G. B. Caird on New Testament Theology

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New Testament theology is a historical discipline. It is not to be confused with either dogmatics or apologetics: for its purpose is neither to provide scriptural authority for modern doctrinal beliefs nor to make those beliefs appear reasonable and defensible to the unconvinced inquirer. Its purpose is descriptive. We may indeed believe that in the New Testament we have a divine revelation valid for all ages. But that revelation was made in historical events, and those who first thought out the significance of those events did so in relation to the circumstances of their time and with a pastoral concern for particular congregations; even their general statements were made with reference to the particular. They never dreamt that what they wrote would, centuries later, be subjected to the microscopic scrutiny of modern biblical scholarship, providing in every unusual phrase and every unexpected assumption a matter for a doctoral dissertation. Nor did they imagine that it might be used as a rule of faith and practice in a world changed beyond their imagining. Yet for that scrutinize is necessary, since we cannot be confident in discerning the relevance of their teaching to our day until by all the resources of historical research we have learnt its relevance to their own.
“New Testament Theology” (pg. 1-2)

This is quite possibly the greatest single definition of what New Testament theology is. On the one hand, it is a historical endeavor that is to be done within its historical milieu. On the other hand, because the New Testament is a body of doctrinal beliefs and practices, it is rightly a “theology.” Caird so beautifully makes this point in his statement above, “We may indeed believe that in the New Testament we have a divine revelation valid for all ages. But that revelation was made in historical events, and those who first thought out the significance of those events did so in relation to the circumstances of their time and with a pastoral concern for particular congregations; even their general statements were made with reference to the particular.”

6 thoughts on “G. B. Caird on New Testament Theology

  1. I think Caird, at least from this small passages, seems less positive about “doctrinal beliefs and practices” than in your analysis. He seems to see revelation in events, not the books themselves. Also he says the purpose of NTT is historical, not to defend doctrines (and he doesn’t sound too optimistic that the defense of some doctrines would be possible). It seems he’s more concerned to understand the NT with a view toward better understanding it’s modern relevance. It kind of sounds like J.P. Gabler, who advocated a historical approach that sought to isolate the bits that remained relevant. I’m curious what your boy Schlatter would say about Caird, because Schlatter didn’t think NTT should be purely historical.

  2. Pingback: Around the Blogosphere (06.22.2012) | Near Emmaus

  3. Pingback: Biblical Studies Carnival – June 2014 | Reading Acts

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