15 New Testament Words of Life

Dr. Nijay Gupta,
Northern Seminary

15 New Testament Words of Life: A New Testament Theology for Real Life (Zondervan) is Nijay Gupta’s most recent book.  He joins David Capes to talk about it on “The Stone Chapel Podcast.” 

Dr. Gupta is a New Testament Professor at Northern Seminary in Lyle, IL.  He is the author of many books and articles.

In 2021 he appeared on “The Stone Chapel Podcast” to talk about another of his books, Paul and the Language of Faith.

The book begins with an assumption: we don’t read the Bible in a vacuum.  We read it in the midst of the ups and downs of our lives.

As a result, a different way of reading the Bible is called for, a strategy that asks the question: “So what?”  

Nijay wrote this book for those who consider themselves students of the Bible, whether seminary students, pastors, or interested laypeople. 

By choosing these particular words, Dr. Gupta hopes to break down “Christian-ese.”  Each of the 15 words are tied to a particular book or set of books.

Most New Testament theologies are written for academics.  They are big books often running 1000 pages or more.  They tend to be esoteric and filled with academic speak. 

Rather than focusing on the day to day, namely, life, many New Testament theologies stay in the abstract.  While Nijay reads these big books and appreciates them, he wanted this book to be much shorter and more to the point. 

The New Testament is filled with church letters, pastoral letters.  The authors were writing amidst the rough and tumble of life.

Since there was not enough time to talk about all these words, David and Nijay focused briefly on three: forgiveness, salvation, and hope. 

Listen carefully to the podcast to pick up on the nuances of these words. 

Here is what one scholar had to say about the book:

“Do you suspect there’s more to the Christian faith than what you’re hearing? Dr. Gupta brings the best of biblical scholarship to the pews, where standard Christian ways of talking about things have grown stale. By highlighting these fifteen key words, he opens a whole new world of understanding that will reinvigorate Christian practice. If you are hungry to move beyond clichés, this book is your invitation to a nourishing feast.” 

—CARMEN JOY IMES, Associate professor of Old Testament, Biola University, author ofBearing God’s Name

David recorded an earlier podcast with Nijay on his book, Paul and the Language of Faith.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

Recently, David Capes was interviewed by Nijay on his book and especially ch. 1 “Righteousness in Matthew.”  To see and hear the post click here.

To learn more about Nijay Gupta, follow his blog: “Crux Sola” on Patheos.

To hear the podcast (20 minutes), click here.

The Romans Road with N. T. Wright

Tom Wright

N. T. (“Tom”) Wright, Senior Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, joins David Capes on “The Stone Chapel Podcast” to talk about his June 2022 lecture: “The Romans Road: Through the Dark Valley.”  

After recounting a bit of his early life, Wright describes what many evangelical Christians know as “The Romans Road.”  It is a way of sharing key verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans to help people find salvation.  But Wright thinks “salvation” for Paul means something different than what moderns mean by it, that is, going to heaven when we die.

To read Romans well and in context means that we continue to Romans 8.  For Wright the story of salvation is a truly human story which includes going through the dark valley.

To hear the podcast (20 minutes) click here.

Gospel Allegiance

Matthew Bates

Dr. Matthew Bates, (PhD Univ of Notre Dame) is associate professor of theology at Quincy University in Quincy, IL.  He is the author of several books and hosts a popular podcast along with Matt Lynch and others entitled “OnScript.”  Dr. Bates joins David Capes to talk about his recent book, Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ (BrazosPress, 2019).  Often the word pistis, translated most often “faith” in the New Testament, is misunderstood because our understanding of the gospel is deficient.  So, what is the gospel? “Jesus is the saving king.”  So, what is our response?  Allegiance to the king.

To hear the podcast (24 minutes) click here.

The Stone Chapel is a podcast of the friends and staff of the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas.  It is hosted by Dr. David Capes, Senior Research Fellow at the library and former faculty member at Houston Baptist University and Wheaton College.  The purpose of the podcast is to bring to our audience great conversations from the world’s leading experts in theology, biblical studies, archaeology, Church history, the Dead Sea Scrolls, ethics, ministry, and a host of other topics close to the mission of the library.

The Lanier Theological Library is a magnet for scholars, church leaders and influencers.  For the last ten years, it has welcomed hundreds of academics and church leaders from across the globe for public lectures, study, panel discussions, consultations, and encouragement.

These podcasts as well as the Lanier library and the Stone Chapel are generously underwritten by Mark and Becky Lanier and the Lanier Theological Library Foundation.  If you have questions or comments, please be in touch: Email david.capes@lanierlibrary.org

Work Out Your Salvation

In this 7 minute podcast I cohosted at Wheaton College . . .

Dr. Douglas Moo, Kenneth T. Wessner Professor of New Testament, considers how best to understand and translate the clause often translated as “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).wheaton-magazine_august-2017-103036-200x225

You can cut and paste the following address into your web browser:


Or click here.

“Adoption” in the New Testament

 For Paul the salvation he experienced in Christ was greater than words could describe.  That is why the apostle to the Gentiles used so many different kinds of images and metaphors to express the blessings of knowing Christ.  Under the Spirit’s guidance he mined the OT and the culture around him to find ways to articulate an experience and reality that lay beyond words.  With terms like “reconciliation,” “redemption,” “justification,” and “forgiveness,” he attempted to parse the blessing of salvation and create a new type of theological grammar for the young church.St__Paul_the_Apostle

One of those metaphors, “adoption” (Greek huiothesia), was a common part of family life in the Mediterranean world.  It means literally “to make [someone] a son”.  Paul used it to describe a change of status from an existence marked by slavery and Father-lessness to a new family or community characterized by freedom and Spirit.[i] 

Human societies have practiced adoption in one form of another since the beginning of recorded history.  Broadly speaking adoption refers to the creation of kinship relationships between two or more people through legal and/or ritualistic means.  Archaeologists have unearthed adoption contracts and law codes that provide us with some information regarding its practice in ancient Babylon.  While most adoptions were of a son or daughter, it was also possible to adopt a brother, sister or father.  Slaves were typically manumitted by adoption.  In the Jewish community identified today as Elephantine, an Aramaic papyrus dated to 416 BC describes the manumission and adoption of a slave.[ii]  The same practice is referred to in Gen 15:2-3 when Abraham suggests that his slave Eliezer will likely become his heir unless God acts.  First Chronicles 2:34-35 indicates that a son-in-law could become an heir when there was no male descendent.[iii]  

When Pharoah’s daughter drew baby Moses out of the water, we are told: “he became her son” (Exod 2:10).[iv]  Although this account appears to reflect Egyptian customs, the fact that Moses continued in Pharoah’s household indicates a change of family, a new kinship relationship had been formed.  In Acts 7:21 Stephen retold these foundational stories and said: “Pharoah’s daughter took him away [adopted him] and nurtured him as her own son”.  Since Egypt and slavery had become synonymous, Hebr 11:24 indicates that Moses refused to be called the son of the Pharoah’s daughter, chosing instead to identify with his own people.  This statement makes sense only if Moses’ family status was indeed “the son of Pharoah’s daughter.” 

Still adoption does not seem to have been a common practice in Israel since no biblical or post-biblical laws legislate for it.  We can cite four reasons: (1) the importance of natural or blood lineage; (2) the practice of polygyny (having multiple wives); (3) the custom of levirate marriage; and (4) the belief that barrenness reflected God’s will and displeasure, a situation which adoption could remedy.[v]   In other words, if it is God’s will for a woman not to have children, adoption could set aside God’s will.  There may well have been other reasons, but these seem sufficient to account for the fact that adoption appears rare among the people of Israel.

Paul used the term “adoption” (huiothesia) fives times in his letters (Gal 4:5; Rom 8:14, 23; Rom 9:4; Eph 1:5).  In each case it refers to God’s adoption, not of an individual, but of his covenant people.  In one instance Paul described his “kinsmen according to the flesh” as “Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons (huiothesia), and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law . . . “ (Rom 9:4). His usage clearly reflects the language of Scripture.  Hosea 11:1 says famously: “When Israel was a youth I loved him,/ And out of Egypt I called My son”.  Moses is to say to Pharoah: “Thus says the LORD, Israel is My son, My firstborn . . . “ (Exod 4:22).  So when Paul referred to Israel as having “the adoption as sons” (Rom 9:4), he is echoing a long standing tradition codified in the Bible.

The majority of Paul’s references to adoption, however, refer to God’s people of the new covenant.  The apostle wrote: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (huiothesia)” (Gal 4:5).  In Rom 8:15 he said: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons (huiothesia) by which we cry out, `Abba! Father!’”  Later he continued (8:23): “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons (huiothesia), the redemption of our body.”  Among the many spiritual blessings in heavenly places Paul included adoption when he wrote: “He predestined us to adoption as sons (huiothesia) through Jesus to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, . . . “ (Eph 1:5).  These passages indicate that “adoption” was an important metaphor for Paul in describing the glories and blessings of salvation.  In fact, Paul is the first Christian theologian to use “adoption” as a way to talk about the affects of Christ’s redeeming work upon His people.  So where does this come from?Paul the apostle

Many interpreters of the Bible think Paul took “adoption” as a legal category from contemporary Greco-Roman family life.  That makes sense for two reasons.  First, in the Roman world adoption (adoptio) was commonplace.  So both Paul and his audiences would have been familiar with the practice even if it were unusual among the minority population of Jews in the empire.  Second, inheritance rights were an essential component of adoption in Roman society in terms of both property and power.  Likewise, Paul connected the believers’ adoption with their spiritual inheritance obtained through faith in Jesus.  In Rom 8:17 the apostle claimed that God’s adopted children are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ”; and in Gal 4:7 he affirmed that an adopted believer is “no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”  So it may well be that adoption practices in the Greco-Roman world provided Paul and his audiences with a ready-made image to describe the baptized-believers’ inclusion into God’s eternal family.  But there may well be another place from which Paul adapted this image.

As we suggested above, the OT indicates that God looked upon His covenant people as “son” or “sons.”  This was one of the ways Scripture described God’s unique relationship with Israel that began with the exodus (e.g., Exod 4:22).  Paul, having a mind steeped in Scripture, reflected the same notion in Rom 9:4 writing that God had adopted Israel as His son (huiothesia).  But earlier in Romans the apostle used that exact term to refer to the new status of believers, both Jew and Gentile, in Messiah Jesus.  Fortunately, Jewish documents from the intertestamental period provide an appropriate analogy.  Although they are not “Scripture,” they do provide evidence of a robust belief in God’s salvation during the time when Christianity is born.  They promise that God will free his people from exile in a second exodus, restore the covenant and adopt them as sons based upon 2 Sam 7:12-14: “I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to me” (e.g., Jub 1:24; T.Judah 24:3; 4QFlor 1.11).[vi]  This means that at least some Jews during Paul’s day expected God to end the exile and establish them as sons.  Paul seems to have shared this conviction but found its fulfillment in what God had already accomplished in Jesus’ incarnation, death and resurrection.  Scripture then and its later interpretation appears to have been Paul’s main reason for choosing “adoption” as one of his major soteriological motifs. 

It is important to note that Paul never used the word “adoption” (huiothesia) to refer to Jesus’ Sonship.  He referred to Jesus as “the Son of God,” “His Son,” or simply “the Son” (e.g., Rom 1:3-4; Gal 4:4).  This indicates two truths: (1) Jesus’ Sonship is unique and of a different order than ours and (2) our “adoption as sons” derives from Jesus’ life and work.  We cannot be adopted into God’s eternal family without relying on Jesus.  Furthermore, Paul explained our sonship in two stages, present and future.  In Rom 8:15 the apostle contrasted our prior condition of slavery (to sin, death and malevolent spiritual forces), animated by fear, with our present experience of “adoption as sons,” animated by the Spirit of God.[vii]  It is the Spirit who brings about this adoption by uniting people with Christ through the gift of faith.  Indeed it is only by the Spirit that we can cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6).  Still there is a “not-yet” component to our salvation, including our adoption.  That is why Paul wrote that those who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan along with the rest of the created order as we wait for “our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom 8:23).  This is another example of the already/not-yet feature of Paul’s Christian hope.  As James Scott notes: the “present and future aspects of huiothesia [adoption] in Romans 8 reflect successive stages of participation in the Son by the Spirit . . . “[viii]  In other words, God adopts all who believe in Christ into his forever family; but the fullness of our inheritance awaits us when Christ returns.  It is then that the living and the dead will be raised, that the new creation will be complete and that all God’s family will be home again.

[i] C. F. D. Moule, s.v. “adoption,”  The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962) 1:48-49.

[ii] Frederick Knobloch, s.v. “adoption,” Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday) 1:76-77.

[iii] Moule, 1:48.  Other biblical examples may include Naomi’s adoption of the son of Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 4:16), but by the laws of levirate marriage the son is already her descendent.  Mordecai also adopted the orphaned Esther (Esther 2:7, 15). 

[iv] All Scripture is quoted from the New American Standard Version.

[v] Knobloch, 79.

[vi] James Scott, s.v. “Adoption, Sonship,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, 15-18.

[vii] C.E.B. Cranfield, Romans: A Shorter Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 186.

[viii] Scott, 17.