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New Testament Theology - Lesson 4

Early Church Acceptance as Authoritative

How the early church emphasized the unity of the four gospel accounts in proclaiming the "one gospel," and considered them authoritative sources for the life and ministry of Jesus, as opposed to the Gnostic gospels and other writings circulated at the time.

Frank Thielman
New Testament Theology
Lesson 4
Watching Now
Early Church Acceptance as Authoritative

Early Church Acceptance of the Four Gospels as Authoritative

 

I. The Response of the Early Church

A. The response itself

B. The reasons for this response

1. The importance of truthful history and the widely acknowledged antiquity of the four gospels.

a. Justin Martyr

b. Quotations and Allusions to the Four

c. Apocryphal Gospel Titles

i. Gospel of Peter

ii. Gospel of Thomas

2. The unity of the four gospels on the fundamental principles of the one gospel

a. Evidence that early Christians agreed on the one gospel

i. Evidence from 1 Thessalonians

ii. Evidence from Galatians

b. Evidence from the titles of the gospels

c. Explicity evidence from the second and third centuries

i. Muratorian canon

ii. Irenaeus

a) The one gospel in four

b) The importance of Acts

iii. Origen

3. The theological point of a pluriform witness

a. A pluriform witness prevents erroneous overemphasis on a certain theological themes to the exclusion of others.

b. The pluriform nature of the gospel record itself witnesses to the grandeur of the one gospel.

 

II. The Relevance of the Early Church’s Approach to the Modern and Post-Modern Quest for the Historical Jesus

A. The importance of history, then and now

B. The importance of the fourfold witness to Jesus, then and now


Lessons
About
Class Resources
  • An overview of the history of New Testament Theology as a discipline, emphasizing the role of the Reformation.

  • Comparing and contrasting pietist and rationalist approaches to the study of New Testament Theology

  • Emergence of the four gospels, summary of their major differences, and efforts of the early church to harmonize them.

  • How the early church emphasized the unity of the four gospel accounts in proclaiming the "one gospel," and considered them authoritative sources for the life and ministry of Jesus, as opposed to the Gnostic gospels and other writings circulated at the time.

  • The four gospels each record the life and ministry of Jesus from a unique perspective while staying true to a single "gospel" message. This lecture focuses the common message and the central themes included in all of the four gospels.

  • A discussion of how Matthew portrays Jesus as fulfilling the traditional expectations of the Messiah as well as ways in which he went beyond the traditional expectations. Also, a discussion of specific examples in the four Gospels indicating by the Jewish leadership of Jesus as Messiah.

  • Luke emphasizes how Jesus, in his ministry and death, identified with the "suffering servant" prophesied in Isaiah. Although Luke affirmed the atoning aspect of Jesus' death, he focused on how Jesus' death fulfilled the role of the suffering servant. Jesus' death not only established His church, but, much like the role of the servant in Isaiah, the church's central mission was to gather the nations. This lecture also addresses the type of response each gospel writer attempts to elicit from us as we read it.

  • Paul's writings show that his theology is coherent. Passages in his letters that show different aspects of his theology were written to address specific concerns, not an indication that his theology was in the process of changing. Also, a discussion of the "center" of Paul's theology.

  • The 5 major theological themes in Paul's letters are based on Pastoral issues that emerged in congregations of believers to whom Paul was writing. By examining these themes, we can understand Paul's theology more clearly, and get a glimpse of what it was like to be a Christian in the first century. This lecture covers the first two themes.

  • The 5 major theological themes in Paul's letters are based on Pastoral issues that emerged in congregations of believers to whom Paul was writing. By examining these themes, we can understand Paul's theology more clearly, and get a glimpse of what it was like to be a Christian in the first century. This lecture covers the third and fourth of the 5 themes.

  • The fifth of five theological emphases in Paul's letters is how he addresses false teaching. This discussion begins by examining how Paul deals with the proper relationship between the visible and invisible world. The second part of the lecture focuses on the basic structure of Paul's theology, as well as some of the similarities and differences in content and style of the last nine books of the New Testament.

  • The last nine books of the New Testament address some critical issues that the early church was facing. These books were written by different authors and from different perspectives but are in fundamental agreement on foundational teachings.

  • Beginning with point 2b, Dr. Thielman focuses on five theological themes that are emphasized throughout the New Testament.

Our goal in this class, simply put, is to understand the basic theological message of the New Testament both in its diversity of expression and in its fundamental conceptual unity. To accomplish this goal, the course will pursue three objectives. We will begin by laying a historical and philosophical foundation for our understanding of the theology of the New Testament. We will then examine the major theological themes of the three parts of the New Testament canon. We will, finally, study the theological themes that bind the entire New Testament together as a conceptually unified book.

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