All too often, argues Ben Witherington, the theology of the New Testament has been divorced from its ethics, leaving as isolated abstractions what are fully integrated, dynamic elements within the New Testament itself. As Witherington stresses, "behavior affects and reinforces or undoes belief."
Previously published as The Indelible Image, Volume 1, Witherington offers the first of a two-volume set on the theological and ethical thought world of the New Testament. The first volume looks at the individual witnesses, while the second examines the collective witness.
The New Testament, says Ben Witherington, is "like a smallish choir. All are singing the same cantata, but each has an individual voice and is singing its own parts and notes. If we fail to pay attention to all the voices in the choir, we do not get the entire effect. . . . If this first volume is about closely analyzing the sheet music left to us by which each musician's part is delineated, the second volume will attempt to re-create what it might have sounded like had they ever gotten together and performed their scores to produce a single masterful cantata."
What the New Testament authors have in mind, Witherington contends, is that all believers should be conformed in thought, word and deed to the image of Jesus Christ - the indelible image.
Ben Witherington III (PhD, University of Durham) is Jean R. Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. A prominent evangelical scholar, he is also on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland.
Witherington has written over forty books, including The Jesus Quest and The Paul Quest, both of which were selected as top biblical studies works by Christianity Today. His other works include The Indelible Image, Women and the Genesis of Christianity, The Gospel Code, A Week in the Life of Corinth and commentaries on the entire New Testament. He also writes for many church and scholarly publications and is a frequent contributor to Patheos and Beliefnet.
An ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and a popular lecturer, Witherington has presented seminars for churches, colleges and biblical meetings around the world. He has led numerous study tours through the lands of the Bible and is known for bringing the text to life through incisive historical and cultural analysis. Along with many interviews on radio and television networks across the country, Witherington has been seen in programs such as 60 Minutes, 20/20, Dateline and the Peter Jennings ABC special Jesus and Paul - The Word and the Witness.
To discuss the theology and ethics of the New Testament is to dive into a vast ocean of theological reflection from many angles. It would be easy to get lost at sea. That is where a good navigator and cruise director are essential. Ben Witherington takes up both roles and steers us on a solid course through the array of ideas the New Testament treats. He does so with skill, clarity and an eye on what is important. He also notes what dangers lurk in taking a wrong course. In sum, here is a solid introduction to how theology and ethics work together in the New Testament. Enjoy the tour and linger in spots. It will be worth it.
Dallas Theological Seminary
Ben Witherington is a skilled historical exegete who has, probably uniquely in our generation, pursued his passion for the theological and ethical message of the New Testament through commentaries on every one of the New Testament books. Now he has given us a summation that is even more unusual - a New Testament theology that allows to every one of those books a voice that really counts. A magnificent climax to Witherington's work.
University of St. Andrews
Over the course of his academic career Ben Witherington has gone against the stream of increasing specialization in biblical studies, producing commentaries on every document in the New Testament. As a result, Witherington is no 'theological' jack-of-all trades; to the contrary, he has demonstrated his mastery over a variety of subdisciplines in New Testament studies. With The Indelible Image, volume 1, Witherington once again defies the communis opinio that New Testament theology and New Testament ethics must, of necessity, be treated in isolation from each other. Rather, drawing on his previous exegetical work, Witherington establishes that New Testament faith and practice - theology and ethics - are inextricably intertwined and, in order to understand the message of the New Testament, must be treated whole cloth. The Indelible Image is a model of 'theological exegesis' at its stunning best and confirms Witherington's reputation as one of evangelical Christianity's most thoughtful and prolific authors.
-Mikeal C. Parsons,
By insisting that theology be placed in conversation with ethics, Witherington offers numerous insights on the necessary intersection of faith and works, church and society. He and I may disagree on the particulars of Jewish tradition and women's roles in antiquity, but I have learned much from his canonically comprehensive, evangelically committed, historically informed and engagingly presented way of doing theology.
Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies, Vanderbilt Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion
Ben Witherington's The Indelible Image is no ordinary theology of the New Testament. From start to finish it is creative and insightful. The entire approach is refreshing, based on an appreciation of the distinctive voices that make up what we might call the theological choir of the early church. Witherington has given proper place to voices not often heard, such as those of James, Jude and Peter. Beginning students and veteran scholars alike will appreciate this remarkable achievement. I give it my highest recommendation.
-Craig A. Evans,
Payzant Distinguished Professor, Acadia Divinity College
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