Twenty-three writers--most, but not all of them, Christian; some, but not most of them, famous--on the 28 books of the New Testament. Predictably, editor Corn (All Roads at Once, 1975) saves the big five (the four Gospels and Revelation) for his best-known names. John Updike opens with a learned appraisal of Matthew, concluding that this Gospel taught him to ""Live your life. Live it as if there is a blessing on it."" Mary Gordon muses over specific images in Mark: Jesus raising the dead, Jesus cursing the fig tree. Annie Dillard, after slathering Luke with overblown prose, settles down to memories of Bible school. Reynolds Price, in by far the best essay here, asserts that the Gospel of John was ""the most original and outrageous work. . .that had yet appeared in the West."" John Hersey, repelled by Revelations' ""harsh crankiness,"" offers nothing to chew on. Sandwiched between these superheavyweights are Larry Woiwode on Acts, Frederick Buechner on Corinthians I, Guy Davenport on Timothy II, Marilynne Robinson on Peter, etc. In general, those leaning toward scholarship (Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Amy Clampitt among them) fare well; those who bare their own souls sound petulant or narcissistic. Despite its quirks and its patchwork quilting, this adds up to a captivating introduction to the New Testament. And considering the potential for major disaster here, Corn (who contributes a worthy chapter on Corinthians It) deserves hearty applause.