Reading the New Testament in the Church

A Primer for Pastors, Religious Educators, and Believers

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Internationally respected scholar Francis Moloney offers a Catholic introduction to the New Testament that shows how to read it both faithfully and critically. The opening chapter and an epilogue directly address the theological requirements of, and historical challenges for, ecclesial reading. The remaining chapters give exemplary readings of the figure of Jesus and of the various divisions of the New Testament canon. Conceived as a resource for religious educators, deacons, and other ministers in the Catholic Church, this book will serve Catholics and others as an ideal supplement to a conventional New Testament introduction or as a companion to reading the New Testament itself.

1. Catholic and Critical: The Challenge of Scripture in the Catholic Tradition
2. Historical Context: The New Testament World and Our World
3. The Origins of the New Testament: Its Creation and Reception
4. Jesus of Nazareth: A Biographical Sketch
5. Paul: The First Christian Author
6. The Four Gospels: Stories of Jesus
7. The Acts of the Apostles: Telling God's Story to the End of the Earth
8. Later Writings of the New Testament: Letters from Apostles and a Homily
9. The Revelation to John: Apocalypse Now


"Reading the New Testament in the Church succinctly describes the first-century context, insightfully probes what we know about the 'historical Jesus,' deftly explains the literary strategies of the Gospels, explores the passionate commitments and engaged rhetoric of the apostle Paul, and assists those wrestling with the complexities of somewhat strange texts such as Hebrews and Revelation. In addition, Moloney usefully frames his treatment with an account of the ways in which the church has dealt with Scripture over the last 150 years. Readers seeking an introduction that combines scholarly integrity and theological responsibility will find Fr. Moloney's book a welcome aid to understanding the foundational documents of the church."

Harold Attridge, Sterling Professor of Divinity, Yale Divinity School

"Frank Moloney's very readable guide to the New Testament attempts to bridge the gap that all too often exists between the scholarly interpretation of Scripture and the faith of the church. By reminding us that the Scriptures were written by believers for believers, he encourages his readers to face up to the challenges they contain. Although the book is addressed primarily to Catholics, Christians of all denominations will discover here how sacred Scripture can still speak to and challenge believers today."

Morna D. Hooker, Lady Margaret's Professor Emerita, University of Cambridge Life Fellow, Robinson College

"Reading the New Testament for its original meaning allows it to challenge and enrich our faith in ways we can barely imagine. In this book Frank Moloney, after decades devoted to rigorous yet creative historical analysis of biblical texts and from a lifetime of service to the church, equips religious teachers and the faithful with the essential knowledge they need to bring the New Testament into provocative conjunction with their own lives and their own experience."

Philip F. Esler, Portland Chair in New Testament Studies, director of the International Centre for Biblical Interpretation, University of Gloucestershire

"Reading the New Testament in the Church is a very fine and comprehensive introduction to the New Testament. Written by an eminent New Testament scholar, it communicates with grace and lucidity to ordinary Christians, giving an outline of the New Testament writings, their diverse theologies, and the contexts from which these writings arise. The emphasis throughout the book is on the wealth of Scripture and the need to encourage believers to develop a deeper knowledge of, and encounter with, the sacred text. Such knowledge, the book argues, is integral to the church's life and mission. Moloney sees the Bible as belonging within the life and witness of the church from its earliest days, so that Scripture and Tradition belong together as a single yet intricate stream of living water. Though aimed primarily at a Catholic audience, the book is an immensely valuable resource for all Christians, whatever their denomination. Reading the New Testament in the Church should be on every pastor's shelf and on every seminary's New Testament reading list."

Dorothy Lee, dean of Trinity College Theological School, Frank Woods Professor of New Testament Studies, Trinity College, Melbourne

"Every now and then a scholarly work so aptly meets a glaring need that one is tempted to cry out, 'Why wasn't this done before?' Once again, Francis Moloney has drawn upon his internationally renowned biblical expertise, vast knowledge of scholarly literature, and theological sensitivity to produce this timely resource for pastors and educators in the Christian tradition. It admirably achieves its aim of bridging the gap between technical biblical scholarship and scriptural literacy in the church."

Brendan Byrne, SJ, professor of New Testament, University of Divinity (Melbourne)

"In this learned but pastoral guidebook, Moloney helps Catholics (and ecumenical readers) read Scripture both critically and with faith in Jesus, and in and for the church. Moloney immerses readers in early Christian beliefs in Jesus' death, resurrection, and living presence, vigorously rejecting the common academic distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. I heartily recommend this introduction to reading the New Testament as an excellent textbook for seminaries and training programs for deacons and lay Catholic ministers."

William S. Kurz, SJ, professor New Testament, Marquette University

"Moloney's latest book is a gift for Catholics who want to read the New Testament as both serious Christians and intelligently critical citizens of the modern world. It will also serve as a comprehensive textbook for students who may read only one book on the subject. As always, Moloney's talent as a teacher is bolstered by his scholarship rather than encumbered by it."

Sandra M. Schneiders, IHM, professor (emerita) of New Testament and spirituality, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University and Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California

"After many decades as a Catholic priest and a distinguished biblical scholar, Frank Moloney has written this important and reflective book to remind the modern church of the importance of its Scriptures. It guides readers through the New Testament documents with clarity and with the sure hands of an experienced exegete, pastor, and teacher. Reading the New Testament in the Church provides a timely reminder that the modern community of faith, both Catholic and non-Catholic, must read, appreciate, understand, and be informed by its ancient Scriptures."

David Sim, Australian Catholic University

The Author

  1. Francis J. Moloney SDB
    © Peter Casamento

    Francis J. Moloney SDB

    Francis J. Moloney, SDB (DPhil, University of Oxford), is Senior Professorial Fellow at Catholic Theological College, University of Divinity, in Melbourne, Australia. He is the former Provincial Superior of the Salesians of Don Bosco for Australia and the...

    Continue reading about Francis J. Moloney SDB


"Moloney accepts the challenge of uniting the critical understanding of New Testament scholarship with the devotional nature of the church, specifically the Roman Catholic church. . . . His discussions present majority opinions of scholarship as well as religious explanations while keeping his language accessible for the intended audience. . . . Moloney successfully interprets New Testament scholarship for his primarily Catholic lay audience, and this primer serves as a starting point for study by any nonacademic reader interested in gaining a general understanding of scholarly issues surrounding the Bible. Younger academics would benefit from studying Moloney in order to learn to connect with a larger population who also reads and studies the Bible."

Stan Harstine,

Religious Studies Review

"[Moloney] has made innumerable contributions to Catholic biblical scholarship. . . . Written with clarity, this volume helps Catholic pastors and teachers experience the remarkable comfort contemporary Catholic teaching has with modern biblical scholarship whose work is at the service of the community of faith."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"Anyone wanting a refresher course in the New Testament could hardly do better than read this. . . . Important but difficult questions . . . [are] addressed briefly and clearly. . . . Methodist readers--particularly, but not only, ministers and local preachers--will find this book a helpful refresher course. . . . An evangelical epilogue to the book includes the author's personal testimony and an impassioned call for a massive program of biblical education. To which one can only say 'Amen.'"

Neil Richardson,

Methodist Recorder