AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by A H McNeile. Copyright A H McNeile - first published at the University Press, Oxford 1927. 2nd Edition revised by C S C Williams 1953. - This Edition prepared for Katapi in Arial Unicode MS by Paul Ingram 2003.

Summary of Contents

HOME | PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION | PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION | ABBREVIATIONS | THE NEW TESTAMENT | Bibliography | THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS: PART 1PART 2 | FORM-CRITICISM | THE SYNOPTIC PROBLEM | THE ACTS | THE EPISTLES OF ST. PAUL: PART IPART IIPART III | 1, 2 TIMOTHY, TITUS | GENERAL EPISTLES AND HOMILIES: PART 1PART 2PART 3 | THE JOHANNINE GOSPEL | THE JOHANNINE EPISTLES | THE GROWTH OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON: PART IPART II | TEXTUAL CRITICISM: PART 1PART 2 | INSPIRATION AND VALUE


PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

To one who has been brought up theologically from undergraduate days in 1927 upon McNeile's Introduction, the attempt to produce a revised edition of it after a quarter of a century has not been easy.
Justification for a revision must be that research has not stood still during this period and that some of McNeile's landmarks have been removed.
He himself might well have changed his views, had he lived, on three points, to mention no more: the evidence for the early death of St. John, the son of Zebedee; the chronological order of the chapters in 2 Corinthians; and the authorship of Ephesians.
Here and elsewhere one cannot be quite so certain as he was in 1927; alternative solutions to various problems need to be mentioned, even if on many questions his verdict still stands good.

One criticism made of the first edition was that it included no references, except in passing, to the then new subject of Form‑criticism and few in general to foreign and English books and periodicals dealing with the subject under discussion.
A student whose appetite is whetted by an Introduction to the New Testament needs to be told where he can satisfy himself more fully.
But to those who know McNeile's writings, both devotional and academic, he will remain, as he said of Dr. Salmon, a 'master and a giant'.

MERTON COLLEGE, OXFORD, Epiphany, 1952, C. S. C. W.

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PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

The following sketch of the history and contents of the New Testament is necessarily a sketch only.
Historical, literary, and textual criticism, and the question of the Canon, require increasing specialization, which makes a whole library necessary for a full treatment of the New Testament.
But as the study advances there is need at intervals for a brief conspectus of the material in one volume, such will put the reader who is not an expert or a professed student in possession of the salient points.
He wants to know in outline how the New Testament as a whole, and each book in it, reached its present form, when and where each acquired canonical authority, the chief problems that the study of them raises, historical, literary, and textual, and broadly what each is about and what it contains.
It is the aim of the present volume to supply such a need.

I greatly regret that I was unable to make use of Provost (formerly Archbishop) Bernard's work on the Fourth Gospel in the International Critical Commentary, but I am glad to find that the views that I have expressed agree to a large extent with his.

It is venturesome to write an Introduction to the New Testament in Dublin, where Dr. Salmon's learning, enriched with brilliance and humour, has caused his name to be revered as that of a master and a giant.
But a large proportion of this book is concerned with results reached since his day, which are so numerous that the attempt to record them may be forgiven.

TRINITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN Easter, 1927, A. H. McN.

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THE NEW TESTAMENT

This title, as applied to the collection of sacred Christian writings, is often used with no clear understanding of its meaning.
A 'testament' is strictly a 'will', a last will and testament made by someone before his death and binding upon his survivors after it.
But that does not explain the title.
The Latin testamentum also has this meaning, apart from the Bible and writings connected with it.
In non‑biblical Greek the word διαθήκη (diatheke), of which testamentum is the equivalent, means similarly a 'will'.
But a will is only a particular instance of a binding arrangement or disposition;
and in the Bible diatheke bears that wider meaning in various applications.
In the Greek Old Testament it is the rendering of the Hebrew בְרִית (berith), which never means a 'will'.
It is with the Hebrew meanings, therefore, that a study of the word must begin.

(a)   Either God or man can lay a binding obligation upon himself. It is then an 'undertaking' or 'promise'.

(b)   It can be imposed upon another, in the form of an 'ordinance' or 'command'.

(c)   When two parties mutually enter into an undertaking, it is a 'covenant' or 'agreement' or 'pact'.
The Israelite nation was deeply influenced by the thought that when they became Yahweh's people at Sinai,
He and they entered into such a covenant.
They received from Him a body of commands,
and He promised His blessing and protection in the event of their obedience
(διαθήκη occurs in this sense of mutual agreement in Aristoph. Birds, 440,
but normally in non‑biblical Greek the word used for that is συνθήκη).
Since διαθήκη was the LXX equivalent of berith in all these various senses,
it was taken over by New Testament writers with the same elastic force.
But they added to it two other meanings.

(d)   Both St. Paul (Gal.iii.15) and the author of Hebrews (ix.17) illustrate the dealings of God with His people by reference to the ordinary non‑biblical meaning, a human 'will' or 'testament'.

(e)   Finally, we reach the sense from which was derived the use in our title, i.e. a 'dispensation', 'regime'.
There were two eras in the world's history, in which there were two diathekai,
the one involving slavery, the other freedom (Gal.iv.24‑26).
The conditions of the 'old diatheke' were written on tablets of stone;
and if the giving of them, says St. Paul, was accompanied by divine glory,
how much more glorious must be the 'new diatheke' (2 Cor.iii.4‑11).
What we call the Old and the New Testaments are two collections of writings containing the divine message,
which belong respectively to the two dispensations.
Melito, Bishop of Sardis (C. AD 170), speaks of 'the books of the old diatheke' (ap. Eus. H.E.iv.26);
and at about the end of that century Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian employ the expressions παλαιὰ διαθήκη, vetus testamentum, and νέα διαθήκη, novum testamentum, as the actual titles of the two collections of books.

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BOOKS

J. Behm, διαθήκη, Theologisches Worterbuch zum neuen Testament (G. Kittel), ii.106‑37.
J. 0. Cobham, article 'Covenant' in A Theological Word Book of the Bible, edited by A. Richardson, pp.54‑56.
J. Hastings's Dict. of the Bible, articles 'Covenant' and 'Testament'.
J. B. Lightfoot, Galatians, p.141.
A. H. McNeile, Exodus, pp.150‑2.
J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, c.v. διαθήκη.
B. F. Westcott, Hebrews, pp.298‑302.

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ABBREVIATIONS

Ex.T., Expository Times.
J.B.L., Journal of Biblical Literature.
J.T.S., Journal of Theological Studies.

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