Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Frank Thielman on Faith-based and Secular Histories of Early Christianity

Whereas both the New Testament theologian and the secular historian are interested in the history to which the canonical text give access, they differ on the importance that they grant to the perspectives of the texts themselves. Historians who stand outside the church employ every means at their disposal to render the perspectives of the canonical texts inoperative in their thinking. The texts then provide the raw data with which the secular historian attempts to reconstruct the story of early Christianity according to another perspective. The New Testament theologians, however, through the basic insight of faith, want to embrace the perspectives of the texts on the events that provoked their composition. The perspectives of the texts on the history of early Christianity are not husks to be peeled away so that the historian might see more clearly. They are not merely historical data that provide information about early Christian religion. For New Testament theologians who regard the texts as authoritative, the perspectives of the texts speak of their true significance. They are, in other words, objects of faith.

Frank Thielman, Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach, 31-32.


Celucien joseph said...

Excellent quote!

This is a worthy work to have by any serious students of the NT. I purchased my copy two months ago. Schreiner and Jobes endorsed it. Thielman wrote some very helpful theological notes on both the Gospel of Mark and John in the same volume.

J. B. Hood said...

"employ every means at their disposal to render the perspectives of the canonical texts inoperative in their thinking"

I suppose he means by this that diachronic study, and even synchronic, a-theological study, strips the text of its message and 'intent'? This seems a bit harsh, though I certainly understand where he's coming from.

David Shedden said...

I'm a bit confused by the quote - maybe it's the fundamentalist in me screaming to be heard. Does it mean that only 'believers' can understand the message of the New Testament? Are non-Christian historians bound to deconstruct the text? I think Christian theologians have still got a long way to go in their study of the relation between faith and history. I'd appreciate hints on reading around this topic.