(Chapter 4, Jesus)
On the chapter that you are assigned, please write a 300 word (1-page) Synopsis and Reflection. The Synopsis will include a 150-word (½ page) summary of the assigned chapter followed by 150 words (½ page) of personal reflections and questions. Include in this Journal Summary details of information from the chapter that is new and particularly interesting to you.
Welcome to the New Testament! You probably are a student at a college, university, or seminary. Perhaps you
are taking this course because you are really interested in learning more about these Christian writings, or
perhaps you just need the class to meet a requirement. Either way, my intent in writing this book is to help
you have an interesting, enjoyable, and intellectually rewarding experience.
The New Testament is a fascinating book. And, whatever your experience with it has been up to now, an
academic encounter in an educational setting is sure to open your eyes to ideas and concepts that you have not
considered previously. Some will be provocative, some might be inspiring, a few could be exasperating, but not
many will be boring. Bottom line: this should be a good class.
Let’s take a quick overview of this book. A few chapters deal with general topics (e.g., the world of the New
Testament, the life and thought of Paul), but most of the book deals directly with the New Testament
writings themselves. A typical chapter takes one of the New Testament books and offers you three things:
a brief overview of the book’s contents
a discussion of historical background questions: Who wrote the book? Where? When? Why?
a presentation of major themes: What is the message of the book? What topics in this book have
interested people the most over the years?
Now let me note a few things that are distinctive about this particular New Testament introduction, things
that might set it apart from other textbooks that you have used (and from other New Testament
The Chapters Can Be Read in Almost Any Order
I think that the book works quite nicely if it is simply read in the manner in which it was written, taking up
each part of the New Testament in its canonical order (i.e., the order in which the writings appear in modern
editions of the New Testament). But many professors will want to introduce the chapters in a different order,
and they may have good reasons for doing so. Here are a few ideas:
Some may want to read the chapter on Mark before the chapter on Matthew because they think that
Mark was the first Gospel to be written. It is also the shortest of the four Gospels and, for that reason,
can make a good “starter Gospel” for beginning students.
Some may want to read the chapters on Luke and Acts back to back because those two New Testament
books were probably written by the same person.
Some may want to read the chapters on Ephesians and Colossians or on Jude and 2 Peter back to back.
In both of these pairs the two books appear to be related to each other and often are treated as “literary
Some may want to read the chapters on Paul’s letters before reading the chapters on the Gospels
because, chronologically, Paul’s letters were written before any of the Gospels.
There are other possible variations. The point is, don’t freak out if your professor scrambles the book and
directs you to read chapters out of order. The book was designed to work that way, and your professor
(probably) knows what she or he is doing.