The short window is closing in which to pre-order Mike Bird’s newest book, co-authored with N. T Wright, so we reached out to Mike to hear a new perspective on the book that is set to change how the NT is studied in the English-speaking world.
Mike is one of the foremost scholars of the NT in the world, but he’s also a world-class teacher of Scripture both in the classroom and from the pulpit. So it was our honor to ask him a few questions about The New Testament in its World and its anticipated impact on the modern classroom and even adult bible studies.
Please comment below and tell us what you think about the book!
What is the one main advantage to your book versus other options on the market right now?
Well, there are of course several fine NT introductions around. Ours is distinctive in many ways. First, New Testament in its World resources N.T. Wright’s lifetime of work to give students an immersive experience in the history, literature, and theology of the New Testament.
Second, I think we give a very balanced account of background, explaining critical issues, offering commentary on each of the NT books and doing it in a way that captures something of the contagious excitement of the first Christians.
Third, I should add that we are not trying to simply add to the accumulated knowledge of students, we want students to enter into the storied world of the New Testament and to see themselves as part of that story. We’ve tried to make this book as pictorial as possible, as “edgy” as we can with various devices to draw readers in.
Fourth, in New Testament in its World we try to also broach the subject of how the New Testament, its various books and its entire corpus, matters for us today. We have sprinkled in contemporary insights on how first century faith works itself out in the twenty-first century world.
Fifth, we are also conscious that we live in the information age, so we are cognizant of a multi-media approach, which is why our book is automatically available on Logos, there is an accompanying DVD series which compliments it perfectly, a podcast is in production, there’s a terrific workbook available, and a sway of other resources are coming too.
What was the collaboration like between you and Tom?
It has been terrific. I feel like I’m the Chewbacca to his Han Solo (though I’m shorter and way less hairy)! Tom has been involved at every point, from inception, to design, he has written a lot of new material for this book and he’s of course edited the final product meticulously.
Tom has that rare gift of being a tremendous communicator in person and print, being able to bring a wealth of information together and put it together in a coherent story, and explaining complicated topics in ways that people can easily understand. Not only in the book, but especially in the DVD, you see Tom going full professor mode, from the Dead Sea Scrolls to 1 Thessalonians, from Philo to Hebrews, and it’s positively entrancing.
I’m glad to say that New Testament in its World is both vintage Wright and new Wright with some Mike Bird crafting and creating along the way.
How have you and Tom attempted to bring together history, literature, and theology? Why are these three categories of inquiry so important for students of the NT?
In New Testament in its World we have endeavored to give a paramount place to history by explaining context, culture, and customs when they are necessary pre-knowledge for a book (the world behind the text); we give due attention to the stories, rhetoric, discourse and arguments of each book and break it down for students to understand (the world inside the text); and we also take pains to ask the “so what?” question and start the process of wrestling with how we apply the biblical texts today (the world in front of the text).
What are some of the features of the book that you are particularly keen on as an educator?
There are a number of features about New Testament in its World that I’m excited about. First, it is very pictorial and graphic. We have ransacked some of the best photographic libraries of places and images about the biblical world. The book is saturated with photos, maps, charts, images, everything from coins, to statues, and places from Jerusalem to Rome. It is a visual experience.
Second, New Testament in its World is really for the information age. This is a book that can be integrated in Logos very well, the DVD is a great compliment for the book, and we have a few more surprises still to come!
Third, there are some edgy bits such as the “emails from the edge” section which imagines an on-going email conversation between a student and a professor, there are the “blast from the past” insets with important people and quotes from the history of interpretation, and “portals and parallels” with important background information from antiquity.
In sum, I hope that New Testament in its World is going to have something for seminary and college students, people studying on-line, and even for adult Bible study groups.
After completing the book, what one impression do you wish to leave with the readers?
Well, I like to think that in the New Testament in its World, the impression that we want to create is that Jesus is the reason why we have a New Testament. Jesus is the momentum, the event, the power, and explanation for why Christianity began, why it took the shape that it did, and why books like these – Gospels through to Apocalypse – were written.
In New Testament in its World we want readers to experience something of that Jesus-centered faith, allegiance, devotion, and power that pervaded the early church and swept through the eastern Mediterranean like a fire storm!
Get your digital copy of New Testament in its World today, including the Workbook and Video Lectures, only on Logos.