Recent Books on New Testament Theology

This book fills a lacuna for the beginning student in New Testament. There are not many texts on a college level from a Reformed perspective. Ladd is suitable for seminary students, but not really for college students. And, though Ladd was certainly on target with his redemptive-historical paradigm, he was off on a few other things. So, it is good to see a new book out on New Testament theology written on a college level. It takes a thematic approach, asking the questions that the author thinks the New Testament authors asked: “Who is Jesus? What Must I Do to be Saved? How Should Believers Live? What is the Church? What is the Church’s Relation to Society? and How Shall It End?” One last question addressed is this: “What Does the New Testament Tell Us About God?” Scholars who have gone through seminary course-work on the New Testament will not learn a whole lot they didn’t already know. However, the contents focus on what is important, and do it in a way that is a good summary. The author does not leave out whole swaths of teaching. So, it is a great book for someone wanting to find out more about the New Testament.

A word might be helpful about several New Testament theologies that have come out recently. The one reviewed above and Schreiner’s New Testament Theology are both synthetic and topical, attempting to summarize the entire New Testament thinking on various subjects. The advantage to this approach is that very little in the way of repetition is required (for instance, among the Synoptic Gospels, a separate treatment of each one would necessitate a fair bit of repetition). It does justice to the ultimacy of God’s voice in the New Testament, showing easily that God is the ultimate author. It shows the unity of the New Testament voice. The disadvantages are that it is difficult to preserve the distinctiveness of each author within the New Testament; Furthermore, if one wants to know about a particular book’s theology, it is difficult to find the information.

The above reasons make it useful for there to be several different approaches to New Testament Theology. A book by book approach is what Marshall and Thielman use to great effectiveness. Busy pastors will probably lean towards this approach, since it allows them to find information on the distinct contribution of a particular NT book without hunting through the entire book.

I think in the end that a definitive New Testament Theology is yet to be written. It would combine these approaches. To my mind, the synthetic, thematic approach would be the place to start, since the unity of the New Testament message shows the Divine origin more clearly. After that, the diversity would also need to be shown, and the book by book approach would occupy the second half of the volume. Such a tome would, of course, be utterly massive. However, I think the results would be worth it. As of now, one should read both approaches. This necessitates reading more than one book. Eventually, there may come a book that does ample justice to both approaches. I eagerly await the day.