There’s nothing like holding an old book in your hands. You don’t even need to be a bibliophile to experience that special kind of feeling you get when hold a book that might be 50, 75 or even a hundred years old. If the book could talk, imagine the stories it could tell. Was it some young, wide-eyed student’s college text? Did it spend decades in the personal library of some distinguished and learned person? Or did it languish for years in some antiquarian bookstore?
Like I mentioned in an early post, over the years I’ve acquired several old books at book sales hosted by the small religious college down the road from me. One of those books happens to be Adam W. Miller’s An Introduction to the New Testament. Originally published in 1943, mine is a second edition printed in 1946. Its pages are well-worn but nevertheless thick and sturdy and thus feeling fully capable of surviving another 70 years. Since its loaded with passage underlines and peppered with notes, it looks to have once belonged a student. How it ultimately ended up at the college book sale after so many decades is anyone’s guess.
As its title would lead us to believe, Miller’s book is an introduction to the New Testament. According to its front page, at the time Miller was the Professor of New Testament at Anderson College and Seminary in Anderson, Indiana. (He must have been great guy because it looks like the college named its chapel in honor of him.) From what I can tell, Miller was a devout Christian of the biblically conservative persuasion and probably a member of, or affiliated in some way with of the Church of God denomination. Understandably he takes a more traditionalist approach to biblical scholarship. While he’s confident in his belief those scriptures are the product of divine inspiration, and even though he might disagree with more liberal scholars who are skeptical of the Bible’s divine origins – stressing instead how it was decidedly shaped over time by human hands – nevertheless Anderson is respectful of their scholarly views. To his credit Anderson shows you can disagree without being dismissive.
In what might be a surprise to some, or even many of you, I had fun reading Miller’s book. I found it introductory enough to serve as a nice review of stuff I’d covered years ago in my Intro to World Religions class or came across in my personal reading in the years since graduation. But introductory or not, I came away from Miller’s book with a deeper understanding of the Christian New Testament and learned more than a few things. (For one, I didn’t know even some conservative biblical scholars suspect one or two of the Pauline Epistles might have been cobbled together from multiple letters.)
I have a number of books like Miller’s in my personal library and after reading his Introduction the New Testament I’m inspired to start reading them. While I’m certainly not a man of faith, for years I’ve had a strong interest in comparative religion, especially the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Plus, after reading Tara Isabella Burton’s compelling piece in The Atlantic “Study Theology, Even If You Don’t Believe in God” on the undervalued importance of theological studies I’m hoping in the future you’ll see more books like this one featured on my blog.