1. Introduction to the New Testament and its Context

1.1 Interpreting and studying the New Testament

In this section of Chapter 1 we will discuss the interpretation of the New Testament from the time of the Church Fathers of the early church. We will present the fourfold sense of Scripture in detail and explain the positions of the Reformers on it. We will gain some initial insights into the textual history of the New Testament, become acquainted with modern Bible research, and present some important currents of inquiry of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

1.2 The development of the New Testament canon

Before we turn to the actual writings of the New Testament, we must first of all know what the New Testament actually encompasses. In other words, what books are to be found in the New Testament? What is the ‘canon’, to use the technical word for it, anyway—and how did it come into being? In order to answer such questions we will look at some of the early stages in the emergence of the New Testament canon itself, and then explore its development into the complete canon. We will then pursue the question of what the canon signifies for us today.

1.3 The context for the emergence of the New Testament 

The New Testament came into being some 2,000 years in the past, at a time that is completely foreign to us, and in an environment that would also be strange to us, namely the region of Palestine, Syria, and Asia Minor. We will now endeavour to illustrate the prevailing circumstances in which the New Testament emerged, specifically the historical, cultural, intellectual-historical, and socio-historical preconditions. We will also examine the spiritual movements prevalent at the time of the New Testament, including Gnosticism.

1.4 Exegetical methods 

To conclude Chapter 1 we will turn our attention to “methods of exegesis”. To begin with, we will describe the historical-critical method as a scholarly instrument of exegesis. We will then introduce the methodological steps of classic historical-critical exegesis.