Posts Tagged ‘New Testament Theology’

I figure that you may aswell share essays online which may be of use to other students, researchers or of general interest. The following paper was produced about 5 years ago whilst at Sheffield University. It seeks to anaylse the methodology and hermeneutics of N.T Wright and Karl Barth in the light of their views of the doctrine of justification. Why study these guys? Well it was an excuse to get my teeth into their books.  I have become more sympathetic of the ‘New Perspective’ since writing Chapter 3. However the cristicisms still stand to some degree.





 The essay begins as follows,



Chapter 1

Christian communities have always been faced with the problem of

interpreting the Scriptures theologically. Since it is the very nature of the

Christian church to reflect upon God’s self-disclosure as witnessed by the

biblical texts, these texts have always held a prominent and normative status in

the Christian Community.



Doctrine has served and continues to serve as a vital function in Church life. It forms

the basis for liturgical and sacramental life as well as being instructive for the life of

individual believers and the ethical praxis of the community. Doctrine, or simply

what the Church believes and confesses to be true, stems from an engagement over

time with culture, experience, tradition and reason, but primarily with its normative

foundational document, the Bible.

As post-modern thinking has rightly pointed out, the Bible, as a collection of texts,

can be interpreted in different ways by different communities. Thus, doctrine is not

simply something that falls from the skies but is formed in the ‘hands-on experience’

of interpretation. The Christian Church enjoys some unity in doctrinal matters, such

as the almost universal acceptance of the Nicene and Apostles creed, but it is deeply

divided on some of the central features of doctrine. This is illustrated in the diversity

displayed in the doctrine of justification by faith with different views being put

forward as to what this means by traditional Catholics and Protestants, existential

theologies, and from those that construct their doctrinal affirmations in accord with

the ‘new perspective.’

This plurality in interpretation raises a number of important questions: Are some

doctrines and interpretations more valid than other? Why are the same texts

interpreted differently by different communities? Is there any Archimedean point

from which the true ‘meaning’ of a text can be revealed? Does postmodernism lead to

the death of doctrine and dogma?

The purpose of this paper is not to seek to answer these important questions. Its

limited task, functioning within the backdrop of these larger questions, is to look at

the relationship between text and the formulation of doctrine in the writings of Karl

Barth and N.T. Wright, working in particular with their differing views on the

doctrine of ‘justification by faith’. Although both scholars have found their spiritual

home within the evangelical-reformed community, they both offer an alternative to

the traditional evangelical view of justification. Wright and Barth, as we shall see,

differ considerably in the methods which they use to formulate their doctrines. Barth

uses a theological approach, whereas Wright uses a more historical and exegetical


The format of this paper will be as follows: in this chapter I will set out Barth’s and

Wright’s theologies of ‘justification by faith’ against the backdrop of mainstream

evangelical theology. In chapter two I will analyse and critique the theological

methodology of Karl Barth, followed in chapter three by an examination and critique

of N.T Wright’s methodology.



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A few months ago as part of my research I looked at the interpretation of Mark 10:45. The full document is available here in PDF format mark-10-45-swales. The study seeks to interact with the classic work by Morna Hooker Jesus and the Servant,  Scott McKnight Jesus and his Death and it of interest to those who are interested with the Steve Chalke, NT Wright, Pierced for our Transgressions  ‘Penal Substitution’ debate.  It also looks at the idea of Jesus being understood as the suffering servant of Is 53.

Here is the introduction:


Mark 10:45: How Did Jesus understand his death?


γαρ ο υιος του ανθρωπου ουκ ηλθεν διακονηθηναι

αλλα διακονησαι και δουναι την ψυχην αυτου

λυτρον αντι πολλων1

The church, in understanding the crucifixion of Jesus soteriologically, has frequently made a link between the suffering of the servant in Deutero-Isaiah (DI) and the passion of Jesus—Jesus, like the servant of DI, vicariously suffers the punishment that is due for others. This point, however, is contentious within scholarship, as for some scholars the servant-Jesus motif is the theological development of the later Christian church, whereas for others the servant-Jesus motif can be traced back to Jesus himself.2


This debate takes places at both macro and micro levels. By macro I mean those who seek to offer full face portraits of the historical Jesus such as Wright3, Dunn4, Meier5 and Crossan, whereas by micro I refer to those who, through monographs and scholarly articles, offer detailed exegesis of particular gospel passages6. At a micro level Mark 10:45 is possibly the most debated verse within the gospels. For some this offers a full blown theory of the atonement coming from the lips of Jesus, whereas others debate its authenticity, whilst still others although not disputing its authenticity do not see substitutionary/servant theology within it. For any involved in historical Jesus research, whether it be at a macro or micro level, it is a fruitful endeavor to engage with Hooker’s challenging thesis Jesus and the Servant (1959),7 This book advocates the view that we do not find any correlation, within the gospels, between the death/suffering of Jesus and the suffering of the servant.


In this paper I intend to summarize and critique Hooker’s position whilst keeping a close eye on issues relating to ‘Historical Jesus’ methodology and Jesus’ self understanding regarding his death. I will limit my micro exploration of Jesus and the Servant to issues pertaining to Mark 10:45, and seek to draw out conclusions that show the interplay between macro and micro.


Following the flow of Jesus and the Servant we shall look at8:


The Servant Passages: Their meaning and Background9

Jewish Interpretations of the Servant10

Mark 10:45 and the Servant 11

1 Mk 10:45

2 For popular and influential popular writings see the recently published Pierced for Our Transgressions 52-67 and the classic work by John Stott Cross of Christ 133-163 ‘It seems to be definite beyond doubt, then, that Jesus applied Isaiah 53 to himself and that he understood his death in the light of it as a sin bearing death’ 147. Numerous monographs and journals attacks and defend the authenticity of Mark 10:45. Rainer Riesner presents a scholarly and novel approach to its authenticity Back To the Historical Jesus Through Paul and His School (Ransom Logion—Mark 10.45; Matthew 20.28) in Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 2003; 1; 171

3 N.T. Wright Jesus and the Victory of God: ‘I propose then, that we can credibly reconstruct a mindset in which a first-century Jew could come to believe that YHWH would act through the suffering of a particular individual in whom Israel’s sufferings were focused; hat this suffering would carry redemptive significance; and that this individual would be himself. And I propose that we can plausible suggest that this was the mindset of Jesus himself.” 593

4 James D.G. Dunn Jesus Remembered pp 809-818“The upshot [after looking at Luke 22:37, Mark 10:45, 14:24] is that a convincing case cannot be made that Jesus saw himself as the suffering servant.”

5 J.P Meier A Marginal Jew The final, as yet unpublished, volume will look Jesus death and self understanding.

6 Such as McKnight, Hooker and a host of others.

7 Also C.K Barrett ‘The Background of Mark 10:45’ ‘[It] appears that the connection between Mark 10:45 and Isa 53 is much less definite and more tenuous that is often supposed.’

8 For the purpose of this study we will not be looking at Hooker’s survey of scholarship (Ch 1), linguistic parallels outside of Mark 10:45, or at the development of the servant concept within the early church.(Chapters 5-7)

9 Jesus and the Servant Ch. 2

10 ibid. Chapter 3

11 ibid. Chapter 4

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Thomas Schreiner: New Testament Theology

51iv4qmgtcl__ss500_.jpg Thomas Schreiner, new testament scholar from a calvinistic perspective, has recently published  a New Testament Theology. The first 46 pages are available from from Baker academic. Schreiner offer a thematic account of New Testament theology rather than going through the theology of each author/book. In his introduction he locates New Testament theology around two poles, taht of bringing glory to Christ and that of the fullfullment (in part) of redemptive history.

It is illuminating to consider NT theology from a twofold perspective. First, God’s purpose in all that he does is to bring honour to himself and to Jesus Christ. The NT is radically God-centred. We could say that the NT is about God magnifying himself in Christ through the Spirit. We could easily fail to see the supremacy of God and the centrality of Christ in the NT precisely because these themes are part of the warp and woof of the NT. Sometimes we fail to see what is most obvious, what is right before our eyes. The focus on God and Christ may be taken for granted, and we become interested in themes that are “new” to us, themes that we have not seen before. Any NT theology that does not focus on what God has done in Christ, however, fails to see what is fundamental to and pervasive in the text of Scripture. Second, the centrality of God in Christ leads to abstraction if it is not closely related to the history of salvation, to the fulfilment of God’s promises. We have in the Scriptures the story of God’s saving plan (which includes judgement, of course). The NT unfolds the fulfilment of the promises made in the OT. One of the striking themes in the NT is that of the “already–not yet.” God has inaugurated his kingdom, but he has not consummated it. He has begun to fulfil his saving promises, but he has not yet completed all that he has started. No one can grasp the message of the NT if redemptive history is slighted. The NT does not negate the OT but fulfils it. One of the major tasks of any NT theology is to explain how this is so. Redemptive history is fundamental, then, to grasping the message of the NT. Still, God’s ultimate purpose is not the fulfilment of his plan. He must have a purpose, an aim, a goal in such a plan. Here the purpose of all of salvation history emerges. God works out his saving plan so that he would be magnified in Christ, so that his name would be honoured. (Schreiner pages 14-14)

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