My nomination for the outstanding book on the New Testament last year is A Theology of the New Testament by George Eldon Ladd (Eerdmans). No one in North America has done more to enhance the reputation of contemporary evangelical scholarship than Professor Ladd, who teaches at Fuller Seminary. Hence it is fitting that he be the one finally to publish a conservative alternative to Bultmann’s classic work on the same subject. Here is the product of more than three decades of scholarly research and classroom teaching, material that has been shared, in part, with his students for many years and is now for the first time made available to the general public. It is a masterly work, lucidly written and carefully documented. This volume ought without doubt to be the standard textbook on the subject in evangelical seminaries and colleges for many years to come.

A more modest work is Chester K. Lehman’s Biblical Theology: New Testament (Herald Press). It is the work of a Mennonite scholar who writes in the tradition of Geerhardus Vos, the Princeton theologian of an earlier generation. It will prove to be a useful handbook, but it lacks the breadth of scholarship and polish of Ladd’s work. Early last year a milestone in translation was passed: the final volume of the monumental tribute to German biblical scholarship, the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament edited by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich (Eerdmans), was translated by G. W. Bromiley and appeared in its English edition simultaneously with the German original. Those who are familiar with the earlier volumes do not need to be told that it is an essential reference work for the exegete of Scripture. A supplementary volume of indexes is forthcoming.

COMMENTARIES The past year saw the appearance of some excellent commentaries on the New Testament. Three especially outstanding deserve to be mentioned first. William L. Lane brings the New International Commentary on the New Testament series closer to completion with his Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Eerdmans), without doubt one of the finest in the series. There are several other excellent commentaries on the Second Gospel; Lane’s takes its place alongside them as a major contribution by an evangelical scholar. It is especially good in making use of Judaic studies to illuminate the text. The more recent additions to the Anchor Bible series tend to be longer than the earlier ones. The record to date is two thick volumes on a six-chapter book: Ephesians by Markus Barth (Doubleday). Whatever one may think of the inordinate amount of space given to this book in comparison to the others, one cannot gainsay the quality and evident value of Barth’s commentary. It is not always easy to read, and the arrangement is a little confusing, but the comments are careful and to the point. Users will appreciate the balance between head and heart, the blend of careful historical-grammatical exegesis with theological concern and application to church life today. The author defends the traditional view of Pauline authorship. A Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians by C. K. Barrett (Harper & Row) concludes Barrett’s many contributions to the Harper’s New Testament Commentaries series. As we have come to expect, his book is a model of both scholarship and Christian piety.

Article continues below

Other important commentaries include Mark: A Portrait of the Servant by D. Edmond Hiebert (Moody); Colossians and Philemon in the New Century Bible series by Ralph P. Martin (Attic), briefer but more exegetically oriented than his exposition on Colossians, which was mentioned last year; The Gospel of Luke by Leon Morris (Eerdmans), the final volume in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries; A Commentary on the Johannine Epistles by J. L. Houldon (Harper & Row); Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians by R. A. Ward (Word), a noted Anglican preacher and scholar; The Freedom Letter by Alan F. Johnson (Moody), who gives a practically oriented analysis of Paul’s letter to the Romans; Romans: The Law: Its Function and Limits by D. M. Lloyd-Jones (Zondervan), the fourth in this well-known preacher’s series of expositions on Paul’s letter (here treating chapters 7:1–8:4); and Ralph Earle’s Word Meanings in the New Testament, Volume 3 (the first to be published) (Baker), dealing with key words and phrases in Romans.

JESUS AND THE GOSPELS 1974 seems to have been the year for scholars to write down their thoughts about Jesus and the origins of the Christian faith for the supposed edification of the educated general public. If the “quest of the historical Jesus” is dead, as some say, many people have not yet heard! Jesus: The Fact Behind the Faith is the title of a bit of popular apologetic by C. Leslie Mitton (Eerdmans), the editor of the Expository Times. His purpose is to answer the historical skepticism of some biblical scholars on the basis of sound historical and critical principles. His audience is believers rather than fellow scholars, and he gives them very good reason to continue to accept the Gospels as historically reliable accounts of the story of Jesus. Jesus: Inspiring and Disturbing Presence by M. de Jonge (Abingdon) is the work of a mildly iconoclastic Dutch scholar who attempts to interpret the person of Jesus as man and God in terms that can be understood by the proverbial modern man. Many will find de Jonge’s views more “disturbing” than “inspiring.” Jesus the Jew by Geza Vermes (Macmillan) is the work of a distinguished expert in the literature of Judaism. His goal is to place the story of Jesus in its true historical milieu, namely, first-century Palestinian Judaism. The book is more about the historical setting of the life of Jesus than about Jesus. His interpretations of the titles of Christ and even the virgin birth are nothing if not stimulating, but few of them will prove acceptable to believing Christians. Still, this is a worthwhile book. “An Essay Toward a New Testament Christology,” the subtitle of a new book by Bruce Vawter (described by a blurb on the cover as “author of the Four Gospels”), distinguishes This Man Jesus (Doubleday) from the other works mentioned in this section thus far. Although popular in form, it is the work of a careful scholar who is a devout Roman Catholic believer and a critical historian. Not all believers—Roman Catholic or Protestant—will be happy with his positive use of the categories of myth and legend, but all must recognize his serious attempt to wrestle with the data of Scripture and the implications of the faith. People Around Jesus by Walter A. Kortrey (Pilgrim) and Behold the Man by George Cornell (Ward) are popular approaches to Christ that focus on the people and events surrounding him.

Article continues below

In his creatively original study In Parables: The Challenge of the Historical Jesus (Harper & Row), John Dominic Crossan attempts to combine insights from contemporary literary criticism with those of biblical criticism and theology. His thesis is that Jesus’ message consisted of “what might be termed permanent eschatology, the permanent presence of God as the one who challenges [the] world and shatters its complacency repeatedly.” Jesus and Christian Origins Outside of the New Testament is F. F. Bruce’s contribution to this area and is available in an inexpensive paperback from Eerdmans. He discusses the references to Jesus and the early Christians in pagan writers, Josephus, the rabbinical tradition, the apocryphal gospels, the Qur’an and Islamic tradition, and also the evidence of archaeology. As is typical of Bruce, he packs a lot of information into a small space. Of interest primarily to the New Testament specialist are the following: Norman Perrin, A Modern Pilgrimage in New Testament Christology (Fortress), a collection of essays published earlier that may be said to represent the development of the author’s thinking (hence the “pilgrimage” of the title) concerning the Christology of the Synoptic Gospels during the past decade of scholarly endeavor; Gospel Studies in Honor of Sherman Elbridge Johnson edited by Massey H. Shepherd, Jr., and Edward C. Hobbs (Supplement, Anglican Theological Review), seven essays by a group of well-known Neutestamentler who are friends and colleagues of the recipient; John M. Hull, Hellenistic Magic and the Synoptic Tradition (SCM), an examination of the Gospels in the light of the references of Judaism, Gnosticism, and elsewhere to Jesus as working magic; Gerard S. Sloyan, Jesus on Trial (Fortress), a study of the Passion narratives that leads to the conclusion that the Romans rather than the Jews should bear the chief blame for the death of Jesus; M. D. Goulder, Midrash and Lection in Matthew (SPCK), an attempt to substantiate the twin hypothesis that Matthew is the work of a Christian “scribe” who used only Mark (“no Q, no M, and very little oral tradition”) and who wrote his Gospel with liturgical purposes in view, according to the pattern of the Jewish lectionary; and J. Terence Forestell, The Word of the Cross (Rome: Biblical Institute Press), an attempt to understand the death of Jesus in John’s Gospel in terms of revelation rather than sacrifice or vicarious suffering. Matthew: His Mind and His Message by Peter F. Ellis (Liturgical) offers the minister or theological student a survey of recent interpretation and seeks to understand Matthew’s literary method and theological emphases.

Article continues below

PAUL The Apostle Paul was not the subject of nearly so many books as usual this year. Still, a few offerings are well worth mentioning. Boasting in the Lord is a study of the phenomenon of prayer in the letters of Paul by David M. Stanley (Paulist). Deceptively simple in format, Stanley’s small book is a careful and even profound exposition of this very vital force at the heart of Paul’s life and ministry. F. F. Bruce explores the relation of the Apostle to his Lord in a brief monograph entitled Paul and Jesus (Baker). In contrast to both popular prejudice and some scholarly opinions, Bruce argues for a close theological link between the two. Studies in Paul’s Technique and Theology by A. T. Hanson (Eerdmans) is a collection of related essays that illustrate the theological method of Paul and his interpretation of the Old Testament. The serious student who has the patience to plow through these essays will find them a definite aid to understanding both Paul and the relation between the two testaments. Paul’s Intercessory Prayers by Gordon P. Wiles (Cambridge) was originally written as a doctoral dissertation at Yale University and is much more technical than that by Stanley mentioned above. Not only does Wiles give us a helpful study of the very center of Paul’s existence; he also provides a series of useful appendixes classifying the various types of prayers in the Pauline letters. Equally erudite but of a quite different nature is the monograph by John J. Gunther entitled St. Paul’s Opponents and Their Background (Brill). It is primarily a study of apocalyptic and sectarian Jewish doctrine. In contrast to some recent scholars, Gunther finds a basic unity of theology among Paul’s adversaries, judging them closer to Essenism than to any other school or sect of Judaism.

Article continues below

GENERAL Three quite substantial collections of essays on the New Testament appeared during 1974. New Dimensions in New Testament Study is an impressive volume of twenty-four papers read at the twenty-fifth annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in December, 1973. The editors are Richard N. Longenecker and Merrill C. Tenney and the publisher is Zondervan. Among the writers are F. F. Bruce (on the Canon), Robert H. Gundry (on the genre “gospel”), Harold H. Hoehner (on the date of the crucifixion), Philip E. Hughes (on the languages of Jesus), George Eldon Ladd (on the parable of the sheep and the goats), I. Howard Marshall (on “Early Catholicism”), and Everett F. Harrison (on Acts 22:3). These and other essayists have produced work of exceptional quality: here is evidence of North American evangelical scholarship’s coming of age. Christ and Spirit in the New Testament edited by Barnabas Lindars and Stephen S. Smalley (Cambridge) contains twenty-seven studies written in honor of Professor C. F. D. Moule of Cambridge. The authors represent a more diverse ecclesiastical heritage than those in the ETS volume, but a substantial number of evangelical scholars are included. The work is divided into three parts: (1) Christ in the New Testament, (2) The Spirit in the New Testament, and (3) Christ and the Spirit Today. The essays are scholarly and a number of them are in German or French, but all of them contain real dividends for those who have the patience to work carefully through them. Perhaps the most widely appealing essay will be “Conversion and Conformity: The Freedom of the Spirit in the Institutional Church” by C. K. Barrett. Reconciliation and Hope edited by Robert Banks (Eerdmans) is dedicated to the well-known evangelical Anglican scholar Leon Morris. Among the internationally famous contributors are B. Gerhardsson of Sweden, F. F. Bruce of England, E. Earle Ellis of the United States, H. N. Ridderbos of the Netherlands, G. Bornkamm of Germany, and R. N. Longenecker of Canada. All in all, the nineteen essays bring suitable honor to one who has meant much to the cause of Christian scholarship in our day. Three other collections are of various essays by single prominent scholars: The Crucified Messiah and Other Essays by Nils Dahl (Augsburg), and Belief in the New Testament by Rudlof Schnackenburg (Paulist), and Jesus and the Gospel: Volume 2 by Pierre Benoit (Seabury).

Article continues below

In a less technical vein are Norman Perrin, The New Testament: An Introduction (Harcourt), and Robert G. Gromacki, New Testament Survey (Baker). Both are intended for use as college texts, but it would be difficult to imagine more contrasting points of view. Perrin represents the most radical of contemporary New Testament scholarship, while Gromacki walks in a very conservative evangelical tradition. Encountering New Testament Manuscripts by Jack Finegan (Eerdmans) provides the serious Bible student with a first-rate working introduction to the subject of textual criticism. Unlike the authors of other standard introductions, Finegan is not content just to describe the work of textual criticism and to allow the students to work simply on the basis of modern critical texts; rather, he takes them back to the actual manuscripts that contain the variations and has them weigh the evidence personally on the basis of firsthand study. This is bound to be very useful in the classroom. A Lawyer Among the Theologians by Norman Anderson (Eerdmans) is an apologetic on behalf of the faith of the early Christians and its relevance for today. Of interest to the student of the New Testament are his chapters on “The Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith” and “The Resurrection.”

BACKGROUND Three major (and expensive!) works on Judaism in the intertestamental and early Christian periods were published last year. Pride of place belongs to the much needed and long awaited revision of Emil Schürer’s famous study of The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (T. and T. Clark). Volume one, focusing on the sources for the history of the period and the history proper, has been revised by Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar, and an international team of scholars. The work has been extensively revised; many parts were substantially rewritten and some entirely replaced, and the bibliographies are full and updated. It should therefore be added to all theological libraries, even those containing the original work. Two volumes are to follow. Judaism and Hellenism by Martin Hengel (Fortress) is the English translation of another massive work in the same general area. This one, however, focuses on the encounter between Greek and Jewish cultures during the period immediately prior to the birth of our Lord. The Jesus People in the First Century (Fortress) is the title of volume one in a projected multi-volume series, Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum. It is edited by S. Safrai and M. Stern, in cooperation with a committee of Jewish and Christian scholars; they are concerned not only for the historical and religious study of the period but also for Jewish-Christian relations.

Article continues below

Also throwing light on the same period but extending down into a later time is A. F. J. Klijn and G. J. Reinink, Patristic Evidence For Jewish-Christian Sects (Brill). This includes not only a discussion of the major Jewish-Christian sects mentioned by the fathers but also the appropriate texts from their writings, in Greek or Latin with English translations. Other works in this area are The Maccabees by Moshe Pearlman (Macmillan) and The Kings Depart by Alyn Brodsky (Doubleday), readable histories of this famous era in Jewish history (Pearlman’s is well illustrated); The Nabateans in Historical Perspective by John I. Lawlor (Baker), the story of the people whose famous capital, Petra, has been visited by thousands of tourists in modern times and whose king Aretas IV receives a mention in the New Testament (2 Cor. 11:32, 33); A. A. Long, Hellenistic Philosophy: Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics (Scribners), an account of an aspect of intellectual life in the Greek cities visited by Paul and the other early Christian missionaries in their travels; and a commentary on I and II Esdras by Jacob M. Myers (Doubleday) in the Anchor Bible series. One need not reckon Esdras as inspired in order to acknowledge that Myers has presented a work of major scholarship that makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the environment of both intertestamental Judaism and early Christianity.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.