***Disclaimer: I received this book form B&H Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
The Historical Reliability of the New Testament: Countering the Challenges to Evangelical Belief by Dr. Craig Blomberg is a mammoth of a volume. The work sits at a staggering 725 pages of information plus name and Scripture indexes. Truly a great academic achievement. However, a burning question in the post-modern world, especially for Christians, is can we rely on the New Testament? This question is the spear of the theological and historical research presented by Blomberg; and the answer to the question is a resounding ‘yes.’
He starts with the Synoptics. We often are afraid to ask the tough questions. “Who are the authors?” or “Which gospel account came first?”. More importantly, “Why are they (the gospel accounts) different?” The Bible has 4 gospels, and 3 synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). It seems they have different information, however, they also seem to be communicating the same story! Blomberg gives great historical background to the context in which these gospels were written, authorship, and purposes. He then moves to answer the last question posed above, namely, supposed contradictions within the Synoptics. Blomberg, and many Christians for that matter, would rather submit that the Synoptics, whether borrowing from each other and/or an outside source (‘Q’ or Quelle and he talks about this extensively in the chapter on the Synoptics as well at the end in his conclusion), these books are telling of the same Jesus; just from a different perspective. Though John is not included in the Synoptics, Blomberg dedicates an entire”part” to the forming of the book of John.
The book then moves to Acts and Paul, potentially the most debated author in the Bible. He uses his section on Acts to transition to Paul. However, do not skip over information given on the book of Acts. Though not generally debated amongst scholars concerning inspiration or authorship, some outside of Christianity struggle with the miraculous conversion of Paul and unveiling of the Spirit in the Upper Room. Christians must be prepared to engage both topics, and so many more! With regard to Paul, are some books credited to him not his? What about controversial topics such as women serving in the church? Blomberg goes to great length to discuss both of these issues and more when dealing with the apostle Paul. The reader is given the arch of Paul’s life, the broad scope of his theology, the role his conversion played in the formation of his theology, and so much more.
The General Epistles (or catholic Epistles) are treated next. Ordinarily, not much debate is heard of these, but when looking at the Early Church, these were some of the most debated books; especially when treating authorship. Blomberg treats each book independently with its author, historical setting, and theological significance. Authorship in the General Epistles is the most targeted aspect of these books, and, therefore, that is his main focus for this section of the book. The overall argument is that “despite popular views to the contrary in critical circles, traditional ascriptions found in the early texts themselves can be sustained.”
Canonically, the book of Revelation is quite a puzzle. Many want to apply a futurist view to the book, which is seeing the future of humanity in periods which God works; or another view is the history of the Church, and the changing of ages is the future age to come. Whatever the view, the question that begs to be asked concerns the relevancy of the book. With regard to context, Roman persecution is being executed against Christians and Christians, I’m sure, are concerned about their fate, the fate of the those committing this persecution, what is the application today? Most Christians are not facing persecution today, so what are we to do with this text? Blomberg writes a section in this chapter titled “Reading Revelation in light of its Historical -Cultural Background” where he answers that particular question. In conclusion on Revelation, Blomberg makes an important statement in that “God used the images and symbols most appropriate to the original audience.” In some way, according to God and His purposes, the future will occur according to His plan and it is not our job to decipher that plan.
Finally, Blomberg concludes with other literature forms that plagued the Early Church in the canonization process and continue to puzzle scholars today. Though Gnostic forms of literature and other “gospels” did not enter the canon, much can be learned of the theology opposing what would become Christianity. He also includes thoughts on miracles and the world today. The resurrection is often most debated between Christians and non-Christians, and Blomberg is sure to treat it. This is a wonderful and critical section of how readers, students, scholars, and lay persons can view miracles from what seems ages ago as historically accurate and reliable in the written form of inspired Scripture.
A thick book theologically and historically, I highly recommend this book to anyone willing to learn more about the New Testament and prevailing issues/debates for or against the New Testament. As one reviewer said, “This is normally not a book you would read from beginning to end-but maybe it should be.”