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What is New Testament Theology?

Since this morning when Michael Bird posted a link to his Tyndale Fellowship Lecture, I’ve been wondering what is the appeal of keeping alive the genre of New Testament Theology. More to the point, I’ve been wondering just what is New Testament Theology. I’m not even a third of the way into Mike’s very fine essay—I’m only able to read in fits and starts; I do have manuscripts to edit!—but I get the since that he is advocating for a discipline/genre (whatever we may classify NTT as) that is essentially an encapsulation of NT studies. Don’t get me wrong, in the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” I appreciate good NTTs. After their initial hype, they tend to wind up as good references for methodology and comprehensive sketches of the NT literature. That’s why the better ones tend to have a very long shelf life. But still, I have a hard time seeing the difference between the aims of one’s NTT and the aims of one’s overall approach to NT studies. What sets NTT apart?

I’m anxious to read the rest of Mike’s essay, and I will be on the look out for his Theology of the New Covenant. I’m sad that we could not be the publisher for it. It would have been a nice complement to the New Covenant Commentary Series.

I’d be interested to hear thoughts on the shape and nature of NTT.

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5 Comments»

  Sue wrote @

What is theology altogether?

Is it supposed to be about The Divine Reality, or trying to imagine what The Divine Reality might say about any and every thing.

Plus are not all Christians supposed to be “sinners” or alienated from The Divine Reality–which is really the same as being completely godless (seriously).

So what then could a godless sinner possibly even begin to say about The Divine Reality that is in any since Real.

Plus what does anyone really know about what may or may not have happened 2000 years ago?

Is there really any solid documentary, or even better, photographic evidence for any of it.

You know the camera does not lie.

The Bible is NOT solid documentary evidence.

  Chris wrote @

Sue, thanks for your comment, but it has very little to do with the specific topic of New Testament Theology. You seem to have an axe to grind, and I am happy to let you grind it here some, but I don’t see how this comment has anything to do with the my original post.

  Nate Dawson wrote @

I’ve been struggling deeply with this concept as well.

It seems that the more NTT I read, the more methodologies that I discover, which seems to be the same problem with some biblical theologies (often claiming to be biblical theologies but sometimes fall into the same trap as NTT).

I spent many years reading Tom Wright, but now after reading Fowl and other theologians like yourself, I’m finding it difficult to go back to read Wright. His work influenced me greatly (for a time) and help re-shape much of my view on the goodness of life and everything in it. Yet, the theology is so rooted in his particular historical reconstruction, or I should say, also rooted in those who influenced his thoughts regarding reconstruction and theology. Any thoughts?

  Nate Dawson wrote @

My adviser is suggesting I go back to G. B. Caird in order to find some of the roots of Wright’s theology. I’m finding that somewhat helpful, since I need to get a better sense of what NTT has been for the last couple hundred of years. Going forward though – its all methodology. Each theologian seems to be caught in the trap of modern individualism regarding their own particular understanding…

  Chris wrote @

Nate, G.B. Caird is a good place to go for understanding Wright, but Caird won’t open all the doors to Wright’s funhouse.

I think you may be right that “it’s all methodology.” That’s the conclusion I reached and it’s the reason I hopped off the carousel. I found the conversations on theological interpretation more fruitful. To be sure, there is some methodological cloudiness, but ultimately I think that is a good thing. Theological interpretation is not defined by methodology in the same way NTT is.


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