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The words, phrases, and stories of the New Testament permeate the English language. Indeed, this relatively small group of twenty-seven works, written during the height of the Roman Empire, not only helped create and sustain a vast world religion, but also have been integral to the larger cultural dynamics of the West, above and beyond particular religious expressions. Looking at the New Testament through the lens of literary study, Kyle Keefer offers an engrossing exploration of this revered religious text as a work of literature, but also keeps in focus its theological ramifications. Unique among books that examine the Bible as literature, this brilliantly compact introduction offers an intriguing double-edged look at this universal text-a religiously informed literary analysis. The book first explores the major sections of the New Testament-the gospels, Paul's letters, and Revelation-as individual literary documents. Keefer shows how, in such familiar stories as the parable of the Good Samaritan, a literary analysis can uncover an unexpected complexity to what seems a simple, straightforward tale. At the conclusion of the book, Keefer steps back and asks questions about the New Testament as a whole. He reveals that whether read as a single document or as a collection of works, the New Testament presents readers with a wide variety of forms and viewpoints, and a literary exploration helps bring this richness to light. A fascinating investigation of the New Testament as a classic literary work, this Very Short Introduction uses a literary framework-plot, character, narrative arc, genre-to illuminate the language, structure, and the crafting of this venerable text. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
In The Branches of the Gospel of John, Keefer presents a new paradigm for understanding the role of history of interpretation in New Testament studies, with a focus on the Gospel of John. Drawing largely from the work of Hans Robert Jauss, he presents history of interpretation as a means to understand both the text and the historical reader. Jauss's concept of Rezeptionsasthetik helps the New Testament scholar to reflect upon both text and history in a new light. John is an exemplary work to investigate along these lines because no other canonical book was as provocative in the early church. John was used extensively by Valentinians but also by the best-known opponent of Valentinus, Irenaeus. Later, major figures such as Origen, Augustine, and John Chrysostom worked through this gospel, chapter by chapter, to produce either commentaries (Origen) or sets of homilies (Augustine and Chrysostom). What emerges in The Branches of the Gospel of John is a realization that these early interpreters prove fruitful for both textual and historical study of the Fourth Gospel. With regard to history, early interpreters of John provide data points for understanding John in second- and third-century contexts. Although these early interpretations do not explain the origins of John's gospel, they nevertheless provide us with evidence of the Fourth Gospel's historical role in the construction of the early church. With regard to literary and textual issues, the present book demonstrates that these early readings of John can open up fresh avenues of interpretation for contemporary readers.
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