Two features have marked the majority of additions to the New Testament bookshelf in 1969. There have been volumes that fall into the category of resource material. These are usually large surveys that are intended not to be read for pleasure but to be consulted for information whenever the reader wishes to verify a fact, a date, or a precise point of exegesis. Then there are ground-breaking studies that send the reader off in a new direction, expose some neglected vein of gospel truth, or give a sharp knock to “assured results” of traditional or critical confidence. The past year has brought an interesting group of studies in this category.

But first to the reference works. Pride of place once again goes to the English version of Kittel’s Dictionary. Volume six offers a thousand pages of closely packed information on all manner of New Testament themes, both strictly theological and unlikely non-theological. Under the former head are long, authoritative essays on peira/peirasmos, meaning “trial, temptation”; pisteuo, “I believe”; pleres/pleroma, translated “full, fullness”; pneuma, rendered “spirit,” both human and divine; and prophetes, which one hardly need explain except to say that Israel’s prophetic movement gets as much attention as in any Old Testament wordbook. Among the less theological themes we find such ordinary words as the verbs “to do” (both poieo and prasso) and the nouns “war” (polemos, an article that has a timely message for a year of violent revolution and antiwar demonstrations) and “foot” (pous). Some terms quite obviously cry out for inclusion, such as “circumcision” (peritome) and “shepherd” (poimen), while others hold surprises for the curious. We think of the amount of theological significance Jeremias squeezes from polloi (“many”) or the relevance for modern Christian sex ethics of such a forbidding term as porne (“prostitute”). “Something for everyone” might well be the motto for this year’s Kittel, and we gratefully accept what is offered with renewed thanks to the army of contributors, the translator, and Eerdmans, the publisher.

Equal in size and weight is the massive Roman Catholic Jerome Biblical Commentary (Chapman), which devotes nearly half of its sections to New Testament matters. The stance is moderately critical on such issues as authorship and authenticity, but due recognition is given to Protestant conservative scholarship in the splendidly full reading lists. The theological value of the biblical text is much in prominence, and there are some fine essays offered under the captions “Hermeneutics” and “Inspiration and Inerrancy.”

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More books that provide useful tools on the historical side of New Testament study are J. Jeremias’s newly translated detailed discussion of Jewish customs, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (SCM), and Bo Reicke’s The New Testament Era (Fortress; Black). Jeremias writes from the perspective of his unrivaled knowledge of life in Palestine, both ancient and modern; with careful documentation from the Jewish sources he gives probably all there is to know about economic, social, and religious life in the holy city at the time when Jesus walked its streets. Bultmannian scholars have a low opinion of the possibility of knowing Jesus “after the flesh,” but in Jeremias’s hands this source of information is not to be despised. Jesus Rediscovered (Doubleday; Collins) by Malcolm Muggeridge is the latest illustration of this fact. Reicke’s study takes us into the world of the Bible from 500 B.C. to A.D. 100 and sets us straight on the lists of Syrian rulers, Roman emperors, and Jewish high priests. Not very exciting stuff, but all part of the biblical witness that God sent his Son in the fullness of time and that this mighty event of redemption was not done in a corner.

Another important volume that needs close attention to its details of history is George Ogg’s The Chronology of the Life of Paul (Epworth). The author is the doyen of New Testament specialists in the field of gospel and apostolic chronology, a fact recognized by both the theological right and the left. As proof we mention that he has similar articles in Inter-Varsity’s New Bible Dictionary and Peake’s Commentary. All should therefore profit from his new book on Paul’s life, traced from the cradle (in Tarsus) to the grave (in Rome). The worth of this book lies below the surface; much valuable information of contemporary events sets the Apostle in his first-century frame.

In Ogg’s book history is studied for its own sake. Not so for S. G. F. Brandon, who places a great gulf between the historical reporting of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus and the theological meaning of that event. In his The Trial of Jesus of Nazareth (Batsford), he returns to a subject that has been his interest for several years: the alleged political involvement of Jesus and his followers. Part of his case is a well-informed and attractively presented account of political life and historical conditions in Judaea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 70. But when he comes to give a highly individualized interpretation of the gospel facts, he offers a reconstruction of Christian origins that catches our breath: Jesus was mixed up with a violent, nationalist, anti-Roman movement known as the Zealots. And this implication with power politics is (says Brandon) the real reason for his death. The Gospels have obscured this unpleasant reality because they were written to make life tolerable for Christians in the empire, especially after the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, when the Jews had acquired a reputation for rebellion. Brandon’s thesis has commanded little sympathy, mainly because he is to be charged with the very thing of which he accuses the evangelists: tendentiousness and a selectivity of the evidence that enables him to reach his verdicts with a show of plausibility. Significantly, neither Jeremias nor Reicke makes much of the theological importance of the Zealots in New Testament times. But this deficiency did not prevent a Newsweek accolade from hailing Brandon as the modern counterpart of Albert Schweitzer because of his daring and heretical views!

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In Brandon’s reappraisal much is made of the Gospel written by Mark, who (so it is argued) retells the trial of Jesus in such a way that the scandal of a Roman crucifixion is explained away. From Germany comes a rival view of Mark’s purpose, published by W. Marxsen as Mark the Evangelist (English translation from Abingdon). This book has already achieved fame on the European continent, where it marked the advent of a new phase of gospel study known as “redaction criticism.” In a word, this approach to the Gospels seeks to explore the entire gospel story (as distinct from the individual sections of which it is made up) as the product of the distinctive evangelist. Marxsen’s aim in this pioneering work was to place the Gospel of Mark in the setting of the evangelist’s church situation. He found the historical occasion for Mark’s publication in the outbreak of the Jewish war in A.D. 66 and suggested that Mark wrote to warn and challenge the Palestinian church to flee from Jerusalem to Galilee, where the Lord would appear to them. As with Brandon’s novel thesis, this reconstruction has won few adherents, but the method Marxsen used of taking the Gospel as a whole has been welcomed on all sides, and marks a real step forward beyond the cul-de-sacs of literary and form criticism.

In Hans Conzelmann’s An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament (SCM), we can see how deeply this newer study has affected the understanding of the Synoptics. Each evangelist is credited with a distinctive theological emphasis, and even provides data for an enquiry into Jesus’ own self-awareness as raw materials for an indirect Christology. This is significant. The immediate predecessor of Conzelmann’s book as a theology of the New Testament was Bultmann’s influential volumes—and he simply passed over the witness of the Synoptics as reflecting developed church tradition. So the latest book is more positive in its approach to the gospel sources as well as to theological themes in Paul, Hebrews, and John. There are numerous valuable insights (especially into the later books of the canon), but the shadow of Bultmann still falls heavily across the page.

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Another significant volume to emerge from the post-Bultmannian stable is the collection of essays by Ernst Käsemann entitled New Testament Questions of Today (SCM; Fortress). Obviously this book is required reading for any who wish to keep alert to the mental gyrations of European and American scholars in the Bultmann school. Certain features are expected as Kasemann repeatedly attacks the twin enemies of what he deems to be authentic New Testament religion: legalistic orthodoxy and enthusiasm. Much of his exegetical work reflects a defensive attitude stimulated by the opposition within pietistic Lutheranism to Bultmannian radicalism. But not all the essays are so slanted.

To turn from the Conzelmann-Käsemann axis to the writings of F. F. Bruce and Leon Morris is to enter another world of thought. Explicitly in his opening chapter of a volume carrying the scriptural text as its title, This Is That: The New Testament Development of Some Old Testament Themes (Eerdmans; Paternoster) Bruce dissociates himself from Bultmann’s denial of a salvation-history attitude to the Bible’s story. For Bultmann, the Old Testament is in no sense a preparation for the Gospel. This negativism entails a great loss, as Bruce’s fine chapters clearly show. He takes a few of the chief themes, motifs, and images that are used as vehicles of revelation in the Old Testament and show how the New Testament writers adopt and adapt them to convey the perfect revelation in Jesus the Messiah of Israel and the Church’s Lord. The rule of God, the salvation of God, the people of God, and the servant of God—these are the selected topics, all handled with expert scholarship and obvious enthusiasm.

Leon Morris’s Studies in the Fourth Gospel (Eerdmans) stands in the same evangelical tradition, but it is more about the way the Gospel has been interpreted than about the Gospel itself. The author has taken up a defensive posture against current denials of such traditional matters as the apostolic authorship and the Gospel’s historicity, and seeks to demonstrate that these positions are still viable. With that laudable effort there can be no quarrel, except that his method is largely to play off one set of scholars against another. One chapter is just a tussle between Westcott (on the right) and Barrett (on the left). There is value here in having the arguments pro and con marshaled so fully, but our impression is that the Johannine storm center has shifted considerably from these issues to the even deeper concern of whether John’s Gospel is canonical or not, a question recently posed by Käsemann. Perhaps Morris’s forthcoming commentary on the Gospel will address itself to these matters.

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Two other studies on the fourth Gospel should be noted; one is convincing, the other not so. W. H. Cadman’s posthumous work entitled The Open Heaven (Blackwell) bypasses much that occupies Morris’s interest in terms of the Gospel’s background; instead it goes to the heart of the evangelist’s presentation of his chief theme, the person of Christ. John’s aim is to show that God’s “eternal purpose is being enacted in [Jesus’] own life and ministry and will reach its full accomplishment in His impending passion and its aftermath, the sending of the Spirit.” The upshot of this discussion is to relate the Johannine Christ more closely with Paul’s Christology and indeed with the Jesus of the Synoptics. Nathaniel Micklem in his Behold the Man (Bles) also wishes to correlate John’s theology with that of the Synoptics, but his enterprise is marred by a dubious literary analysis that separates out hypothetical oral traditions and apostolic reminiscences from the editorial work of the evangelist, and by a revival of some old liberal ideas that betray a rationalizing tendency (e.g., Lazarus was not dead but in a comatose state from which Jesus called him).

Of a different caliber is the monumental study of all strata of New Testament Christology presented by Ferdinand Hahn as The Titles of Jesus in Christology (Lutterworth; World). On any showing this is a major work that passes under review the main appellations of Jesus (Son of Man, Lord, Christ, Son of David, Son of God) in the various phases of development within the canonical literature. To be sure, the attempt to apportion the titles among the so-called strata of tradition is somewhat speculative and arbitrary, because lines of development do not always run straight. But Hahn has assembled a vast amount of information and exegesis that will repay careful appraisal.

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Three titles published within the year are closely connected by a common topic. They are concerned to call in question some current principles of gospel methodology, and, while they are full of technical discussions, they do speak a relevant word in answer to the burning question, What may we know today of the Jesus of history? Gerald Downing in his The Church and Jesus (SCM) is content to place a number of searching question marks against an easy acceptance of criteria by which the modern gospel critic determines what he regards as authentic or inauthentic in the gospel records. The implied assumption on his part is that he knows in advance what the early Church was capable of preserving and originating. But this “quest for the primitive Church” is just as problematic (on form-critical grounds) as the quest for Jesus; and the whole method invites us a logical impasse. Downing quotes R. P. C. Hanson to good effect: “If [on critical assumptions] nothing is certainly original then we cannot be sure that anything is certainly secondary.”

E. P. Sanders (in The Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition, Cambridge) pursues a different tack by calling in question the propriety of labeling any part of the gospel tradition “early” or “late.” To be sure, modern scholars work with accepted canons, such as length, detail, and Semitic flavor, and often unthinkingly conclude that this evidence is compelling. For example, a narrative that is shorter than its parallels, less detailed, and full of Semitisms will be treated as earlier. Sanders’s study exposes the factual weaknesses of the entire method when treated as a set of cast-iron laws and thus upturns a considerable corpus of assured results in the field of gospel origins. Markan priority has taken a hard knock in this painstakingly erudite work.

And still another cherished assumption, beloved by the form critics, falls under the ax, if the results of J. Arthur Baird’s Audience Criticism and the Historical Jesus (Westminster) are to be believed. He is interested in the phenomena of the Synoptic audiences whom Jesus addressed. Usually these are dismissed as editorial creations, having no basis in fact. But no one until now has assembled all the data for inspection; armed with an IBM computer, Baird has classified all the references and comes up with some unusual results. Of prime importance is his estimate of Jesus’ sayings that as a body they possess “a rare stability and integrity, reflecting a church deeply concerned from a very early period to preserve the exact words and ideas of Jesus, and uniquely successful in so doing.” So it is back to the drawing board for the would-be solver of the Synoptic problem!

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Fitting nowhere into a neat pigeon-hole of New Testament books in 1969 are I. Howard Marshall’s comprehensive study of all the passages dealing with apostasy and falling away, Kept by the Power of God (Epworth), and Marshall D. Johnson’s The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies (Cambridge). The former raises some issues with which the dogmatic theologian will have to grapple, especially if his Calvinistic conviction is to remain intact. Johnson’s treatment of birth-lists concludes that the evangelists framed these more for theological than for historical purposes.

As a tail-piece a volume of collected essays in honor of Matthew Black has appeared under the caption Neotestamentica et Semitica (T. and T. Clark). The editors have brought together a galaxy of names from the international world of New Testament interpreters, and as expected the fruit of their writing is first-class fare from which it would be invidious to choose any special item. The entire volume is indicative of the good year it has been for the New Testament library, especially for the shelf marked “the four Gospels.”

Also published in the year were: A New Testament Commentary, edited by G. C. D. Howley (Pickering and Inglis); P. Benoit, The Passion and Resurrection of Jesus (Darton, Longman and Todd); G. W. H. Lampe, St. Luke and the Church of Jerusalem (Athlone); H. Chadwick, The Enigma of St. Paul (Athlone); A. J. B. Higgins, The Tradition about Jesus (Oliver and Boyd); S. Sandmel, The First Christian Century in Judaism and Christianity (Oxford); J. D. Kingsbury, Parables of Jesus in Matthew 13 (SPCK); W. Marxsen, Beginnings of Christology (Fortress); R. Bultmann, Faith and Understanding (SCM); C. Westermann, Handbook to the New Testament (Augsburg); S. Brown, Apostasy and Perseverance in the Theology of Luke (Biblical Institute, Rome); The New Testament Speaks, edited by G. W. Barker, W. L. Lane, and J. R. Michaels (Harper & Row); J. N. D. Kelly, Epistles of Peter and Jude (Harper & Row; Black); D. E. H. Whiteley, New Clarendon Bible: Thessalonians (Oxford); L. Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentary: Revelation (Eerdmans); C. C. Anderson, Critical Quests of Jesus (Eerdmans); and A. A. T. Ehrhardt, The Acts of the Apostles (Manchester University).

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