Biblical Theology: Definition and Description

Biblical Theology is about how the Bible does theology.[1] It is the theology that is found in the Bible.[2] This is a theology that focuses on a whole, unified story[3] about “God’s self-revelation”[4] and his relationship and interactions with human beings through redemptive history.[5] The Bible is a collection of writings that are historically developed,[6] and so Biblical Theology focuses on the turning points in the Bible’s chronological storyline.[7] John Goldingay explains that the Bible “resemble[s] a family photograph album or commonplace book or scrapbook or collection of memorabilia, an anthology that tells a family history and gives us a picture of the family in different periods.”[8] Thus, the Bible is a “canonical bundle of overlapping testimonies from radically different contexts to the one history of God with humanity which culminates in Christ’s death and resurrection.” In other words, the Old Testament and the New Testaments consist of different voices in canonical unity and integrity witnessing to the one, true God and to the drama of redemption that culminates in the life and ministry of Jesus. Therefore, the main goal of Biblical Theology is to hear these storied and thematic voices of the canonical writings and to provide clarifications and interpretation of them “with a view to letting their various themes emerge, to indicate their dynamic interrelationship, including their continuities and discontinuities with one another, and to expose the progressive revelation of divine matters.”[9]

In view of this description of Biblical Theology, there is also a prescriptive aspect to Biblical Theology which calls individuals into God’s redemptive story and into the new humanity that has been created through Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension. It invites people into a new way of living marked by repentance and transformation.[10] Bruce Waltke sums up this prescriptive function of Biblical Theology by writing, “The ultimate aim of biblical theology is to bring us to our knees in worship and prayer.”[11]

[1] John Goldingay, Biblical Theology:The God of the Christian Scriptures (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016), 14. [2] Charles H. H. Scobie, The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 5. [3] Goldingay, Biblical, 14. [4] Scott J. Hafemann and Paul R. House, “Introduction” in Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity, eds. Scott J. Hafemann and Scott R. House (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 17. [5] Hafemann and House, “Introduction,”17. [6] Andrew David Naselli, “D.A. Carson’s Theological Method,” SBET, 29 (2) (2011): 258. [7] Goldingay, Biblical, 13-14. [8] Goldingay, Biblical, 14. [9] Gerhard F. Hasel. Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate. (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1998), 112. [10] Edward W. Klink and Darian R. Lockett. Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 83. [11] Bruce K.Waltke and Charles Yu. An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), EPUB edition, Preface, “To Know God Personally.”

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