Review of “The Voices of the New Testament” by Derek Tidball

I was recently forwarded a new book published by InterVarsity Press. The Voices of the New Testament by Derek Tidball is an innovative new approach to Biblical Theology.

In this book, Tidball sets up a panel discussion of sorts between the various New Testament authors. He then explores various themes by presenting the dialog that would occur if such a panel were possible. In addition to the various NT authors he includes a fictional “Chair” character who serves to introduce and summarize the topics, as well as to guide the discussion. He also includes a fictional “Observer” who does not participate in the discussion, but serves to bring modern insights for the reader’s benefit.

Each discussion typically starts with a question from the Chair, and then proceeds in a somewhat predictable pattern. A given speaker (typically, but not always, a Gospel writer) will present their view, and then the various epistle writers (including the Hebraist) will comment on how they expanded the theme.

Among its strengths is that the conversations unfold in an organic fashion. Tidball works hard to make the dialog conversational and approachable. However, this can also be a liability for the book. As you might expect, the speakers fall into predictable roles. It is also clear that Tidball is not a writer who is used to writing dialog, as the basic voice of each conversant is the same. He does attempt to bring in some of the classic characteristics of each speaker (EG Mark starts his first contribution by saying he would like to boldly jump in), these often feel a bit forced. The impression I got when first reading was that this seemed like an advanced version of a youth group or summer camp skit.

That said, I think this would make an excellent contribution to an upper aged high-school discussion group, or a freshman intro to the New Testament course. While I think the average adult reader will probably feel a bit silly reading the imagined conversations, the book serves its purpose in making what can be a dry and stuffy discipline (IE tracing the theological themes of the NT through each writer) more approachable and digestible.

Please Note: The publisher has provided me with a copy of this book for review purposes.