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Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times

ISBN: 9780830875801
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The pathway to understanding the New Testament leads through the vibrant landscape of the first-century Greco-Roman world. The New Testament is rooted in the concrete historical events of that world.

In Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity, Paul Barnett not only places the New Testament within that world of Caesars and Herods, proconsuls and Pharisees, Sadducees and revolutionaries, but argues that the mainspring and driving force of early Christian history is the historical Jesus. We can’t understand the rise of Christianity apart from this Jesus, the messiah of Israel and the spiritual and intellectual impact he had on his immediate followers and those who succeeded them.

From his intimate acquaintance with the sources, the evidence and the problems of New Testament history, Barnett offers fresh insights. His telling of the story skillfully avoids the encumbrance of extraneous details and side journeys. From the birth of Jesus to the founding of the messianic community, from the rise of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles to the writing of the Gospels, Barnett offers a comprehensive account of the movement that would change the face of world history.

Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity is a comprehensive survey of New Testament history that will meet the needs of students and teachers of the New Testament. In its engagement with contemporary scholarship and its emphasis on the propelling role of the historical and risen Jesus in the rise of Christianity, it provides a timely rejoinder to current revisionist exploration of Christian origins.

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Key Features

  • Traces the life of Jesus and the emergence of the messianic community
  • Argues for the propelling role of the historical Jesus in the rise of Christianity
  • Includes more than three dozen maps and tables illustrating political boundaries, genealogies, succession of rulers, missionary excursions and more

Top Highlights

“The small volume of literature called the New Testament is simultaneously theology, religion and history. It is theology because it teaches about God. It is religion since it inspires the worship of God. But it is also equally history.” (Page 13)

“The Sanhedrin of New Testament times did not develop out of the covenantal history of Israel; it evolved from the Ptolemaic gerousia. This was a critical expression of Hellenism at the heart of Judaism.” (Page 49)

“The Hasidaeans are believed to have written the earliest apocalypses, for example, the original parts of the book of Enoch.16 In time the Hasidaean faction would subdivide into the two other groups: the Pharisees and the Essenes.17 The Pharisees remained part of mainstream Jewish society, as they were in Jesus’ day. The Essenes, however, eventually formed separatist enclaves.” (Pages 52–53)

“The early chapters of the Gospel of Luke suggest that Joseph and Mary belonged to a devout but poor sector of Jewish society that was relatively untouched by the wealth and corruption of the cities that were centers of power in Herodian Israel.” (Page 85)

“Inevitably and logically we must conclude that the idea of Jesus as the Christ/the Son of God originated not with the early church but with Jesus himself. This was his understanding, which he effectively communicated to his disciples.” (Page 43)

Praise for the Print Edition

This New Testament history is a comprehensive, critical, readable, and perceptive presentation of the life and ministry of Christ and the following apostolic age. Rooted in the primary sources, it bids well to become the standard account of the beginnings of Christianity for the coming student generation.

—E. Earle Ellis, research professor emeritus of theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

This is a wonderful book, long needed and well executed. Although in some respects it is akin to a standard New Testament introduction and in other respects a thoughtful critique of the so-called Third Quest, in reality it is far more. While managing to interact with a substantial amount of secondary literature, Paul Barnett focuses on the coherence of the New Testament documents from the inside, with Jesus himself serving as the focal point and the engine that shapes the rise and growth of the earliest churches, and not least their convictions and behavior. While many others pull the New Testament documents apart, in this book Paul Barnett puts them back together—and connects them with the Old Testament as well. This volume deserves the widest circulation.

Donald A. Carson, research professor, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Barnett’s new book . . . fills a needed spot. It is written clearly and incisively, with a target audience of beginning students and their teachers in college and seminary. Pastors needing a refresher course will also find it profitable, and lay persons anxious to know how Christianity is a historical faith will be reassured and helped. In all, it is a notable achievement and a valuable adjunct to New Testament study. Highly commended as up to date and authoritative.

Ralph P. Martin, distinguished scholar in residence, Fuller Theological Seminary

At long last we have a worthy sequel to F. F. Bruce’s efforts to write a history of the New Testament period. Barnett, rightly in my judgment, focuses on the heart of the matter, which has to do with history and Christology and the intertwining of these two factors. He shows that positing a wide gulf between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith simply does not make good historical sense. He makes plain that Christology was at the heart of the agendas not only of the earliest Christian missionaries but also of their mentor and Lord, Jesus. He also shows that without the resurrection of Jesus in the flesh there would never have been either the worship of Jesus as Lord or the existence of the church. This book is a must read for those who care about the roots of the Christian faith.

Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary

New Testament ‘history’ for some has come to mean quixotic questioning. For Barnett it means plying the classic tools, methods and aims of the disciplined historian. He is the student of his sources, not their dictator. He gives us not the stones of his private speculation but the bread of sober learning. F. F. Bruce’s New Testament History (1972) was the standard for a quarter century. Barnett now furnishes a fresh benchmark. His book will excite and inform all who long to see both church and academe rediscover the full-orbed historical nexus within which the Christian faith first took shape—and to which both faith and learning must continually return.

Robert W. Yarbrough, professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Product Details

  • Title: Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times
  • Author: Paul Barnett
  • Publisher: IVP
  • Publication Date: 2002
  • Pages: 448

Paul William Barnett is an Australian Anglican bishop and historical. He is involved with Regent College and Macquarie University.


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    Digital list price: $44.99
    Save $15.00 (33%)