In this thesis I survey and examine major challenges presented to the enterprise of writing a New Testament theology. I argue that the challenges, although weighty, are not convincing. In a programmatic way, I also put forward arguments in favour o f the thesis, that the enterprise may be justified.
I accept the proposal that New Testament theology should be a historical enterprise (W.Wrede, H.Raisanen). I argue that a historian may describe the theological content o f the New Testament and that this should be the task o f the enterprise. Theology here does not mean the theology o f the modern interpreter, but the theology o f the N ew Testament itself. Theology should be understood as a broad term: it should include beliefs o f the early Christians, as well as practices in connection with their beliefs. The theology o f the early Christians should not be separated from their religious experience.
As historians we have to study all the available evidence, and historians may justify the study o f the theology o f the New Testament if they find that early Christianity had a basic theology, which was generally adhered to, and that this basic theology was represented in writings held to be authoritative.
I argue (against W .Bauer and H.Koester) that what was later called "orthodoxy" was the earliest form o f Christianity. Christians not adhering to the theology o f the orthodox became regarded as heretics.
I challenge the view that the canon came into existence as a late decision o f the church. Rather, we can trace the beginnings o f a canonical development to the first century. Indeed, the N ew Testament authors may have written with an awareness o f authority which was on the same level as that o f the Old Testament prophets. (Excursus: The Temple Scroll had a canonical status in Qumran.)
I take issue with the view that New Testament theology can only be a description of the manifold theologies of the New Testament (E.Kasemann,H.Braun). There are differences, but I argue that the differences do not amount to irreconcilable contradictions. (Exegetical excursus: Acts 2,36 is not evidence for an adoptionist Christology in early Christianity; Eph 2,15 does not teach the abolition of the whole Old Testament Law.) The early Christians may have shared a basic theology that consisted in statements of a credal type.
A survey of recent contributions to New Testament theology suggests that the enterprise may include the theological reasoning of the modern interpreter; and that the historical character may be complemented by other approaches, for example those drawn from the study of literary theory and of the social sciences (B.S. Childs, R.Morgan, H.Hübner, P.Stuhlmacher). However, I propose that the enterprise may be earned out and justified without these further developments.