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Historical and Canonical Aspects of a New Testament Theology

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In nineteenth-century discussions of the scope and methods of New Testament theology more attention was paid to the new historical methods than to the reasons for this discipline. Its independence from dogmatics was new, but it was the role of Scripture in the life of the Church which made it important in educating clergy. Theological interpretation of any passage of Scripture might serve as a source of Christian faith and theology, but for Scripture to be a norm, a survey of the whole New Testament is needed. New Testament theologies using historical exegesis and attending to all the canonical writings can offer (or imply) proposals about the identity of Christianity, and in the conversation between such proposals a measure of consensus can be expected where there is agreement to respect textual intention. Most Christian reading of Scripture to nourish and communicate faith is done through translations and without asking about authorial intention, but theologians making proposals about the identity of Christianity which accord with the witness of Scripture are subject to more constraints for the sake of consensus. They need to survey the whole New Testament using critical historical exegesis and background knowledge of the ancient world to inform a perspective derived from their contemporary understandings of Christianity. Such theologically interested surveys are properly called New Testament theologies.

Affiliations: 1: Linacre College, Oxford


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