The words, phrases, and stories of the New Testament permeate the English language. Indeed, this relatively small group of twenty-seven works, written during the height of the Roman Empire, not only helped create and sustain a vast world religion, but also have been integral to the larger cultural dynamics of the West, above and beyond particular religious expressions.
Looking at the New Testament through the lens of literary study, Kyle Keefer offers an engrossing exploration of this revered religious text as a work of literature, but also keeps in focus its theological ramifications. Unique among books that examine the Bible as literature, this brilliantly compact introduction offers an intriguing double-edged look at this universal texta religiously informed literary analysis. The book first explores the major sections of the New Testamentthe gospels, Paul's letters, and Revelationas individual literary documents. Keefer shows how, in such familiar stories as the parable of the Good Samaritan, a literary analysis can uncover an unexpected complexity to what seems a simple, straightforward tale. At the conclusion of the book, Keefer steps back and asks questions about the New Testament as a whole. He reveals that whether read as a single document or as a collection of works, the New Testament presents readers with a wide variety of forms and viewpoints, and a literary exploration helps bring this richness to light.
A fascinating investigation of the New Testament as a classic literary work, this Very Short Introduction uses a literary frameworkplot, character, narrative arc, genreto illuminate the language, structure, and the crafting of this venerable text.
About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
About the Author
Kyle Keefer is Assistant Professor of Religion at Converse College, in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My first encounter with the Bible came in my early teens. I always enjoyed reading, and more I read of the authors of broadly European provenance, more I came across allusions and references to the Bible. I became curious about this book that was overarching much of the Western art for the better part of the last two millennia. So my first encounter with the Bible, and the New Testament in particular, was driven by primarily literary and historical concerns. Since then I had become a Christian, and those concerns have somewhat faded into the background. In the light of that, coming across and reading "The New Testament as Literature: A Very Short Introduction" was a trip back in time. The book gave me an opportunity to look at the very familiar material from a newfound angle. By paying attention to the genre and the literary devices that the authors employed, I was able to read the New Testament stories with a deepened sense of their richness. What particularly appealed to me as a believer was the fact that the literary reading did not come at the expense of theological understanding of the texts, but was in fact complementing it and enriching it. This is far from being the predominant attitude by many of the today's critiques of the New Testament. In the age when "deconstructing" texts in terms of the purported ulterior motives of the authors, it is refreshing to come across a book where the author is content to let the text speak for itself. The book is also a very useful introduction to the New Testament for anyone who wants to know more about it but is weary of having to be subjected to heavy-handed religious proselytizing. Even thought the book is not opposed to the theological points of view, and uses them for fuller understanding of New Testament, it is also not imposing theology on its readers. If you are just curious and would like to know more about what one of the most read books of all time is all about, this is as good of an introduction as it gets. The book divides the material thematically and stylistically into Gospels, St. Paul's letters, the Revelations, other letters, and the Letter to the Hebrews. It pays attention to the peculiarities of each one of those general genres, and takes a closer look at some familiar and not too familiar passages. It also helps the reader understand how all those 27 books that comprise the New Testament canon fit together, and how to read them jointly as a part of a whole. This is important because precisely as a part of a unifying whole they have been read for the most of the history. Overall, this is an excellent book, clearly written and accessible. It would be very useful and informative, whether you've read the New Testament a hundred times or are completely new to it. I strongly recommend it.