Robert H. Mounce: Essential Nature of New Testament Preaching Book Review

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Christian Book Review

Dr. Robert H. Mounce, born in 1921, is an American scholar of the New Testament, and is currently President Emeritus of Whitworth University, in Spokane, Washington, in the United States (U.S.). Educated not only in the U.S., but also in Scotland, where he earned his Ph.D. At the University of Aberdeen, Mounce is a respected scholar who has written a variety of books on New Testament topics. He taught at Western Kentucky University as well as at the Bethel College and Seminary. His books include commentaries on Matthew, Revelation, and Romans; he has also participated with teams involved in translations of the New Testament in several versions.

The features or individualities of preaching in the New Testament can be properly and comprehensively understood by taking into consideration both the message proclaimed by the preacher as well as the office of the preacher.[footnoteRef:2] In The Essential Nature of New Testament Preaching, Robert Mounce offers a well-outlined and comprehensive overview of the temperament of the preacher, as well discussing the subject matter of New Testament decrees. Subsequent to defining the role of a herald in the ancient world, Mounce gives a description of the manner in which John the Baptist did his preaching. He also addresses the preaching of Jesus Christ and the twelve disciples. This paper is intended to present a critical reflection of the book and the manner in which the book impacts the reader for ministry. [2: Uprichard, R.E.H. Preaching in The New Testament. Affinity Organization, 2013. ]

The foreword to Mounce's book, written by Professor A.M. Hunter of King's College, Aberdeen, addresses "The preached Gospel which the first heralds of Christ proclaimed to the great pagan world of their day, that Gospel which, after nineteen centuries, remains the Word from the Beyond for our human predicament. It tells what the Proclamation really was and how it runs, like a golden thread, through the whole New Testament." 2 Thus, Hunter sets the stage for Mounce's work, which is at least in part a deep analysis of the joyous event proclaimed by the earliest Christian heralds.

In 'The Essential Nature of New Testament Preaching', the topic of this paper, Mounce discusses the unparalled opportunity that a preacher is given when he/she is in a position to 'preach the gospel'. To start with, one distinct aspect that has an impact on the reader with regards to his or her ministry concerns Mounce's contention that the subject matter of declarations made by John the Baptist, in Revelation, are not eschatological events. Rather, they are viewed by Mounce as being an ethical demand. This means that preaching about repentance, as proclaimed by John the Baptist, is at least partially an endorsement of its eschatological considerations, contemplations, and deliberations. More importantly, perhaps, Mounce describes the importance of John the Baptist particularly as a 'Messianic Herald'.2 In later chapters, Mounce also discusses the true nature of repentance: 'It is not so much an intellectual 'change of mind', as the Greek suggests, as it is a complete reorientation of the moral dispostion.2

Ultimately, Mounce discusses the kerygma of Christ himself: that through God's Eternal Sovereignty, the victory against evil has been won by Christ.

Dr. Mounce takes the direction of a contemporary approach, particularly in disputing C.H. Dodd's renowned and familiar sharp division between preaching and teaching. A key point that Mounce considers is that a 'deep' reader of the New Testament readily perceives that there are times Christ himself 'taught', as well as times when he 'preached'; and in later years, the Apostle Paul's activities comprised both teaching and preaching. According to Mounce, Paul had accepted God's word as a sacred trust, and was called to preach to the Gentiles (Romans 16:16). For Paul, conveying God's Message was an all-consuming task of primary importance.

Simultaneously, however, Mounce himself separates kerygma -- proclamation or heralding -- from didache -- teaching, particularly with respect to the words of the Twelve Apostles. Mounce separates the two, yet holds them intertwined, by considering kerygma to be the 'foundation', while didache is the 'framework'.2 For Mounce, the history of heralds is a topic of some interest, even including aspects from the Septuagint, such as the 'announcement of the penitential fast proclaimed by the King of Nineveh (Jonah 3:7-9).2

One major aspect of the book that has an impact on the reader and his/her ministry is that Mounce makes it abundantly largely clear that the person standing in the pulpit has a particular status, position, and presumably inherent respect whose importance is not rivaled in normal life. As well, this reflects the purpose or 'calling' of the individual to God. Kerygma, a term from the Greek meaning 'to cry or proclaim as a herald', is most commonly assumed to mean 'preach'. Indeed, it is precisely preaching the Gospel that is the role of the New Testament preacher. Mounce in his book points out clearly that he is not in agreement with Dodd's summary or framework of the restructured kerygma of the disciples. In principle, he emphasizes that the apostolic decree was not a recognized, typecast kerygma (heraldic crying out) but a spontaneous elucidation of an unfamiliar singularity. Mounce asserts that kerygma has not only to do with particular subject matter, but critically includes divine content in the deed being proclaimed.

Another aspect of the book that can impact the reader in ministry is that preaching is a divine commission. In the book, Mounce elucidates the importance of comprehending the preaching office. He begins by quoting Romans 10:15, which states: "How can men preach unless they are sent?" The reader gains an understanding that devoid of a divine commission in ministry, the aspect of preaching can only be perceived as propaganda. More so, it can be considered that aside from a divine commission, no preaching can be in existence in any way with regards to the true sense of the word of God. Mounce emphasizes that in every aspect and at every place, apostolic preaching shows its perception of a celestial commission. For instance, Apostle Peter gives a kerygmatic digest to the house of Cornelius, in which he relates that the risen Lord had commanded them and given them the divine commission to preach to the people. Therefore, the reader in relationship to ministry has to gain a sense and understanding of being divinely commissioned. In ministry one has to understand that God has chosen him or her for a special reason and for a special purpose. This is, of course, similar to the Apostleship of Paul, who did not preach or proclaim the word of his own 'free will', but rather 'spake' as one entrusted with the duty to proclaim by the Lord.

For Mounce, preaching the New Testament is a matter of didactics, that is, teaching with intent to provide moral instruction. He asserts that preaching can be understood from the Epistles. Thus preaching is the means by which God's messages are conveyed to the populace; preaching reveals God's actions and efforts to assist humanity via Redemption; and preaching is a two-way street, in that the listener's heart must be open to hear and receive the message being transmitted. Indeed, it is precisely the unwillingness of listeners to actually 'hear' that is problematic, more so than the inability of the preacher to speak. In this light, it is precisely the 'Pentacostal' nature of preaching that becomes important, when the preacher him- or her-self becomes imbued with the living 'Pneuma', that is the Living Spirit.

Mounce also reminds us that shortly following Christ's Ascension, there was actually a 'specialization of the ministry'.2 For then Christ gave: "Some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11 -- 13). Thus, there is a need for those called to serve as teachers, as pastors, and as ministers; systematic instruction, on a regular basis, is important to provide to believers and congregants. As well, moral guidance in terms of the immense dilemmas of our day is also important. Yet, at bottom, there is still the necessity for those to speak who have been imbued with the Spirit. As Mounce clearly elucidates, ultimately, as shown through the acts of Christ, teaching, preaching, and healing were all part of Christ's kergyma.2

One of the main aspects mentioned by the author in the book that can be impactful in ministry is the preaching of John the Baptist. Not only did he come in realization of prophecy as seen in Mark 1:2, but at the same time he also preached in a manner that was reminiscent of prophets in the Old Testament. His appearance was akin to that of Elijah and was matched by an unbending… [END OF PREVIEW]

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