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Peoples of the New Testament World: An Illustrated Guide

ISBN: 9781441252326

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Making sense of the New Testament requires navigating a labyrinth of different cultural, religious, political, and economic groups that existed in first-century Jewish society—as well as in the Roman Empire at large. In this introduction to the major people groups of the New Testament world, William Simmons clarifies New Testament history and teaching. He provides a historical analysis of major Jewish groups (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) and important Greco-Roman groups (Philosophers, Herodians, and Centurions). Important subgroupings within the first-century church—Hebrews and Hellenist, for example—are set in the larger context of the Judeo-Roman mix. Color photographs of ancient sites and archaeological discoveries highlight the descriptions. A helpful resource for anyone interested in understanding the New Testament world better, this book also makes an excellent textbook for an introductory college or seminary course on early Christian history or backgrounds.

Scribes. Pharisees. People of the land. These and other groups are interwoven throughout the New Testament narrative, often appearing with little or no explanation. Peoples of the New Testament World draws upon current scholarship to illuminate the nature and significance of these groups for the serious student of the Word.

Resource Experts
  • Provides an overview of different people groups in the New Testament
  • Features detailed annotated bibliographies at the end of each chapter
  • The Pharisees—Power and Purity
  • The Sadducees—Priesthood and Aristocracy
  • The Scribes—Political Sages
  • The Zealots—Religious Militancy and the Sole Rule of God
  • The Tax Collectors—Pragmatic Opportunists
  • The Sinners—Marginalized and Profligate
  • The “People of the Land”—Poverty and Piety
  • The Samaritans—Religion and Ethnicity
  • John the Baptist and His Disciples—Community and Transition
  • The Hebrews—Faith and Dissonance
  • The Hellenists—Cultures in Transition
  • Charlatans, Exorcists, and Magicians—The Challenge of Syncretism
  • The Herodians—Politics and Compromise
  • The Roman Imperial Rulers—Hierarchy and Empire
  • The Centurions—The Presence of Roman Military Might
  • Patrons, Clients, and Trade Guilds—The Nexus of Politics, Society, and Economics
  • The Greek Philosophers—Faith and Intellect in Dialogue
  • Slaves and Freed Persons—Church and Culture in Tension

Top Highlights

“One cannot understand the person and work of Jesus, the story of the early church, and the continued development of Torah Judaism without a thorough knowledge of the Pharisees.” (Page 51)

“Perhaps no other religious group played a greater role in the life of Jesus and the early church than the Pharisees. Some form of the word ‘Pharisee(s)’ appears eighty-eight times in the Gospels, eight times in the book of Acts, and once in the Epistles, making a total of ninety-seven occurrences in the New Testament (UBS4). As prominent as the Pharisees were, it would be a gross simplification, if not a distortion of the truth, to characterize Jesus’ ministry as simply ‘anti-Pharisaic.’1 His vision and agenda cannot be defined as a simple counterpoint to the Pharisees. Furthermore, leading Pharisees of the time, such as Nicodemus and Gamaliel (John 3:1–9; 7:50; 19:39; Acts 5:34–39), did not oppose Jesus, and other Pharisees came to identify with the early Christians (Acts 15:5).” (Page 50)

“This intense focus on the law also became the hallmark of Ezra and Nehemiah. For them, strict observance of the law became the definitive sign that distinguished the true Jew from those who had no place in the commonwealth of Israel (Ezra 9:4; Neh 8:3, 18; 9:3). It appears that at this time the proper observance of the Sabbath, circumcision, and purity regulations took on a prominence as never before (Jer 17:19–27; Isa 56:1–8; 58:13–14; Ezek 4:12–15; 22:26). This extraordinary focus on religious code and ritual could have been a seminal factor in the birth and development of the Pharisees.” (Page 53)

This book is highly recommended for general survey courses and those seeking to understand the cultural context of the New Testament. Simmons has produced a richly illustrated and extensively researched monograph that deserves to take its place among the existing handbooks on the New Testament.

Criswell Theological Review

The breadth of material covered in the space of just a few hundred pages is impressive. One comes away with a basic knowledge of lifestyles ranging from emperors to slaves; from high priests and lofty philosophers to people struggling to maintain religious identity in the face of daily necessities. . . . References for further reading are provided, and each chapter has its own annotated bibliography to help guide one to clarification on specific topics. All in all this is a clear, well-presented coverage of a subject that is sure to be of interest to students of the New Testament.

Expository Times

An insightful and accessible introduction to some of the religious, political, and social groups that made up the world of the New Testament. . . . The chapters are lucidly organized, with an introduction to each group followed by a nuanced discussion of the significance of the group for the New Testament. . . . Ample (but not exhausting) footnotes and annotated bibliographies at the end of each chapter provide up-to-date resources for readers interested in pursuing any particular topic in more detail. . . . Numerous charts, illustrations, photographs, and maps make this a very attractive volume. . . . This book offers readers a solid introduction to the religious, political, and social context of the New Testament. It would be a particularly good choice as a supplementary textbook for introductory courses on the New Testament, although pastors, church teachers, and some graduate students will also find it useful.

Biblical Theology Bulletin

This book has much more detail than most dictionary articles and commentaries. It is well researched and includes helpful annotated bibliographies after each chapter. . . . It can be read cover to cover or serve as a reference volume. It is packed with illustrations and maps that help illuminate the context and contribute to the interesting nature of the subject matter. . . . Students of the New Testament will profit from this book.

Bibliotheca Sacra

William A. Simmons is a professor of New Testament studies and Greek at Lee University. He has taught New Testament studies and Greek for more than 20 years in Europe and the United States. His specialty is Pauline studies.


5 ratings

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  1. Daniel Presley
  2. Henrik Guldager Andersen
    Pictures are there now, lot's of relevant information in an accessible style.
  3. Myke Harbuck

    Myke Harbuck


    Agree with Friedrich...I would LOVE this product, but the lack of pictures makes it very unattractive unless it is heavily discounted! I wish Logos could work out their copyright issues that prohibit them from putting pictures in some of these really good books. I purchase a lot of books just for the images. I use a lot of graphics, pictures, images, illustrations in my teaching slides and immediate searches the first thing I do when I'm preparing a sermon. Thus, when I'm looking at a resource, pictures are really important to me.
  4. Raymond Sevilla

    Raymond Sevilla


  5. Friedrich



    while I love information, what caught my eye was the potential for cool photographs . . . and then I see that these are not included. What a shame. I hope publishers and Logos can more readily work these out in the future. but thank you for including this resource, Logos!
  6. Elina A.

    Elina A.



Print list price: $15.00
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