New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ
Blomberg, Craig L., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. By Thomas R. Schreiner. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008, 990 pp., $44.99.
A flurry of large, helpful NT theologies has appeared in just the last few years (e.g. Matera, Strecker, Schnelle), including several by evangelicals (Marshall, Thielman, Helyer). Tom Schreiner has now joined the project, with a distinctive arrangement of material that is part biblical and part thematic. Eschewing the approach of Guthrie in 1980 who began with all of the standard categories of systematic theology and then looked at each NT author's or book's contribution, as well as the more recent prevailing approach that seeks to hear the distinctive voice of each separate book, Schreiner creates categories that resemble key systematic topics and follow conventional sequence but also that, he believes, emerge more directly from pervasive themes that unify the NT. Then he looks at one or more books' dominant and distinctive contribution to those topics, author by author or corpus by corpus. Schreiner is convinced that this approach is needed in order to counter the reigning liberal practice of pitting one part of the Bible against another and to demonstrate the overarching unity of the various documents.
The first sentence of the introduction discloses the book's thesis. The unity of the NT involves seeing its "God-focused, Christ-centered, and Sprit-saturated" nature, "but the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit must be understood along a salvation-historical timeline; that is, God's promises are already fulfilled but not yet consummated in Christ Jesus" (p. 23). Schreiner then sketches the main ways in which this is prepared for by OT background and then appears in the Synoptic Gospels, the Johannine literature, Acts, Paul, Hebrews and James, 1-2 Peter and Jude, and Revelation. As the book unfolds, depending on the importance and detail of a given topic in a given part of the NT, he may treat each Gospel separately, put Matthew and Mark or Luke-Acts together, and subdivide the Johannine literature and the other non-Pauline epistles further.
Overall, the volume falls into four main parts. First comes "The Fulfillment of God's Saving Promises: The Already-Not Yet," subdivided into chapters on the kingdom of God in the Synoptics, eternal life and eschatology in John, and inaugurated eschatology outside the Gospels. Part 2 is the longest, on "The God of the Promise: The Saving Work of the Father, Son, and Spirit," with ten chapters, the first and last of which treat, respectively, (Jod the Father and the Spirit in the entire NT. In between, eight chapters look at various aspects of the person and work of Christ categorized either according to christological titles, a particular corpus, or a main constituent element of Christology. The final two parts ("Experiencing the Promise: Believing and Obeying" and "The People of the Promise and the Future of the Promise") again contain only three chapters each and are divided exclusively topically.
Schreiner explains that he wrote the first three drafts of the book (!) without explicit reference to secondary literature, though obviously he draws on a distinguished publishing career in which he has become intimately familiar with much of that literature. Only afterwards did he go back and insert documentation and interaction with scholars, mostly in the footnotes. The text clearly discloses the fruit of this method. The wording is clear, discussions succinct, and biblical references compendious. On countless occasions one becomes aware of exegetical alternatives that Schreiner could have discussed only if he wanted to double the length of an already massive tome. While one usually gets at least some sense of why he has chosen the positions he has, even then there are occasions when one finds mere assertion rather than argumentation.
On main issue after main issue and on the vast majority of the more minor topics, I find myself in full agreement with Schreiner's exegesis and synthesis. …