Baker Academic has a brand new website! Click Here To Visit:

The World of the New Testament

Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts

Cover Art Request Exam Copy

Where to Purchase

More Options


Two respected senior scholars have brought together a team of distinguished specialists to introduce the Jewish, Hellenistic, and Roman history and culture relevant for understanding the New Testament and the early church. The book includes seventy-five photographs, fifteen maps, numerous tables and charts, illustrations, and bibliographies. All students of the New Testament will value this reliable, up-to-date, comprehensive textbook and reference volume on the New Testament world.


  1. Introduction Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald
  2. New Testament Chronology Lee Martin McDonald Part 1: Setting the Context: Exile and the Jewish Heritage
  3. Exile Nicholas Perrin
  4. The Hasmoneans and the Hasmonean Era Larry R. Helyer
  5. The Herodian Dynasty Everett Ferguson
  6. Monotheism Nathan MacDonald
  7. The Scriptures and Scriptural Interpretation Lidija Novakovic Part 2: Setting the Context: Roman Hellenism
  8. Greek Religion Moyer V. Hubbard
  9. The Imperial Cult Nicholas Perrin
  10. Greco-Roman Philosophical Schools John T. Fitzgerald
  11. Civic and Voluntary Associations in the Greco-Roman World Michael S. Moore
  12. Economics, Taxes, and Tithes David J. Downs
  13. Slaves and Slavery in the Roman World S. Scott Bartchy
  14. Women, Children, and Families in the Greco-Roman World Lynn H. Cohick
  15. Education in the Greco-Roman World Ben Witherington III Part 3: The Jewish People in the Context of Roman Hellenism
  16. Temple and Priesthood David Instone-Brewer
  17. Jews and Samaritans Lidija Novakovic
  18. Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes Michelle Lee-Barnewall
  19. The Dead Sea Scrolls C. D. Elledge
  20. Prophetic Movements and Zealots James D. G. Dunn
  21. Apocalypticism Larry R. Helyer
  22. Synagogue and Sanhedrin Kenneth D. Litwak
  23. Jews in the Diaspora David A. deSilva
  24. Noncanonical Jewish Writings Daniel M. Gurtner
  25. Jewish Identity, Beliefs, and Practices Archie T. Wright
  26. Jewish Education Kent L. Yinger
  27. Healing and Healthcare Joel B. Green Part 4: The Literary Context of Early Christianity
  28. Reading, Writing, and Manuscripts E. Randolph Richards
  29. Pseudonymous Writings and the New Testament Lee Martin McDonald
  30. Literary Forms in the New Testament Thomas E. Phillips
  31. Homer and the New Testament Thomas E. Phillips
  32. Josephus and the New Testament Michael F. Bird
  33. Philo and the New Testament Torrey Seland
  34. Rabbinic Literature and the New Testament Bruce Chilton
  35. Early Canonical Christian Writings Nicholas Perrin Part 5: The Geographical Context of the New Testament
  36. Jesus Research and Archeology James H. Charlesworth
  37. Egypt John D. Wineland
  38. Palestine Thomas R. Hatina
  39. Syria, Cilicia, and Cyprus Mark Wilson
  40. The Province and Cities of Asia Paul Trebilco
  41. Galatia Mark Wilson
  42. Macedonia Gene L. Green
  43. Achaia Gene L. Green
  44. Rome and Its Provinces Thomas Hatina Additional Resources Money in the New Testament Era Lee Martin McDonald Measurements in the New Testament Era Lee Martin McDonald Glossary Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald Indexes


"Green and McDonald have designed a work composed of numerous topics essential for engaging the historical context of the New Testament and earliest Christianity, and they have assembled a good team of experienced and emergent scholars, who give concise and informed discussions of these topics. The result is a valuable volume, especially for students and general readers but also for scholars who want to catch up on any of the topics included."

Larry W. Hurtado, emeritus professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology and Honorary Professorial Fellow, New College, University of Edinburgh

"This excellent book contains a wealth of information concerning the various contexts (e.g., Jewish, Hellenistic, historical, geographical, literary, sociological) in which the New Testament emerged. Since a knowledge of these contexts is supremely important for the interpreter, a comprehensive yet detailed overview is very welcome indeed. Here is a handy reference volume, produced by leading scholars, that every serious interpreter will be glad to have."

Donald A. Hagner, George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"The depth and breadth of The World of the New Testament will make it a standard work for libraries and the bookshelves of both pastors and scholars across a wide range of traditions. Here, in one judiciously edited volume, readers will find ready access to information about Hellenistic philosophy, Jewish history, Jewish and Greco-Roman customs, and much more. The abundance of illustrations, maps, and diagrams brings the material to life. This will prove to be an invaluable resource for years to come."

Susan Eastman, associate professor of the practice of Bible and Christian formation director, Doctor of Theology program, Duke Divinity School

"A number of books illumine either ancient Judaism or the non-Jewish Greco-Roman world, but only a few competently address both. The World of the New Testament assembles many of today's most competent scholars on the ancient world to address in readable language key points for the entire range of ancient sources and history. If I were teaching a New Testament backgrounds course this semester, this is the textbook I would use."

Craig Keener, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary

"A community of the evangelical academy's best historians have gathered together to produce this fine collection of essays that will surely become a standard introduction to the world behind the New Testament. The various institutions, practices, groups, writings, and beliefs of both Second Temple Judaism(s) and Roman Hellenism are fluently and carefully covered, with notes and bibliographies added to extend each essay. The editors should be commended for guiding the production of a highly readable, useful volume. Not only will these studies break fresh ground for more advanced research, but together they construct a richly textured context that will produce a more wakeful study of the church's Scripture."

Robert W. Wall, The Paul T. Walls Professor of Scripture and Wesleyan Studies, Seattle Pacific University

The Authors

  1. Joel B. Green

    Joel B. Green

    Joel B. Green (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is provost, dean of the School of Theology, and professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including the...

    Continue reading about Joel B. Green

  2. Lee Martin McDonald

    Lee Martin McDonald

    Lee Martin McDonald (PhD, University of Edinburgh), before his retirement, was professor of New Testament studies and president of Acadia Divinity College. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including The Biblical Canon, and coeditor of...

    Continue reading about Lee Martin McDonald


"In this one volume, the reader is introduced to an overview of the historical, cultural, and literary contexts of the NT. The editors have assembled a formidable array of scholars. . . . Each chapter is brief and manageable, a significant accomplishment in light of the often formidable subjects. . . . The result is a good reference work."

Elaine A. Philips,

Bulletin for Biblical Research

"A newly published multi-author volume that I can recommend, perhaps especially to 'general' readers and students, who wish to have some reliable discussion of the setting of the NT. . . . The topics collectively give a pretty good review of topics that comprise the larger historical setting in question. . . . It's a lot packed into one volume. Each of the contributions has a generous bibliography for further reading (which will be especially useful for students who want to research for course essays)."

Larry Hurtado,

blog (

"[The book's] well-written essays provide an excellent resource for the historical and cultural background of the New Testament. . . . Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above; general readers."

D. Ingolfsland,


"This informative volume . . . comprises an extensive survey of historical and social contexts for NT students. . . . One strength of this collection concerns its attentiveness to current issues in the academic study of NT backgrounds, particularly those matters emphasized (often with some controversy) in the last decade or so. . . . Appropriately, both Jewish and Greco-Roman backgrounds are covered (almost in equal measure), which is especially significant in a time when NT scholars can tilt overly in one direction or the other. . . . I would indeed certainly recommend this text to students, scholars, and laity who wish to expand their burgeoning interest in NT historical and cultural contexts."

David W. Chapman,

Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin

"The World of the New Testament is a comprehensive resource for understanding the various contexts of the New Testament writings, especially for those who may be less familiar with the context of the New Testament. Particularly noteworthy is the breadth of subject matter covered and the annotated bibliography at the end of each essay. . . . A wide-ranging and helpful resource for a contextual approach to the New Testament."

Kathleen E. Mills,

Review of Biblical Literature

"This is an excellent resource that in general succeeds in its aim to provide information about the cultural, social, and political contexts of the New Testament. Though the perspective is intentionally and explicitly evangelical, the contributors present the complexity of their particular issues frankly and honestly."

John J. Pilch,

Review of Biblical Literature

"This is a welcome student resource and a beginning point for new avenues of exploration, as it attains its goal of fostering 'greater understanding of the NT world as well as open[ing] fresh opportunities for further research.'"

Richard S. Ascough,

Religious Studies Review

"In addition to the many essays, the volume also contains a number of photos, maps, diagrams, and a detailed set of indices. These features go a long way to making this volume more conducive to being a course text. The stated aim of this collection is to provide the reader with 'a more informed understanding of the context within which the events described in the NT would have taken place and within with the NT books themselves were written.' This goal is accomplished through the careful selection of essay topics and quality of contributing scholars. This book is targeted to students in both universities and seminaries, though it could still be of use to scholars who are seeking to refresh their memory of a particular topic. One of the most practical features in this regard is the annotated bibliography at the close of each chapter. This helps identify key works for the reader and gives direction for further research. Overall, The World of the New Testament would make a good textbook for any course that attempts to understand the New Testament in its wider Greco-Roman milieu."

Sean A. Adams,

Expository Times

"As someone well acquainted with study of the backgrounds of the New Testament and early Christian literature from diverse perspectives--Jewish, Greek, Roman, and other--I can say that this is one of the best collections of essays on the topic that I have encountered. . . . This collection is as good as it gets, and readers should find much to value in these pages, which are rich in detail and [written] for students and laypersons alike. Moreover, each entry includes an annotated bibliography that provides excellent direction for further research. The indices to the volume are stellar and will provide helpful guidance for readers. . . . The volume would be an ideal resource for an adult education class. It does not enforce particular readings of texts based on context, but rather pushes readers to think for themselves. More important, the volume helps readers grapple with the relationship of context to meaning when interpreting Scripture."

Todd Penner,


"This is a valuable and compact resource for understanding the multifaceted context of the New Testament writings. Led by two distinguished evangelical scholars, the volume includes essays by a variety of authors offering detailed and informative essays in five major areas. . . . Each essay provides a rich bibliography on the subject, increasing the value of this resource as a kind of mini-encyclopedia suitable as an excellent reference work for college and graduate courses."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"The multiple-author format allows for scholars to write specialized studies in their areas of expertise. . . . Further, the articles do a nice job of covering important topics that will enhance any NT student's understanding of the text. . . . This volume is manageable for anyone interested in the subject of a specific article. As individual contributions, one need read only the chapters of interest, and this strategy will not detract from a narrative that a single-author volume often has. All these positive characteristics suggest this work will make an excellent required text for a class or a volume of choice for independent study."

Joseph D. Fantin,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"A valuable volume that lays out the contexts that inform the New Testament. . . . Each essay is informative, well written, and easy to read. . . . This book would be an excellent book for use by pastors, teachers, and students. It provides significant access to up-to-date research on a wide variety of backgrounds relevant to the New Testament. In addition, each essay ends with an annotated bibliography that points readers towards significant resources for further research. Overall, this book is a significant contribution in the area of New Testament backgrounds and will be of value for many."

Ruth Anne Reese,

Asbury Journal

"Green and McDonald have compiled an excellent resource which provides an introduction to the background of the NT. . . . The book concludes with brief aids related to money and measurements in the NT era, a glossary, and four exhaustive indexes. Each of these resources positively increases the accessibility of the work. Each chapter . . . provides an introduction to a particular aspect of NT background, equipping the reader with essential information on that subject. Furthermore, the annotated bibliography that ends each chapter provides a valuable guide to additional resources, enabling those who wish to further build upon the foundation provided. . . . This work represents a valuable asset to an undergraduate or graduate classroom, where the text as a whole could be assigned as well as individual chapters depending on the topic of the course."

Joseph Mueller,

Stone-Campbell Journal

"Written to provide concise summaries on the various background issues of the New Testament, The World of the New Testament certainly fulfills its purpose. Editors Joel Green and Lee Martin McDonald, both highly respected in the field of New Testament studies, have assembled a reputable who's who of scholars for this volume. . . . This book makes a helpful contribution to the field of New Testament backgrounds. The annotated bibliographies at the end of each chapter alone are reason enough to purchase the book."

Trey Moss,

Southern Baptist Journal of Theology

"A one-stop introduction to every major aspect of the first-century world. . . . The book is an extremely efficient one-volume solution for those craving immersion in the original context of the Christian faith, and readers will come away with more clarity than confusion on New Testament backgrounds. . . . The book as a whole is a thoroughly enjoyable read. . . . There was never a question about resources for further study; annotated bibliographies are found at the end of each chapter. The authors were familiar enough with their research to provide helpful summaries about where the research/consensus is now. . . . The scholarship is robust, recent, and understandable. . . . I wholeheartedly desire that the 'consumption' of this publication will be as high as its demand, and that, as a result, churches and small groups scattered across the English-speaking world will encounter Jesus of Nazareth with greater intelligence."

Jamin Hübner,

Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

"Each essay is a self-contained primer on a subject. . . . This book is a welcome resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the world in which the New Testament was written."

Elliott Ritzema,

Bible Study Magazine

"The World of the New Testament certainly accomplishes its goal of accurately and fairly translating difficult but necessary topics for students and pastors alike. . . . The World of the New Testament comes highly recommended for pastors or professors of New Testament. . . . Professors who assign particular articles relevant to the lesson will help keep the lecture up-to-date for their students."

Sam Rogers,

Africanus Journal

"The breadth and scope of these essays will help the reader to appreciate the distinctive character of the New Testament world and to learn how understanding these differences can enhance or even unlock the message of the New Testament. . . . Green and McDonald have presented their material in a readable, modern format. . . . Pastors and students alike will benefit from reading this systematic introduction to New Testament backgrounds. . . . This volume can aid the process of studying the New Testament within its cultural, social, and historical backgrounds. For those who have already begun studying New Testament backgrounds, this volume will fill in the gaps in their knowledge and provide guidance for further research. Even those who have done significant study on the topic may benefit from an overview of current scholarship and new ways of looking at the ancient world. . . . An enjoyable, easy, and enlightening read that will benefit those who want a more accurate understanding of the New Testament."

Samuel R. Pelletier,

Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry

"A superb scholarly resource for students, professionals, and serious-minded lay readers seeking to better understand the context of New Testament writings, and the era in which they were created. A handful of black-and-white photographs, a list of additional resources, and an index round out this 'must-have' for public and college library Religious Studies shelves. Highly recommended!"

Midwest Book Review

"Green and McDonald have assembled a world class set of contributors--too many to name--to address topics in which they are proficient. . . . Each chapter provides new, relevant information. Newer students will appreciate the relative ease with which these chapters may be read, and the contributors are generally helpful by focusing on primary source evidence more than recent scholarly debates. . . . This work is exceptionally helpful for the beginning student in New Testament. . . . I would recommend this textbook for use in the classroom. . . . This work is probably one of the best of its kind now in print."

Todd Scacewater,

Mid-America Journal of Theology

"This volume is not only helpful for students, but for pastors or scholars who want a quick reference of primary sources in any certain area. This textbook would be useful in a New Testament classroom. The fifth section alone would be an enormous help to new students to become acquainted with the geography and history of various regions prominent in the New Testament. . . . The fourth section will help students to better understand how to read the New Testament as first-century literary products . . . while the first three sections provide necessary historical information for understanding the New Testament in its fullness. . . . I would highly recommend the use of this book personally or in the classroom."

Todd Scacewater,

Exegetical Tools Quarterly

"One of the key strengths of The World of the New Testament is how it provides an up-to-date analysis of the current issues involving New Testament research. . . . Green and McDonald's anthology represents what evangelicals are currently researching and writing about regarding the extensive context of the New Testament."

Joel L. Pless,

Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly

"This is a superb book. Coming in at over 600 pages, it covers the cultural, social, and historical context of the New Testament. Chapters are written by a battery of scholars and historians. The book covers geography, the literary context, the Jewish people in the Roman Hellenistic context, and more. I found it to be well written, understandable, and insightful."

Frank Viola,

Patheos blog

"An impressively informative textbook and reference volume on the New Testament world that is unreservedly recommended for community, seminary, college, and university library New Testament Studies collections in general, and supplemental studies lists in particular."

Midwest Book Review

"A local guide is the best resource for gaining intimate knowledge of a place; its mores, assumptions, beliefs, culture, social struggles, sacred objects, and literature. No one can tell you the story about your destination better than a person who has lived there. In The World of the New Testament this is precisely what you receive. More than 30 scholars--each of whom has spent decades studying their respective areas of expertise--lead you on a tour of the most decisive cultural influences that impacted the New Testament's authors. . . . A complete, comprehensive tour. Accompanied by extensive bibliographies and prepared by scholars who are both seasoned and distinguished, these vignette-essays are your personal guide into a broader and deeper journey of the New Testament world."

Matthew Miller,'s Academic Blog