid as they no doubt are, also give the impression of an inner-circle discussion, sometimes slightly disconnected from discourses in other languages. Still, in the end, the first two merits make the book a worthwhile read.