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Robert E. Van Voorst

Robert E. Van Voorst (born 5 June 1952) is an American theologian and educator.

He retired in 2018 as a Professor of New Testament Studies at Western Theological Seminary, in Holland, Michigan, and has published scholarly works in early Christian writings and New Testament Greek. He received his B.A. in Religion from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, his M.Div. from Western Theological Seminary, and his Ph.D. in New Testament from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He has served at Lycoming College (Methodist) in Williamsport, PA, and was a visiting professor at Westminster College, Oxford, England. He has lectured to PhD students in Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, on methods in biblical study.

Van Voorst has also served as a supply pastor at various PC (USA) churches in north-central Pennsylvania, and for twelve years as pastor at Rochester Reformed Church, New York.[1][2]


Jesus Outside the New Testament

In Jesus Outside the New Testament (2000), Van Voorst starts by outlining the history of research into extra-Biblical sources for the historical Jesus and its relation to the hypothesis that Jesus did not exist, which he notes is generally rejected by modern scholars. He goes on to consider references to Jesus in classical writings, Jewish writings, hypothetical sources of the canonical Gospels, and extant Christian writings outside the New Testament. The book includes translations of key passages discussed, including the entire Gospel of Thomas. Van Voorst concludes that non-Christian sources provide "a small but certain corroboration of certain New Testament historical traditions on the family background, time of life, ministry, and death of Jesus", as well as "evidence of the content of Christian preaching that is independent of the New Testament", while extra-biblical Christian sources give access to "some important information about the earliest traditions on Jesus". However, New Testament sources remain central for "both the main lines and the details about Jesus' life and teaching".[3]

Allen Kerkeslager called the book a "marvelous achievement" and commended its clear organization. He criticised Van Voorst for using divergences from the canonical Gospels as evidence against the historical value of the New Testament apocrypha, but noted that the author usually offered additional grounds for his conclusions.[4] Darrell L. Bock called the book "an excellent up-to-date survey", "careful and thorough".[5] Helen E. Bond considered Van Voorst's treatment of the New Testament apocrypha particularly strong,[6] while Curt Niccum found his book generally useful but least good on Jewish literature.[7] G. Van Belle criticised Van Voorst's assignment of John 20:20-20:21 to the Signs Gospel against the verdict of two authors cited in the book.[8]

Van Voorst's attitude towards the New Testament provoked divergent judgments. Thomas O'Loughlin, while concluding that the book was up-to-date and generally balanced, thought that an apologetic agenda had led Van Voorst to place the New Testament "almost outside of history" and to simplistically classify non-canonical Christian texts as "gnostic".[9] On the other hand, some reviewers in Evangelical journals criticised what they saw as an over-skeptical attitude towards the New Testament,[10][11] in one case recommending works by F. F. Bruce and Gary Habermas as superior in this respect.[11]


  • Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (2000) ISBN 978-0-8028-4368-5
  • Anthology of World Scriptures (ninth edition, 2018)
  • Reading the New Testament Today (2004)
  • Building Your New Testament Greek Vocabulary (Resources for Biblical Study) (third edition, 2001)
  • Readings in Christianity (3rd Edition) (2005)
  • Anthology of Asian Scriptures (2000)
  • The Death Of Jesus In Early Christianity with John T. Carroll, Joel B. Green, and Joel Marcus. (1995)
  • The Ascents of James: History and Theology of a Jewish-Christian Community (Dissertation Series * (Society of Biblical Literature)) (1989)
  • "RELG: World" (4th edition, 2019)
  • Commonly Misunderstood Verses in the Bible: What They Really Mean (2017)


  1. ^ "Robert E. Van Voorst". Western Theological Seminary. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
  2. ^ "Pastor's Bible Study: Volume Three: Meet the Contributors". The New Interpreter's Bible. Archived from the original on 2008-06-05. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
  3. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. p. 217. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9.
  4. ^ Allen Kerkeslager (April 16, 2001). "Review of Jesus Outside the New Testament" (PDF). Review of Biblical Literature. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
  5. ^ Darrell L. Bock (July–September 2001). "Review of Jesus Outside the New Testament". Bibliotheca Sacra. 158 (631): 381.
  6. ^ Helen K. Bond (April 2001). "Jesus: Evidence and Significance". Expository Times. 112 (7): 238–239. doi:10.1177/001452460111200710.
  7. ^ Curt Niccum (2004). "Review of Jesus Outside the New Testament". Restoration Quarterly. 46 (2): 120–122.
  8. ^ G. Van Belle (December 2000). "Review of Jesus Outside the New Testament". Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses. 66 (4): 503–504.
  9. ^ Thomas O'Loughlin (January 2001). "Review of Jesus Outside the New Testament". Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 63 (1): 163–164.
  10. ^ John Goertzen (December 2001). "Review of Jesus Outside the New Testament". Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 44 (4): 731–732.
  11. ^ a b William Varner (Fall 2000). "Review of Jesus Outside the New Testament". Master's Seminary Journal. 11 (2): 270–272.

Further reading

  • Houlden, James Leslie. 2003. Jesus in history, thought, and culture: an encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio. p 660. Discusses Jesus Outside the New Testament.
  • Kelley, Nicole. 2006. Knowledge and religious authority in the Pseudo-Clementines: situating the Recognitions in fourth-century Syria. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 213. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. p 4. Discusses The Ascents of James.
  • McClymond, Michael James. 2004. Familiar stranger: an introduction to Jesus of Nazareth.Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. Discusses Jesus Outside the New Testament.
  • Painter, John. 1999. Just James: the brother of Jesus in history and tradition. Studies on personalities of the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. pp 194–98. Discusses The Ascents of James.

External links