“God” in the New Testament
Today’s postal delivery included the comp copies of my new book, God in New Testament Theology (Abingdon Press). It’s always an author’s pleasure to receive the published results of the many months of researching, writing and editing.
The title was framed by the publisher. The title I proposed was “‘God’ in the New Testament,” i.e., with quote-marks around “God”. This is reflected in the text of the book, where “God” is typically enclosed in quote-marks, mainly to register that the word “G-o-d” (and its Greek equivalent) carries no intrinsic meaning but acquires meaning in particular discourses. My book is really a study of the discourse about “God” in the NT.
The book is organized to address a set of questions. The first question (Chapter 1) is what have NT scholars made of “God” in the NT. Surpringly, “God” has been an infrequently discussed subject in NT studies, but things have improved a bit in the last couple of decades.
The second question (Chapter 2) concerns the nature of the deity discoursed about in the NT. Contrary to a widespread popular assumption, “God” doesn’t carry automatic meaning. So, for example, to ask “Do you believe in God” doesn’t mean much, unless the inquiry includes a specification of which or what kind of deity it is about which the question is posed. Chapter 2 deals with the particularity of the deity discoursed about in the NT, emphasizing also the exclusivity of earliest Christian worship (which involved rejecting the many other deities of the Roman religious environment).
Chapter 3 deals with the place of Jesus in NT God-discourse, or the consequences for “God” of the NT emphasis on Jesus. One of the questions lurking here is whether the NT deity is or is not the OT deity, and the nature of any continuity between NT God-discourse and the OT.
In Chapter 4 the question is what place in NT God-discourse is given to the Spirit, and the effects of NT treatment of the Spirit upon discourse about “God”. Two things for noting: (1) There is a greater frequency of reference to the Spirit in the NT in comparison with either the OT or 2nd-temple Jewish literature, and (2) the Spirit is remarkably connected with Jesus as well as “God”.
In the concluding chapter I engage a few other questions, among them how much coherence and diversity there is in NT God-discourse. I contend that there is much more coherence than diversity. I also consider how the “triadic” shape of NT God-discourse is related to subsequent developments toward the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
As Nils Dahl noted over 25 years ago, “God” has been neglected surprisingly in NT scholarship. So, I hope that my modest volume will make a contribution to rectifying that neglect.