May 16, 2010

An Appraisal of New Testament Studies

Paul Wolfe, one of my former professors, has written a nice article ("Appraising New Testament Studies," Southwestern Journal of Theology 52 [2009], 74–82) summarizing and evaluating some recent trends in New Testament studies. Wolfe focuses on four areas of New Testament interpretation.

A present preoccupation – Anti-imperial interpretation (e.g., R. Horsley)

A new paradigm for old evidence – the New Perspective on Paul (e.g., E. P. Sanders, J. D. G. Dunn, N. T. Wright)

A restatement of old assumptions – a general rather than specific audience for the Gospels (R. Bauckham)

A Rereading of the New Testament – Theological interpretation (e.g., B. Childs, D. Treier, M. Bockmuehl)

Wolfe also offers the following observations concerning the future of these developments.

“It generally takes at least a generation, and often longer, for a new development to get enough traction to affect a broad range of interpreters and then begin showing up in subsequent works. The New Perspective on Paul is already deeply entrenched in one form or another and will likely be a development with significant pedigree. The abandonment of the search for the historical audiences or communities of the Gospels is likely too much to ask of main stream scholarship. Evangelicals and lay readers already approach the Gospels with little concern for such a search, so Bauckham’s thesis is not so much of a development as a sophisticated foundation for an approach already widely in place. Unfortunately it will continue to be ignored by most of main-stream scholarship. It is too early to tell if the current trend of anti-Imperial readings of the NT will have much of a legacy. I doubt so, for such readings are under the spell of the current secular political climate, which the readings themselves may not outlast. Theological reading of the NT is gaining significant traction and looks to be a major development with staying power. It, too, is already widely practiced.”

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