Saturday, February 23, 2008
Biblical Theology and Christian Origins
I'm currently working on my Tyndale Lecture which will be about Biblical Theology and Christian Origins. At the moment we are privileged to have three major-massive-macro bigger-than-Ben-Hur New Testament Theology + New Testament History projects currently in production by N.T. Wright (Christian Origins and the Question of God), James. D. G. Dunn (Christianity in the Making), and Martin Hengel (Geschichte des frühen Christentums). To this we might also add the plethora of German Neuen Testament Theologie or Theologie des Urchristentums by H. Hubner, K. Berger, F. Hahn, J. Gnilka, P. Stuhlmacher and others.
The task of placing New Testament Theology in its historical co-ordinates is hardly new and it goes back as far as Anton Lutterbeck in his volume: Die neutestamentlichen Lehrbegriffe: oder, Untersuchungen über das Zeitalter der Religionswende, die Vorstufen des Christenthums und die erste Gestaltung desselben: ein Handbuch für älteste Dogmengeschichte und systematische Exegese des neuen Testamentes (Mainz: Florian Kupferberg, 1852). The question of how to integrate the theological message of the New Testament into the religious history of antiquity (or vice-versa) without being purely descriptive or rewriting history to suit a certain theology is perhaps the defining issue in New Testament Theology.
Also, what is the difference between "A Theology of the New Testament" and a "Theology of Early Christianity"? Is it that a "Theology of Early Christianity" is broader than the NT canon, although we should ask exactly what Christian sources do we have from the first century apart from the NT? The Didache and 1 Clement (probably), Gospel of Thomas (probably second century), Q (did it exist and isn't it absorbed into Matthew and Luke anyway)? Big subjects.