Encountering the New Testament, 4th Edition

A Historical and Theological Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


10. Modern Approaches to the New Testament

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Trace the highlights in the development of higher criticism
  • Give examples of the challenges that parts of the New Testament present to the reader
  • State the non-Christian assumption about the Bible made by some critics
  • Name and define the methods of historical criticism
  • Identify scholars who belong to the historical-critical and historical-theological traditions
  • Explain the field of hermeneutics
  • Discuss the aims for interpreting the New Testament

Chapter Summary

  1. Interpreting the New Testament is essential and should be done within a framework that recognizes the uniqueness of Jesus, accepts the Bible as the Word of God, and acknowledges the real presence of God in human affairs.

  2. The Enlightenment critics who interpreted the New Testament typically held the following assumptions: (a) the church has misread the Bible; (b) Jesus was not the divine Son of God; (c) miracles in the New Testament may not have been real and cannot be the basis for Christian belief; (d) the Bible should be ridiculed because it is offensive to the modern mind; and (e) the only legitimate way to interpret the Bible is to use the historical-critical method.

  3. Philosophical movements like Neo-Kantianism, phenomenology, and existentialism have influenced modern critical methods.

  4. Hermeneutics is the theory and practice of interpretation.

  5. In interpreting the biblical text, it is important to consider which conditions are necessary to enter into the text, which methods are appropriate for analyzing it, and which aims shape our observation and application of our findings.

  6. Methods of historical criticism include textual criticism, source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, literary criticism, canonical criticism, sociological criticism, and structuralism.

  7. The purpose of interpretation of the New Testament should be to apply it to our lives, to lead us to worship God in the context of the church, and to equip us to share this knowledge with others.

  8. The New Testament is both history and theology simultaneously.

  9. A sound hermeneutic recognizes that the New Testament relates the story of Christ as the Old Testament foretold, that various witnesses depicted this story, that in Acts the story was spread, that the story was applied in various settings in the Epistles, and that it will culminate one day in cosmic judgment as prophesied in Revelation.

Study Questions

  1. What issue did Kümmel’s review of Albertz’s New Testament introduction raise?

  2. Why does the Bible need interpretation?

  3. Cite some contributions of historical criticism.

  4. How does a historical-theological approach differ from a historical-critical one?

  5. What is the meaning of the word “hermeneutics”?

  6. Give five characteristics of a sound hermeneutic for interpreting Scripture.