Choosing the year’s “top twenty” in the field of New Testament has been difficult, not because of an embarrassment of riches but because of the opposite—a dearth.

Two points about the list call for mention. First, though the intention was to list only books dated 1967, sometimes crossing the Atlantic entails a change of year; a number of American volumes published in 1966 did not reach the British market until the following year. Second, the criteria for selection have been (a) usefulness to the serious student of the New Testament, so that he will want to keep the books at hand for future reference; and (b) originality, a quality that opens a new window on a familiar theme and sets our minds in pursuit of new understanding of the eternal gospel message.

By the most obvious standards—size, extent of coverage, and depth of penetration, as well as usefulness and orginality—pride of place must go to the fourth volume of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Eerdmans). This significant thesaurus of biblical learning treats in depth the main New Testament words that have their first letter in lambda, mu, and nu; among these are such vitally important theological terms as word (logos), myth (mythos), and law (nomos). Indeed, a whole range of interest in New Testament matters is covered in this fourth volume, whether of place names (Nazareth), personal names (Moses), or theological concepts (witness: martys). Alert students will need no further encouragement in spite of the high price; this is a case where price and value go together.

Second and third place are shared by two publications that differ in compass but have equal claim to notice. Both are by internationally known writers whose seasoned and well-balanced scholarship is not liable to shoot off at an unpredictable tangent or to be swept along by the swiftly flowing Bultmannian stream. Both books, to be sure, present a viable and (to the evangelical mind) necessary corrective to the post-Bultmannian view, which is often accepted as if there were no alternatives. Oscar Cullmann’s Salvation in History (SCM; Harper & Row) reaffirms and elaborates the thesis of Heilsgeschichte he so lucidly presented in his groundbreaking Christ and Time. This latest work has both a polemic (against the Bultmann school) and an irenic (in dialogue with Roman Catholic scholarship) purpose, and on both accounts it commands our attention. C.F.D. Moule’s slender paperback The Phenomenon of the New Testament (SCM, “Studies in Biblical Theology”) goes right to the heart of the New Testament faith with a spirited, urbane defense of Jesus’ historicity (against both latter-day mythologists and the Bultmannians, who separate the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith) and of the supernatural origins of apostolic Christianity. It admirably complements the collection of essays on the same themes edited by Carl F. H. Henry, published by Eerdmans and now in Britain by the Tyndale Press: Jesus of Nazareth: Saviour and Lord.

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A bold and timely attempt to show that evangelical scholarship can be both intellectually respectable and spiritually satisfying is made by George E. Ladd in The New Testament and Criticism (Eerdmans). Indeed, our author claims, the two must go together if we are not to be delivered over to the clutches of either an obscurantism that extolls a blinkered piety or a barren negativism that by analysis, dissection, and systematic doubt leaves the New Testament reader with a theological cadaver. Ladd’s purpose is to show that an evangelical understanding of the Bible as the Word of God written (he has the New Testament chiefly in mind) is not hostile to sober criticism; indeed, an evangelical faith demands a critical methodology in the reconstruction of the historical side of the process of revelation. His clear evaluations of textual, literary, and historical criticism—including some excellent pages on form criticism—are much to the point and ought to be heeded on both sides of the Atlantic.

Sharing much of the same conviction in his positive attitude to the New Testament documents is J. B. Phillips, who, as much grieved as angered by the baneful effects of our modern negative critics, has given us his personal testimony as a skilled practitioner of the art of translation. What sort of impression do the New Testament books make on this man who has spent many years poring over them? The answer comes in The Ring of Truth (Hodder and Stoughton; Macmillan), a moving piece of autobiography that is calculated to settle any whose faith has been unnerved by an unthinking acceptance of our current doubters, whether of the death-of-God camp or of the Bishop of Woolwich’s Honest to God—Exploration into God school.

Three books have posed similar questions that are fundamental to the Christian faith. How much do we know of the Jesus who walked and taught in Galilee? How much do we need to know? Is anything like an objective portrait possible, or is the entire gospel tradition seen today only through the refracting (and so distorting) prism of the early Church? C. K. Barrett (Jesus and the Gospel Tradition, SPCK) takes a fresh look at these matters, arguing from the premise that Jesus “was a genuinely historical figure that was being viewed through the refracting medium of the resurrection faith.” He does not deny altogether that some continuity exists between the Jesus who lived in a pre-Easter situation and the Lord confessed by the Church, for he finds the prospect of suffering and the hope of vindication to be the main strands that bind together much of Jesus’ teaching and activity; but vindication did not come, he says, in the way Jesus envisaged. “He died with the disillusioned avowal that God had forsaken him. But again he was mistaken: God had not forsaken him”—a revolutionary conclusion, recalling Albert Schweitzer’s judgment, and just as questionable as Barrett’s contention that Jesus’ teaching did not, except incidentally, concern himself. What about Matthew 11:25 ff.?

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Another assessment of the teaching of Jesus, more radically conceived and executed, is offered by N. Perrin in Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus (SCM). The title should not awaken too many hopes, for the author by his reductionist technique leaves us with precious little of an authentic nature. Parts of this book are excellent and exciting—his exposition of the parables, for instance—but much is vitiated by a gigantic basic assumption. Often, almost ad nauseam, but with no attempt to justify it, he repeats this presupposition: “The early Church absolutely identified the risen Lord of her experience with the historical Jesus and vice versa.” The sting of this quotation lies in its “vice versa,” for that implies—and the whole book is governed by this implication—that our vision of the historical Jesus is possible only through the refracting and distorting prism of the early Church. We must dissent from this view, and so cast doubt on many of Perrin’s interlocking arguments.

A more serious grappling with history is found in S. G. F. Brandon’s Jesus and the Zealots (Manchester Universty Press). His thorough treatment of the events that led up to the Jewish war of A.D. 66 and the effect of the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 are a valuable part of the book, even if the thesis that finds a Zealot influence in many sections of the Gospels must be taken with caution.

The year 1967 has been a good one for the Son of Man question, with two notable monographs dealing with this enigmatic title on the lips of Jesus. M. D. Hooker confines her attention to Mark, entitling her work The Son of Man in Mark (SPCK; McGill University, Montreal) and comes up with a conservative conclusion in defense of the Son of Man sayings, “which may well go back to Jesus himself.” This conclusion would give writers like Perrin a fit of apoplexy, of course; and it runs counter to the general stream of German New Testament science. Her work concentrates (rightly, I believe) on the background material in Daniel 7, and she sees the pattern of suffering-vindication as the leading motif. Other backgrounds are possible, of course, and it is the merit of Frederick H. Borsch’s study of The Son of Man in Myth and History (SCM; Westminster) that it sifts all the extant material in an effort to find a clue to this title. Some studies of the Son of Man problem may be more original and provocative than this, but surely none can be more exhaustive—it fills 409 pages. Students will welcome the full citation of some material, especially from Near Eastern sources that are not readily accessible. Borsch’s chief point is that Jesus accepted a vocation that linked the First Man of Iranian religion and Adam as the king of paradise in syncretistic Jewish documents, with the servant concept that embraced a great variety of Israel’s saints and prophets. This is a striking combination, which, despite the author’s disclaimer, has Jesus casting about for a destiny to fulfill. Our provisional response must be to recall Occam’s razor: assumptions must not be multiplied unnecessarily. Why go so far afield when Daniel and Isaiah’s Servant passages were close at hand to Jesus?

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The Book of Acts too has had its share of attention. Two substantial commentaries, that by J. Munck in the Anchor Bible (Doubleday) and that by R. P. C. Hanson in the New Clarendon Bible (Oxford) have some excellent qualities. Both place a fairly high estimate on the historical worth of the history—at least by radical German and American standards. The fullest discussion of Luke as a historian and theologian is given by E. Earle Ellis’s edition of the Gospel of Luke (Nelson), whose introduction has been justly hailed as the most complete summary of recent Lukan studies. His commentary abounds with incisive and pithy comments. By contrast, Helmut Flender’s St. Luke: Theologian of Redemptive History (SPCK; Fortress) reads like a typical piece of Teutonic research—even in translation. It would be a pity to overlook it on that account, however, for he offers a scheme of analysis of Lukan history that is an alternative to the reigning hypothesis of Hans Conzelmann. Certainly his discovery of a dialectic in Luke’s writings is a fruitful contribution. Turning back to the more elementary and down-to-earth, we take note of J. H. E. Hull’s study of The Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles (Lutterworth; World), which has a message for the pastor and church administrator as well as for the scholar.

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The New Testament epistles have been overshadowed in this year’s list. K. Grayston’s commentary on Philippians and Thessalonians (“Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible”) completes the series and is one of the best, offering some luminous thoughts and helpful exegesis. And that indefatigable commentator W. Hendriksen has finished Ephesians (Baker) in his journey through the whole New Testament.

One general introduction has appeared in the year. Since its author is W. D. Davies, its appearance constitutes an event; and we are not disappointed with this Invitation to the New Testament (Darton, Longman and Todd; Doubleday). Here learning is worn lightly as we are led leisurely and painlessly through the central areas of background and text. It is unrivaled as a primer for the college freshman. Equally meritorious is J. A. Fitzmyer’s Pauline Theology: A Brief Sketch (Prentice-Hall), which packs a great deal into a small paperback and contains many starting points for future study. Its author, a Catholic scholar, is an enthusiastic exegete of Paul. And last on the list is The Prayers of Jesus (Allenson) by J. Jeremias, whose illumination of Jesus’ word Abba is well known. This fuller treatment will not only inform the mind but also teach us how to pray. And isn’t that the true test of any book on the New Testament?

Other 1967 publications that merit mention are: R. Scroggs, The Last Adam (Fortress); F. Mussner, The Historical Jesus in the Gospel of St. John (Herder); four volumes in the “Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible,” those on Romans (by E. Best), Galatians (W. Neil), Peter and Jude (A. R. C. Leaney), and Hebrews (J. G. Davies) (the volume on Philippians and Thessalonians was mentioned earlier in this article); E. Lohse, History of the Suffering and Death of Jesus Christ (Fortress); R. A. Harrisville, The Miracle of Mark (Fortress); two volumes of Nelson’s Century Bible, that on Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon by G. Johnston, and that on James, Jude, and Second Peter by E. M. Sidebottom; L. Hartman, Prophecy Interpreted: The Formation of Some Jewish Apocalyptic Texts and the Eschatological Discourse, Mark 13 Par. (Lund); R. P. Martin, Carmen Christi: Philippians 2:5–11 in Recent Interpretation and in the Setting of Early Christian Worship (Cambridge); and F. V. Filson, Yesterday: A Study of Hebrews in the Light of Chapter 13 (SCM, “Studies in Biblical Theology”).

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Finally, from Darton, Longman and Todd and from Doubleday came the Reader’s Edition of the New Testament in The Jerusalem Bible, a publication well received in all branches of the Christian faith.

Milton D. Hunnex is professor and head of the department of philosophy at Willamette University, Salem, Oregon. He received the B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Redlands and the Ph.D. in the Inter-collegiate Program in Graduate Studies, Claremont, California. He is author of “Philosophies and Philosophers.”

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