Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation

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Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation. Edited by Joel B. Green. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995, xvi + 444 pp., $25.00 paper.

This volume contains 20 essays by 19 scholars from America and Great Britain. The plural in the subtitle ("Strategies") seems intentional. The editor writes: "No one interpretive method can claim to provide one authentic understanding of any given NT text" (p. 9). Accordingly, the essays address traditional historical-critical questions, literary approaches, issues of hermeneutics and theological interpretation. It is extremely useful for teachers and students, with most chapters applying interpretive methods to one or more of five Biblical passages and offering suggestions for further reading. Green's volume is in some respects similar to the collection of essays edited by I. H. Marshall (New Testament Interpretation, 1977) but offers numerous advantages of being more comprehensive, concise, accessible to beginning students and naturally more up to date. In NT introduction courses, Hearing the New Testament could serve as an excellent secondary text in addition to a standard work on NT literature.

The following comments address the content and certain specific points of individual chapters. Although Anthony C. Thiselton is sometimes quick to criticize nontraditional scholars without relating their lasting contributions, "New Testament Interpretation in Historical Perspective" is a good starting place for students who have not yet read Kummel or Baird. In tracing how scholarship has come to represent such a plurality of approaches, Thiselton both places NT scholars "within their own historical context" (p. 11) and offers a number of distinctive and promising interpretations. Addressing the role of the individual interpreter are Edgar V. McKnight's survey of intellectual history ("Presuppositions in New Testament Study") and Kevin J. Vanhoozer's discussion of "The Reader in New Testament Interpretation."

In "Traditio-Historical Criticism and the Study of Jesus," Bruce Chilton offers a rather complex picture of gospel traditions and applies this to eucharistic texts. The analysis is at times quite speculative (identifying contrasting traditions with Jesus, Peter, James and Paul), but students will benefit from seeing an historical critic in action instead of just reading a summary of current positions. James L. Bailey addresses the other main aspect of form criticism in his helpful discussion, "Genre Analysis." Stephen C. Barton presents a balanced summary of the contributions and limitations of "Historical Criticism and Social-Scientific Perspectives in New Testament Study. …