It’s one of the most important NT theology’s ever written (perhaps the most important since Bultmann’s) and it has no, after many years, appeared in translation so that a wider audience can benefit from its brilliance.
Since its original publication in German, Peter Stuhlmacher’s two-volume Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testaments has influenced an entire generation of biblical scholars and theologians. Now Daniel Bailey’s expert translation makes this important work of New Testament theology available in English for the first time.
Following an extended discussion of the task of writing a New Testament theology, Stuhlmacher explores the development of the Christian message across the pages of the Gospels, the writings of Paul, and the other canonical books of the New Testament. The second part of the book examines the biblical canon and its historical significance. A concluding essay by Bailey applies Stuhlmacher’s approach to specific texts in Romans and 4 Maccabees.
Professor Stuhlmacher completed his two volume theology in 1999 and published it that year. That’s, for all intents and purposes, two decades ago now. The English rendering now appearing is based on revised editions coming along in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century.
The volume is introduced, and summarized to an extent, by G.K. Beale and also set in its historical context by the same. The author and the translator also have some things to say about the translation and the process through which it went to arrive in its present incarnation. Beale’s introduction is really remarkably helpful and the author and translator segments are also very informative.
It may be the habit of some to skip such frontmatter and dive directly in to the text at hand, but readers of this work really should start at the very first page and work through it consecutively. The argument of the work is progressive and cumulative.
The volume proper begins with a chapter titled ‘Foundations’. Here Stuhlmacher discusses the task of New Testament theology. Here he outlines his methodology.
‘Book One’ follows, containing six Parts. These are
- The Proclamation of Jesus
- The Proclamation of the Early Church
- The Proclamation of Paul
- The Proclamation in the Period after Paul
- The Proclamation of the Synoptic Gospels
- The Proclamation of John and His School
‘Book Two’ is comprised of but one topic: The Problem of the Canon and the Center of Scripture.
The translator affixes a chapter he calls “Biblical and Greco-Roman Uses of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25 and 4 Maccabees 17:22 (Codex S)”. Then follows an index of subjects, index of modern authors, and an index of Scripture and other ancient sources.
Stuhlmacher’s approach is very engaging. And a bit unique. For instead of talking about the problem of the Canon and the ‘center’ of the New Testament at the outset, he leaves that off until he has presented the various theological leanings of the New Testament’s various writers; and then, and only then, does he offer what he perceives to be their unifying or at least common thought.
Put another way, the volume asks what it is that Jesus proclaims, the early church proclaims, Paul proclaims, Paul’s followers proclaim, the Synoptics proclaim, and John proclaims. What are they after? What is their central belief?
To answer these questions, Stuhlmacher provides both what we in America would call an ‘Introduction to the Writings of the New Testament’ alongside and combined with a ‘Theology of the New Testament.’ That is, there are two volumes in one. Additionally, his work is also something of a ‘Reception History’ of New Testament studies, providing, as it does, analysis of Stuhlmacher’s predecessors works. There is, it’s fair to say, a lot going on between the covers.
A closer look at the various Parts of Stuhlmacher’s investigation will provide an open window to his approach. So, for instance, Part Two, The Proclamation of the Early Church, is made up of three chapters (chapters 13-15):
- Jesus’s Resurrection from the Dead
- The Development of the Confession of Christ
- The Formation, Structure, and Mission of the First Churches
Part Six, The Proclamation of John and his School, is comprised of five chapters (35-39):
- The Tradition of the Johannine School
- Johannine Christology
- Life in Faith and Love
- The Johannine View of the Church
- The Significance of the Tradition of the Johannine School
Stuhlmacher’s writing style is engaging whilst managing also not to be plodding or boring.
The three concepts of the gospel, justification, and faith – ευαγγελιον, δικαιωσις, and πιστις – designate the heart of Paul’s mission theology. Together these three constitute the salvation that he has to preach (p. 346).
Stuhlmacher also provides more detailed exposition in sections of smaller font print (think the sections of Barth’s Dogmatics where he uses larger print for the main argument and smaller print for exposition and analysis: Stuhlmacher does the same).
The translator also provides not only Stuhlmacher’s original bibliography but after each chapter’s bibliography he also provides a section titled ‘Further Reading’.
Readers can always tell a lot about a scholar by the sources he or she cites and with whom he or she interacts. Stuhlmacher’s impressive work is actually part of a larger dialogue within German theological circles about central concerns of the discipline. He interacts herein, then, with the ideas of Bultmann, Gese, Jeremias, Käsemann, and Wilckens, along with scores of other lesser luminaries.
This is an encylclopedic volume of over 900 pages in total. It is superbly argued, brilliantly translated, incredibly faithful to its Urtext, and virtually a graduate level year long seminar on New Testament theology. Indeed, it is well suited as a textbook for a course on New Testament which could easily span two semesters of upper level Seminary work.
I enjoyed the first edition German version; I love the English version based on revisions. To say that I recommend it highly is the understatement of the century. I recommend it utterly and unreservedly. It is the sort of volume that those who read it will know more than those who don’t could ever hope to know. It is an education in itself and a thorough one at that on the subject of the theology of the New Testament.
Get it. Get it today. Read it. Use it for coursework. Assign it to your students. Require it. And if they don’t read it, fail them.