Book Review: The Face of New Testament Studies:
The face of New Testament Studies is a survey of Recent Research edited by Scot Mcknight and Grant R. Osborne. Baker Academy, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan, published the book. There are 22 Contributors to the Volume in review. According to the Editors, the contributors provide “macroscopic overviews of the field and give students a handle on the most important voices in the discipline.” The editors seek to provide a bigger picture of the intricacies of Scholarship in publishing The face of New Testament (NT) Studies. The book is a 544-page book of four parts and 22 chapters that aims at being a guide on biblical and theological knowledge for students and scholars alike in the “ever-blossoming field of NT studies.”
There are a series of Essays from 22 expert Scholars.
Sean Freyne traced the Social world of Jesus in Galilee and Judea. His essay concentrated on Galilean History, Religious and Cultural Affiliations. The perspective of social stratification was viewed from the Pyramid of Power and Jesus’s radical alternative to the harsh realities of daily life in Herodian Galilee. The writer dwelt on the Economic System of those dwelling ‘in the houses of kings’ and contrasted it with the values that Jesus and John the Baptist espoused in Matthew 11:8. David A. Fiensy wrote on the Roman Empire and Asia Minor. He concluded with three categories of results:
- Five Issues for which the Material that Remains has settled.
- Two Issues for which the Material that Remains has offered progress.
- Two Issues for which the Material that Remains has only Raised more questions.
Eckhard J. Schnabel, in his contribution to New Testament Hermeneutics, looked at recent developments in Textual Criticism. He treated issues on new manuscripts, new editions of the Greek New Testament, Theories of the History of NT manuscripts, Approaches to the Praxis of NT Textual Criticism, and Historical and Theological issues. He observed in his writing, “Christians who believe that God has spoken and continues to speak in and through the books of the NT recognize the multiplicity of variant readings in the manuscripts tradition as another illustration of the human face of God’s revelation.”
Stanley E. Porter treated the often-neglected areas of NT study, Greek Grammar, and Syntax. This essay dealt with the traditional tools for studying the Grammar and Syntax of the Greek NT. He states, “It is entirely right that discussion of Greek grammar and syntax be thought of as a hermeneutical enterprise.” Porter did justice to the NT Greek Reference Grammars and other Grammatical and Syntactical Studies. He also did Linguistically based innovations in the study of the NT Greek and Verbal Aspect Theory, Register Studies (Placing Individual linguistic constructions in their proper semantic framework), Discourse Analysis, and other Studies. This essay chronicled some of the significant studies over the last thirty years.
The contributor concluded, “New grammatical methods and frameworks are not developed simply for their own sake, but because Scholars believe that they are gaining insights into the Greek Language.” Greg Clark’s essay was on General Hermeneutics. He viewed Hermeneutics as Epistemology and Ontology and concluded that “Hermeneutics as a discipline is as wild and wooly as it has ever been and its future shape and even its existence are impossible to predict.”
David A. Desilva wrote on Social-Scientific Interpretation of the NT (Embodying the Word). His assessment is that the interpretation has opened up new, multidimensional strategies for understanding the NT texts as messages that have grown out of real-life situations. And concerns and seek to have an impact on real-life behavior; it has equipped interpreters to become more sensitive hearers of the texts and less likely to impose anachronistic or ethnocentric readings upon the texts.”
Craig A. Evans treated the issue of the Old Testament (OT) in the New and concluded that NT writers find new meanings in OT passages because of the conviction that Scripture speaks to every significant situation. Scot Mcknight looked at Jesus of Nazareth and finally offered “a Jewish Jesus credible within First Century Judaism. Jesus who gave rise to the basic contours of the early Christian movement, and who can truly be Lord to the Church and human enough to be a brother to the Church as well as all other humans on the face of the earth.”
Klyne Snodgrass’s contribution was on Modern Approaches to the Parables. He surveyed the Existentialist, Artistic, and Early Approaches; Studies Emphasizing Palestinian Culture and Jewish parables; Polyvalence and Allegorizing; Reduction to Banality, and Hope for the Future. He reiterated the central issue in parable interpretation, which is the value of the contexts of the parables in the Gospels. His reflection on Parables in his word is “They do not need to be treated as mirrors of Christian Theology or Human Psychology, nor curtailed, and controlled. They need to be heard in the context of Jesus as framed by the evangelists.” The History of Miracles in the history of Jesus was the contribution of Graham H. Twelftree. He surmised that of all aspects of the study of the historical Jesus, that of miracles most sharply reflects philosophical and theological fashions and personal presupposition.
Craig L. Blombery surveyed John and Jesus briefly in his essay, referring readers to his book “Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel,” which has a broader spectrum of studies. He looked into the Background of Recent Scholarship and more Specialized Studies on the subject. In his conclusion, he challenged any interested scholar to “incorporate elements from almost every major passage and theme in John into broader studies of the historical Jesus, integrating them with material already more widely accepted from the Synoptic Gospels.”
Steve Walton surveyed Acts using many questions and many answers. His survey includes New Approaches, Narrative Criticism, Rhetorical Criticism, Social-Scientific Methods, and The Nature of Acts. He also looked into History, The Portrait of Paul in Acts, and Theology, including the Delay of Parousia, the Work of the Spirit, Luke and Judaism, The Church, and the Roman Empire. He clearly states that there will be a continuous debate to give a more robust and profound understanding of this unique book of the NT, where the power of the Holy Spirit is evident. Bruce Chilton wrote about James (Jesus’ brother) and concluded that James exhibited Nazirite characteristics in practice and his high devotion to the temple after the Resurrection.
Donald A. Hagner looked into the book of Matthew to answer the question, Christian Judaism or Jewish Christianity? In his conclusion, he writes, “Matthew, in short, represents not Judaism without Christianity, or an indiscriminate blend of the two. The fact that Matthew is the NT book closest to Rabbinical Judaism … does not weaken its Christian character”. Bruce N. Fisk surveyed the Life and letters of Paul.
According to Bruce, the trick for Paul was to stand firm against Professional Orators and Soap Box debaters without betraying the weakness of the message he was called to proclaim and without collapsing under the “daily pressure” he felt for “all the Churches” – 2 Cor. 11: 28. James D. G. Dunn reviewed Paul’s Theology in The Story of God and Creation, Israel, Christ, Paul, and Paul’s Churches. He advocated that the Churches should “read their story with and within that of Jesus, for the key to a realistic theological ethic was a life modeled on the template of Christ.”
Darrel L. Bock wrote on the emphases in Luke’s theological and pastoral concerns. Robert L. Webb looked at recent developments and trends in the Petrine Epistles. This new development to Robert “shows how 1st and 2nd Peter each sound a distinct voice in the development of early Christianity, voices that deserve to be heard”.
Peter G. Bolt surveys the history of interpreting the Gospel of Mark. His assessment and focus were on the last twenty years of Markan studies. He observed that lack of commentary was the early years’ problem, but today, the problem is oversupply. Markan’s theological significance is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, crucified and then raised. Peter wants Mark to be respected “as a narrative that purports to tell an account of the historical events surrounding the life of Jesus. And a narrative with a theological purpose for those living in the first-century Greco-Roman world.”
George H. Guthrie looks at the recent research on Hebrews in its first-century contexts. Hebrews, according to him, has always been labeled the “Cinderella” of Biblical Studies. From George’s essay, it is clear that the book has systemic connections with each of its first-century contexts.
Klaus Scholtissek’s essay continues the recent Research on The Johannine Gospel, especially on the current debate about introducing questions concerning the Johannine corpus and the interpretive methods. He synthesized the writings of some leading evangelists like Stephen Smalley, George Beasley-Murray, and D. A. Carson on their Interpretation of the fourth Gospel. He highlighted the Old and New Paradigms of Research in the Gospel of John, Johannine Eschatology & Spirituality, and the outstanding Role of Women. Klaus observed that the new Research in John reveals a trend favoring a synchronic interpretation. And concluded that “Johannine writing develops from the anamnesis of the work of Christ after Easter, which the Spirit guides, Local and temporal dimensions become interconnected in this kind of theological language.”
Like the Evangelist himself, all may find what we are looking for “life to the full” – John 10:10. The last but not the minor contributor is Grant R. Osborn. He treated Recent Trends in the study of the Apocalypse. He agrees that Revelation’s genre is apocalyptic but states that it also has both epistolary and prophetic features. He took the readers through the Date and Social Situation, Feminist Interpretation, and general Interpretation. He also browsed through the Use of the Old Testament, not forgetting Unity and Structure.
The Contributors are experts in their fields of the survey. They delved professionally into the issues and identified other ways to study the subject matter. New Testament Scholarship is critical as it allows the growth of Faith and Exegesis of intricate issues for greater understanding, primarily as we deal with God’s perspective regarding NT.
Apart from admirable editorial quality, the book is very rich in knowledge. It was put together with the Analytical and Inquisitive Minds of Scientists, the Zeal of Crusaders, the Resourcefulness of Teachers, and the Faith of Christians in an excellent overview of the development of Scholarly New Testament work within the last decades. I recommend the book as A MUST-READ For Students and Scholars alike.