Don't just sit on the back row of Sunday School and think that the New Testament biblical language and teachings can be a bit tough to digest. Everyone's understanding and needs of the scriptures are a bit different, too. Here are a variety of New Testament study helps that might even leave the back-row sitters without any excuses.
"NEW TESTAMENT WHO'S WHO," by Richard J. Allen, Covenant Communications, 2010, 221 pages, $29.99
The record of the Savior's mortal ministry of mercy and Atonement is sacred evidence of the scope and power of infinite love and redemption.
But who are the individuals who surround and appear after him in the New Testament?
"New Testament Who's Who," a hardcover listed at $29.99, is an encyclopedia-style book full of hundreds of entries about individuals prominent and little-known and the righteous and unrighteous. It also provides a description and the historical context and summary of the person's key contributions. The large volume includes a chronology of New Testament events and more than 80 color illustrations, mostly art pieces familiar to a Latter-day Saint audience.
Author Richard J. Allen hopes this information will enhance a reader's study of the scriptures.
"The approach used in this volume is to place central emphasis on the scriptural account itself," Allen writes. "Some historical, linguistic and cultural elements are included, but the prevailing compass to navigate through the landscape presented in this volume … is the word of God."
Allen has authored or co-authored more than 20 books, including similar texts for the Old Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of Mormon. He served on the faculty of BYU and Johns Hopkins University.
— Trent Toone
"UNLOCKING THE NEW TESTAMENT, A SIDE-BY-SIDE COMMENTARY," by Richard J. Allen, Covenant Communications, 2010, 404 pages, $27.99
In time for the beginning of the 2011 LDS Sunday School schedule, Richard J. Allen's book "Unlocking the New Testament, A Side-By-Side Commentary" has been released by Covenant Communications.
Each page of the soft-cover, side-by-side commentary is organized into two columns. The left column contains the actual text of the New Testament without chapter headings or footnotes. The right column on each page contains commentary that corresponds with the New Testament text to its left.
"This comprehensive, accessible and easy-to-use commentary," Allen writes, "will bring you new insights as it enriches your study of the Savior and his apostles. Whether you're a beginning or advanced student of the scriptures, using a powerful study tool will deepen your understanding of the sacred text of the New Testament."
In addition, the book has boxes that provide background information on people found in the New Testament.
— Trent Toone
"THE GOSPELS IN HARMONY," by Patrick A. Bishop, Covenant Communications, 2010, 213 pages, $24.99
"The Gospels in Harmony" is a richly illustrated, easily accessible study aid for the examination of the New Testament.
It was compiled by Patrick A. Bishop, who is a contributor to Volume 1 of The Joseph Smith Papers, an early-morning seminary teacher and the coordinator for seminaries and institutes for northeast Wyoming. The book reflects thought and inspiration. The text is color-coded with the writings of Matthew in black, Mark in green, Luke in blue and John in red. Additions from the Joseph Smith Translation are underlined in the matching colors.
Scriptural cross-references accompany each story and event. Small footnotes explain various words and text differences. The layout is simple, clean and easy to read as the story moves from subtitle to subtitle, almost as if it were intended to be a children's book, but it's obvious a good deal of attention has been paid to scholarship and presentation.
Here is something the family could use during family home evening, as well as in teaching. It would also make a nice addition to the family gospel reference library.
The pictures from artists including Liz Lemon Swindle, Simon Dewey, Greg Olsen, Cliff Dunston, Joseph F. Brickey and Carl Bloch are worth the price by themselves.
— Sharon Haddock
"THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT IN LATTER-DAY SCRIPTURE," edited by Gaye Strathearn, Thomas A. Wayment and Daniel L. Belnap, Deseret Book, 352 pages, $31.99
Possibly the most famous sermon ever given is thoroughly analyzed in this years compilation of the 39th annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium. Focusing on the Sermon on the Mount, nearly 20 LDS scholars came together at the 2010 Sperry Symposium to share their own insights concerning the words, history and effects of Christ's most notable teachings.
Daniel K. Judd begins the series of lectures by exploring one of the most debated passages of The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:39. This is not simply an exploration of the author's intent, but instead an investigation into what evil really is and what our relationship should then be with it.
Additional contributors such as Amy B. Hardison and Jared W. Ludlow pull from sources as diverse as traditional LDS scriptures like the Book of Mormon to writings from the American founding fathers and ancient Greek and Hebrew texts to illustrate passage context and modern-day application of the ideas within the text.
This is definitely not light reading for a lazy afternoon, but as the 2011 LDS curriculum shifts toward the New Testament, "The Sermon on the Mount in Latter-day Scripture" offers a valuable tool for teachers and serious students.
— Travis Poppleton
"400 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS CHRIST," Susan Easton Black. Covenant Communications, 2010, 229 pages, $17.99
For those seeking to understand the traditions and customs of ancient Jerusalem, "400 Questions and Answers About the Life and Times of Jesus Christ" is a valuable resource. It provides intimate details about the life of Jesus Christ and provides readers with a deeper understanding of why Christ taught the way he did.
The book is structured in a basic question-and-answer format and includes photos, artwork and scriptures to further illustrate the characteristics of Jesus Christ. It begins by outlining the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ and then describes his birth, ministry, death and resurrection.
Susan Easton Black is a master storyteller, and her details allow readers to visualize Christ in their minds. They are able to see him performing miracles and teaching the multitudes.
Perhaps the most significant section in the book is titled "He is Risen!" and discusses the events after Christ's death. Black explains what happened to his body and the first person to see him at the garden tomb. It places special emphasis on Christ's atoning sacrifice and his love for the people around him.
This book is beneficial for teachers and students as the passages illuminate New Testament politics, cultures and geography.
— Shelby Scoffield
"MAKING SENSE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT: TIMELY INSIGHTS AND TIMELESS MESSAGES," by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Thomas A. Wayment, Deseret Book, 2010, 582 pages, $34.99
"Making Sense of the New Testament" is thorough but simple — a convenient reference for studying New Testament.
Gospel scholars Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, who has a Ph.D. in ancient history, and Thomas Arvel Wayment, who holds a doctorate degree in New Testament studies, have broken down key sections of scripture into digestible summaries. "Making Sense" is easily referenced, with abundant chapter headings, a glossary of terms and a convenient presentation of the Four Gospels.
The authors summarize the events of each section in a simple narrative while enhancing the text with historical background and context. Sections vary from a handful of verses to almost an entire chapter, and key words are detailed in a glossary and presented in bold face throughout the book. The insights are scholarly, yet simple.
The authors chose to present the Four Gospels together in a concurrent format, allowing readers to compare accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The stories are even mapped out in an easily referenced chart in the book's appendix.
For example, the three accounts of the woman being healed by touching Jesus' garment are brought together into one section that details the unique aspects of each account. The authors tell us that "Matthew significantly edits the material to only 72 words in English. This is another example in which Matthew is looking for space to include his unique material (such as the Sermon on the Mount)."
— Aaron Shill
"THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF NEW TESTAMENT APOSTLES: FROM THE DAY OF PENTECOST THROUGH THE APOCALYPSES," edited by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Thomas A. Wayment, Deseret Book, 2010, 342 pages, $34.99
A collection of essays in "The Life and Teachings of the New Testament Apostles from the Day of Pentecost through the Apocalypse," focuses on several gospel questions, including "How did the church function after Jesus' ascension?" "How did Jesus' family shape the church during the first three decades after his death?" "Were Christ's apostles aware of the upcoming apostasy?" These essays aim to provide answers through teachings from Christ's ancient apostles found in the New Testament.
All 14 essays edited by BYU professors Richard Neitzel Holzapfel (currently serving as an LDS mission president in Alabama) and Thomas A. Wayment include the research and scholarship of eight of their colleagues from Brigham Young University and Brigham Young University-Hawaii and help explore the world of the ancient Roman Empire to offer some context to the ancient apostles' writings after the Resurrection.
This 342-page book is also a companion to the three-volume series of "The Life and Teachings of the New Testament Apostles."
— Christine Rappleye
"I WILL FOLLOW THEE: DAILY INSPIRATION FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT," by Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, Covenant Communications, 2006, 439 pages, $11.99
Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen's New Testament anthology, "I Will Follow Thee: Daily Inspiration From the New Testament," is a profound way to enrich New Testament scripture study in the coming year.
The book features verses with counsel from leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are 365 daily inspirational passages to uplift and encourage readers. Readers will be able to delve deeper into New Testament stories and apply them to daily life one day at a time. The book is a wonderful resource to deepen faith and testimony of the stories of Jesus and the apostles, combined with modern-day inspirations.
The book is also cross-referenced with other LDS standard works. Topics are indexed for quick reference and spiritual insight. Each day's scriptures are accompanied by purposefully chosen quotes and messages for encouragement and spirituality.
The anthology will be a welcome companion for Sunday School lessons and personal study for years to come.
— Emily Hadfield
"SCRIPTURE STUDY FOR LATTER-DAY FAMILIES: THE NEW TESTAMENT," by Dennis H. Leavitt and Richard O. Christensen, Deseret Book, 2006, 341 pages, $19.95
With variations in age, level of understanding and attention span, family scripture study can prove to be difficult.
"Scripture Study for Latter-day Saint Families: The New Testament," seeks to overcome these challenges by providing methods to help families study the scriptures. These techniques encourage families to do more than merely read the scriptures, they facilitate faith-promoting discussion.
The guide goes through the New Testament book by book and begins with an introduction offering background information on each one. It is further divided into sections devoted to every chapter from Matthew 1 to Revelation 22.
Direct reading from the scriptures, hands-on activities, stories and plenty of open-ended questions vary the pace, keeping young children attentive and allowing everyone to actively participate in family scripture study.
Use of definitions, footnotes and familiar phrases and songs further breaks down the scriptures into basic concepts that are more easily understood at any competence level.
Each section suggests activities, most of which require preparation beforehand, though, with some being more time consuming than others.
While the book by no means addresses each verse individually, it does encourage families to be immersed in the scriptures while using the guide by marking verses and taking notes.
— Whitney Butters
"JESUS CHRIST AND THE WORLD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT," by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Eric D. Huntsman and Thomas A. Wayment, Deseret Book, 2006, 319 pages, $39.95
Filled with photos, maps, charts, timelines and drawings, "Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament" explores the lands where the books in the New Testament were written. Three BYU professors, Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Eric D. Huntsman and Thomas A. Wayment, help put each book in the New Testament into context through giving historical information about each author, laws, customs, cultures and places and hundreds of other topics.
Smaller "detail" boxes address explanations of things like what "upper rooms" were, leprosy and various Jewish festivals, the legends around "the eye of a needle" and if Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day.
The authors also show how the New Testament writers testify of Jesus Christ and how the New Testament was compiled. They also delve into the Joseph Smith translations of the book along with the LDS edition of the Bible.
The trio of authors clearly show their knowledge and research in a way that is easily understood to both the longtime pupil of the Bible and to the beginner and it helps make the book an appealing read to any person wanting to go more in-depth to find the story behind these scriptures.
— Christine Rappleye