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New Testament Theology Panel

November 23, 2009

I just returned from a stimulating and somewhat humorous panel on New Testament Theology here at the annual SBL meeting in New Orleans. The panel was primarily intended to interact with Udo Schnelle’s recently released theology of the NT but also included interactions with the NT Theologies of Frank J. Matera and James D. G. Dunn. The panel was chaired by Pheme Perkins and consisted of papers by and subsequent (lengthy) dialogue between Dunn, Matera, Schnelle, and D. A. Carson.

The panel began with Dunn admitting that he had not read Matera’s volume because it had been boxed up and “lost.” That humorous moment set in motion a chain of humorous moments, especially in the presentation of Jimmy Dunn who roundly criticized Schnelle and often used a tongue-in-cheek mocking tone. Dunn confessed a disagreement with Schnelle’s presentation of the New Perspective on Paul. He also criticized Schnelle’s assertion that there is very little in the NT documents that goes back to the historical Jesus and his equally strong (and bizarre) assertion that the apostolic readings of the Old Testament constitute a “changing of the Old Testament texts.”

Schnelle responded with an equally humorous paper that not only answered Dunn’s critique but soundly reaffirmed what he had written in the new volume. Frank Matera (one of my former professors at Catholic University) went third and traced trends in recent NT Theology while situating the works of Dunn and Schnelle in that historical survey. Don Carson finished the session with a surprisingly charitable series of remarks. But it did not end here. . . .

After the papers there was a VERY lively exchange between Dunn and Schnelle with the occasional comment from Matera and Carson sprinkled in. It is too difficult for me to remember the substance of every remark in the lively exchanges but I can say that I haven’t enjoyed a session that much in years, nor have I laughed as much or as hard at an SBL panel.

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