Reply concerning Barr's textbook

From: Edward Hobbs (
Date: Fri Feb 09 1996 - 15:37:05 EST

From: LUCY::EHOBBS "Edward Hobbs" 9-FEB-1996 15:29:20.29
To: IN%""
Subj: RE: Barr's _NT Story: An Introduction_

<<I would be interested in knowing if anyone on the list has used David
Barr's _New Testament Story: An Introduction_ (Wadsworth Pub. Co., c1995)
as a text for an undergraduate course in NT.

<<Did you find that the text presents the subject in a helpful way? How did
students respond to the book and its approach?
<<Alan D. Bulley
Faculty of Theology/Faculte de theologie |
Saint Paul University/Universite St-Paul |
Ottawa, Canada

Dear Alan, and anyone else on the List teaching NT Intro:

        I have used David Barr's text since it came out, both first edition
and (one semester only) the second (revised) edition. (I'm on sabbatical
this year, and am not teaching at all._) I have been teaching New
Testament full-time since 1952 (in university, divinity schools, graduate
school, and [for 15 years] in Ivy-League college(s). I have tried MANY
textbooks over these years, and my name is in the prefaces to some as
having helped in their revision.
        My judgment is that this is the BEST on the market today. As David
Barr well knows, I disagree with many things he says in it (i complain via
e-mail every time I encounter problems for me); but he is the fairest, most
even-handed author in the field I have encountered. (Only the book I wrote
myself would satisfy me, and I suspect that would be true for most of you.
But we have to settle for someone else's book, don't we?)
        The students love it. Where there are real differences among
scholars, he presents the arguments on each side, and then sometimes
suggests where a majority come down. My own preference would be for an
introduction attuned to the main lines of the more critical scholarship,
what some of you might call "liberal" scholarship; but he is fair to all
positions, and I can say in class that my own preference is for position
"X" rather than "Y". But since I prefer to have students know what the
field looks like, rather than know my opinions, I find his book very much
to my own teaching style.
        (Example of the above: I am one of those who doubt the existence
of "Q" except in the loosest "oral" sense [which is not what is meant by
"Q" usually], but hold to the priority of Mark. But I present the various
positions, state what I believe to to be the rough proportions of working
Gospel-scholars who hold to each position, make clear I am in a minority,
THEN assign a paper where they are to assume the Q-hypothesis, since that
is the majority view.)
        Barr fits very well into all this. The cover picture on the new
edition is a bit tacky in my opinion (like an old family Bible!); but they
didn't ask me to choose the cover. (Nor, I believe, did they ask David
        I have never met David Barr, though I would like to; so this isn't
trying to favor a friend. I think this is simply the best of a difficult
selection; nothing else, however, is even near it today, m.E. (that's
German for IMHO, or, in old-fashioned English, "as I see things").

Edward Hobbs
Wellesley College

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