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The New Testament

A Historical and Theological Introduction

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2013 Reference Book of the Year Award, Academy of Parish Clergy

"Hagner's encyclopedic knowledge of the New Testament and of New Testament scholarship is put to excellent use in this detailed survey from which seasoned scholars as well as beginners can learn much."--I. Howard Marshall, University of Aberdeen

This substantial introduction explores the origin and character of the New Testament writings. Donald Hagner deals with the New Testament both historically and theologically, employing the framework of salvation history. He treats the New Testament as a coherent body of texts and stresses the unity of the New Testament without neglecting its variety. Although the volume covers typical questions of introduction--such as author, date, background, and sources--it focuses primarily on understanding the theological content and meaning of the texts.

Throughout this capstone work, Hagner delivers balanced conclusions in conversation with classic and current scholarship, making this an essential resource for seminarians, graduate students, and upper-divisional undergraduates for study and lifelong reference. The book includes summary tables, diagrams, maps, and extensive bibliographies. 


Part 1: Introduction and Background
1. Approaching the New Testament as the Church's Scripture
2. The Old Testament as Promise and Preparation
3. The World of the New Testament
Part 2: The Gospels: The Proclamation of the Kingdom
4. The Gospels as Historical and Theological Documents
5. The Message of Jesus
6. The "Historical" Jesus
7. The Origin of the Gospel Tradition
8. Form and Redaction Criticism
9. The Synoptic Problem
10. Q as an Entity
11. The Gospel according to Mark
12. The Gospel according to Matthew
13. The Gospel according to Luke(-Acts)
14. The Gospel according to John

Part 3: Acts: The Earliest Preaching of the Kingdom
15. From the Preaching of Jesus to the Kerygma of the Early Church
16. Acts as a Book of Key Transitions
Part 4: Paul and His Epistles: The Interpretation of the Kingdom
17. Paul, the Man
18. Jesus and Paul
19. Paul, Judaism, and the Law
20. Paul's Gospel and the Parting of the Ways
21. Paul's Christology and Eschatology
22. Letters in the Hellenistic World
23. The Missionary Paul
24. The Authorship Question
25. Galatians
26. First and Second Thessalonians
27. First Corinthians
28. Second Corinthians
29. Romans
30. Philippians
31. Colossians and Philemon
Part 5: The Deutero-Pauline Letters: Extending the Teaching of the Apostle
32. Ephesians
33. The Issue of "Early Catholicism"
34. The Pastoral Epistles
Part 6: Hebrews and the Catholic Epistles: Non-Pauline Christianity
35. The Book of Hebrews
36. James
37. First Peter
38. Jude and Second Peter
39. The Johannine Epistles
Part 7: The Apocalypse: The Consummation of the Kingdom
40. The Message of the Apocalypse
41. The Apocalypse
Part 8: The Text and Canon of the New Testament
42. The Transmission of the Text
43. The Formation of the Canon
A Final Word


"This is not just another 'who wrote, to whom, where, and why' introduction to the New Testament. It is as comprehensive a study of the New Testament writings in the context of Christianity's beginnings as one could wish for in a single volume, including astonishingly full and helpful bibliographies. Don Hagner's The New Testament is a showpiece of high-quality evangelical scholarship."

James D. G. Dunn†, Durham University

"Don Hagner's encyclopedic knowledge of the New Testament and of New Testament scholarship is put to excellent use in this detailed survey, from which seasoned scholars as well as beginners can learn much. Here is an introduction that takes seriously both the human authorship and the divine inspiration of Scripture and shows that the critical study of the former, particularly in regard to the Gospels, does not necessarily threaten the reality of the latter. The author's caution in refusing to go beyond probable solutions to many problems rather than boldly asserting dubious, speculative hypotheses is to be warmly welcomed, as is his overriding concern to bring out the theological message of the New Testament books understood against their Old Testament background."

I. Howard Marshall†, University of Aberdeen

"Hagner encapsulates a vast range of material in this book in a way that is accessible to students and engages most of the prominent intriguing debates in New Testament studies from the past hundred years. Not rigidly beholden to any one camp, this work is substantive, readable, balanced, informed, critical, and reverent."

Craig Keener, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary

"Don Hagner's introduction, reflecting a moderate critical approach, is the fruit of his seasoned and mature reflection on the New Testament. Literary studies of the Gospels are in vogue today, but Hagner rightly emphasizes as well the historical character of New Testament revelation, deftly holding together the literary, historical, and theological nature of the New Testament documents. Hagner does not restrict himself to typical introductory questions but also provides the reader with an abbreviated New Testament theology. Readers must not miss the outstanding bibliographies attached to each chapter. This book is filled with wisdom and is marked by clarity so that the goal stated at the outset of the book is reached. Here we find simplicity that is on the other side of complexity, a simplicity that only a wise veteran can provide."

Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"If one is looking for a reliable, thorough, theologically insightful, eminently honest, up-to-date handbook on the origins and contents of the New Testament writings and the problems attending their interpretation, this is it. Donald Hagner is a master teacher. He aligns his introduction around the kingdom of God as the integrating key and unveils the New Testament's continuing relevance in revealing God's solution to the universal human predicament."

David E. Garland, Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran Delancey Chair of the Dean and professor of Christian Scriptures, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

"In The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction, Donald Hagner graces us with a summation of his life's work. As clear as it is comprehensive, Hagner's prose moves effortlessly between the primary and secondary materials to provide a readable and carefully crafted New Testament introduction. Hagner navigates historical and theological issues with nuance, demonstrating once again his balanced approach to New Testament interpretation. A masterful piece of writing!"

Jeannine Brown, professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary

"Donald Hagner's The New Testament is a solid overview of key issues in the New Testament. Here and there one may take a different view, but Hagner has put on the table the key points that inform the message of the New Testament, making this a most useful work."

Darrell L. Bock, executive director of cultural engagement, Center for Christian Leadership; senior research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. Donald A. Hagner
    © Don Milici

    Donald A. Hagner

    Donald A. Hagner (PhD, University of Manchester) is George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament and senior professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is the author of The New Testament: A Historical and...

    Continue reading about Donald A. Hagner


2013 Reference Book of the Year Award, Academy of Parish Clergy
Named one of the best reference books of the year for 2012,
Jesus Creed blog

"A magnificent introduction to the New Testament. . . . This volume reflects the best of evangelical scholarship with appropriate awareness and sensitivity to the broad range of critical methodologies in New Testament studies. . . . Emerging scholars will be thankful for the clear, irenic presentation of the gospel of Christianity. Hagner brings a magisterial command of an impressive range of primary and secondary material to this work. He writes with a clarity that makes complexity seem manageable. He is upfront with his own interpretative perspective, and permissive, not defensive. Every chapter provides a substantial bibliography. An author index makes for easy tracking of scholarly influence. . . . A huge undertaking with refreshing results. . . . Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above."

A. L. Kolp,


"Since 2000, most of the premier Christian publishers have produced at least one substantive introduction to the New Testament. With this work, Baker Academic has not only gotten in the game but has also likely taken the lead. It is not only one of the largest on the market, it is also one of the most academic. Like many New Testament introductions, this one functions in part as a reference tool, providing background information for each book. Dr. Hagner, a well-respected professor . . . routinely addresses questions such as, Who wrote each book, to whom, when, and why? He answers those questions with unmatched thoroughness, offering plenty of footnotes and full bibliographies for every chapter of the book. The work also covers important peripheral topics. . . . Hagner's theological perspective is more conservative than not but is anything but dogmatic. Controversial subjects like authorship issues are explored in an objective, fair manner. In the end, readers will be well versed in evidence from both sides of the theological divide. This is one of several qualities that make this an ideal choice for the most serious students of the Bible. . . . Highly recommended, especially for academic libraries."

Wade Osburn,


"[Hagner] has crowned his illustrious career by producing a magnificent NT introduction. . . . For those who want striking new insights, they will not find them here. This is the distillation of a lifetime of reflection, and Hagner never adopts a position that is not well supported in scholarship. What one does typically find, however, is an acknowledgment of major alternatives, judicious interaction with them, and cautiously worded conclusions. . . . [There is a] wealth of information contained in this splendid tome. . . . We remain in Hagner's debt for a magisterial and measured treatment of far more topics than in any other 'introduction' to the NT currently available."

Craig L. Blomberg,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"A very interesting introduction to the New Testament. . . . [The book] includes useful summary tables, diagrams, maps, and extensive bibliographies for students. . . . This comprehensive introduction to the New Testament is intended mainly for students, but it will also be useful for scholars of any theological field. . . . [Hagner's] work will be a useful tool, as he includes an extensive part of the history of previous research in this field."

Moschos Goutzioudis,

Review of Biblical Literature

"The major strength of this book has to do with its author and its approach. The author has numerous publications to his credit . . . along with a long and illustrious teaching career. His decades of study, writing, and instructing position him well to compile this relatively comprehensive discussion of an impressively wide range of topics related to NT introduction, replete with extensive bibliographies. As to approach, Hagner avoids the trap of treating only or primarily merely the salient data related to classic 'introductory' questions surrounding each NT book. . . . This synthetic treatment of the NT books, the technical study of them, and their optimal reception takes its place among other classic treatments."

Robert W. Yarbrough,

Bulletin for Biblical Research

"The subgenre known as 'New Testament Introduction' is a specialized and relatively rare type of scholarly contribution, one that most scholars, in fact, never attempt to write. Uncommon experience and skill are required to produce an introduction that is not only up-to-date and comprehensive but also accessible. . . . The cumulative wisdom of [a] long [career] is evident in [this] volume. . . . Students of the NT will benefit from attending carefully to [it]."

Michael Barram,

Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"This informative tome, totaling more than 900 pages, is a testament to the extensive learning and dedicated scholarship of the author. . . . One cannot avoid being impressed by the massive amount of bibliographical material contained in this volume. . . . [This] will give any diligent researcher many moons of investigation. Read and study it to your profit."

Walter M. Dunnett,

Word & World

"An excellent and thorough guide to the background, content, and theological message of the New Testament writings. Hagner takes a thoroughly moderate and thoughtful position on such issues as methodology (e.g., the role of historical criticism), the historical value of the gospels, and the diversity of New Testament theologies. . . . This substantial volume (872 pages) also includes abundant bibliography. As Hagner notes, introductions to the New Testament are valuable from time to time in order to help capture the learnings of intervening decades of scholarship. This is surely the case with this excellent work."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"[This work] come[s] from [a] seasoned [scholar] who [has] a commanding knowledge of the field. . . . [Hagner has] written [an] excellent [introduction] to the New Testament. . . . [Hagner is an] astute [scholar] who make[s] strong and reasoned arguments for [his] positions. . . . [This book] that will serve seminary and graduate students well."

Frank J. Matera,


"Hagner is meticulous in his attention to detail. He's also a very good interpreter (theological exegete). He is clearly very familiar with both the primary as well as secondary materials. . . . Hagner has provided readers of this volume an actual encyclopedia of New Testament scripture. . . . If one invests the necessary time in reading through the entire volume one will know the New Testament and its contents as few others do. This volume is an education in itself."

Jim West,

Zwinglius Redivivus blog

"Hagner is one of my favorite NT scholars. . . . Going into reading this book, I had pretty high expectations. I will say that this book did not disappoint. . . . This introductory book is pitched towards students trying to make sense of the New Testament. . . . Hagner works with a salvation-historical approach that traces a story of redemption from the OT through the NT, particularly focused on the theme of the 'kingdom of God.'. . . He should be commended for this effort and students will appreciate having a coherent approach to the Bible as a whole. . . . Hagner's end-of-section recommended reading lists are quite exhaustive. . . . Hagner does a pretty good job of separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of what is an absolutely central topic of conversation for introductory students. He manages to hit all of the key subjects that I would have wanted my seminary professors to deal with in terms of making sense of the NT. . . . It is a privilege to have this major work from such a capable thinker and writer. . . . If you regularly get into theological discussions with your students, and you want a helpful evangelical voice, getting a copy of this book is a wise choice."

Nijay K. Gupta,

Crux Sola blog

"Valuable. I consult [it] quite often. [This book is] very interested in the question of the relationship between history and theology--a key hermeneutical and philosophical question for a new era of students."

Nijay K. Gupta,

Crux Sola blog (named The New Testament "Best Introductory Book in Biblical Studies" for 2013)

"Such a book as this one commands our attention: a book emerging out of a lifetime of research and the teaching of seminary students. It is the Magnus Opus from a respected scholar, a gift to his students and now to those of us who use this book. . . . [Hagner] provides a substantial introduction to the New Testament. . . . One readily notices that Hagner's scholarship covers a vast range of material. He enters many of the prominent scholarly debates of the past century. His work and interpretation is balanced and informed, critical and reverent. . . . Hagner's The New Testament will be used by the pastor-scholar. The book will have a long shelf-life in the pastor's study."

John E. Hugus, APC,

Sharing the Practice

"[Hagner's] wide breadth of engagement will appeal to professors for implementation in their classes, and students will appreciate its approachability and readability. After spending the last few decades in the biblical studies guild and classroom, Hagner understands what teachers want in a textbook and what students need. He keeps these things in mind while offering exposure to the world of contemporary New Testament studies. He maintains a conservative yet balanced approach free from any one-camp prejudice. The diversity of citations, footnotes and bibliographic material will definitely please a wide range of professors. With a pedagogical mindset, Hagner overall accomplishes a fine introductory work for students at the advanced undergrad or early seminary level in broadly evangelical settings. . . . The most significant benefit to having a textbook written by such a seasoned professor is the depth of scholarship Hagner is able to draw upon. . . . This book will serve as a quality introductory work for the next generation of biblical studies students. . . . Hagner has laid out a significant foundation of information that will be a welcome addition for students and professors at a number of institutions."

Chris S. Stevens,

Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

"Hagner's The New Testament is aptly described on its dust jacket as a 'capstone work.' Measuring nearly 900 pages in length, it is 'weighty' in every sense of the word. While its sheer size may be initially imposing for certain audiences (undergraduates, specifically), the prose is snappy, clean, and a pleasure to read. . . . This textbook is suitable for both undergraduate and graduate audiences. . . . The clarity with which Hagner exposits the subject matter makes the work highly accessible. Graduate students will likewise find the author's clarity and depth of knowledge refreshing. The bibliographies will provide helpful starting points for students seeking further material for research and exegesis papers, as well as for instructors looking to supplement this text with additional readings."

Eric Vanden Eykel,

Catholic Books Review

"[This] study of the New Testament from a historical and theological viewpoint . . . belongs in any Christian academic collection. . . . The focus on understanding [the] theological context provides students with a focus on the origins of Christianity and its key writings. Review of current and classical thought and research accompany summary tables, diagrams, maps, and more, making this a fine collection of powerful insights which should be required reading for any Christian college-level student."

Midwest Book Review