A Background to the New Testament for College Students and Pastors

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Author: Jonathan Edward Tetteh Kuwornu-Adjaottor
ISBN 978-9988-53-626-8
DOI: 10.38159/npub.eb20503
Published: 11th May, 2020

The New Testament document did not drop from heaven! This statement sounds strange, and it sounds like a bomb thrown at devoted Bible readers. However, it is loaded with a lot of things that need to be understood by anyone who wants to get a good insight into the texts that constitute the New Testament. I came to this conclusion as a student and later a lecturer in New Testament Studies.

The New Testament has a plethora of backgrounds – historical, geographical, political, philosophical, economic, social, literary and many more. All these backgrounds constitute what is called the intertestamental period, the 400 silent years between the Old and New Testaments. These backgrounds are not stated directly in the document though; but a serious student the New Testament is able to see, them from an academic point of view. This raises the question of whether the New Testament is an academic document. The answer to this question is not a straight forward one depending on who is answering the question. But the truth is that any literary document such as the New Testament can be studied academically.
Studying the background of the New Testament has some value. There are many references in the New Testament that can be located as historical events that occurred in the intertestamental period, and a student of the New Testament must know in order to be well informed when reading the New Testament. For example, one comes across religious groups like the Sanhedrin, Pharisees, Sadducees; political titles like Herod. Who were they and how did they emerge? The answer to this question is best answered when one does a background study of the New Testament.

The New Testament is the record of the works of God in history. Viewed from this perspective, one could say that the New Testament is a factual document; and background study of the New Testament authenticates its factuality. The more one studies the contexts in which the New Testament evolved, the more one gets a precise picture of its people and places. This does not however mean that the New Testament is guilty until proven innocent in historical matters. The opposite rather pertains; the New Testament has proven itself as a historically reliable document.

Another important reason for the study of the New Testament background it places events in a sharper focus; it helps students to appreciate the meaning of stories contained in the pages of the New Testament. When one reads stories about the Pharisees and Sadducees confrontations with Jesus in the gospels; and the reference of sorcery in the book of Acts; and magical books in Ephesians and philosophy in Colossians it sends one’s mind back to events that happened in the intertestamental period.

Further, an understanding of the religions, customs, languages, geography and politics in the intertestamental period can help one understand certain difficult sayings and events in the New Testament. There are interpretation problems as one studies the New Testament; and these could be solved with knowledge of New Testament background.

There are gaps in our knowledge of the New Testament we read now and what really happened at the time the events took place. The study of New Testament background can help fill the gaps in our knowledge.

This ten-chapter book, A Background to the New Testament for College Students and Pastors, can be used as a resource textbook for Introduction to the New Testament at the college level. Bible school students, pastors and all those who are willing to learn may find useful.

Jonathan Edward Tetteh Kuwornu-Adjaottor
Associate Professor of New Testament and
Mother-Tongue Biblical Hermeneutics
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology – Kumasi, Ghana.

Jonathan EdwardTetteh Kuwornu-Adjaottor (BD, MTh, Ph.D.) is an Associate Professor of NewTestament and Mother Tongue Biblical Hermeneutics in the Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. His research focus is New Testament, Mother-Tongue Biblical Hermeneutics and Bible Translation Hermeneutics.  Jonathan is the Managing Editor of three reputable journals: E-Journal of Religious and Theological Studies (ERATS), Journal of Mother-Tongue Biblical Hermeneutics and Theology (MOTBIT) and Journal of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (EHASS).In 2014, he received the Royal Bank-CASS Best Researcher Award in the College of Art and Social Sciences (CASS), KNUST and the William Shakespeare Research Award in Religious Studies in 2015 by the International Agency for Standards and Ratings, India. He received the World Championship Award in Social Sciences 2018, and an Honorary Doctor of Literature (D.Litt) Award in 2020 by the same institution. He has over 50 journal articles, book chapters, and a few books to his credit.

He is Editor of the Humanities section of the Journal of Science and Technology (JUST). Jonathan is an Editorial Board Member of Eleutheria: African Journal of NewTestament Studies and Consulting Editor of Sacrum Testamentum.  He is an Adjunct Research Fellow of the Centre for Cultural and African Studies (CeCASt), KNUST. He is a member of the Ghana Association of Biblical Exegetes (GABES), New Testament Society of Southern Africa (NTSSA), and a Fellow of the Directorate of Social Sciences (DSS). He is a conference speaker and has presented papers at both national and international conferences. He is an Ordained Minister of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana (PCG) and currently serves as an Associate Minister of the Christ Congregation of the PCG, KNUST-Kumasi, Ghana. Prior to his call to the Ordained Ministry, he was a Scripture Union-Ghana staff for 17 years. Jonathan is married to Jessica (nee Doku). They have two boys, Jethro and Justin.

CHAPTER ONE  – General Introduction 1

CHAPTER TWO  – The Geographical and the Intertestamental Period Settings  of the New Testament 6
The Old Testament Background of the New Testament 6
The Geographical Setting of the New Testament 6
The Intertestamental Period Background of the
New Testament 7
History and Government of Palestine under Greek Rule 8
History and Government of Palestine under Roman Rule 11
Roman Emperors of the First Century 12
Intertestamental Events Timeline 21

CHAPTER THREE  – The Religious Setting Of The New Testament 27
The Greco-Roman Pantheon 27
Emperor Worship 28
The Mystery Religions 29
The Worship of the Occult 30
The Philosophies 32
Evaluation of Philosophies 38

CHAPTER FOUR – The Judaism Setting Of The New Testament 40
Origin 41
Theology 43
The Temple 47
The Synagogue 49
The Sacred Year 51
The Passover 52
Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks 52
The Feast of Trumpets, or the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) 53
The Day of Atonement 53
Feasts 54
The Educational System 55
The Literature 56

CHAPTER FIVE -The Social And Economic Worlds Of The New Testament 70
The Social World 70
Jewish Society 70
Pagan Society 71
The Economic World 80

CHAPTER SIX – The Literary World of the New Testament 84
The Hebrew Scriptures 84
The Septuagint (LXX) 86
The Old Testament Apocrypha 88
The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha 91
The Dead Sea Scrolls and Greco-Roman Literature 94

CHAPTER SEVEN – The Canon of the New Testament 98
Factors that led to the New Testament Canon 99
Adoption of the canon 103

CHAPTER EIGHT  – The Text and Transmission of the New Testament 104
The Transmission of the Text 105
The Sources of the Text 106
Modern Translations 110

CHAPTER NINE  – An Overview Of The New Testament 114
Dating Books in the New Testament 115
The Contents of the New Testament 115

CHAPTER TEN  – The Arrangement of the New Testament Books 123
The Arrangement of the Books 123