A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
About the Author
Donald A. Hagner (PhD, University of Manchester), is George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament and senior professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous books.
This book examines the reality of continuity and discontinuity between Judaism and Christianity as revealed in the continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments. Hagner examines the New Testament with this theme in mind, working through every major corpus. He is able to demonstrate that the New Testament witness is one of discontinuity and newness on the basis of the coming of the Messiah, but that this substantial discontinuity is continuous with God’s plan of salvation and covenant promises.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Question of Continuity and Discontinuity
Chapter 2 The Gospels of Mark and Matthew
Chapter 3 The Gospel of Luke
Chapter 4 The Acts of the Apostles
Chapter 5 The Gospel of John and the Johannine Letters
Chapter 6 The Pauline Corpus
Chapter 7 Hebrews and the Catholic Letters
Chapter 8 The Apocalypse
Chapter 9 Newness in the New Testament: Continuity and Discontinuity
Chapter 1: The Question of Continuity and Discontinuity
The understanding of Judaism as a religion of grace rather legalistic works is a massively important paradigm shift for New Testament studies. E. P. Sanders’ scholarship placed Jewish law-keeping in a framework of covenantal grace. The new perspective on justification argued that works of the law were identity badges, rather than a legalistic means of earning salvation. Paul can write both seemingly negative and positive things about the law. The law had a temporary function, and a new era has dawned with Christ and the gift of the Spirit. In the post-exilic world, many in Judaism had a renewed emphasis on law-keeping, which did shade into legalism. Thus, Paul’s arguments against legalism are contextually accurate (and similar in one sense to Luther’s). Christ, not Torah, was central to Christianity and Paul’s thinking. Power comes from the Spirit rather than the law.
Some scholars are now trying to locate Christianity and Paul in the context of Judaism. The accent is on continuity, with Christianity being conceptualized as a branch of Judaism. This attempt has resulted in some extremely strained exegesis of Paul, and its conclusions are not persuasive compared to the traditional reading. Too often a false dichotomy has been established which forces Paul into binary options, rather than appreciating there was a “both/and.” Christianity was fulfilled Judaism. NT authors use the OT frequently, and often explicitly point to fulfillment. NT scholarship has engaged in pendulum swings in terms of continuity and discontinuity, but in history the accent has been on the latter.
In the first centuries of the Christian movement, both Christians and Jews put forth strong polemics showing the discontinuity between them. This age of polemic lasted until after the Enlightenment, when some cautious notes of continuity began to be sounded. Today, some are swinging the pendulum to full continuity. There is a great deal of continuity between OT and NT which must be understood in order for the NT to make sense, but there is also significant discontinuity. Christians shared many beliefs with Jews, but Christianity centered on the person and work of Christ. Christianity should be understood as fulfilled Judaism, culminating in Christ and the inclusion of the Gentiles in the people of God. Describing Christianity as the fulfillment of Judaism is not meant to be negative—it is certainly not anti-Semitic—but rather as positive.
Chapter 2: The Gospels of Mark and Matthew
The first word of the Gospel of Mark is “beginning” because the gospel is the beginning of eschatological fulfillment. The first words of Jesus are that “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom has come near.” Newness in the NT refers both to temporal and qualitative distinctions. Because Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of David, a new era has begun. It is through his blood that the new covenant is inaugurated. With Jesus, salvation history has reached its most significant pivot. Mark’s Gospel contains Jesus’ teachings of discontinuity (e.g. old and new wineskins), as well as his different approach to Sabbath, calling twelve apostles (a significant number), declaring all foods clean, overturning Moses’ teaching on divorce, and correcting the Pharisees’ understanding of the law. Jesus’ actions and words introduce a lot of discontinuity. Since 90% of Mark is found in Matthew, these themes occur in Matthew, too.[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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HOW NEW IS THE NEW TESTAMENT?, by Donald A. Hagner