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Sunday, August 20, 2017

New Testament Survey

NewTestament Survey

Dr. Daniel J. GRACE




Introductionto New Testament by Lois Berkhof takes a basic approach whilst introducing theNew Testament. Lois Berkhof introduces all books one by one and delivers andoverview of each book furthermore Berkhof introduces the authors of the booksand acknowledges the reader with simple knowledge about the authors. Berkhofmoves to interpretation following the summaries and then He gives conclusion ofeach book. Each chapter of the Berkhof’s work is dedicated to a specific bookwhich is analyzed thoroughly that helps reader in understanding the New Testamenteasily by using a simple language.

Gospelsare the foundation of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus therefore Berkhofstarts by analyzing the Gospel in general. Berkhof takes his time whileanalyzing the first four books Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. This approachcreates a foundation for the rest of the book. Berkhof starts explaining wherethe word gospel derived from. The word is originally means good story whichcomes from Anglo-Saxon word godspel (Berkhof, p: 12).[1] Moreover Berkhof shows a connection of theword evangelism to Hebrew language and traces back to ancient Greek (Berkhof,p: 16).[2]


Thegospels are always questioned in general by every reader. Berkhof startanalyzing about the general acceptance of the canonicity of Gospels and hefocuses on the differences and similarities of the Gospels. Berkhof comparesthe four authors of the Gospels and examines the scholar similarities of thegospels.

Mathew,Mark and Luke are referred as synoptic authors Berkhof examines this problemthoroughly and shows the similarities as well as differences among the Gospels.Berkhof summarizes statistic similarities and differences among gospel books.

Amongsynoptic theories Berkhof explains The Mutual Dependency Theory which can besummarized as there is a mutual dependency between Mathew, Mark and Luke. Markhad the Gospel of Mathew as a reference while Luke had borrowed from both Markand Mathew, however there so many opposed theories to this argument. Berkhofargues that a book can be adapted and written in different ways however this isnot sufficient approach towards the differences. There are six possible orderssuggested in which the gospel are being written (Berkhof, p16).[3]However this does notexplain the differences among the books. The Mutual dependence Theory is themost poupulat theory among the other three.

Thesecond theory is known as The Hypothesis of oral tradition. The theory claimsthat the Books are written by some other people than their authors. The Gospelsare simply a gathered collection of preaches that has been made orally. TheHypothesis of Primitive Gospel is the third theory. This suggests that all thesynoptic have the same basic features and structures but they had been written fromdifferent point of views from different people. The problem with this theory isthere is no evidence in the history that indicates this outcome. This theory isso far away from explaining the Synoptic issue furthermore this theory brings atotal different approach to the history and Gospels which takes the issue to adifferent level.

Thelast theory is Double Source Theory. This theory shows similarities between TheMutual Dependence Theory. The theory suggests that there is one source that hasbeen referenced by Mark then Mathew referenced from that primitive source andMarks book and so on. However this theory proves itself wrong just as TheHypothesis of Primitive Gospel theory for the reason that there is no proof ofsuch primitive source in the precanonical literature. Berkhof states that itcan never be known which one of these theories are correct however it isimportant to know each one of them.

Berkhofargues that The Book of John comes forward among the synoptic. The gospel ofJohn has significant differences from the other synoptic books. The form andthe teaching of Jesus in The John’s gospel is rather different from the othergospels, furthermore the events in the book show variance.  As Berkhof examines thoroughly He is convincedthat the main purpose of John writing the book is to make people believe and besaved therefore John intentionally  chose the events that will make people believe. In order to this Heindicates the connections between Old Testament and New Testament.

Berkhofnext examines the four gospels individually. Berkhof focuses on the questions“Why the four books are essentially same” and “The differences between theGospels and their messages”(Berkof,p17).[4] Berkhof looks through the motivationsof the authors rather than trying to figure out what they meant. He examinesthe Books individually and gives significant details about the Books. The Bookof Matthew had written for the Jewish people, Berkhof divides The Book ofMatthew into the parts and discuses the topics one by one. The advent ofMessiah, the proclamation of messiah kingdom, the sacrifice of Messiah and Themessiah as the savior and the king are the topics that Berkhof examined in theBook of Mathew. Berkhof summarizes the structure of the book that Mathewfocuses on how Jesus fulfilled prophecies that Jewish were aware of for manyyears already.

Berkhofexamines the Book of Mark same as the Book of Mathew. He divides the BookMathew into parts as the advent o, the conflict, the claim, the sacrifice ofthe might worker and finally the Mighty Worker as the conqueror of death. TheBook of Mark has written to the Romans therefore the Book shows Christ as aMight Worker and how he overcome sin and defeated the evil.

Thebook of Luke is examined likewise as the other Books by Berkhof.  The Book of Luke is written to Greeks. Greekswere in the great need of hearing a Savior. He examines the book under parts,the advent of divine man, the work of divine man, the sacrifice for all mankindand the divine man “the savior of all nations”. Berkhof analyzes the authorshipand canonical significance of all three books throughout his examinations.

Berkhofmoves to the Book of John. Book of John is not considered as one of thesynoptic books therefore Berkhof examines the Book on its own merits. The bookof John is written far after the other three. The gospel of John focuses onincarnation of God through Jesus. Berkhof divides the book of John into partsand examines it under the topics followed; the advent and incarnation of theword, the incarnate word, incarnation of spiritual life, saving the worldthrough sacrificing Himself and incarnate word which has risen from the death.

Afterfinishing the Gospels, Berkhof moves to The Acts of the Apostles. The author ofthe Acts is not clear, however Berkhof argues that the acts is written by Lukebased on the structure and the usage of the word “we” in his writings. Berkhofindicates that the book is focused on mainly churches and their locations.Another feature of the Acts is that it is centered on Paul and Peter. Paul wasresponsible for the gentile churches while peter was responsible for Jewishchurches. Berkhof argues that the “we” word proves that the author wasaccompanied by people and Luke was among Paul’s companions.(Berhof, p63)[5]

Moreover Berkhof suggests that authorship canbe linked to Luke by the medical language used in the book, for the reason thatamong all the apostles Luke is the one who is known with his capabilities as aphysician. The Book of acts is written in two parts; the first part of Actsconsists of ascension of Jesus, the first church and the persecution of theApostles. Second part is consisting of journeys of Paul and his imprisonmentand his contributions of building the first church. The Book of Acts is mainlyfocused on the history of the ministry and how to use the knowledge that haslearnt from Gospels.

Berkhofsummarized the Epistles in general afterwards He examines the Epistlesindividually. Epistles are letters that written to either a person or people. Berkhoftraces the Epistles to the Old Testament when the letters were written by kingsand prophets. There are traces that the epistles are used during the RomanEmpire. However Berkhof emphasizes that there are differences of these epistlesfrom the ones which are in the Book of Acts (Berkhof p, 68)[6]. The epistles in the Bookof acts have different structure and a separate way of self expressing.

Berkhofstates that there is a connection with Paul and the use of epistles. Theepistles which are written by Paul were intended to be just the letters to churchesand friends of him. They were never meant to be published.  Paul used them to communicate with churchesand people. Berkhof suggests that the epistles of Paul are inspired by Holyspirit (Berkhof p:69)[7]; ‘But the Advocate, theHoly Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all thingsand will remind you of everything I have said to you’ (John 14:26).

MoreoverBerkhof states that there are several explicit statements in Epistles thattestifies apostles were aware of being the instrument of God’s Spirit. Berkhofsuggests that the epistles are the results of the overflowing of the fruits ofHoly Spirit.

Berkhofclassifies the twenty one epistles found in the New Testament into two parts asthe general epistles and the Pauline epistles. The Pauline epistles areauthored by paul addressed to gentiles.

Thesecond part is referred as General Epistles or Catholic Epistles. Theseepistles consist of seven epistles. Berkhof argues that the way that General epistlesare written shows differences than the epistles which are written by Paul,however there is harmony among them. After summarizing the epistles in generalBerkhof examines all twenty one epistles according to their characteristic,authorship and canonical significance.




Introductionto New Testament by Lois Berkhof is written almost a hundred year ago, Berkhofadapted a historical way writing rather than an academic approach. Berkhofdepicted Gospels as memoirs; he analyzed all Gospels one by one and broughtback to gather in order to create a full picture for his readers. When timeperiod considered that the book was written Berkhof tries to build afundamental understanding of Gospel, without a critical approach. Berkhofsimply summarizes and explains the authorship, history and the significance ofthe canonship in The New testament. He adapts a generalist point of view of thetwenty six texts of the testament.

Berkhof’sbook summarizes the basic truth of Christianity however the text is mainlyfocused on authorship and text by text review. Berkhof may done thisintentionally in order to keep text direct and allowing the students tocomprehend the New testament as a whole at one gaze. Within the reflective workof reading the testaments into each other, Berkhof suggests a reflection ofeach area that is quite beneficial to understand the true Jewish roots of theearly churches and how the early church leaders shaped the Canonship[8](Berkhof p,70).

Itis unique assumption that Jewish would be placed within the epistles.. This maynot have been the language that Berkhof used for it, but the work is a mystery thatlays out a strong theological understanding for the faith. It is an enigmatictext because of not understanding who the author truly is. Some linked it toPaul, but all we know for sure is that the identity of this author is mysteryto us.

Thebook of John is not among the Synoptic. John has written his Gospel far after the Other Gospels. At the timethat he had written his Book the other Gospels were known widely and weretaught by the first church. So why did John write his books. It is highlylikely that the purpose of the book the book is to remind people that Christwas more than a man and he had done things that can be done by no other man. Acritical approach to significant differences to the Gospel books at leastshould consist of this type of point of view, however the time that the bookwas written by Berkhof may not allow taking a path like this.

Same as the above exampleBerkhof argues that book of Mathew is written to the Jewish; following thisargument there should be evidence of it, such as what are the differences inthe different accounts of the Sermon on the Mount that are found in Mathew’s Bookas opposed to Luke’s Book or are they from different preaches altogether?

Berkhof’s book provides broad summary ofsynopsis of each book however he reflects his point of view at some parts,however the book by Berkhof definitely is lack of critical approach. Thisdeficiency should encourage the students to read and search more. When it istaken into account the fact that the book was written almost hundred years ago,this deficiency loses its significance. Furthermore another question rises inthe readers mind. What is the common point in today’s world and hundred years ago?The key point is why someone should read a book which consists of this muchhistorical introduction. The one must consider what is truly about Christ.

ThroughoutBerkhof’s Introduction to the New Testament this is what a readershould accept; those are not only the texts, but more importantly the livingBody of Christ in the world of today. We are diverse, we are different, weclaim different theories and ideas about who, what, where, when, why and howthese texts came to us. Yet that is not what matters at the heart, the truth ofthe matter is that the Holy Spirit lives within the church.





Introductionto New Testament by Berkhof presents clear basics about the New Testament. Thefacts form a solid foundation in order to have a better understanding of theNew Testament. The simplicity of the book allows reader to understand twentysix texts that had created the Christian Testament. The book by Berkhof is nota deeply study of Christian Testament it mostly consist of the baselineinformation in understanding in the writings of the New Testament. Berkhofdepiction is easy to understand and accept, there is not much to oppose; for Berkhofpresents a clear format with solid foundation of the New Testament.

Asan author Berkhof focused on writing a simple and a clear summary of the NewTestament without adapting new ideas he introduced and transmitted the NewTestament briefly to his readers, but the underlying motive all this efforts isthe inspiration of the Christ that reminds us that the very basic truth  that Jesus indwells us. (Col 1:27).



New Testament Survey

Dr. Daniel J. GRACE

[1]Berkhof,L. Introduction to the New Testament p:12

[2]Berkhof,L. Introduction to the New Testament p: 16


[4] Berkhof,L.Introduction to the New Testament p: 17

[5] Berkhof.Introduction to the New Testament p: 63

[6] Berkhof,L.Introduction to the New Testament p: 68

[7] Berkhof,L.Introduction to the New Testament p: 69

[8] Berkhof,L.Introduction to the New Testament p: 70

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