I. An Introduction & The Beginning of NT Theology

Briefly introducing the discipline and the issues of New Testament theology

For some critical scholars, the pursuit of a single coherent New Testament (NT) theology is an impossible task considering the diverse historical and literary elements of the first-century canonical documents. Furthermore, such a task attempts to unite historical analyses with theological convictions in a manner that does not suit their so-called “appropriate” interpretive methods. Thus, for these critical scholars, it is problematic to speak of a NT theology as the goal for exegesis and interpretation; at most, one must conclude there are only differing (and by this at times they mean contradicting) NT theologies.

Although these claims have caused Christian scholars, who trust the biblical writers’ historical assertions and the theological unity of the NT’s twenty-seven books, to refine their approach to NT theology, they have not gone unchallenged. Evangelical NT scholars such as Richard Bauckham, David Wenham, George Ladd (and others) have provided influential contributions against these challenges of critical scholarship. By observing some of their conclusions alongside the testimony of the NT authors, a more accurate and synthetic approach to NT theology emerges, one that both recognizes historical contexts and maintains theological unity, even within the framework of the writers’ theological diversity. 

What do we mean by “New Testament Theology”?

NT theology arises first from the Church‘s desire to hear and heed what exactly the NT authoritatively teaches. As Markus Bockmuehl has rightly observed, the NT itself testifies of “a close intellectual link between…conversion and true interpretation” (Seeing the Word, [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006], 70). NT theology is a subset of and inextricably linked with the broader discipline of biblical theology. Functioning as a Christian discipline, NT theology submits to the unique apostolic word found within the NT canon, receives the narrative testimony proclaimed there, assesses its writers’ contents in their proper pastoral/situational contexts, and draws conclusions regarding its theological claims. In this way, NT theology serves the church’s faith, because it helps her to know and understand what the discourse of the NT teaches about the one true God of the OT, who in these last days has spoken to us by a Son, namely, Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-2).

Where then should we begin New Testament Theology?

What is unique about God’s revelation in the NT, therefore, is that it is primarily to be recognized in the Son whom he sent and by whom he has spoken in these final days. Thus, the NT itself (like the OT) demands that it be read in light of its primary focal point, Jesus, the Word made flesh. For this reason, we turn to understanding the nature of the Four Gospels and their functional role in the NT canon as the first step in developing a NT theology, since they bear witness to Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world.

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5 Responses to “I. An Introduction & The Beginning of NT Theology”

  1. A New Testament Theology, Blogged . . . « Straight out of the SWBTS Blogosphere Says:

    […] Introduction & the Beginning of New Testament Theology […]

  2. Quote of the Week - Thomas Schreiner on the Christian Presupposition of Canon in Biblical Theology « For His Glory Says:

    […] in a similar vain of the previous quote, see my paragraph “What do we mean by ‘New Testament Theology’?“, Billy Marsh’s conclusions in his paper “A Christocentric Theological […]

  3. Quote of the Week - Thomas Schreiner on the Christian Presupposition of Canon in Biblical Theology « irruption Says:

    […] in a similar vain of the previous quote, see my paragraph “What do we mean by ‘New Testament Theology’?“, Billy Marsh’s conclusions in his paper “A Christocentric Theological […]

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