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Posted January 12, 2010
Witherington sets out in the first of his two-volume project to investigate each individual New Testament witness through integrative theological and ethical analysis. In doing so, he seeks to correct a lamentable weakness of New Testament studies: the separation of theology and ethics, belief and behavior, into two different spheres, with ethics taking backseat to theology. In contrast to this bifurcation, Witherington demonstrates the organic relationship and blending of theology and ethics in each New Testament book, ultimately converging in Christology: the contemplation of and conformation to the indelible image of Christ.
The Indelible Image is immense both in sheer size and quality of theological-ethical reflection on the New Testament. Written in clear, simple prose, the book reads like a commentary and may be best used for this purpose. A comprehensive Scripture index will guide the reader to find relevant passages, although sometimes the reader will be surprised by passages Witherington chooses to pass over (like John 10). Little rationale is given for this selectivity, and one hopes it is not based on theological preference, especially since it seems that Witherington dismisses Reformed theological perspectives too quickly. Despite this suspicious selectivity, Witherington demonstrates a fitting balance between scholarly exegesis and practical reflection. Footnotes are sparse, which motivates readers to run to his commentaries (and other suggested reading lists at the end of each chapter) for more articulate arguments and insight.
Even though Witherington deals with each New Testament voice on its own, common themes continue to appear, most notably the interrelationship and interdependence of theology and ethics, at the heart of which is the person and work of Jesus Christ. These and other common themes among all New Testament writers prime the pump for the next volume of the Indelible Image series due out in April, focusing on the collective New Testament witness. You won't want to miss it! This first volume has left an indelible mark on our understanding of the theological and ethical thought world of the New Testament.