Review: Joel B. Green’s The New Testament and Ethics

Christian ethics remains a matter of conversation and difficult questions (xiv-xv). The discussion of Christian ethics is both one of hermeneutics and exegesis as well as historical and Biblical theology. The New Testament and Ethics: A Book-By-Book Survey (henceforth The New Testament and Ethics) presents itself as a resource to further these discussions and answer these questions.

With writing from over 20 authors, edited by Joel Green, The New Testament and Ethics provides a brief examination of each Biblical book, significant shared concepts in the Scriptures, and examples of cultural, Jewish and Hellenistic, impact on the early church fathers. Each topic is broken into chapters that are subsequently split into short article length sections. The result is a resource with clear delineations and easy to consume material. Each section can be an enjoyable read on its own or in the scope of the larger classification.

As a survey the book-by-book section lacks overwhelming details. Though the sections do not address all of the important ethical passages, each author presents their book from a “big picture” perspective. The chapter covering the Gospels (chapter 2) and the sections covering 1-2 Peter (83-86), 1-3 John (86-88) and Revelation (89-92) stand out in value. The highlight of a cultural “two way” ethics is a valuable insight throughout the survey. Its influence on Paul’s “List of Vices and Virtues” (110) and the Didache (140-142) are points of interesting reflection. However, given the obvious question(s) pertaining to the role of the Old Testament Law (xiv-xv, 2-7, 11) it is unfortunate that neither Romans 7 nor 1 Timothy 1:8-11 is addressed to relate New Testament ethics to the Jewish Torah. Though some time is given to the concept of the “third use of the law” (94-95) this remains a point of criticism.

More conservative readers may be off put by “the diversity of ethics in the Scriptures” (8, 10), the casual questions of authorship that permeate the book-by-book introductions or talk of “pseudonymous writings” (73). However these critical concerns are not overwhelming.

In conclusion, The New Testament and Ethics is a valuable and brief resource. It seems best suited for classroom teaching and education. However the purposeful brevity minimizes the consultation value for extensive study in any particular New Testament book. All pastors, laymen, and students of the New Testament will benefit from the critical and constructive thoughts provided.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Joshua Torrey is a New Mexico boy in an Austin, TX world. He is husband to Alaina and father to Kenzie & Judah and spends his free time studying for the edification of his household. These studies include the intricacies of hockey, football, curling, beer, and theology. You can follow him @AustinPreterism and read his theological musings and running commentary of the Scriptures at The Torrey Gazette.