“You can often tell a book by its cover” is a modified adage we librarians have followed for decades. But it is apparently also true for artists, one of whom saw me with Ogden and Skinner’s book in hand. Her comment was, “That must be a fine book if it uses Caravaggio’s inspired painting Supper at Emmaus as the cover art.” Indeed, the scene, which depicts the Savior breaking bread with one of the Apostles, likewise beckons us to partake of the Bread of Life offered by the Apostles of the meridian of time.
Having taught an occasional New Testament class for the past twenty-five years, I have been acutely aware of student interest not only in the doctrines taught by Jesus Christ and the early Apostles but also in the cultural, historical, and linguistic milieu of the Gospels and Epistles. Unfortunately, the sources for this information have been so diversified and obscure that to use them in an undergraduate or Gospel Doctrine course would have required not only substantial additional time but also a scholarly discernment beyond that of most instructors. In New Testament Apostles Testify of Christ, Ogden and Skinner very nicely fill the need for a concise and readable commentary. The volume gathers appropriate photographs, maps, charts, diagrams, and commentary while describing the history and geography of the New Testament world.
The authors are well prepared to enlighten Latter-day Saints with this timely handbook. Both are professors of ancient scripture at BYU, and both have experienced long-term residence and teaching in the Holy Land, as well as extensive travel and study in the lands of the early Apostles—Turkey, Greece, and Italy. Their insights and information about early leaders and the ancient Saints are often very poignant and meaningful. Throughout the volume, the doctrines of the Restoration are discussed in context. Special minichapters are set aside for more lengthy discussions—baptism for the dead, the use of consecrated olive oil in priesthood blessings, gnosticism, and dealing with trials, suffering, and afflictions. Just as significantly, a voice of harmony between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon strengthens both these discussions and the chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse commentaries.
Other unexpected but delightful complements to the main commentary include a section describing over twenty cities mentioned in the New Testament. For example, a brief history and geographical setting are given for the city of Corinth, along with a description of major archaeological remains. Finally, several excellent appendices compare the seven churches of Revelation, provide a commentary on Armageddon, and explain very lucidly the ten doctrines of salvation, including justification and the Second Comforter.
This book gathers together the best gospel understanding from both secular and LDS scholarship, including the work of Sidney B. Sperry, Richard L. Anderson, and Bruce R. McConkie. The secular sources are well known and well respected by many LDS scholars and include the Muratorian Canon, early church fathers, Josephus, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, classical writers such as Strabo and Pliny the Elder, Ginzberg’s The Legends of the Jews, the Talmud, the Anchor Bible Dictionary, and writings by many eminent non-LDS scholars.
This volume is a milestone publication. It will be a valuable addition to the library of any gospel teacher or student who wishes for a deeper understanding of the ancient Apostles, their teachings, and the world in which they lived.