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The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical World of the New Testament, Vol. 1: The Individual Witnesses

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0830838615
ISBN-10: 0830838619
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Indelible Image is a welcome addition to the study of NT theology and ethics. It represents a solidly evangelical introduction to both the NT and various debates current in NT studies." (Clarence DeWitt Agan III, Presbyterion, Fall 2010)

"Serious readers of this first of two volumes are in for a treat. . . Witherington resolutely pursues his thesis in a coherent, engaging manner. . . Witherington is well versed in popular culture in general, especially in music and film, and this awareness graces his lively prose. . . A rich resource for preaching and teaching." (Larry R. Helyer, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, September 2010)

"What makes Witherington's massive work different from many other similar books is the author's insistence that tehology not be divorced from ethics. Highly recommended." (D. Ingolfsland, Choice, April 2010)

"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." (Amy-Jill Levine, 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)

"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, Baylor University)

"Fresh from writing major commentaries on each of the New Testament's twenty-seven books, the Methodist exegete Ben Witherington III here sets forth the theological and ethical vision put forward by each of these books. With superb detail, Witherington presents the unified vision of the New Testament: God in Christ communicates his holiness to his people. Learning about God and learning about holiness thus cannot be separated. While Witherington emphasizes the strict necessity of historical-critical tools for every good reading of Scripture, the ecclesially formed reader will note with satisfaction that his key insights are classically Methodist." (Matthew Levering, University of Dayton)

"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." (Darrell Bock, 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." (Richard Bauckham, University of St. Andrews)

Review

"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."
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 856 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (September 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830838619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830838615
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,091,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Stevens on October 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This would be my most awaited/anticipated book of the year. Witherington's agenda has grown out of his understanding that theology and ethics are intertwined throughout the New testament narrative and can not, and should not be isolated in the manner they often have been. His purpose, as he states in the forward, "First of all, I am writing two large academic volumes, but trying to do so in a lively enough manner that almost anyone can read. And I will not be limiting the discussion to "New Testament theology." I will be talking about both the theologizing and ethicizing of the New Testament writers...Furthermore since context is crucial in dealing with theological and ethical matters, and since what we actually have in the New Testament is not theological or ethical treatises but rather theologizing and ethicizing into specific contexts for specific purposes I have decided by and large not to extract the theology and ethics from the narratives and arguments in the New Testament and cast them upon some sort of Procrustean bed. Instead, I have let the first volume especially be more expositional in character, dealing with theology and ethics as we find them intertwined in contexts offered to us by the individual witnesses." (p.16)

As stated above, this is the first of two volumes, with the intention this installment will give, "the reader a sampling of doing theology and ethics in the twenty-seven books in the New Testament , honoring them as individual witnesses on these subjects" As Matthew Levering notes on the inside dust jacket, Witherington is fresh from writing a commentary on every New Testament book. While some may claim, in this age of increasing specialization, this is not ideal, it has placed him in the envious position of being aware of the whole New Testament narrative.
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Format: Hardcover
The idea behind this book is to show that you cannot separate believing from behaving. You cannot separate theology and ethics. They are linked together in the New Testament. That's why Ben chose not to survey certain themes in the NT like faith, love, salvation, repentance, kingdom of God, etc. Instead, he allows the individual voices of the New Testament to have their say. he points out that Jesus was heavily influenced by the wisdom tradition in the Hebrew Bible and in texts such as the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach. He identifies Daniel 7:9-14 as a key text that Jesus used to explain his identity as God's eschatological sage. He prefers the Son of Man moniker because it didn't have the heavy political overtones that the term "Messiah" had, and He could give the term the significance He wanted.

Ben also shows that Jesus' ethics as given in the Sermon on the Mount present a higher standard than what was offered by the teachers of the law.

Later on, when Ben discusses John's Gospel, he points out that for Jesus, believing in Him could also be construed as an ethical act. I also loved the insights Ben gave: Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night while he himself was in the dark. He saw Jesus as a teacher who has come from God, but could not perceive how literally true this was. Ben also shows how Jesus' description of Himself as the Light, the way, the truth, the life (John 14:6) echoes the descriptions of wisdom in the OT wisdom literature (especially Proverbs 8).

Ben also discusses Paul's theologizing and ethicizing. He mentions that Paul is influenced by the story of God, the story of the fall, the story of Christ, and the story of Christians in Christ.
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Format: Hardcover
It is an impossible feat for a short review to do justice to Ben Witherington's massive (856 page!) work The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Through World of the New Testament (IVP, 2009). Witherington sets out in the first of his two-volume project to investigate each individual New Testament witness through integrative theological and ethical analysis. In doing so, he seeks to correct a lamentable weakness of New Testament studies: the separation of theology and ethics, belief and behavior, into two different spheres, with ethics taking backseat to theology (23). In contrast to this bifurcation, Witherington demonstrates the organic relationship and blending of theology and ethics in each New Testament book, ultimately converging in Christology: the contemplation of and conformation to the indelible image of Christ (53-54).

The Indelible Image progresses chronologically through the New Testament, exploring each book in its context. Before launching into the Pauline corpus, however, Witherington begins with Jesus, examining his beliefs and behaviors. To understand Jesus and the stories that he told, of course, we need to understand Judaism (68). Likewise, in order to grasp the thought world of Paul, it is necessary to understanding "the five stories that shook and shaped Paul's worldviews," including the story of God, humankind, God's people, Christ, and Christians (182-203). Witherington gives a few hints toward the turn to performance and improvisation in Christian theology and ethics, affirming that these stories have a complete outline, but they have a plot that needs to be performed in the present (180). Ethical discernment, therefore, is a matter of improvisation (251).
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