Reviews of

The State of New Testament Studies

In Baker Academic, Nathan Charles Ridlehoover, New Testament, Nijay K. GUPTA, Research Currents, Scot McKnight on January 16, 2020 at 4:00 pm

9781493419807

2020.01.02 | Scot McKnight and Nijay K. Gupta, eds. The State of New Testament Studies: A Survey of Recent Research. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019. ISBN: 9780801098796.

Review by Charles Nathan Ridlehoover, Columbia International Seminary.

The State of New Testament Studies begins with the story of an aspiring academic (Gupta) entering seminary with the goal of learning the “world” of New Testament studies. As many will remember, the one-stop-shop for such an overview was the indispensable The Face of New Testament Studies. The beauty of the story is that the aspiring academic received the The Face of New Testament studies, was gripped by its contents, and now has had the occasion to revamp the original volume with one of the original editors (Scot McKnight). In what follows, Nijay K. Gupta and Scot McKnight explain the new face of NT studies, or in this case, the state of fifteen years of progress (and maybe even a bit of digression) in the field.

The following volume begins with a touching tribute to Grant Osborne, whose passing marked a great loss to the NT guild. This nod to Dr. Osborne leads to some basic introductory matters that explain the aim of the book and its desire to speak to the next generation of scholarship and student. Before launching into individual chapters, the editors survey six major trends in current NT scholarship. Those trends are (1) the expanse of new tools and methods of interpretation, (2) a move towards and appreciation of global and diverse perspectives, (3) more attention to neglected NT texts (e.g., Acts, Revelation, Catholic Epistles), (4) sophisticated historical contextualization, (5) theological interpretation of Scripture, and (6) special interest in reception history and the history of interpretation of Scripture. I initially thought that the list was incomplete without mention of intertextuality and the slew of studies in Cognitive Metaphor Theory but realized that these elements were addressed in much more detail in the chapters on exegesis and interpretation. In many ways, this pattern continues throughout the book. When you think something is missing, a few pages later, one finds a thorough and balanced treatment of the subject. The trends mentioned help to orient the reader to the highlights of the book and function as a “true north” so that one does not get lost in the detail of individual chapters.

The editors have maintained a similar ordering of chapters as The Face of New Testament Studies with only slight differences. I will mention these differences in the following summary because they highlight contemporary interests and represent the distinctive qualities that make the book worth owning. The chapters are arranged into four parts: (1) Ancient Context, (2) Interpretation, (3) Jesus, Paul, and New Testament Theology, and (4) New Testament Texts. Whereas the earlier volume focused on Galilee, Judea, Rome, and Greece for ancient context, the new volume adds a chapter attending to the role of women in these worlds (chap 2). In the previous volume, more attention was given to the “scientific” methods of interpretation (e.g., textual criticism, social-scientific methods, and Greek grammar and syntax). In this volume, attention is turned to literary and reader-response methods. For instance, the chapter on “Hermeneutics and Exegesis” (chap 3) focuses on postmodern biblical approaches such as African American, womanist and feminist, Latinx, and postcolonial biblical interpretation. The chapter contributor, Dennis Edwards, does not dispense with historical-critical methods but attempts to bridge the divide between more tradition methods and today. Other interpretation chapters include the OT in the NT (chap 4), the genre of the Gospels (chap 5), and the study of the Greek language (chap 6). In the previous volume, section three focused on the various aspects of Jesus’s life such as the historical Jesus, parables, miracles, and the relationship between the Synoptics and the Fourth Gospel. In the current volume, section three is devoted to NT theology. On display is the most current surveys on topics such as the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith (chap 7), NT Christology (chap 8), Pauline theology (chap 10), eschatology (chap 11), and NT ethics (chap 12). The final section of the book runs similarly to the remaining chapters of its predecessor with an in-depth analysis of individual books in the NT. The volume concludes with a Scripture and ancient writings index, author index, and select subjects index. A side-by-side reading of the previous volume and the current volume is like walking through a museum. In parts of the viewing, one encounters big names and big discussions on topics of the past, and in other parts, one is reminded that there is a bright future for rising scholars and new research.

Overall, this book is a necessary purchase for the NT reader if only for its up-to-date research. The footnotes are replete with further studies, and it is common throughout to see statements such as, “For more comprehensive summaries of research, see…” One topic that I did not see much interaction with is the topic of epigraphy. New discoveries and translation tools are showing that the comparative value of inscriptions is on the rise. One potential problem is that books of this nature always run the risk of becoming part of conversations that will be outpaced before the book is given its due. I think the editors hedged this perennial issue by seeking certain types of scholarly contribution. Not only does each contributor represent those who are pioneering current conversations, but also seem to have vision for the future of NT studies. In so doing, many of the analyses bring up stimulating points that may set the tone for the potential seminary student looking for their thesis topic or niche in the field of NT studies. Specific chapters that I found fascinating were the engagement with the “Old Testament in the New Testament” by Matthew W. Bates (chap 4), “New Testament Ethics” by Nijay K. Gupta, and “The Acts of the Apostle” by Joshua W. Jipp. In each treatment, one sees a humility and genuine reverence for the respective topic or book study. Another feature that is appreciated is the “Reflection” section at the end of each chapter. Not only do these sections summarize their respective chapter but also, they give a sort-of fireside chat for the reader—academic and personal. Readers may want to start each chapter in this section to frame what has preceded. I think the editors see their work as part of an ongoing conversation with the field of NT studies and who knows, maybe in fifteen more years, a young student will take a professor’s recommendation and write the next survey of recent research. I know I will be recommending the book for that student.

Charles Nathan Ridlehoover
Columbia International Seminary
nathan.ridlehoover [at] ciu.edu

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