In The Making of the New Testament, Arthur Patzia retells the New Testament’s story. His textbook study of the origin, collection, copying and canonizing of the New Testament documents answers a myriad of questions – cultural, historical, geographical, linguistic and spiritual.
What motivated the early Christians to commit teaching and events and visions to papyrus? How were the stories and sayings of Jesus circulated, handed down and shaped into Gospels? Why were four Gospels included instead of one? What is known about ancient letter writing, secretaries and "copy shops"? Would a first-century librarian have known how to classify a Gospel, an Acts or an Apocalypse? How were Paul's letters, sent here and there, gathered into a single collection? Are there other documents that almost made it into the New Testament but didn't?
The Making of the New Testament compiles a vast array of scholarly research into a single comprehensible volume. The author’s introduction to the literary world of the New Testament is followed by sections on the Gospels, the Pauline literature, and other New Testament material. Attention is then turned to specific textual issues. All throughout, Patzia presents a historically informed overview of the past 100 years of critical methods in biblical scholarship.
The narratives and letters of our New Testament were shaped by worn pens gripped by calloused, ink-stained fingers. Their authors' ears were more likely assaulted by the urban clatter of busy intersections and bustling markets than attuned to a still small voice. Scrolls that bumped across cobbled Roman roads and pitched through rolling Mediterranean seas found their destination in stuffy, dimly lit, crowded Christian house churches in Corinth or Cenchreae. There they were read aloud and reread, handled and copied, forwarded and collected, studied and treasured. Their ordinary story is true to their extraordinary message: the mystery of the Word that became flesh. The Making of the New Testament brings the remarkable story of the New Testament to light.
“Tatian’s Diatessaron lends further proof to the circulation of all four Gospels by the middle of the second century.” (Page 64)
“A third discipline is the history of the New Testament canon. Here we discover the criteria that the early church used to determine which books were to be regarded as authoritative Scripture.” (Page 14)
“This body of literature that is included in the LXX and the Roman Catholic Bibles became known as the Apocrypha (from the Greek ‘to hide,’ ‘to conceal’). Initially, this was a literary term applied to certain books that were to be kept from the public (thus hidden away, not read publicly) because of the secret doctrines and esoteric wisdom they were thought to contain. Currently, however, it is used more in the sense of spurious or noncanonical. Thus when we talk about the Apocrypha today, we mean a body of literature that is not regarded as canonical by Protestants. Roman Catholics accept these books as authoritative and prefer the term deutero-canonical to distinguish them from the ‘protocanonical books’—those found in the Hebrew Old Testament.” (Page 26)
“The Making of the New Testament is not a book that explains the meaning of the text. Rather, it seeks to answer other questions that are raised—questions such as: How did we get this text? Why are there only twenty-seven books? Why are the books arranged the way they are? Who are the authors, and why did some write Gospels and others letters? How was the text preserved throughout the centuries?” (Pages 12–13)
“Third, the early church fathers quoted from the Apocrypha in the same way they quoted from the books of the Old Testament. Later church fathers such as Origen (a.d. 185–243), Cyril of Jerusalem (a.d. 315–386) and Jerome (a.d. 340–420) sought to separate the Apocryphal books from the rest of the Old Testament as ‘outside books.’” (Page 28)
Patzia has produced a clear, lucid and comprehensive beginning introduction to matters concerning the origin and formation of the NT canon, textual criticism, and historical criticism.
This accessible introduction to the making of Christian Scripture… The sections on formation of the canon, textual transmission, and textual criticism will be of particular value to serious students (in or out of formal academic settings) who seek a critically informed encounter with Christian Scripture.
Arthur Patzia is the former senior professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, Northern California, and in retirement serves as an adjunct professor. A distinguished scholar, he is the author of several books, including The Making of the New Testament, The Emergence of the Church, and the Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Terms.