New Testament Theology Re-Loaded: Integrating Biblical Theology And Christian Origins -- By: Michael F. Bird

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 60:2 (NA 2009)
Article: New Testament Theology Re-Loaded: Integrating Biblical Theology And Christian Origins
Author: Michael F. Bird

New Testament Theology Re-Loaded: Integrating Biblical Theology And Christian Origins1

Michael F. Bird


This study examines the problem of balancing the historical and theological components of New Testament Theology. It presents a critique of both Biblical Theology and Christian Origins and finally argues for a ‘Theology of the New Covenant’ where theology emerges out of the interface of canon and community.

1. Introduction

It is an interesting exercise to compare the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas presidential addresses of Martin Hengel (1993) and Wayne A. Meeks (2004) and what they both have to say about New Testament Theology.2 Both scholars set forth a proposal for the future direction of scholarly study of the New Testament, but while they share a commitment to historical study of the New Testament, they have violently different opinions about the role of New Testament theology in that future.

Hengel notes the efforts of several scholars (e.g. W. Wrede, G. Lüdemann, and H. Räisänen, and I would add P. Vielhauer), who have made the New Testament canon obsolete as a historical entity with the result that: ‘In place of Introduction to the New Testament we are to have the History of Early Christian Literature; in place of a New

Testament Theology, the History of the Religion of Earliest Christianity.’3 He says in counterpoint:

To be sure, I cannot share this fear of the concept ‘theology,’ the Christian understanding of which is ultimately grounded in the Prologue of John. It is not by chance that an irreducible connection between the word of God, faith, and history is presented to us in this particular passage. The concepts θεολόγος, θεολογία, and θεολογεῖν enter at first on the basis of the Johannine λόγος in the language of the early Church Fathers and preserve over against the Greek environment a wholly new meaning. Our discipline would self-destruct were it to give up the question of truth pressed by Pauline and Johannine theological thinking and transform itself into a merely descriptive history of religion. For this is the salt that seasons our work and warrants its existence.4

Hengel acknowledges that study of the New Testament should be comprehensive and the boundary of study should be expanded to include th...

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