It is my conviction that the relationship of theology to ethics, at least in the New Testament, is not an abstract thing but something very organic” (Witherington, 2009, p.21). The relationship between New Testament theology and ethics as an academic discipline, according to Witherington, has for far too long, been disengaged.  The rise of historical criticism, from criticism and redaction criticism has led to a shifting of New Testament studies out of a context (in this case the church) in which one seeks to ‘hear’ the ‘Word of God’ and moved it into a more scientific direction (in this case academia) in which the primary goal is history and its validity. Therefore, it is possible the relationship between the theological voices of the New Testament may have been lost and replaced by the historical. (Scobie, 2003, p29).

It is possible that Witherington’s reliance upon the historicity of the New Testament Witness could well be to his own detriment. One may feel compelled to ask is whether or not a theology of the New Testament should be based on an acceptance of complete historical reliability. One cannot ignore the plethora of arguments being made against some commonly held theological beliefs concerning authorship, virgin birth and resurrection. Although I agree with Witherington concerning historicity, I feel compelled to ask whether or not an exegete, pastor, scholar hold to these views in order to gain a faithful NT Theology and ethic?

For far too long, as Scot McKnight recognises, the emphasis in the academic New Testament studies has been on the construction of the historical context behind the New Testament at the expense of the actual New Testament Witness[1] as it stands before us. Far too much importance appears to have been placed on secondary sources over and against the primary source, the New Testament itself.[2] In my opinion the strength of Witherington’s work is his endeavour to reconnect the relationship of New Testament Theology to ethics and the method by which he does so.

I do not know why pastors have abandoned the task of rigorous biblical theology and ethics. It seems to me, as I continually claim; the rise and advent of mega-Christianity has led to a dumbing down of the pastor as biblical theologian. More and more of my colleagues are reading sociology and corporate literature over the Bible and biblical studies. No wonder we are in such a mess!

What Witherington models in this work is what each and every minister should be doing – no exception! However, our roles appear to have changed. No longer are we stewards of God’s Word. We have become managers, markets and agents of change…

[1] McKnight makes his point concerning what is commonly understood as the third quest for the Historical Jesus…

[2] It is my opinion that Witherington does little to engage in the wider debates concerning such matters. Having said that, one must understand that it is not essential that he does so as the volume is very much his own views regarding Scripture, theology and how the people of God are to live in the light of the Christ event. I*f one is searching for such engagements they should look no further than his many commentaries. In each of his commentaries Witherington engages vigorously with the wider theological community.