The Biblical Theology of the New Testament series from Zondervan has already begun to make its mark, and the entire series promises to be a worthy contribution to New Testament studies. We recently talked to editor Andreas Köstenberger and asked him to tell us all about it.
This is a series on biblical theology. Can you briefly define biblical theology and how it differs from systematic theology?
Most simply put, biblical theology is the theology of the biblical writers themselves. It is their theological convictions expressed in their language, in their terms, in the context of the historical and cultural setting of which they were a part. In this way, biblical theology differs from systematic theology which uses our own conceptual categories to describe the biblical material. It is of course important to apply the Bible’s teaching to living in our world today, but biblical theology is a vital first step in understanding what the writers of Scripture themselves believed and how they communicated it to their original audience.
How did the series originate and how is it different from other comparable series?
Well, years ago, Jack Kuhatschek, who was at that time working at Zondervan, approached me and requested to meet with me at an upcoming ETS meeting. When we met, he said I wasn’t currently writing anything for Zondervan and if I could write anything I wanted to, what would it be? Without hesitation, I said, “A Johannine theology.” (I had written a commentary on John, in the BECNT series, but was unable to include much material on major Johannine themes because of space constraints (they made me cut almost 120 pages!), and so was eager to follow up my commentary with a sequel on John’s theology. Before long, Zondervan approached me and asked if I wanted not only to write the Johannine theology but also to edit an entire series on biblical theology—the Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) series. I enthusiastically agreed. I was very grateful to be able to assemble a dream team of first-rate scholars who were willing to contribute the eight volumes comprising the series, four of which have appeared to date.
Can you summarize the contribution of the volumes that have appeared thus far? And be sure to tell us about your own contribution on John’s Gospel and Letters!
Certainly. Let me do that in order of publication. My work A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters: The Word, the Christ, the Son of God was the inaugural volume, appearing in 2009. In this work, I include a robust defense of the apostolic authorship of John’s Gospel against detractors such as Richard Bauckham and provide a 100-page theological reading of John’s narrative with a focus on major Johannine themes. In identifying the heart of John’s theology, I choose as my point of departure John’s prologue, his purpose statement, and the introduction to part 2 of John’s Gospel (13:1-3). After canvassing John’s world view, I discuss themes such as the Johannine signs, the fulfillment of festal symbolism, the cosmic trial motif, John’s love ethic, his distinctive theology of the cross, and his trinitarian mission theology.
Darrell Bock, who is of course a prolific scholar and commentator and senior research professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, contributed A Theology of Luke and Acts: God’s Promised Program, Realized for All Nations, which was published in 2012. Darrell has literally produced thousands of pages of commentary and scholarship on the Lukan corpus, so I was particularly excited to have him present Luke’s theology in a meaty, yet digestible format in the second BTNT volume. Darrell does a great job highlighting the distinctive contribution made by Luke in both his Gospel and the book of Acts. He discusses topics such as Luke’s view of salvation history, the Holy Spirit, Luke’s treatment of Israel and the church, and his special emphasis on those of low status in society such as women and the poor and the social dimensions in Luke-Acts.
Peter H. Davids, a prolific commentator who teaches at Houston Baptist University, contributed A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude: Living in the Light of the Coming King in 2014. Davids is the only person I know who has written major scholarly commentaries on the letter of James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude, so he was the obvious choice for this volume. Writing a volume on writings as diverse as these letters was not an easy task, but Davids accomplished his assignment with distinction. There is much I could say about the strengths of this volume, but what stands out particularly is Davids’s exegetical acumen and his magisterial grasp of the secondary literature on these books as well as his familiarity with Second Temple sources.
The most recent volume to appear in the BTNT series is David E. Garland’s volume A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, which was published in 2015. This is simply the best Markan theology on the market. It is thorough, highly competent, and written by a seasoned scholar, exegete, and biblical theologian. But don’t take my word for it. Here is what Craig Keener says about Garland’s volume: “As usual, David Garland provides an insightful and well-researched reading into the biblical text. In this book, however, he offers an additional benefit: a model for how to write a helpful theology of a narrative work. By exploring Mark thematically and theologically, Garland provides a distinctively new contribution.”
Give us a head’s up regarding future volumes in this series. What is yet to come? When can we expect to see them? And tell us about the contributors and why you’ve chosen them to write these volumes.
I’m very excited about the remaining four volumes that are currently in preparation. I know Douglas Moo, the eminent Pauline scholar teaching at Wheaton College, has been hard at work on his theology of Paul, though, last I heard, completion of his volume is still a little way off. I could not think of a better person to contribute the volume on Paul to the BTNT series than Doug, who is a very seasoned commentator and astute biblical theologian. Writing a theology on Paul, who has contributed 13 letters to the New Testament, is a massive challenge, and while some fine Pauline theologies are already on the market, such as those by Tom Schreiner and James Dunn, I believe Doug Moo’s volume will make a key contribution, especially in view of the many important questions raised by the New Perspective on Paul.
I believe Michael Wilkins and George Guthrie have also begun work on their volumes on Matthew and Hebrews, respectively. Both need no introduction and have distinguished themselves by their excellent work on the books on which they are writing for the BTNT series. I believe all of us who have benefited from their work on these writings thus far are eagerly looking forward to their grand theological synthesis on these very important New Testament books.
Last but not least, Scott Duvall will be contributing the volume on the book of Revelation that will fittingly conclude the series and most likely be published last (though surprises sometimes happen). I’ve recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Scott at Ouachita University where he teaches and have come to appreciate him greatly for his wise and scholarly and yet eminently practical approach to academic work. Writing a theology of Revelation is not an easy task, but Scott has eagerly embraced it, and I know his work will be excellent.
Do you have any further works yourself in the works that we can keep an eye out for?
Well, thanks so much, Fred, for asking the question that all of us scholars LOVE to be asked! I’m currently finishing up my portion of a collaborative work on the Holy Spirit which I am co-authoring with Gregg Allison and which is scheduled to be released as the inaugural volume in the Theology for the People of God series edited by David Dockery, Christopher Morgan, and Nathan Finn (B&H Academic).
Also, my wife Margaret and I are close to completing a popular book on parenting (Christian Focus)—title yet to be determined—which we wrote primarily for young couples who are planning to have children or already have young children. Drawing on our parenting experience and some of the lessons we’ve learned raising our own four children, we hope that this will be an encouraging book that will give young couples perspective on how to best equip their children for life in a way that is biblically based, theologically grounded, and missionally oriented.
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for more on this BTNT series that Andreas Köstenberger edits – we plan to feature individual reviews of each volume here at Books At a Glance.