the shape of leadership

Not Losing the Forest for the Trees

John Stott’s 'Basic Introduction to the New Testament' is a delight to read and highly recommended

George P Wood on March 14, 2017


Reading the New Testament well requires seeing the forest and the trees. The trees are the analysis of individual paragraphs, sentences and words — an analysis best performed by commentaries on individual books. The forest is the synthesis of the meaning of entire books and authors — an undertaking best performed by introductions.

John Stott’s Basic Introduction to the New Testament is a forestry manual, a trustworthy synthesis of the message of Christianity’s foundational authors. First published in 1951 as Men with a Message, then revised by Stott personally in 1964 and again in 2001, this new edition was undertaken by Stephen Motyer at Stott’s invitation. The book’s nine chapters examine the “man” and the “message” of Mark, Matthew, Luke-Acts, John and the Johannine letters, Paul, Hebrews, James, Peter and Revelation, respectively. Stott originally wrote a non-technical introduction for a broad audience, and Motyer retains Stott’s concision, apt phrasing and overall perspective, even as he adds details here and there based on more recent study. 

I foresee several uses for this book. Christian individuals might find it helpful as a complement to their devotional reading, which is tree-work. Stott will show them where a tree lies in the forest of a given author or of the New Testament as a whole. Christian groups — say, a Sunday school class, small group or book club — could use Stott as part of a class on how to read the New Testament. And preachers should find it helpful as they work their way through an expository sermon series on a specific book.

However used, this new edition of Basic Introduction to the New Testament was a delight to read, and I highly recommend it.

Book Reviewed: John Stott, Basic Introduction to the New Testament, revised by Stephen Motyer (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 2017).

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