With thanks to Adrianna Wright for this review copy. Over the coming weeks I will be posting snippets of my much larger review of volume 1.

I have enjoyed the book and much to my surprise Witherington’s thesis has given me a lot to think about concerning the way in which the church today understands the implications of the Christ event for faith and practice in ministry. Hopefully this will become clearer over the course of the review. It is also my hope to follow this review with a review of his second volume.

The New Testament, according to Witherington, stands as the collective witness to God’s moral and spiritual character. In his opinion, the collective witness provides an image of who God is and as one understands the New Testament in its entirety, one is better able to behold his character and therefore better able to reflect the image of God (2009). It is this image metaphor which lies at the heart of Witherington’s thesis. He argues, “If we are to bear the image we must first behold it” (p.25) and the only way in which the image can be “beheld” is to understand the primary witness, which in his view is the New Testament.  Although image language can be traced back as far as Genesis, it is his opinion that Christ is the one who bears the image of God on earth to God’s people. In the same way that Old Testament image language reflects the nature of God’s relationship with humanity, so too does Jesus.  The salvation project, which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, is a restoration of this image.  Therefore we are to understand Jesus as the image, the image bearer and the initiator of the entire restoration process (2009, p.20).

In Witherington’s opinion, “Christ is the question that prompts the New Testament theologising rather than the answer to all the theological questions” (p.54). Jesus is the restored image for God’s people to behold. However, the process by which God’s people are restored to this “right image” is both a divine and human activity and although the majority of work and inspiration comes from God, human beings share a responsibility to respond. “The Spirit” says Witherington, “does not supplant the need for human effort… indeed it enables it!” (2009, p.20) In submitting to the Spirit’s work, God’s people begin to be transformed into the image of the invisible God and, in doing so, bear God’s image. However, this process cannot be divorced from the witness to the image, or what we might call the New Testament.

I don’t know about you but can we say with integrity that the church today has a robust New Testament shaped Christology that informs ministry? I wonder how much of what we try and do in ministry is informed by the culture of the day over and above the theology of the New Testament!