New Testament Theology
Lectures given at Myanmar Institute of Theology for M.Div. 2d year students by Rev. Timothy C. Geoffrion, Ph.D., 2018-19 school year. Lectures are followed by a Q&A session with students.
Week 1- Introduction
This introductory lecture explains the task, method, assumptions, and leading issues involved in doing New Testament Theology. Dr. Geoffrion talks about the important role of the Bible in doing theology and the interplay between ancient text and modern context.
Week 2- Introduction to Pauline Theology
Dr. Tim explains why Paul’s theology belongs in the primary place in doing NT theology. He also discusses Paul’s understanding of the Gospel, the core of his theology, the New Perspective on Paul, and a number of theological cores from non Christian religions or other philosophical traditions.
Dr. Tim goes into depth on two very different, but important, letters written by the Apostle Paul. Romans is the best book in the New Testament for understanding the meaning of Jesus’s death and the way of salvation for believers. Philippians provides an example of contextualized theology, constructed to show the Christians in the Roman colony of Philippi how to stand firm in their identity as citizens of heaven as well as how to experience more vitality and peace in their lives.
Ephesians is similar to Romans in a number of ways. It’s a rich theological treatise summarizing key doctrines and presenting practical implications for daily Christian living as well as for the church as a whole. The theology and themes of Colossians fit well with Paul’s undisputed writings, but some of the language seems out of place. Scholars, then, study Colossians with Paul, but acknowledge that it may represent a later development of his thoughts by those of Paul’s “school”. No matter how Colossians came to be written, nowhere in the undisputed Pauline letters is there such a focus on Jesus or this kind of high Christology. Jesus is equated with the Creator and is the source and sustainer of life.
Week 5- Synthesis of Paul’s Teaching
Dr. Tim provides a concise summary of Paul’s theology, Christology, Pneumatology (the Holy Spirit), Soteriology (salvation), Eschatology (end times), Ecclesiology (the Church), and Ethics. Key biblical verses to support the professor’s conclusions are provided as well.
Week 6- Evolution of Pauline Theology
Dr. Tim looks at several lesser known books of the New Testament, which are traditionally assigned to Paul, but whose authorship is questioned by modern scholars. However, the focus of the lectures is not on authorship, but on the important contribution each book makes to Christian theology and practical Christian living. The books discussed include 2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, and Titus.
Week 7- The Gospel of Mark
Part one of a three week series on “The Synoptic Gospels: Christianity & Jesus of Nazareth.” Synoptic means “see together with.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke are studied together by scholars because of their literary dependence on one another. This means, there is a fair amount of nearly identical material found in all three Gospels. Scholars suggest that there may have been a common source for material that Matthew and Luke share, which they have dubbed, “Q” (based on the German word, Quelle).
At the same time, each Gospel has its own emphasis and flavor. In the lectures for week 7, Dr. Tim discusses the central role of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, in which Jesus’ messianic identity seems to be a secret–not at all hidden to readers, but to those in Jesus’ day. Why was there a “messianic secret”? How can we know that Jesus was the Son of God? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus, and what did Jesus mean when he said that his disciples have to pick up their crosses and follow him? These and other important questions for today as well as in the first century are addressed in detail by the professor.
Week 8- The Gospel of Mathew
Part two of a three week series on “The Synoptic Gospels: Christianity & Jesus of Nazareth.” Dr. Tim discusses vitally important topics uniquely emphasized in Matthew, such as what Jesus meant by righteousness and the role of the Law in the Matthean community. Matthew is also famous for Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. But are his ethics just an ideal, which no one can attain, or are they the concrete expectations of God for all Jesus’s disciples? What does it mean to “seek first God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness?” And, what do commentators mean when they say, “Love is the hermeneutical key for the Law?” This very challenging Gospel, which was placed first in the New Testament canon, raises many questions that are difficult to answer, not least of which is, how we should interpret this Jewish-Christian form of Christianity today?
Part three of a three week series on “The Synoptic Gospels: Christianity & Jesus of Nazareth.” Tim discusses Jesus’s divine origins, Luke’s emphasis on social justice issues, the work of the Holy Spirit, the origins of the Christian church, and the power of the Gospel and Christian mission. One of the most important theological issues raised in this two book set tracks the movement from an exclusive faith (for Jews only) to an inclusive faith, which offers the Gospel to the entire world. Another important issue has to do with God’s favorable view of those who were traditionally marginalized by society, such as women and the poor. These lectures demonstrate why Luke is both the inspiration for the social Gospel and social progressiveness, and the champion for a spirituality rooted in forgiveness of sins in Jesus’s name and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Week 10- The Gospel of John
In these lectures, Dr. Tim explores the wonders and profound messages found uniquely in the Gospel of John. In no other Gospel is Jesus equated with God as co-Creator and divine Logos (Word). This is how John starts his Gospel, and from here the book is filled with metaphors, which he uses to try to capture the many ways the incarnate God-man offers to the world light, truth, and hope, which is available from no other source. He writes so that readers will see who Jesus truly is, and by believing will gain eternal life. The Gospel includes the eight famous “I am” statements (e.g., I am the way, the truth, and the life; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the good shepherd), by which Jesus creates a verbal mosaic to vividly portray his true identity as “the Word made flesh.”
In these lectures, Dr. Tim focuses on some of the key ways that the Christian faith is built upon and grows out of ancient Judaism. The first Christians were all Jewish and understood Jesus Christ and their faith in him as a logical extension of what was taught in Hebrew Scriptures. In Hebrews, the author explains the meaning of Jesus Christ’s life and death in terms of drawn from the Old Testament (e.g., high priest, sacrifice, atonement, etc.) to urge Jesus’s followers not to revert to Judaism in light of the threat of persecution but to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus and to hold on to their faith in him. In James, the author emphasizes the importance of doing good deeds and showing one’s faith in Christ by treating other people fairly and well. James is one of the most practical books in the New Testament and makes clear that true religion that is pleasing to God will include social concern and concrete acts of service. The professor also addresses the thorny question of whether salvation is by works (as James seems to argue) or by faith (so, Paul).
Dr Tim will emphasize two leading options for how to respond to persecution. Peter had one answer and John, the author of the Revelation, had a different perspective. Their differing answers depended on how the early Christians defined themselves, how they understood their responsibility in secular society, and how much hope they had that they could avoid suffering. Both authors stressed the importance of knowing their identity and standing firm in it, come what may. For Peter, such clarity and steadfastness was part of their witness. For John, standing firm was a matter of survival and eternal life.
In these lectures, Dr. Tim talks about what holds the many writings of the Bible all together, including what are the dominant themes. He summarizes the key theological images of God, the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. In the second session, he addresses such issues as how human beings are like God, yet different; the relationship of the Old Testament to the New; and, how the biblical writers expect readers to respond to the Bible.
In these lectures, Dr Tim identify some of the many, many questions that arise from creating a coherent theology from the 27 different books of the New Testament. Most of the individual teachings seem quite clear, but when put side by side along with all the others, a careful reader will discover that there are many tensions and unanswered questions. Further, when it comes to appropriating biblical teaching in the modern day, the hermeneutical task can be quite challenging. For example, how should we understand the role of women today in light of the patriarchal culture of biblical times? How should the oppressed respond to unjust governments? Are the biblical mores for sexuality and marriage timeless and universal or can they change, depending on time and context?, These and many other issues are raised and discussed in an effort to help students become more sophisticated in their ability to interpret the New Testament responsibly. The video Includes Q&A with students at the end of the lectures.
In these lectures, Dr. Tim, address one of the most pressing and challenging questions for Christians today: how should Christians view other religions? The professor discusses the leading positions on this subject, namely, “Exclusivism” (Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation), “Inclusivism” (Jesus Christ is the Savior of everyone who sincerely seeks and serves God’s purposes, even if they don’t know his name), and “Pluralism” (all major religions lead to the same place, to God and salvation). In the lectures, students consider what biblical support exists for each position, and the implications for preaching and evangelism of each position.
In this final set of lectures for the course, Dr. Tim first discusses the basic task of hermeneutics (method of interpretation of Scripture). He then offers his own personal approach to creating a coherent theological message from the New Testament. He starts with the core teachings of the Apostle Paul (love, sin, grace, justice, mercy, Christ as Savior and Lord, and the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit for Christian living), and discusses the contribution of Christian existentialism, which stresses a personal encounter and response to the call of God. In the second hour, he introduces the concept of contextualizing the biblical message, discusses the complexity in understanding and applying it, and offers some reflections for modern day theologians and pastors.