New Testament Theology Annotated Bibliography

bultmannIn 1787, J. P. Gabler delivered his oration on the distinction between biblical and systematic theology. Since then, NT theology has developed into a wide field of its own. The following bibliography provides the major works of the field along with annotations on the methodology and importance of the works. If you would want to enter into the field of NT theology, you should probably start with Hasel and go from there. This list will be updated periodically. If you think of a work that is a major omission, please comment below and let us know!

For the rest of our Annotated Bibliographies, see its tab in the top menu.

History of New Testament Theology

Carson, D. A. “New Testament Theology.” Pages 796–811 in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Development. Edited by Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 1997.

  • Sections 1-6 are a survey of the beginnings of biblical theology and its blossoming into NT theology with Bauer. Carson’s history is brief, but also provide many more names and works than other histories, such as G. Hasel’s New Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate, who provides less names, but much more detail. Thus, the two works are complementary, not mention many other surveys of NT theology.

Hasel, Gerhard F. New Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1978.

  • Chapter one gives a somewhat detailed history of the field of NT theology and its major players.

Rowe, C. Kavin. “New Testament Theology: The Revival of a Discipline: A Survey of Recent Contributions to the Field.” JBL 125 (2006): 393–410.

  • In the recent German NT theologies of Ferdinand Hahn (2001, 2005), U. Wilckens (2002-05), and Peter Stuhlmacher (1991, 99), Kevin Rowe notes their similarities to oppose Bultmann’s influence in multiple ways. All three affirm the significance of the OT, of the historical Jesus, of the search for unity, and of theology proper for the true discipline of NT theology. However, Bultmann’s influence has not died out completely. Similar presuppositional frameworks can be seen in Georg Strecker (1996) and Joachim Gnilka (1994).1 Rowe considers the work of these two to be insufficient as NT theologies; they seem to amount to no more than “valuable sets of historical- or redaction-critical articles.” Rowe discovered five trends within recent works. (1) The OT is continually recognized as necessary for NT theology (contra Bultmann). (2) The historical Jesus is being recognized by most as necessary for NT theology (again, contra Bultmann). (3) The NT is usually recognized as the content of NT theology, although Gabler’s influence is still felt in the historical nature of the inquiry. (4) Rowe finds a “complete [scholarly] consensus” in the needs to respect unity and diversity in the NT, but there is an “emerging consensus” that NT theology must address the issue of the NT’s unity. (5) Rowe mentions at least two neglected factors in recent NT theologies. First, there is a lack of use of narrative as a possible way to reconcile unity and diversity. In this, he agrees with Carson, and anticipates Beale’s NT theology. Second, he notes a complete lack of non-European contribution to the field. At the time of his writing, Ladd’s 1974 NT theology and Child’s 1992 biblical theology were the last American contributions, until Marshall’s 2004 and Frank Thielman’s 2005 NT theologies. Since Thielman, thankfully, more American contributions have been published, some NT and some biblical theologies (F. Matera, 2007; S. Hafemann and P. House, 2007; T. Schreiner, 2008; J. Hamilton, 2010; G. K. Beale, 2011; G. Goldsworthy, 2012), but it remains to be seen if this trend will continue.

Critical Issues in New Testament Theology

Carson, D. A. “New Testament Theology.” Pages 796–811 in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Development. Edited by Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 1997.

  • Carson’s seven defining elements of NT theology are as follows. 1) Theology cannot be left out (contra Baur), nor can it be divorced from history (contra Bultmann). 2) Supernaturalism is a must (Wright argues that it is a must because we must study history from the worldview of those being studied, and the NT authors all believed in supernaturalism). 3) NT canon is the content of NT theology. Those who cannot undertake a whole biblical theology should always keep the wider picture in mind so that their more specialized research can contribute to the task of the creating the whole picture. The biggest issue here is “whether there is a continuous story line around which the canonical books are clustered and to which each book makes its own contribution” (807). This statement anticipated Beale’s new work, which seeks to do exactly that. 4) History is a must. Special features are progress, process, historical continuity and multiformity (following G. Vos). 5) Understanding literary genre is a must. 6) NT theology must be tied to faith; it cannot be divorced as its own discipline from all others (like systematic theology) as it did post-Gabler. A. Schlatter calls this an “atheistic method.” 7) Post-modern views of history, whereby meaning is created by the historian, must be rejected. We can enjoy true knowledge without absolute knowledge. Carson also lists three current pressing issues in NT theology. First, how should we correctly express unity and diversity? Second, how should we go about looking for a center? Third, what is the relationship between the NT and OT? On the center, Carson says the search is “chimerical” (810). The NT is too interwoven with themes, and we should perhaps pursue “clusters of broadly common themes, which may not be common to all NT books” (810).

John Sandys-Wunsch and Laurence Eldredge, “J. P. Gabler and the Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology: Translation, Commentary, and Discussion of His Originality,” Scottish Journal of Theology 33, no. 2 (1980).

  • J. P. Gabler provided the impetus for biblical theology to solidify as its own discipline by delivering his inaugural lecture at the University of Altdorf, “An Oration on the Proper Distinction Between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology and the Specific Objectives of Each.” Gabler, a rationalist, believed theology was not based firmly enough on Scripture and advocated the study of Scripture from a more inductive stance.  He divided biblical theology into two categories: (1) time and culturally conditioned truth and (2) pure, eternal truth, which is distinguished from the culturally conditioned truth by a rationalistic method.  He believed that dogmatic theology (that which is the eternally true and authoritative) must be based on the second category of biblical theology, the pure, eternal truth.  His address is considered foundational for the discipline of biblical theology, since many followed in his footsteps to pursue systematic and biblical theology as separate disciplines.  His distinction between the two categories of biblical theology is also debated today.

Klink, Edward W. III and Darian R. Lockett. Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

  • The purpose of the book is not to offer a “new definition or methodological proposal for biblical theology,” but to clarify “the morass of definitions and proposals plaguing both the academy and the church” (183). The introduction traces a brief history of BT, beginning with J. Gabler’s famous inaugural address given at the University of Altdorf in 1787 (14). Various issues historically and currently debated in the discipline are also explained. The following ten chapters survey five different types of BT. The authors devote one chapter to an explanation of the type, followed by a chapter explaining the work and methodology of a scholar who they presume best exemplifies that type of BT. The five types of BT and the scholars who best exemplify them are as follows: (1) BT as Historical Description (James Barr); (2) BT as History of Redemption (D. A. Carson); (3) BT as Worldview-Story (N. T. Wright); (4) BT as Canonical Approach (Brevard Childs); (5) BT as Theological Construction (Francis Watson). In the chapters explaining the type of BT under examination, the authors explain what each type believes to be (1) the task of BT, (2) the use of BT, (3) the scope and sources of BT, (4) the hermeneutical approach of BT, and (5) the subject matter of BT. The conclusion provides a helpful and succinct chart summarizing the explanation of each type of BT (186-189).

Hasel, Gerhard F. New Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1978.

  • In parts 2-4, Hasel provides a history of research on the major issues in NT theology, such as methodology, centers, and the OT in the NT. In part 5, Hasel provides his own “multiplex” approach. This work is incredibly important for understanding the history of NT theology and the various issues involved. It is a bit dated, and his multiplex approach hasn’t won major followers, but Hasel definitely has a grip on the entire field and does well to communicate the major issues involved.

Koester, Helmut and James Robinson. Trajectories through Early Christianity. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1971.

  • Koester and Robinson abandoned the theological agenda of Bultmann and declared Wrede to be correct in declaring NT theology dead. They returned to a purely historical, history-of-religions approach. This work advocates further research to develop a new historical reconstruction of early Christianity.

Thematic Studies or Monographs

Culmann, Oscar. Christ and Time. 3rd ed. Translated by F. V. Filson. SCM-Caterbury, 1971.

  • This monumental work argued against a cyclical view of time in the Old Testament and the early church, in contrast to the Greeks. Rather, the Hebrew concept of time is linear and traces the great history of God’s redemptive works. This work was foundational for the “redemptive historical” school of NT theology and is still a useful work today.

Dodd, C. H. According to the Scriptures: The Substructure of New Testament Theology. London: Nisbet, 1952.

  • Dodd’s little book is massively important, as it was a new thesis that challenged the idea that the NT authors simply proof-texted “messianic texts” from testimonies that were gathered for that apologetic purpose. Dodd works on the hypothesis that, if two NT writers quote from the same OT passage, then we are dealing with a common tradition, unless there is reason to believe one author directly influenced another (e.g., Jude influencing 2 Peter or vice versa) (30). He notes at least fifteen core OT passages that are quoted or alluded to by multiple NT authors, supposedly independently, evidencing a common tradition. He considers these texts to be a proto-Bible of the early church and concludes that, in general, the NT authors respected the context of the OT passages which they quoted or alluded to.

New Testament Theologies

Beale, G. K. A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2011.

  • Beale’s work is unique and an advance in methodology. He begins with about 100 pages that analyzes the theology of the OT storyline from creation through the second temple period. He continuously repeats a long “storyline” which contains various themes and centers around the new creational kingdom. The next 800 pages explain how the various aspects of the OT storyline are portrayed fulfilled in the NT. Of course, these fulfillments are both “already” and “not yet,” an idea which Beale extends from the common theme of the kingdom to every theme from the OT storyline. This work is a major contribution to the field.

Bultmann, Rudolf. Theology of the New Testament. Translated by K. Grobel. 2 vols. New York: Scribner, 1951–55.

  • Bultmann’s NT theology famously ignores Jesus’ part in NT theology, considering Paul to be what is truly important (he wrote only about 30 pages on Jesus at the beginning). This is no surprise, give his demythologizing program, whereby the Jesus of history is lost and the Christ of faith becomes all-important, the latter of which can be found throughout Paul’s writings. Bultmann considers anthropology to be the main lens through which to see Paul’s theology. Although the work is now over half a century old, it still retains value due to Bultmann’s scholarly ability and due to its influence which it has held, especially in German circles.

Conzelmann, Hans. An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament. New York: Harper Collins, 1967.

  • Conzelmann went further than Bultmann and even rids himself of the presupposition of the historical Jesus as a necessity for NT theology.  He traces early Christian creeds in the NT through redaction criticism, but these creeds are nothing but beliefs of the early church; they are not authoritative for today. Conzelmann was criticized by the other students of Bultmann for his speculative methodology.

Goppelt, Leonhard. Theology of the New Testament. Translated by Jürgen Roloff. 2 vols. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1981.

  • Goppelt brings another salvation-historical perspective (a la Cullmann) to NT theology. Ladd published his original edition in 1974, so Goppelt’s work reinforces this salvation-historical approach, highlighting especially the OT prophetic (or perhaps teleological) background to its NT fulfillment. The first volume treats the message of Jesus through a moderate use of redaction criticism to distinguish the theology of the Evangelists from Jesus’ own teachings. Volume two treats the early church and the theology of the various authors of the NT. The conclusion has a helpful history of the discipline of NT theology that complements Hasel’s. The translation is a bit rough and dense to read through, but many profitable ideas may be gleaned throughout, even if some sections hold less promise.

Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology. Princeton, NJ. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.

  • Jeremias worked against Bultmann and developed an intensely historical approach which sought to vindicate much of the NT as historically accurate. He especially attempted to demonstrate the historical reliability of many of Jesus’ sayings and demanded that the historical Jesus must be a part of NT theology. Thus, this first volume of his New Testament Theology is devoted to the proclamation of Jesus (the second was never published due to an untimely death). He looks at themes of the Gospels, especially of the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). He is well known for translating the Greek of the NT back into Aramaic, which Jesus spoke, to find the ipsissima vox (“the very voice”) of Jesus. He utilized redaction criticism heavily to determine which words can be traced back to Jesus’ ipsissima vox.

Marshall, I. Howard. New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

  • Marshall’s work looks at each NT book to extract the theological themes inductively. (He even takes Paul’s letters separately.) He finds the center of NT theology to be “mission,” which holds together the diverse perspectives expressed in the NT. While his work does not advance the field at all, he does provide his expert analysis of the NT documents, which is certainly invaluable. This work could be used well by pastors and exegetes.

Morris, Leon. New Testament Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: Academie Books, 1986.

  • Morris notes the difficulty in organizing NT theology chronologically because of the dating issues on the various NT books. So he starts with Paul’s theology, noting various themes. The next part looks at the Gospels of Matthew in Mark in one chapter each, and then follows up with five chapters on various themes in Luke and Acts. The next two parts examine themes in John’s writings (including Revelation) and the Catholic epistles. This work is thoroughly Evangelical and is ultimately thematic in its analysis. It is a great work for those entering the field of NT theology, but for those well acquainted it may not add much to one’s understanding.

Ladd, George E. A Theology of the New Testament. rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993.

  • What can one say? Ladd was a pioneer. He championed the already-not yet eschatology that is now so popular in biblical studies. His work begins with the synoptic gospels and examines major themes relating to the kingdom of God, followed major themes in John’s Gospel and letters (excluding Revelation). Next, he looks at critical issues related to the early church and continues with chapters on each of the general epistles, concluding with a chapter on Revelation. Throughout the work he emphasizes the already-not yet aspect of eschatology. He highlights the OT as the background for NT theology, although often mediated through the lens of second temple Judaism. One should not neglect to study Ladd and his contribution to the field of NT theology.

Stauffer, Ethelbert. New Testament Theology. SCM Press, 1955.

  • Stauffer built on Weiss’ work and sought to draw out systems of doctrine rather than develop a chronological approach. He disregarded the historical Jesus and one might claim he filtered out whatever did not fit his scheme.

Vos, Geerhardus. Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948.

  • Vos defines biblical theology as “that branch of Exegetical Theology which deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible” (5). He believes biblical history unfolds as an “organic progress,” which occurs from “seed-form to the attainment of full growth” (7). Vos’ work thus seeks to survey the organic relationship between the OT and NT, using a covenantal framework and exegetical focus. Unfortunately, his work on the NT covers only Jesus’s acts and teachings, leaving the work incomplete as a biblical theology. One could partially supplement this lacuna with Vos’ work on The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Weiss, Bernhard. Biblical Theology of the New Testament. 1885.

  • Weiss argued biblical theology should not be concerned with critical appraisals of the origins of books of the NT.  Rather, it should simply describe the history laid out in the NT.  This method usually relied upon drawing out systems of doctrine (Lehrbegriffe, “concepts of doctrine”) from the NT texts, a method already criticized by Wrede.

Witherington, Ben. The Individual Witnesses. The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament. Vol. 1. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Press, 2009.

  • Witherington’s NT theology is both extensive and unique. Witherington has produced a mountain of books on the NT, including a commentary on most (or all?) of the books in the NT. These works build on his exegetical work by examining major themes in the various NT corpora (vol. 1) and synthesizing the results into the points of unity between the corpora (vol. 2). The unique aspect to Witherington’s work, especially in vol. 1, is his emphasis on the ethics of the NT writings. Many of his theological categories are ethical (e.g., suffering), while he draws ethical implications out of those that are not intrinsically ethical (e.g., Christology, ecclesiology). His work is therefore uniquely helpful in bridging the “what it meant”–“what it means” gap, which is not often so easily done. The work could admittedly be condensed, and other NT theologies would be better to read from cover to cover, but this series is quite helpful as a reference to read up on various corpora and glean some extra notes.

Witherington, Ben. The Collective Witnesses. The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament. Vol. 2. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Press, 2009.

  • The second volume synthesizes the results from the first volume. He looks particularly at the God of the OT as the Father of Jesus Christ, pneumatology, inaugurated eschatology, and the ethics of Jesus. He then has separate chapters for the ethics of Jewish Christians (the distinctly Jewish writings of the NT) and the ethics of Gentile Christians (chapters on Paul and a separate one for Luke, Mark, and 2 Peter). The methodological weakness here is the inability of the series to integrate the exegetical data from individual corpora with a biblical theological matrix; hence the separation into two different volumes.

Wright, N. T. The New Testament and the People of God. Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1992.

  • This is volume 1 of Wright’s finally-complete series on the New Testament and Christian origins. This volume is not exactly a NT theology traditionally understood, since it takes a more historical approach and attempts to discover the worldview of Second Temple Judaism and early Christians. Much of what it contains does fit into the discipline of NT theology, though. Wright begins with a methodological discussion, which falls into four sections: (1) Epistemology; Literature; (3) History; (4) Theology and Authority. He argues for a critical-realist epistemology as opposed to a positivist or phenomenalist epistemology.
  • Wright’s portrait of Second Temple Judaism is, at his own admission, nothing novel. The four symbols of Second Temple Judaism were temple, land, Torah, and racial identity (224-232). He then describes their worldview as being God’s chosen people still in exile in need of reestablishing God’s true priesthood and kingship and remaining faithful to the covenant in the meantime. Wright also describes the twin theological themes in Second Temple Judaism as monotheism and election.
  • Part four traces the development of Second Temple thought into the first Christian century. Wright’s major point is that first century Christianity should be understood as standing in continuity with Second Temple Judaism, but also as redefining many of the theological beliefs in light of the fulfillment found in Christ. This first century community was understandably diverse—but Wright points out that diversity is expected, while the amount of unity within the movement is what should be surprising for scholars (454). The theology and hope of the early church was decidedly Jewish, and decidedly Christianized.

Wright, N. T. Paul and the Faithfulness of God. Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 5. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2014. 1700pp

  • As with volume 1 (New Testament and the People of God), this volume on Paul is not only a Pauline theology. Wright brings his characteristic historical and literary focus to the Pauline texts as well. This work in large part fleshes out (that’s an understatement) his earlier published set of lectures, Paul: In Fresh Perspective. Part 1 looks at Paul and his world, including Israel, Greco-Roman philosophy and religion, and the Roman empire. This is an attempt at a full presentation of Paul’s variegated historical context. Part 2 employs Wright’s use of “story” to map Paul’s mindset, his symbolic world, and his narrative. Part 3 is really the meat of the work. He examines monotheism, Israel and the Church, and eschatology. Paul conceives of each of these in continuity with Israel, but reimagined or reworked based upon the work of Christ. These chapters explain how Paul reworked each of these ideas and how he compares and contrasts with his Jewish predecessors. Part 4 concludes the work by looking at Paul in history and his relationship to the empire. This work is now indispensable when considering secondary literature on Paul’s theology.

Wright, N. T. Paul: In Fresh Perspective.  Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005. 195pp

  • This work is split into two major parts, “themes” of Paul’s world and “structures” of his theology.  Wright begins by explaining the well-known three worlds of Paul (Second Temple Judaism, Hellenism, Roman Empire) and adds a fourth: the Church (6). In the following three chapters, Wright expounds the Second Temple Jewish environment in which Paul lived (and was trained) and in which he must therefore be interpreted. He describes briefly the major theme of creation and covenant which runs through the OT and remains alive in the Second Temple period. The apocalyptic nature of Second Temple Judaism remained alive in Paul, although for him it was the revelation of God’s plan which was being worked out from the beginning (54).  Wright also believes that Paul’s gospel was intentionally polemical in nature, bravely hailing Jesus as Lord in a world where Caesar was to be hailed as such; Philippians 3 is especially a call to anti-imperialism (72). Having laid the foundation for how Paul is to be interpreted, Wright then demonstrates how Paul did not shed his Jewish beliefs altogether post-Damascus, but rather reshaped them with the revelation of Jesus as Messiah (84).  This involved his reshaping of monotheism, election,and eschatology. When dealing with election, he expounds his New Perspective view of justification (119-122). The last chapter applies the book to the Church today, explaining that we are part of the “fifth act” in God’s history (i.e., the era after the resurrection) and how we should live in this stage of history.

6 thoughts on “New Testament Theology Annotated Bibliography

  1. Perttu

    Heikki Räisänen’s “Beyond New Testament Theology” would be perhaps a good addition to this list.