Many decades ago I had the privilege of studying at the University of Chicago with the late, great, Norman Perrin. I have many memories of Mr. Perrin, some personal, that I have shared previously on my blog, see “Remembering Norman Perrin.” One of his most distinguished students, Werner H. Kelber, also wrote a wonderful tribute in The Journal of Religion titled “The Work of Norman Perrin: An Intellectual Pilgrimage,” (Vol. 64, no. 4 (1984): 452-67), which I highly recommend.
I took several advanced courses from Mr. Perrin and he was part of my examination committee for the M.A. and Ph.D., but by far the most enjoyable course was “A Reading Course in New Testament Texts,” in the autumn of 1974. We used his newly published introduction to The New Testament, which I still have. I used the second edition of this work for many years teaching New Testament at the University of Notre Dame and the College of William and Mary. Over the years it has been faithfully updated and revised by Perrin’s student Dennis Duling, whose name it now carries, see the 1994 edition here. Since being at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte I have elected not to use a textbook in my basic RELS 2105: Christian Origins course, only primary texts, but I still consider Perrin/Duling to be one of the best. It is out of print but used and even new copies are available and I highly recommend.
Anyway, one of the main readings I have retained from that pioneering work by Perrin and Duling, was taken from the introductory essay on the “World of the New Testament” written by Duling after Perrin’s death. I have never found anything better and have required it for all my Christian Origins students, undergraduate and graduate, for over 30 years now teaching at UNC Charlotte. You can read a version of that masterful piece, split into two parts and slight adapted and revised by me, with permission of Dennis Duling here: The Roman World of Jesus: An Overview and The Jewish World of Jesus: An Overview. This is for your reading only and is not to be printed or reposted elsewhere. I wish you happy learning. It is brilliantly written and I know of nothing better.