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Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies

A Guide to the Background Literature

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One of the daunting challenges facing the New Testament interpreter is achieving familiarity with the immense corpus of related literatures. Scholars and students alike must have a fundamental understanding of the content, provenance, and utility for New Testament interpretation of a wide range of pagan, Jewish, and diversely Christian documents.

Ancient Texts for the Study of the New Testament provides descriptions of all ancient literature that is relevant for serious study of the New Testament writings. Readers can quickly survey the literature clustered under various headings (such as the Apocrypha, Dead Sea Scrolls, or early Rabbinic literature), easily access brief definitions and descriptions, and then consider examples of how the literature sheds light on the background and interpretation of specific passages in the New Testament. There are several helpful appendices, including one that lists, beginning with Matthew and ending with Revelation, potentially significant parallels between New Testament passages and the ancient writings treated in the book.

This thoroughly revised and significantly expanded edition of Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation examines a vast range of ancient literature, masterfully distilling details of date, language, text, and translation into an eminently usable handbook. Craig Evans evaluates the materials’ relevance for interpreting the New Testament and provides essential biographies. Although the book is written at an introductory level, its comprehensive scope makes it useful even for the seasoned scholar.

Introduction 1. The Old Testament Apocrypha 2. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha 3. The Dead Sea Scrolls 4. Versions of the Old Testament 5. Philo and Josephus 6. The Targums 7. Rabbinic Literature 8. The New Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha 9. Early Church Fathers 10. Gnostic Writings 11. Other Writings 12. Examples of New Testament Exegesis Appendixes 1. Canons of Scripture that Include the Apocrypha 2. Quotations, Allusions, and Parallels to the New Testament 3. Parallels between New Testament Gospels and Pseudepigraphal Gospels 4. Jesus’ Parables and the Parables of the Rabbis 5. Jesus and Jewish Miracle Stories 6. Messianic Claimants of the First and Second Centuries Indexes


"Evans's introduction is more than a map to terra incognita; it is a helpful companion for all who study Judaism and Christianity before the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire."

James H. Charlesworth, George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Princeton Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. Craig A. Evans

    Craig A. Evans

    Craig A. Evans (PhD, Claremont Graduate University) is John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas. He previously taught at Acadia Divinity College. He is a frequent contributor to scholarly...

    Continue reading about Craig A. Evans


"Many doctoral students would have loved to have this reference work on their desks during graduate studies. All of the standard exegetical questions (date, provenance, author, historical situation) are answered in a few enlightened sentences. . . . The bibliographies are classified to aid students at various levels of research. . . . Evans's book is a success, providing vast amounts of information in a minuscule space with extensive leads for further study. His choice of bibliography to continue research is lean and pointed. The very scope of his introduction to Israelite and rabbinic literature make this book worthy of a place on any shelf."

Jerome H. Neyrey,

Review of Biblical Literature

"As someone who has worked in a great number of fields cognate to New Testament studies, Craig Evans is eminently qualified to produce a guide to these various adjacent areas. . . . [He] has clearly done an excellent job of covering a vast amount of material. Each work or corpus is introduced succinctly and clearly and is accompanied by bibliographies of editions, translations, and well-chosen secondary literature. . . . This very comprehensive and clearly written book . . . will be extremely useful to a large number of students and scholars."

Simon Gathercole,

Journal of Theological Studies

"This volume encompasses an amazing amount of material and successfully orients readers to the texts under consideration. It is a major revision and expansion of the author's earlier volume Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation. . . . Even for those that possess the earlier edition this revised form is worth purchasing for the up-to-date bibliographical references, yet it also provides a more comprehensive coverage of texts. This is an important reference work that should become a standard volume in libraries and on the shelves of scholars and students alike."

Paul Foster,

Expository Times

"Here the serious New Testament student and scholar will find helpful information on the whole range of noncanonical texts pertinent to biblical interpretation--from the Old and New Testament Apocrypha to Qumran to early Rabbinic and Greco-Roman materials. The author identifies and briefly describes these various texts, weighs their significance, and provides leads to further bibliography about them. A series of fine appendices and indexes also aids the reader in locating texts that may be related to specific verses of the New Testament materials. A valuable resource for biblical research."

The Bible Today

"Indispensable for libraries, lay readers, and New Testament readers with all levels of academic training. . . . This book is most certainly worth having."

Biblical Theology Bulletin

"Writing for a nonspecialist audience, Evans sets out to produce an easily accessible introduction to the background literature relevant for the study of the NT. . . . Evans has presented a wealth of information in an organized and accessible way, and he has succeeded admirably in his stated goal. This volume will serve beginning students of the NT as a point of entry into the vast body of material relevant for exegesis. Evans should be commended for the enormous task of assembling and organizing this disparate material in a clear and sensible way. . . . Evans has produced a thorough listing of the important material, including inscriptions, coins, and ostraca. It is beyond the capacity of even the most sophisticated scholar to be versed thoroughly in all aspects of this literature, but it is essential that all serious students of the NT have a general facility with most of them and develop an expertise in some of them."

Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"Written for scholars and students and paying close attention to their needs, and especially strong on Targums and rabbinical literature, this work can be recommended as a general resource for NT scholarship."

International Review of Biblical Studies

"Students and serious scholars alike will continue to find in [Evans's book] a quick and convenient way to identify and introduce unfamiliar references while the biographies will point the way to more in-depth study."

Toronto Journal of Theology

"A book that deserves wider notice, especially by those aspiring to do advanced work in NT studies. . . . As Evans notes in the opening sentences of the introduction, one of the principal demands that must be engaged in NT studies is 'becoming familiar with the myriad of cognate literatures.' This book, however, will be a help. Within a modest compass, it lists and gives brief introductions to a wide spectrum of evidence useful in reading the NT writings in their historical context. . . . In addition to the introductory comments, there are also bibliographies of editions and scholarly works on the texts in question. It's a useful tool to have on one's shelf, and a guide to what advanced students in NT need to know about. Kudos to Evans for producing it!"

Larry Hurtado,

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"Written at a level accessible to students, Ancient Texts should also be useful to veteran scholars who require (as most of us do!) occasional reorientation and re-introduction to less familiar areas of ancient literary study; librarians may want to keep a few copies on hand as well, for their own use and to offer as a research aid. . . . Evans's commentary is a cogent supplement to his selection of primary sources. . . . [Readers] will value his book as much more than a simple reference text."--Matthew Forrest Lowe, Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

Matthew Forrest Lowe,

Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

"This is a superb text for beginning students making their first foray into the jungle of ancient sources as well as for more experienced scholars already familiar with many of the paths. This book will find much use by those interested in including the ancient sources in their study and research. Some will for the first time discover how to connect the wealth of background material now available to the exegetical process."

Restoration Quarterly

"This book can be a significant time-saver for anyone who does research in New Testament and/or reads the better commentaries. It is a quick reference to help track down important references."

Bibliotheca Sacra

"Evans's volume is an extremely valuable reference work. While other volumes may offer more detailed introductions to a smaller corpus of literature . . . none are more extensive in their coverage of the major literature cognate to the NT. Frankly, every NT student and scholar should own and use this volume."

Stone-Campbell Journal

"Hundreds of historical documents and sources are at our disposal today to help us study and understand Bible words and backgrounds. In Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies, Craig A. Evans has pulled together the essential information from this vast literature. Evans provides a brief description of each source and discusses its importance and value for Bible study. Hundreds of texts, writings, and documents are included and summarized in this work saving the Bible student precious time. . . . Each section of material concludes with a bibliography listing all the works and where they may be found in print today. Several appendices are located in the back of this book including a very helpful appendix on the quotations, allusions, and parallels to the New Testament. . . . Highly recommended for anyone seeking to do serious Bible background study."

Truth Magazine

"[Evans] explains the background, importance, and relevance to New Testament studies of the various writings treated, instead of assuming that readers have prior knowledge of them. Yet he does not become distracted in the mass of painstaking detail about these writings but constantly demonstrates how each can contribute to New Testament studies. . . . This book will prove an invaluable reference tool to the beginner, even the advanced layperson, because of its many explanations and comments on the various individual writings and categories of writings, and Evans's explaining and elucidating the meanings of terms at the beginning of each discussion, even those familiar to long-time students in the field. . . . The bibliographies, both on the genre in general and on specific writings within it, provide an invaluable finding-guide for readers at any stage to pursue their study."


"Evans, a highly credible scholar, has put together an important reference book that will become a standard volume in the libraries of scholars and students alike. . . .This is a most valuable asset in the library of the every serious exegete."

Andrews University Seminary Studies

"A helpful tool for the beginning student looking to learn more about certain ancient sources, as well as for the experienced scholar looking to locate key bibliographical references."

"[This] work by Professor Craig A. Evans is both impressive and overwhelming. Impressive, in that is presents as succinctly as possible a full spectrum of the literature related to and loosely contemporary with the New Testament, a massive body of writings with which the prospective student in the field should be more than merely familiar. Overwhelming, in as much as it confirms that the study of the NT, as understood and practiced today, is not for the faint of heart: it demands the breadth of knowledge of an encyclopedist, well versed in the literature, history, background thought, and culture of the times that cradled the writings of the emerging NT canon. The volume is designed as 'an introduction to the diverse bodies of literatures that are in various ways cognate to biblical literature, especially to the New Testament.' It must be said at the outset that one could hardly find a more qualified author for such an endeavor than Professor Evans, a trademark name in NT and cognate studies. He backs this survey of the literary background of the NT with an erudition proven through the publication of numerous volumes in most, if not all, the fields covered in this book."

Midwestern Journal of Theology