Christian Mission – Old Testament Foundations and New Testament Developments

Christian Mission - Old Testament Foundations and New Testament DevelopmentsThanks to Antony Billington over at LICC for making us aware of a recent publication in the McMaster New Testament Studies series.

Christian Mission: Old Testament Foundations and New Testament Developments edited by Stanley E. Porter and Cynthia Long Westfall (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2010).

Here’s the blurb, contents and endorsements:

How did a first-generation Jewish messianic movement develop the momentum to become a dominant religious force in the Western world? The essays here first investigate the roots of God’s mission and the mission of his people in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism, specifically in the Psalms, Isaiah, and Daniel. The contributions then discuss the mission of Jesus, and how it continued into the mission of the Twelve, other Jewish believers (in the Gospels, General Epistles, and Revelation), and finally into Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles documented in the book of Acts and his epistles. These essays reach backward into the background of what was to become the Christian mission and forward through the New Testament to the continuing Christian mission and missions today.


Introduction: Christian Mission: Old Testament Foundations and New Testament Developments – Stanley E. Porter and Cynthia Long Westfall

“Declare His Glory Among the Nations”: The Psalter as Missional Collection – Mark J. Boda

The Book of Daniel and the Roots of New Testament Mission – Brian P. Irwin

Mark, Matthew, and Mission: Faith, Failure, and the Fidelity of Jesus – Michael P. Knowles

A Light to the Nations: Isaiah and Mission in Luke – Craig A. Evans

A Cord of Three Strands: Mission in Acts – Stanley E. Porter and Cynthia Long Westfall

The Content and Message of Paul’s Missionary Teaching – Stanley E. Porter

Paul’s Missionary Strategy: Goals, Methods, and Realities – Eckhard J. Schnabel

The Hebrew Mission: Voices from the Margin? – Cynthia Long Westfall

Bible and Mission: Missiology and Biblical Scholarship in Dialogue – Michael W. Goheen


“For too long now biblical scholarship and missiology have been progressing in splendid isolation with little reference to each other. This sparkling collection of essays not only demonstrates the interdependence of these disciplines but also takes seriously the Hebrew Scriptures and Second Temple Judaism as fertile soil in which the seeds for Christian mission were sown, came to flower in the New Testament, and continue to bear fruit in the ongoing global mission of the church at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”
—Trevor J. Burke
author of Adopted into God’s Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor

“Biblical scholars and missiologists have much to learn from each other. This work, with contributions from notable scholars, offers some fresh biblical insights for thinking about Christian mission.”
—Craig Keener
author of Romans: A New Covenant Commentary (Cascade 2009)

“We have needed a work that presents the development of Mission from Israel to the early church. These essays, written by leading scholars in both fields, admirably accomplish that goal. Here is a work that covers the field, presents missional roots as well as strategy, is very readable, and would serve as a fine textbook both for courses and personal study. I highly recommend this book.”
—Grant Osborne
author of The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation

Wealth, poverty and power in the Old Testament

Chris Wright's Old Testament Ethics for the People of GodAs well as teaching on specific biblical modules at Redcliffe, occasionally I join other classes for one-off sessions looking how an aspect of the biblical material relates to their subject. The most recent class like this was on Friday when I joined the Diploma and Professional in Mission class on ‘Wealth, Poverty and the Environment’ to look at how the Old Testament addresses the themes of wealth, poverty and power.

I found Chris Wright’s Old Testament Ethics for the People of God particularly helpful in preparing this session. He outlines the Old Testament’s understanding of poverty in three ways: what causes poverty? how are God’s people to respond to poverty; and a future vision of a new creation without poverty.

We then looked at three passages, Deut. 15 and Job 29, 31. The Deuteronomy passage is well-known for its discussion of how Israel is to approach the issue of poverty. Indeed, in his excellent NIBC commentary on Deuteronomy, Wright (again!) suggests that the passage ‘offers limitless opportunity for ethical and missiological reflection and action’. OK, there is hyperbole in this statement but it is undoubtedly true that the passage (and other parts of Deuteronomy) contains much food for missiological and ethical thought. My own Master’s dissertation was on the orphan, widow and alien in Deuteronomy. A couple of years ago I also had a student here at Redcliffe who wrote her dissertation on the book’s approach to poverty and how that might inform how the church addressed the issue in the contemporary UK context.

The Job passages are more obscure to most, but in an attempt to defend his righteousness Job provides us indirectly with a window into an ideal ethical life where those with power protect the weak and address injustice. At one point Job claims that ‘The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.’ (29:13, ESV)

Wouldn’t that verse make a great epitaph?

Mission in Robin Routledge’s Old Testament Theology

Like many Old Testament Theologies (e.g., Brueggemann, Preuss, Goldingay) Robin Routledge’s Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach contains a chapter on the nations.

As it came out in 2008 Routledge notes works such as Chris Wright’s The Mission of God and James Okoye’s Israel and the Nations (both published in 2006).

It would make an interesting study to look at how different OT theologies deal with the ‘nations’ or ‘mission’ question. Why, for example, do the chapters tend (but not always) to be at the end of the book? Could this be read as the nations as an afterthought? What, I wonder, would an Old Testament Theology look like if a treatment of the nations came first?

Anyway, in the meantime, here’s a breakdown of Routledge’s chapter on ‘God and the Nations (ch. 10, pp. 334). (nb. He has also contributed a very helpful chapter on ‘Mission and Covenant in the Old Testament’ in Bible and Mission: A Conversation Between Biblical Studies and Missiology – see my review in Redcliffe’s mission journal, Encounters).

God and history
– The divine purpose in history
– God and non-Israelite nations (Condemnation of national pride; Oracles against the nations; Divine guidance of national destinies)

Salvation for all nations
– Mission in the Old Testament
– God’s universal covenant
– Mission: at the heart of a narrative substructure of the Old Testament
– Universalism (Israel as witness to the nations, Israel and the nations: equal partners in salvation?)