Michael Bird & Andreas Köstenberger on Earliest Christian History

You’ve heard what they say, right? “An open New Testament and an open mind leads one to attend Southeastern every time.” Or, at least, that’s what I often say. And, in case you are interested in New Testament studies, you’ll want to be aware that SEBTS professor Andreas Köstenberger recently joined Michael Bird, Richard Bauckham, Jason Maston, and other world-class scholars in producing a fine collection of essays on early Christian history, in honor of Martin Hengel. In Earliest Christian History, edited by Michael Bird and Jason Maston, Köstenberger contributes an essay, “John’s Transposition Theology: Retelling the Story of Jesus in a Different Key.”[1]

In the essay, he explores the relationship between the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels, arguing that we need to reconsider the relationship. As the editors note in the introduction, Köstenberger “advocates a theory of ‘transposition.’ He defines transposition as the reworking of earlier texts to express potential meanings and the extension of their meaning to a new context. Transposition is not simply an updating, for it also draws out underlying meanings and ideas. To flesh out his hypothesis and in an effort to build a cumulative case for it, he explores representative examples of how John transposes Mark in sixteen ways and Luke in four ways. John’s transposition occurs with theological themes (such as the kingdom of God and eschatology) and historical events (such as the Temple clearing and the Gentile mission). Concerning the relation between John and the Synoptics, Köstenberger concludes that John shows awareness of them as literary documents, but he is willing to extend beyond them. Rightly understood, John is both dependent and independent of them” (5).

As we have come to expect, Köstenberger’s essay evidences scholarly depth and breadth, is tied faithfully to the inspired biblical text, and makes an original and substantive contribution to New Testament studies.

If you wish to study with premiere New Testament scholars who are also committed to the mission and ministries of God’s church, we invite you to come study with us at Southeastern. At Southeastern you will have the opportunity to study the New Testament in the original Greek and so be better equipped to minister to the people of God (see Eph 4:11–13) for the glory of God. In so doing, you will have the opportunity to study with the following men:

Beck, David (Ph.D., Duke University) is Professor of New Testament and Greek and Associate Dean of Biblical Studies. He is the author of The Discipleship Paradigm: Readers and Anonymous Characters in the Fourth Gospel (Brill) and co-editor with fellow SEBTS Professor David Alan Black of Rethinking the Synoptic Problem (Baker). Dr. Beck manages to be, at the same time, both wickedly smart and enviably laid back.

Black, David (D. Theol., University of Basel, Switzerland) is Professor of New Testament and Greek and author of Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications (Baker); Learn to Read New Testament Greek (Broadman & Holman); Why Four Gospels? (Kregel) and the author and editor of over 15 other books. Dr. Black is internationally renowned as a Greek scholar, is a member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, and spends 3-4 months overseas per year working in Ethiopia and other countries.

Gravely, Ed (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies and History of Ideas and wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Codex Vaticanus under the supervision of Maurice Robinson, fellow SEBTS professor. Dr. Gravely is smart, funny, and articulate.

Kellum, Scott (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek, author of The Unity of the Farewell Discourse: the Literary Integrity of John 13:31-16:33 (T&T Clark), and co-author with Andreas J. Köstenberger and Charles L. Quarles of The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (B&H). Dr. Kellum mastered classical Greek in college and koine Greek at the grad and post-grad level; if any other sort of Greek develops in the future, he’ll master it also too.

Köstenberger, Andreas Johannes (Ph.D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is

Senior Research Professor of New Testament  and Biblical Theology at Southeastern. He is the author, translator, and editor of more than 20 books including The Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters: The Word, the Christ, the Son of God (Zondervan); John, Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament (Baker); co-author with L. Scott Kellum and Charles L. Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (B&H); co-author with Michael Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy (Crossway); God, Marriage, and Family: Restoring the Biblical Foundation with fellow SEBTS professor David Jones (Crossway). Dr. Köstenberger has written more books than most people have read, and he’s only mid-career. Scary.

Lanier, David (Ph.D., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Professor of New Testament and served as Editor of Southeastern’s first journal, Faith and Mission 11/1 (Fall 1993) to 24/3 (Summer 2007). Dr. Lanier is a particularly amiable fellow, and is a history buff whose specialty is the Confederate War.

Merkle, Benjamin Lee (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek and author of The Elder and Overseer: One Office in the Early Church (Peter Lang); 40 Questions About Elders and Deacons (Kregel), for which also he serves as Series Editor; Why Elders? A Biblical and Practical Guide (Kregel); and co-editor with fellow SEBTS professor John S. Hammett of Those Who Must Give an Account: A Study of Church Membership and Church Discipline (B&H, forthcoming). Dr. Merkle lived and taught in Malaysia for years and is known for being a thorough and efficient writer of theological prose. If he continues publishing at this rate, he might give Dr. Köstenberger a run for his money.

Robinson, Maurice (Ph.D., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Professor of New Testament and a renowned textual criticism scholar. He is the author of Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament: Revised and Updated (Hendrickson, forthcoming). Dr. Robinson is a world-renowned textual critic, an accomplished guitarist, and is known to give a Bob Dylan impersonation that is “spot on.”

Southeastern offers several degrees with a focus on the New Testament. The Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies with a minor in Biblical Studies introduces undergraduate students to the knowledge and skills central to the work of pastors, particularly in the area of Old and New Testament competency. The Master or Arts (Biblical Languages) prepares students to serve as translators and as field supervisors for Bible translation teams. The M.Div. with Pastoral Ministry prepares students for pastoral ministry in the local church with and is grounded in study of the Old and New Testament. The M.Div. with Christian Ministry offers the same strong core education while giving one freedom to pursue elective courses in the area of New Testament and Greek. The M.Div. with Advanced Biblical Studies offers the greatest opportunity for focus in New Testament and Greek exegesis, preparing one for a pastoral or teaching ministry. The Th.M. in Biblical Studies equips post-M.Div. students who want to enhance their theological training, either for preparation for doctoral study or as an advanced degree for service in the church. Students can take the thesis or non-thesis tracks under the supervision of a professor in the area of New Testament and Greek. Finally, the Ph.D. in Biblical Studies with a concentration in New Testament prepares students to teach New Testament, Greek, and other courses to college or seminary students, and to write about the interpretation and theology of the New Testament.

We invite you to study with our New Testament faculty in the B. A., M.Div., Th.M., or Ph.D. programs of Southeastern. For more info visit our website (http://www.sebts.edu/) and check out the Admissions and Academics links.



[1] Michael F. Bird and Jason Maston, Earliest Christian History: History, Literature, and Theology in Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe. 320 (Mohr Siebeck, 2012).

For the Record (Chip McDaniel): Why the Old Testament is Important for the Great Commission Task: Some Thoughts from the Mission Field

[Editor’s Note: This post by Dr. Chip McDaniel, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern, continues our “For the Record” series by Southeastern faculty. In this post Dr. McDaniel addresses the relevance of the Old Testament for cross-cultural Christian mission. He surveyed several current and former missionaries to get their thoughts.]

The study of the Old Testament is important for all Christians everywhere in the world who seek to walk with God, understand His program on earth and interpret the New Testament.  There are additional considerations for those who are involved in a mission context.  I have asked several friends who have served in missions for their thoughts on this.  Together they have over 130 years of cross-cultural experience

With respect to all believers:

  • The NT shows the OT’s importance by example.  It often uses the OT as proof for its doctrine (e.g., the many times it uses the formula, “that it might be fulfilled”).  The “all Scripture” of 2 Timothy 3:16 includes the OT.
  • Theologically the message of the NT is clearer with knowledge of the OT.  Regarding the “New Covenant” one friend writes, “The ‘New’ Covenant in the NT isn’t really new, in the sense that it is related to Jeremiah’s teaching on the New Covenant in the OT!  A tracing of the major covenants through the OT can help put the New Covenant into the context of God’s redemptive program.” [EB]  The OT also shows that the Church is not divorced from God’s people and working from the very beginning of time (cf. Hebrew 11).
  • The NT makes allusions to OT persons, places and events.  The message of the NT is clearer if one knows these references.
  • Narrative teaches theology by what it affirms or decries.  There are many more lessons from the narratives of the OT than the NT.  We are told to remember the wife of Lot (Luke 17:32) and to draw lessons from Job’s patience (James 5:11).
  • One of the most beloved sections of Scripture for believers of all ages is the Psalms because it helps us enter into the thinking and emotions of the writers more than other types of biblical literature.  When Paul tells of speaking, teaching and admonishing with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, the Psalms are certainly a part of what is in view (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians  3:16).  The NT quotes or alludes to the Psalms more than any other book of the OT.

Practical considerations for missions:

  • The educated of other cultures thirst for Western knowledge (especially science) and will be increasingly confronted by a naturalism that ignores God’s part in the origin and maintenance of the earth.  Though the NT teaches that Christ made and sustains the world, much of the doctrine of creation is derived from the book of Genesis and passages scattered throughout the OT.
  • Some cultures identify better with the social setting of the OT.  Tribal and pastoral cultures will be able to identify with the lives of those in the OT.  One of my sources writes that when they told the story of Abraham’s seeking a wife for Isaac, the people were more accepting of the Gospel.  They said, “Up until now we’ve been debating whether we want to hear more from you, whether your stories will just end up Westernizing us and turning our people into moral retards.  But now we know that you’re not importing your Western culture.  Everyone knows that people in the West don’t find their wives that way.  This is our kind of story from God’s holy book.  We are now sure that we want to hear everything you have to tell us [about God].”  [DR]  Another source tells that many cultural bridges to his people group opened when they were exposed to the teachings of the OT.  [DS1]
  • The study of the OT plugs all cultures into God’s total program.  He is not a Western God.  His desire is for a relationship with and praise from His creation.  Those who see the Hebrew Bible as just for Jews and the Greek NT just for Christians are confronted in the OT with the view that, as one friend wrote, “The God of the OT is a missionary God with interest in all nations.” [KH]  Genesis, the Psalms and Isaiah are especially helpful here.
  • The NT is built on the story of God’s solution to the problem but the OT teaches abundantly and clearly what that problem is.  It shows the origin of evil and the career of the evil one in society.  In this regard one writes, “Sadly, many people we meet see that Gospel as being irrelevant and meaningless because they don’t even begin to have an accurate OT worldview from which to appreciate the power and genius of the Gospel.”  [DR]
  • The OT has more illustrations of the futility of false worship.  Those trapped in idol worship must come to realize that idols “don’t provide the solution that’s being sought or advertised.”  This awareness of the vanity of false worship is an important lesson for Gospel messengers to teach in an unreached culture.  [DR].
  • Liberal theologians are taking to the Two-Thirds World a message of liberation theology with much of the teaching from the OT, particularly the prophets. Some are exporting a prosperity gospel with much of its teaching coming from the OT, particularly Deuteronomy and the book of Proverbs.
  • Experience demonstrates the value of a chronological presentation of the stories of the OT leading up to the teachings of the Cross and the Christian life.  One friend writes regarding the teaching through the OT narrative, “…the best evangelism (and discipleship) takes place when placing the content of the gospel in the context of God’s total revelation…many of us are now promoting and training our missionaries to do evangelism ‘slower’ by presenting the OT story first and then the NT continuance of that story.”  [DS2]
  • Some religions of the world derive teachings from the OT, some venerate the OT prophets and some encourage the seeking of truth or wisdom wherever it might be found.  Dialog concerning portions of the OT can serve as a bridge to the claims of Christ.
  • The knowledge of the OT that historically could be presupposed in the West is not present in many cultures (or in the West anymore for that matter).  The significance of the coming of Christ is abundantly displayed in the OT.  One friend writes, “I spend much less time debating Jesus vs. [other faiths’ leaders] and more time from the OT showing why Jesus was necessary and how he came to be through the history of the prophets and the people of Abraham.” [RN]

DR, church planting in Asia

DS1, church planting in Central America

DS2, church planting in Europe and South America

EB, theological education in Europe

KH, theological education in Africa

RN, church planting in Africa and Europe

For the Record (David Alan Black): How Can I Keep Up with My Greek?

[Editor’s Note: David Alan Black is Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern. He has published numerous books on New Testament Greek, including Learn to Read New Testament Greek and Using New Testament Greek in Ministry. He is regarded as an excellent teacher of the New Testament and Greek and a mentor of students. For these reasons, we asked him to help our readers with keeping up with their Greek.]

So you’ve studied New Testament Greek and are finding it a bit of a challenge to retain what you’ve learned. A lot of people don’t stick with it. “I tried learning Greek and it didn’t work for me.”

The problem with these people may just be that they never learned persistence. Do you want to master the Greek language and be able to use it in your walk with God and in your service for Him? If you do, you will have to put forth some effort. How can we “stick with it” in a practical sense?

1) One aspect of persistence is spending time in your Greek New Testament every day. Notice, I said spend time. It’s an investment, a conscious choice on your part. Don’t wait for it to just happen. Make time in the Greek text an indispensable part of your day. I do, and I never fail to benefit from it. If you need to, use any help that is out there, including interlinears. Yes, I said interlinears – which are usually considered anathema to Greek teachers. But if an interlinear can get you into the text, it’s worth the effort. As one preacher put it, “Halitosis is better than no breath at all.”

2) Second, take time to pray. Ask God to help you. For many Greek students, things go well for a few weeks. But as soon as a little difficulty comes their way they say, “Forget it. This is impossible.” That’s when you need to go to God in prayer. John wrote, “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will we know that we have the petitions we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15). Prayer is your lifeline to God and your only source of strength. Take advantage of it.

3) Third, those who want to master the Greek language must grow constantly in their knowledge of grammar. If you’ve already had a year of Greek but are floundering, why not pick up a good intermediate textbook and begin reviewing your paradigms and syntax? Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics is excellent for this purpose. Others find my It’s Still Greek to Me helpful. If you’re going to master Greek you’re going to have become a perpetual student of the language. I’m sorry, but there aren’t any shortcuts, no easy solutions. We can’t skip a grade or two.

4) Fourth, to master Greek means to be patient with yourself. You put one foot in front of the other. It’s a steady gait, not a foot race. As I said above, the only way to get the job done is to stick with it.

5) Finally, let me suggest that you teach others what you’re learning. It’s often been said that the best way to learn something is by teaching it. This can make all the difference. It’s interesting that my best students tend to be those who are teaching Greek to others, whether in their small group fellowships or to their children at home or in their Sunday School classes. A couple of years ago I taught beginning Greek in my local church every Monday night for a year. We started out with 55 students and finished with six. At times I almost decided to give up. It’s at times like these that I have to ask myself, “Who am I serving? Am I doing this for God or for me?” The Bible says, “Let us not grow weary while doing what is good, because at the right time we will reap a harvest if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9). I’m so proud of those six students who finished the course, who ran the race to the end. I’m also deeply appreciative of the efforts of those who had to drop out along the way, some for serious medical problems. (My wife Becky, one of my very best students, had to leave the course because of her surgery and chemotherapy).

I know that Greek can be tough. If anyone ever experienced a sinking feeling while studying this language, it was me. I dropped out of my beginning Greek class at Biola after only three weeks! Thankfully I went on to take Moody Bible Institute’s correspondence course and, by God’s grace, aced it. Remember what Peter’s problem was when he was walking on the water? He took his eyes off the Lord. And that just about says it all.