Thursday, March 23, 2006

New Testament Theology: A New Proposal

At the moment I'm flat out like a lizard drinking (Australian idiom = exceptionally busy) with lecture prep, admin, teaching, and moving house. All the same, it still does not stop me from speculating about what I want to write about in the future. One thing I'm keen to do (sometime around 2011 Lord willing) is do a NT Theology before I turn 40.

There are some good NT Theologies that have just come out. I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology: One Gospel, Many Witnesses and Frank Thielman, Theology of the New Testament : A Canonical and Synthetic Approach. Add to that future volumes by Ben Witherington and Thomas Schreiner and there will be a host of NT Theologies to choose from.

My favourite volumes are the one's by G.B. Caird, G.E. Ladd, and James Dunn. I like Caird's "seminar" approach but also Dunn's emphasis on diversity.

When I finally take the plunge and engage in my own study I hope to call it: New Testament Theology: Complexity and Accordance. It will have two distinguishing features:

A. I intend to write it in sub-committee mode. So the Johannine writings form one sub-commmitte, the Jewish-Christian writings form another sub-committee, the Hellenistic Christian writings are a sub-committee, and the Pauline corpus and Pauline sympathizers are yet another sub-committee. And here is the fulcrum of the project: books can be in more than one sub-committee. For instance, the Gospel of John is simultaneously on the Johannine sub-committee (in fact it's covener), but also serves as a rep on the Jewish-Christian sub-committee.
B. The other big issue is dealing with the breadth of diversity in the NT and trying to find a sense of unity without clumsily imposing unity across the NT. I once told my supervisor Rick Strelan that I thought that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the central theme in the NT (I'd been reading Pannenberg). He responded by asking (with a smile) if Christ's resurrection was central to Philemon - I had to say that he was right. We need to think carefully about how we construe the unity of the NT. Additionally, there is no question about the diversity of voices in the NT, but is the diversity thing pushed too far at times and why does diversity always seem to connote contradiction or opposition? Can diversity be complentary? So to avoid these problems here's my angle: instead of diversity we speak of "complexity" and instead of unity we have "accordance".

Other good NT resources include the article by Grant Osborne and the list of top NT Theologies by Scot McKnight

8 comments:

Loren Rosson III said...

Don't forget Philip Esler's book -- definitely deserves mention.

Jim said...

I like Caird too. Very much. In fact, after Bultmann, his is the very best of the NT theologies out there (until yours I imagine). But I wonder about your title. Would you tell me what "Accorance" is because I can't find it in any English dictionary and I don't have an Australian one.

Jim said...

Ah- "accordance"! Now that makes sense for me- a non Aussie.

;-)

Jim Hamilton said...

Hey Mike, I like your sub-committee approach. I wonder if you've read E. Earle Ellis THE MAKING OF THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS? I think he presents a pretty strong case for four missions, each of which has a gospel and accompanying letters. . .

Blessings!

Jim

eddie said...

I wonder whether the "unity of the NT" should be found, not in the content of each document per se, but in the worldview that lies behind each. It may be the case that we can only assume a common worldview, or it may be that certain motifs, phrases, words, etc reveal what it is and that it is indeed behind the diverse contents of each letter. When different letters are addressing different situations and different problems then the unity can only lie one step back.

I just dont see the point in a common denominator approach (although I know it is not the only one on offer).

J. B. Hood said...

Mike,

Won't emphasizing diversity will lead to some artificial categorization? For example, on what grounds would one say that Matthew is in the "Jewish" subcommittee while Paul (I presume) is not? In my mind they are both Jews concerned with the question of Israel and the Gentiles and the reorganization around the Messiah. One writer addresses this in a Gospel, another in local contexts via letters. Both use the Jewish Scriptures heavily to point up their case...

Eddie,

I think the idea of a common worldview is very strong, and it goes hand in hand with the NT writers having some sort of common "metanarrative."

Dodd already spoke similarly years ago when he mentioned "shared substructure" for the NT writers (OT), and I think a case could be made for seeing different strands for the same metanarrative emphasized in the NT writers.

Chris Tilling said...

Mike, you said a while back on my blog that you were thinking of doing a podcast yourself ...

I'm sure I'm not the only one who would love to hear what you've got to say!

Michael W. Kruse said...

Hmmm... Theology by committee. Are you sure you aren't Presbyterian?

:-)>