Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: New Testament Theology in Light of the Church’s Mission: Essays in Honor of I. Howard Marshall

The Blurb:
...this book is highly recommended by this reviewer for its depth and example of erudite scholarship.  On a personal note: the example set by this book and the one it celebrates goes beyond sturdy scholarship, it moves towards discipleship. I am one who has sat at the feet of nearly a half-dozen men who are either published in this work or were advised by Marshall in their post-graduate research.  I sense a legacy, and I pray that myself and others in my generation will be the “faithful men” to Professor Marshall’s “Paul” as we seek to pass on Marshall's legacy to the “others” (2 Tim. 2:2).

(See this review cited on Ray Van Neste's Oversight of Souls)
Laansma, Jon C., Osborne, Grant, and Van Neste, Ray, editors.  New Testament Theology in Light of the Church’s Mission: Essays in Honor of I. Howard Marshall.  Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011. 395 pp. ISBN 978-1-61097-530-8. $46.

In the past century, few men have made the impact in the area of the New Testament as I. Howard Marshall has made.  It is also most certainly true that few have been honored with two festschrifts.  But here in New Testament Theology in Light of the Church’s Mission the editors give Marshall this distinct honor. 

Among many distinguished positions of honor held in his career, Marshall was Chair of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research and Chair of the NT Study group prior to the previously mentioned position, and Editor of the Evangelical Quarterly.  But in his career perhaps the most telling of his abilities and impact is the fact that he “was for decades a primary destination for postgraduate study for evangelical students from around the world”, with the result that, “‘Aberdeen’ has come to mean ‘conservative, evangelical biblical scholarship’” (1,5).  Thus, “mission” is an apropos theme chosen by the editors for this compilation.
As for the work at hand, the collection of scholars and topics covered is truly astounding.  A collection like this one makes this reviewer’s job exciting yet difficult to do justice to the work that is here reviewed.  Without giving an entire table of contents that can be accessed elsewhere, some contributions salient to the reviewer include James Dunn on “Methodology of Evangelism in the NT”; the late R.T. France on “The Son of Man in Hebrews 2:6”; Darrell Bock with a pastoral entry on the gospel preached in the narrative speeches in Acts, namely “The Gospels before the Gospels”; Mark Strauss “The Purpose of Luke-Acts: Reaching a Consensus”; Brian Rosner on “The Missionary Character of 1 Corinthians”; Anthony Thiselton on “Paul’s Missionary Preaching in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16; Robert Yarbrough on “Schlatter on the Pastorals”; and Eckhard J. Schnabel on “Early Christian Mission and Christian Identity in the Context of the Ethic, Social, and Political Affiliations in Revelation”.  Other contributors include Craig Blomberg, Philip Towner, Esther Yue L. Ng, Gary Burge, Joel Green, Gene Green, Andrew Clarke, Maureen Yeung, Roy Ciampa, Alistair Wilson, Greg Couser, Paul Ellingworth, Jon Laansma, and Grant Osborne.  
I would like to highlight two entries in particular because of the honor they do Marshall.  The first by Darrell Bock bears witness to Marshall’s legacy as a scholar who can reach a broad audience; the second by Robert Yarbrough on a German theologian, Adolf Schlatter, who in his own time had similar far-reaching influence in the German speaking world as Marshall has had in the English speaking world through his scholarship and biblical interpretation.
Marshall once said of F.F. Bruce, “to write at a popular level is not inconsistent with a truly scholarly approach, and it may be argued that one test of a person’s scholarship is the ability to express arguments and conclusion in a manner that is generally intelligible”.  This too is a legacy of Marshall.  In a similar spirit Darrell Bock’s chapter “The Gospels before the Gospels: The Preached Core Narrative” is not intended “as a technical scholarly piece, but as a piece of reflection for those in the church” (97). 
In his chapter, Bock seeks to correct the commonality among evangelical churches today to “present the gospel in very Pauline terms”, exclusively.  He does this by exploring salvation via multiple images in the Lucan narrative of Acts.  Bock briefly discusses each respective speech in Acts 2, 3-5, 10, 13, and 17.   In this brief study he asks of each pericope, “how is the gospel presented?”, namely “what does the speaker say and not say in their gospel proclamation” and finally, though by implication, “how does our gospel presentation be it in a sermon or otherwise square with those in Acts?” 

Bock concludes, “the stress in the evangelistic message [in these speeches] is not so much how Jesus accomplishes this as much as who offers it, what is offered, and how God stands behind the attestation of these claims through the vindication and exaltation of Jesus to share in God’s very presence” (100).  By this, Bock highlights that, according to the evangelistic speeches in Acts, we are not proclaiming “an idea” but rather “a person”, because it is “forgiveness and new life in God’s Spirit” that is offered and highlighted in the proclamation of the gospel.  Though not a “scholarly piece” Bock’s study will be one to follow in its development in the future, since, as one reviewer has already noted, it seems to be much in line with the studies being presently contributed by such NT theologians as N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight.
Next, in Robert Yarbrough’s contribution a similarity is drawn between I.H. Marshall and Adolf Schlatter’s effect on world Christianity by both having similar interpretation of the Pastorals, but more broadly their vocation as one who went “beyond being a missionary enabler”.
Yarbrough says of Schlatter,“While an aim of many post-Enlightenment biblical scholars has been to disabuse students of historic Christian faith and a high view of Scripture's veracity, Schlatter stands out as a brilliant exegete who overall defended the bible's accuracy." (295-6).
Following this theme, Yarbrough chooses Ulrich Wilkens, a prolific German scholar from the mid-20th century, as a conversation partner. I found Yarbrough method of a conversation partner when studying Schlatter's exegesis of the pastorals to be more helpful in drawing out the full flavor and importance of Schaltter's conclusions.   For me, though, it remains a bit unclear on why Wilkens was chosen, besides shared nationality and both working in the area of the Pastorals within 50 years of each other.
Nevertheless, Yarbrough concludes that Wilken’s study of the Pastorals is hazy and hypothetical, while Schlatter roots his study of the Pastorals in how Paul’s ministry characterizes him.  Yarbrough clarifies, “Or put it another way, while the historical Paul is a shadowy background figure for Wilkens's PE exposition… for Schlatter not only Paul but even Jesus plays a significant role, perhaps not surprising since the PE are replete with references to Jesus" (309).
Yarbrough concludes the spirit of Schlatter’s interpretation of the Pastoral by applying his study to the current world church:

"in the larger world church setting where the Bible is receiving fresh attention and respect, and groups affirming a more historic high regard for the Bible are seeing meteoric growth… there is reason to rethink traditional academic animus toward close association between Jesus seen as Savior in fulfillment of OT promises, a Paul who actually encountered him in a life-and world-transforming way, and the PE seen as authentic Pauline writings" (315).
After reading this compilation of works contributed by well-known experts in wide spectrum of New Testament scholarship, the celebration for I.H. Marshall’s career is evident.  Though for a paperback, the price is a bit prohibitive for many, this book is highly recommended by this reviewer for its depth and example of erudite scholarship.  On a personal note: the example set by this book and the one it celebrates goes beyond sturdy scholarship, it moves towards discipleship. I am one who has sat at the feet of nearly a half-dozen men who are either published in this work or were advised by Marshall in their post-graduate research.  I sense a legacy, and I pray that myself and others in my generation will be the “faithful men” to Professor Marshall’s “Paul” as we seek to pass on Marshall's legacy to the “others” (2 Tim. 2:2). 


Note:  This book was furnished without charge by Cascade/Wipf and Stock in exchange for an objective review.  Thanks you Cascade for the book!

Other Book Reviews on MosisMose: 
The Later New Testament Writings and Scripture
NT Theology in Light of the Church's Mission: Essays in Honor of I. Howard Marshall
The Power of Pentecost

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