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Dr. William Simmons' "A Concise Background Of The New Testament" is a valuable resource for understanding Israel's history, culture and religion as it impacts the life and ministry of Jesus and the experience of the early church.
This work contains over 1100 linked scripture references and words throughout the text that are linked to the "Glossary" section for an extended study on the specific topic and how it enhances our knowledge of the New Testament.
The writers of the New Testament saw no need to explain their world. They simply assumed that their readers understood the religious and cultural contexts of their day. They took for granted that highly important terms such as “messiah,” “covenant,” “promise,” etc. were understood by their readers.
Also, they wasted no words on how the Romans came to control Israel, what happened to the temple of Solomon, or where the Sadducees came from. This present work makes no such assumptions. By providing a concise and clear overview of Israel’s history and by supplying a glossary of key terms, the reader will obtain a short “onramp” for understanding the New Testament.
First, the integration with Bible Reader allows you to have a Bible "on hand". The entire work is grounded in the Holy Scriptures. By reading the biblical references as cited in the text, the historical and religious landscape of the New Testament will begin to emerge.
Second, note that the work consists of three distinct parts: an introduction, a brief overview of Israel’s history, and a study of how foreign domination has affected the Jews. Each part serves as a conceptual platform for the next. By acknowledging this kind of organizational structure at the start, the reader is able to hold all of the parts together, and thus better construct a cohesive picture of the New Testament.
Third, select the “hyperlinked” texts as one reads along. By clicking on words underlined in “blue,” a window is automatically accessed. These hyperlinks provide linguistic analyses that help define key words in the New Testament. Most of these explanatory notes also contain hyperlinks to other relevant terms as well. By studying from one link to another, the reader is able to obtain a a network of ideas that explain the life and times of Jesus and the early church.
Although “A Concise Background of the New Testament” is designed for the non-specialist, the work also contains a lot of information for advanced readers. Prominent voices of the ancient world, such as Josephus, Philo, and Plutarch are cited. Linguistic and grammatical analyses are presented throughout the work and glossary. Also, the “Annotated Bibliography” describes important, contemporary works that provide for a more in depth study of the New Testament. These works in turn contain extensive bibliographies for an even more expansive study.
Finally, this work can serve as an important supplement for actually teaching a course on the New Testament. It provides a concise yet thorough “back story” for the life of Jesus and his first followers.