Theology of the New Testament

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The crowning achievement for students of the New Testament is to grasp the whole while discerning the parts, to derive contemporary theological meaning without compromising historical accuracy, to respect the integrity of the ancient texts while interpreting validly within the structures of modern and postmodern consciousness. But how is it possible to communicate the diversely expressed faith of ancient Mediterranean fishermen and tentmakers in a crucified Jewish messiah to the academy and the church of the globalized and pluralized twenty-first century?

In Theology of the New Testament, Udo Schnelle—master teacher, deft exegete, committed churchman, and fully attuned contemporary intellectual—takes up this challenge with extraordinary energy and intelligence. The result is a capstone volume that puts all the pieces together both for students who read it straight through and for professors, theologians, pastors, and others who work through it at their own pace. For all who read it, the book will become a standard reference, a reliable source not only for summaries of particular New Testament books and topics but also for a refreshed and deepened perception of how a transcendent message has been uttered through temporally and spatially fixed actions and words.

The translation, prepared by a leading American scholar who knows the author well and shares similar qualifications and commitments, achieves the literary quality of an original English composition while conveying accurately the sense of the original German and adding bibliographic adaptations for English-language readers.

Contents 1. Approach: Theology of the New Testament as Meaning-Formation 2. Structure: History and Meaning 3. Jesus of Nazareth: The Near God 4. The First Transformation: The Emergence of Christology 5. The Second Transformation: The Early Christian Mission without the Precondition of Circumcision 6. Paul: Missionary and Thinker 7. The Third Transformation: Composition of Gospels as Innovative Response to Crises 8. The Sayings Source, the Synoptic Gospels, and Acts: Meaning through Narration 9. The Fourth Transformation: The Gospel in the World 10. The Deutero-Pauline Letters: Paul’s Thought Extended 11. The Catholic Letters: Voices in Dangerous Times 12. Johannine Theology: Introduction to the Christian Faith 13. Revelation: Seeing and Understanding Indexes


"Schnelle's Theology of the New Testament is, in my view, perhaps the most methodologically sophisticated and theologically significant contribution to the genre in the past twenty years. 'Jesus of Nazareth: The Near God' is the common center for his informed and insightful elaboration of the thought of New Testament theology in the context of a contemporary understanding of reality. The author's critical acumen and theological sensitivity, as well as his obvious control of both primary and secondary literature, make this book a necessary addition to the library of every serious student of the New Testament and an ideal text for advanced courses."--David E. Aune, Walter Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

"A magnificent achievement. Udo Schnelle's Theology of the New Testament comprises philosophical reflection, reconstruction of earliest Christian thought, and a history of biblical interpretation. At heart, however, the volume offers meticulous analysis of the New Testament's varied constituents. The exegesis is well balanced; the conclusions, sound. Like its subject matter, this investigation gathers most of what is important from previous works and points the way toward a constructive future. Schnelle's magnum opus will stand as one of the twenty-first century's few indispensable works in the field."--C. Clifton Black, Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Fresh, invigorating, enlightening, and occasionally provocative, this survey of New Testament theology serves well as a handbook of informed discussion of the crucial issues. With the confident hand of a seasoned scholar and a refreshing openness to the transcendent, Schnelle guides the reader book by book through the canon, using the familiar categories of systematic theology to ensure comprehensive coverage. Here is not only outstanding German scholarship but also an entry into contemporary German discussion via exceptionally rich footnotes."--Donald A. Hagner, George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

The Authors

  1. Udo Schnelle
    © Joerg Hammerbacher

    Udo Schnelle

    Udo Schnelle (DrTheol, University of Göttingen) is professor of New Testament at the University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany. He is the author of numerous highly acclaimed works, including Apostle Paul, Theology of the New Testament, and...

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  2. M. Eugene Boring

    M. Eugene Boring

    M. Eugene Boring (PhD, Vanderbilt University), before retiring, was the I. Wylie and Elizabeth M. Briscoe Professor of New Testament at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. He is the author of several books, including the Interpretation...

    Continue reading about M. Eugene Boring


"This is a superb and substantial resource provided by an outstanding German biblical scholar."--Donald Senior, CP, The Bible Today

"Schnelle's Theology of the New Testament has been translated by Eugene Boring and has brought the German Professor's thought to a wider audience. As a result the non-German speaker has the valuable opportunity to engage with a stream of thought which is quite often divergent from English speaking scholarship. . . . This is a useful book and one which will serve as a counterpoint to much recent New Testament Theology, as well as a good introduction to recent German scholarship."--Chris Moore,

"The first decade of the twenty-first century witnessed an extraordinary outpouring of NT theologies. . . . Udo Schnelle's Theology of the New Testament, elegantly translated by M. Eugene Boring, is the high point of this productive decade. . . . It is, in my view, the finest work of NT theology available in English today. . . . This volume offers a delicate balance between history and theology whereby the theology of the NT is grounded in historical events, and history is interpreted in light of theological meaning-formation. It provides extended treatments of writings often neglected in NT theologies, for example, the Deutero-Pauline letters and the Catholic Epistles. Moreover, rather than denigrating these writings as a falling away from a pristine Pauline or Johannine tradition, it highlights their positive value in light of the new historical circumstances their authors addressed."--Frank J. Matera, Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"[Schnelle] is well-known to English speaking audiences through his work on Paul and John. This volume represents a comprehensive engagement with current German and English New Testament exegetical research. . . . He seeks to set forth the theology, Christology, pneumatology, soteriology, anthropology, ethics, ecclesiology, and eschatology of the New Testament writings, as well as to provide an analysis for the documents' setting in early Christian history. His treatment of justification in the Pauline letters is particularly striking. . . . The strongest aspect of Schnelle's work might be his thorough discussion of anthropology in the Pauline and Johannine writings."--Logia

"This book is undoubtedly an impressive undertaking, and the author both displays a depth of competence with the breadth of NT documents and the critical issues associated with them and builds a coherent scheme which integrates them into a diverse but integrated whole."--Nicholas H. Taylor, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"Udo Schnelle has crafted a masterful New Testament theology, characterized by scrupulous detail, engaging assessments of the biblical books and their authors, and a promising . . . emphasis on the significance of Gospel narratives as experiments in theological meaning-making for early Christian communities. Eugene Boring displays skill and sensitivity as a translator, offering additional resources in footnotes, providing concise explanations of problematic translational questions, and making Schnelle's work accessible as an English textbook suitable for intermediate and advanced seminars."--Matthew Forrest Lowe, Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

"Schnelle seeks to cover the theological developments in the New Testament in a single volume, which explains the size of the book. . . . As he works through the New Testament writings he discusses the theology, Christology, pneumatology, soteriology, anthropology, ethics, ecclesiology, and eschatology of each writing or writer. In a concluding section he locates each writing in the history of theology. . . . Schnelle's extensive book lets the reader see the decisive forks in the road in the development of early Christian theology. The volume is so conceived as to cover a multidisciplinary spectrum. Once again he has provided a basic work that is both accessible and attractive for general readers."--Uta Poplutz, Reformierte Presse

The following is an English translation of a review of the original German edition of Schnelle's New Testament Theology that appeared in a magazine for pastors (by Gerhard Engelsberger, in Pastoralblätter, June 2008):

There's a good reason if I break with tradition and use this "Book Tip" column to discuss something other than a practical theology title. . . .

The last Theology of the New Testament that I myself have worked through was that of Rudolf Bultmann. I know: this is a disgraceful admission. Of course there have been other books with more or less the same wording in their titles on my reading list. But I haven't really seriously absorbed any of them; I have only read bits here and there on whatever questions caught my interest.

But now, when the prospectus for Udo Schnelle's work . . . landed on my desk, I finally set once more on the adventure of reading a complete theology of the NT. And it was worth it!

I'm still not all the way through it, but every day I read several chapters of this book, which is well divided into very readable individual sections. I encounter many familiar thoughts but make many more new discoveries; I gain exciting entrée into questions that were hitherto not so interesting to me but are important for a well-rounded understanding of the New Testament.

The introductory chapters on hermeneutics were already fascinating for me. Here Schnelle takes on historicism, the "battle for history," "interest and knowledge," and "construction and reconstruction" of history. He takes the reader far beyond theological thought as usually defined, bringing seminal insights for New Testament theology from the discussion of epistemology that has taken place in the last several decades.

The publisher is quite justified in calling Schnelle's work "A Pioneering Textbook of New Testament Theology." According to the publisher's prospectus, "This one-volume Theology of the New Testament deals with every relevant aspect of New Testament theology in the light of current international scholarship. After an introductory chapter devoted to hermeneutics, Schnelle's presentation of the message of Jesus forms the point of departure for the major part of the book. Then follow comprehensive chapters on Paul, the Sayings Source, the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, the Deutero-Paulines and later letters, and the Johannine writings. In each case the author deals in order with theology proper, Christology, pneumatology, soteriology, anthropology, ethics, ecclesiology, and eschatology. Thus the volume can also be read as a textbook on New Testament Christology, pneumatology, soteriology etc. The presentation integrates in-depth studies of decisive turning points in the development of early Christianity, including the beginnings of Christology, the earliest mission, the composition of the Gospels as an innovative response to theological crises, and the situation of Christians in the Roman world."

So far, I have intermittently worked through over 250 pages, and always with profit--whether as confirmation of my own reflections or as a challenge to my previous ideas. Reading the book has never been tiresome or difficult for a "practical theologian" to comprehend. I look forward to every new chapter, and am grateful to be "brought up to speed" by such a knowledgeable, understandable, inviting volume that is clearly written and well arranged, but never superficial.

Perhaps the mountain of over 700 pages will be too high for some readers. I am writing these lines just after my return from a Pastoralblätter trip to Israel and the Sinai. Among the most impressive experiences was the long afternoon climb up Horeb, the "Mountain of Moses"), about 7,500 feet high. For the most part, it is a very rocky, serpentine path to the very peak. But how splendid were the views and insights at every turn in the path, until we finally reached the small chapel at the top!

So why not for once--perhaps after some years--take the trouble to read a whole "Theology of the New Testament"? The insights and vistas are worth it. And the church will be grateful. Thus there is, after all, a practical-theological use for such a project that is--only apparently--"theoretical."

Thanks to Prof. M. Eugene Boring for providing the translation and to Dr. Gerhard Engelsberger for permission to post it here.