In July of this year I was privileged to give the annual Tyndale House New Testament Lecture which was entitled: “New Testament Theology Re-Loaded: Integrating Biblical Theology and Christian Origins”. My aim was to set up a programme for NT Theology that does not shy away from the the act of theological interpretation but also takes into account the historical contingency of the New Testament writings. I tackled the subject by: (1) Detailing the pros and cons of Biblical Theology; (2) Detailing the pros and cons of Christian Origins; and (3) Proposing a separate programme called “New Covenant Theology” which explores the socio-historical context of the New Testament and the theological texture of its discourse. In the conclusion I wrote:
My own approach of pursuing a ‘Theology of the New Covenant’ recognizes the ecclesial context of Scripture and the sociological origins of the New Testament’s theological formulations. New Covenant is the umbrella for the two entities of canon and community and theology emerges out of the relationship between them. This contention is validated by the observation that a biblical text is the testimony of a believing community to God’s act in Christ and its effect for his people. The Christian Bible only exists because certain faith communities wrote, received, and revered the Septuagint, the Gospels, Pauline letters, and the Apostolos as the Word of God. If we regard theology as emerging out of this interface between text and community then we are necessarily committed to a study of the history of the early church as the generative force behind Christian theology. We are equally committed to theology as the history of the effect of the text in the church. That will involve a socio-historical investigation of Christian Origins as the formative matrix for Christian theology.
My motivation for this approach is two-fold:
- It is crucial to recognize the contingent circumstances and historical context in which the biblical authors wrote.
- The necessity of moving beyond the descriptive model and beginning the task of theological synthesis by demonstrating the theological coherence of the New Testament.
So then, is it possible to reconcile Biblical Theology and Christian Origins in order to produce a New Testament Theology that is historically informed and theologically robust?