Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology

By Zahl, Paul F. M. | Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology


Zahl, Paul F. M., Anglican Theological Review


Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology. Edited by Joel B. Green and Max Turner. Grand Rapids, Mich./Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. x + 246 pp. $18.00 (paper).

This book is a collection of scholarly essays intended to lay the foundation for a new series of New Testament commentaries entitled the Two Horizons Commentary. "Two Horizons" refers to the horizon of academic biblical studies, on the one hand, and Christian systematic theology, on the other. The papers that comprise this book were first presented at the 1998 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Each of the essays aspires to serve the cause of bringing together the two disciplines, i.e., New Testament studies and systematics. These two disciplines the authors consider to have been separated from one another by 11 modernist" or "post-Enlightenment" thinking. The assumption of every one of the contributors is that New Testament studies needs Christian theology. The supposedly objective "religious studies" model does not do justice to the faith content of the Bible. Therefore, theological commitment is needed in order for the ancient texts to be heard today.

This reviewer is sympathetic to the aims of Joel Green of Asbury Theological Seminary and Max Turner of the London Bible College, who have brought the Two Horizons project into being. Their aims and hopes are high. They are trying to correct an artificial "neutrality that pervades almost all university Biblical studies today. This neutrality is hostile to revealed concepts of religion and is therefore hostile to the true concerns of the Bible."

But the book is a misfire! It misfires because almost every page of it is weighed down by nearly impenetrable academic jargon.

Here are some examples: The word "nuanced" appears again and again, and again. It seems to mean "non-simplistic," and these evangelical writers seem terrified of sounding simplistic.

Is "interdisciplinarity" (pp. 37ff.) a noun? And why is the word "project" used to describe every movement of ideas in the history of the world? And what does this mean?

The principle of the (conference) table may also be imperiled by selective methods of reading, which do not command a broad consensus and do not necessarily relate to the usually accepted "literal" meaning of the writings-e.g., by "Pentecostal" and "charismatic" hermeneutics (which are in truth only variations of the "spiritual readings" found more broadly in various brands of pietism) (p. 59).

Or this?

To the extent that those who rely on speech-act theory recognize that one needs to make ad hoc arguments about the relative importance of specific conventional and contextual concerns in order to account for specific utterances, I would say that we both recognize the priority of practical reasoning in interpretation (p. …

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