Sunday, April 25, 2010

You Need a New Testament Theology

One of the most underrated elements of going to big conferences is the chance to buy books at discounted prices. One of the many books I picked up at the Wheaton Theology Conference was I. Howard Marshall's New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel. I hadn't owned one before and knew that it was a significant gap in my library, but I did not expect it to be as useful as it has been. I can think of at least four very practical ways in which a theology can be used very profitably.

1. As an aid to devotional reading

Are you about to start reading through Mark in your daily devotions? Before you start read the chapter in Mark in your theology. It'll take a little over an hour and it will greatly improve the depth of insight you gain from your devotional time. You'll have a much clearer picture of how the gospel fits together and what the main themes are that Mark was trying to communicate.

2. To provide context before doing Bible study

In our church's small groups were not currently going through any book of the Bible, we're jumping around a bit. This week I'm covering Hebrews 13. I haven't studied Hebrews before so I am a little unfamiliar with it. In about an hour I got an excellent overview that helped me see how the closing exhortations fit into the book as a whole. It will keep me from extracting the text out of its context.

3. As a preparatory step before beginning a major study of a book of the Bible

None of us bring a blank slate to the text. We've probably read the text before and have some sort of preliminary understanding before we commence our study. In addition to reading the introductions to whatever commentaries you are going to use, read the chapter in your theology. It will help come to the text with some pre-understanding that your study will hopefully deepen.

4. As a tool for gauging the quality of your study of a book of the Bible

Don't only read the theology before you begin your study, read it after you finish. Compare the conclusions you drew with those the author of your theology has made. It's ok to disagree, but is your reasoning defensible? Also, is there a theme that you completely missed? If so go back and spend some additional time in the text to make your understanding of the book more complete.

How else have you used them, and what is your favorite New Testament Theology?

I'm also on the lookout for a good Old Testament Theology that takes a book by book approach (many seem to be more thematic). Are there any that you've used that you would recommend?


  1. I've only recently come to own any NT Theology texts. I got Marshall for Christmas, but haven't used it much. I also picked up Ladd's for wicked cheap. I used it as a reference for a recent teaching on eschatology, and it was outstanding. Then again, it's weak on other areas of NT theology (but I also think eschatology is hugely important, so I appreciate Ladd's emphasis). At any rate, if you can get a good deal on Ladd, it's well worth it.

    My favorite OT Theology is Waltke. I know there are plenty of others out there, but I like Waltke for a few reasons. 1) He shows his exegesis, rather than assuming it. 2) He sees an overall theme, but doesn't force it when it is warranted. 3) As deep as it is, there are moments on wonderful devotion in it.

    He doesn't really take a book-by-book approach, but it isn't thematic, either. So, Genesis will get a couple chapters (for creation, Noah, Abraham, etc), whereas some of the historical books are grouped together. It actually makes a lot of sense when you read it. Anyway, highly recommended.

  2. Thanks for the recommendations. Waltke's is definitely one that piqued my interest. Maybe I'll check it out of the library one of these days and peruse it a bit. Out of curiosity, have you looked at Goldingay's at all? That's another one that looked good.

    I've heard good things about Ladd's work. As it is a classic maybe if I can find a good deal on it I'll grab it.

  3. I've only looked briefly at Goldingay's. Since I moved off the seminary campus when only the 1st volume was published, I haven't really had consistent access to it. What I have seen is fine, nothing great. And I certainly can't justify the cost for all 3 volumes on my fairly limited budget. I wouldn't have purchased Waltke's; I got it for review from Zondervan.

  4. Oh, you can also listen to Paul House's OT Theology lectures over at I didn't really think his OT Theology was all that great, and I pretty much feel the same as with the class. Nonetheless, it can be helpful. He uses a book-by-book approach.