New Testament Theology and Ethics
All too often, argues Ben Witherington, the theology of the New Testament has been divorced from its ethics, leaving as isolated abstractions what are fully integrated, dynamic elements within the New Testament itself. As Witherington stresses, "behavior affects and reinforces or undoes belief."
Previously published as The Indelible Image, Volume 2, Witherington offers the second of a two-volume set on the theological and ethical thought world of the New Testament. The first volume looks at the individual witnesses, while the second examines the collective witness.
The New Testament, says Ben Witherington, is "like a smallish choir. All are singing the same cantata, but each has an individual voice and is singing its own parts and notes. If we fail to pay attention to all the voices in the choir, we do not get the entire effect. . . . If this first volume is about closely analyzing the sheet music left to us by which each musician's part is delineated, the second volume will attempt to re-create what it might have sounded like had they ever gotten together and performed their scores to produce a single masterful cantata."
What the New Testament authors have in mind, Witherington contends, is that all believers should be conformed in thought, word and deed to the image of Jesus Christ—the indelible image.
"To discuss the theology and ethics of the New Testament is to dive into a vast ocean of theological reflection from many angles. It would be easy to get lost at sea. That is where a good navigator and cruise director are essential. Ben Witherington takes up both roles and steers us on a solid course through the array of ideas the New Testament treats. He does so with skill, clarity and an eye on what is important. He also notes what dangers lurk in taking a wrong course. In sum, here is a solid introduction to how theology and ethics work together in the New Testament. Enjoy the tour and linger in spots. It will be worth it."
"Ben Witherington is a skilled historical exegete who has, probably uniquely in our generation, pursued his passion for the theological and ethical message of the New Testament through commentaries on every one of the New Testament books. Now he has given us a summation that is even more unusual—a New Testament theology that allows to every one of those books a voice that really counts. A magnificent climax to Witherington's work."
"Over the course of his academic career Ben Witherington has gone against the stream of increasing specialization in biblical studies, producing commentaries on every document in the New Testament. As a result, Witherington is no 'theological' jack-of-all trades; to the contrary, he has demonstrated his mastery over a variety of subdisciplines in New Testament studies. With The Indelible Image, volume 1, Witherington once again defies the communis opinio that New Testament theology and New Testament ethics must, of necessity, be treated in isolation from each other. Rather, drawing on his previous exegetical work, Witherington establishes that New Testament faith and practice—theology and ethics—are inextricably intertwined and, in order to understand the message of the New Testament, must be treated whole cloth. The Indelible Image is a model of 'theological exegesis' at its stunning best and confirms Witherington's reputation as one of evangelical Christianity's most thoughtful and prolific authors."
"By insisting that theology be placed in conversation with ethics, Witherington offers numerous insights on the necessary intersection of faith and works, church and society. He and I may disagree on the particulars of Jewish tradition and women's roles in antiquity, but I have learned much from his canonically comprehensive, evangelically committed, historically informed and engagingly presented way of doing theology."
"Ben Witherington's The Indelible Image is no ordinary theology of the New Testament. From start to finish it is creative and insightful. The entire approach is refreshing, based on an appreciation of the distinctive voices that make up what we might call the theological choir of the early church. Witherington has given proper place to voices not often heard, such as those of James, Jude and Peter. Beginning students and veteran scholars alike will appreciate this remarkable achievement. I give it my highest recommendation."
"In this book, Ben Witherington III explains the theological and ethical significance of Christ as the center of the New Testament. He explains how each New Testament writer's encounter with Christ changed not only his worldview, but also his understanding of moral living. But in contrast to much of contemporary scholarship, Witherington believes the New Testament writers are not writing conflicting or competing theologies. He suggests they are different voices singing the same chorus. Witherington explores historical and ideological perspectives as they influence our apprehension of the New Testament. This text does not provide a list of legalistic moral commands to follow, but it does provide insight on controversial subjects, such as divorce, homosexuality and gender roles."
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
REWIND: A Brief Synopsis of Volume One
PROLEGOMENA: Is New Testament Theology or Ethics Possible
1 Preliminary Considerations: From Symbolic Universe to Story to Theology
2 The Symbolic Universe of Jesus and the New Testament Writers
3 The Narrative Thought World of Jesus and the New Testament Writers
4 The New Testament Consensus of the Christ
5 The New Testament Consensus on God the Father
6 The New Testament Consensus on the Person of the Holy Spirit
7 The New Testament Consensus on Salvation and the End of All Things
8 New Testament Ethics: Preliminary Considerations
9 The Ethics of Jesus and its Influence on New Testament Writers
10 Ethics for Jewish Christians: Matthew, John, James, Jude, Hebrews, 1-3 John, 1 Peter, Revelation
11 Ethics for Gentile Christians Part One: Paul's Letters
12 Ethics for Gentile Christians Part Two: Mark, Luke, and 2 Peter
13 Coda: Integrating the Old and New Testament Thought Worlds and Moving Forward to Biblical Theology