Chris Bruno – 10 Things You Should Know about Biblical Theology

1. Biblical theology is different than systematic and historical theology.

When some hear “biblical theology,” they might assume that I’m talking about theology that is faithful to the Bible. While its goal is certainly to reflect biblical truth, the discipline of biblical theology is different from other theological methods. For example, the goal of systematic theology is to gather everything the Bible teaches about a particular topic or issue. For example, studying everything the Bible teaches about God or salvation would be doing systematic theology. When we are doing historical theology, our goal will be to understand how Christians throughout the centuries understood the Bible and theology. So we might study John Calvin’s doctrine of Christ. While both systematic and historical theology are important ways to study theology, biblical theology is a different and complementary theological discipline.

2. Biblical theology emphasizes God’s progressive revelation.

Rather than gathering everything the Bible says about a particular topic, the goal of biblical theology is to trace the progressive revelation of God and his saving plan. For example, in Genesis 3:15, God promised that the offspring of the woman would one day crush the head of the serpent. But it is not immediately clear what this will looks like. As this theme is progressively revealed, we find that this offspring of the woman is also the offspring of Abraham and the royal Son who comes from the tribe of Judah, Jesus the Messiah.

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W. Edward Glenny – The Septuagint and Biblical Theology

Septuagint

This is a great time for the study of the Septuagint (LXX), and there is an ever-increasing number of resources available for studying it. Septuagint scholars are publishing monographs and dissertations, new lexicons, commentaries, a new grammar, translations, and introductions, and work continues on a full critical edition called the Göttingen Septuagint. Also, important works have been translated into English, and, of special interest for this study, several works are being published emphasizing the role of the LXX in Christian biblical theology and the importance of the LXX for the study of the NT. Also, scholars are calling attention to the fact that the discipline involves more than the quest to determine the original text of the Hebrew Bible/OT and that the study of the LXX is no longer simply a subdivision of Hebrew Bible or OT studies. Increasingly, scholars are studying the LXX as a “free-standing Greek religious document” and attributing an independent voice to it. In this regard the LXX is especially important for understanding the NT and for the discipline of biblical theology.

Before we can begin to discuss the Septuagint’s relationship to biblical theology we must define some terms. The term “Septuagint” (LXX) refers, strictly speaking, to the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek in the third century BCE, as allegedly described in the Letter of Aristeas. However, the term is often used generally to refer to the Greek Jewish Scriptures, consisting primarily of translations of the books of the Hebrew Bible, but also containing additions to some of the books of the Hebrew Bible and some other independent works. This more general use of the term “LXX” is much like we might refer to the “English Bible,” without having a particular English translation in mind. My use of the term “LXX” in this article, unless otherwise noted, is a general use of the term, referring to the Greek Jewish Scriptures, consisting primarily of the books of the Hebrew Bible. As a point of clarification, most specialists use the term Old Greek (OG) to designate a (critical) text that in their judgment represents the original translation of books other than the Pentateuch, and some use the abbreviation LXX/OG, when referring to the initial translations of the Hebrew Bible as a whole, as a reminder of the diversity that characterizes the corpus.

By “Scripture” I mean the books that have authoritative status for a faith community, such as the Christian Church or Judaism, and a “canon” is the official list of books that have the status of inspired Scripture for a faith community. When I refer to biblical theology, I especially have in mind a “whole-Bible biblical theology,” which pulls together and attempts to make sense of the inductive, grammatical-historical exegesis of the individual passages of the Christian Scripture found in both testaments. It is an attempt to synthesize the content of the individual passages of Christian Scripture in a theology of the whole, and in this paper I would like to consider how the LXX might factor into such a theological enterprise. In J. Ross Wagner’s words, “Any attempt to elucidate how the two Testaments of the Christian Bible, individually and together, testify to the redeeming work of the Triune God must sooner or later address the question of the authority of the Septuagint as a witness to the biblical text and thus as a resource for doing Christian theology.”

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Jonathan Master – Biblical and Systematic Theology: Friends

picture-9712 Christianity has always been a doctrinal religion. Theology – that which is taught about God, man, and salvation – has always been central to the Christian church. This is not to discount the place of experience. Certainly the Holy Spirit works in bringing men and women to new life and causing them to grow in their faith. But nonetheless, what we believe matters. Theology matters. And how we do theology matters as well.

There are a number of central theological questions to which Christians have always sought to give clear answers: Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What does it mean to be human? How can man be made right with God? What are the effects of the Fall on humankind? What is the church? What is baptism? Normally, our doctrinal statements will answer these questions by appealing to many passages of scripture. There will be texts from the Old Testament and the New strung together. Sometimes, more detailed systematic theologies will also use God’s self-revelation in nature as a source, though the Bible itself should always be the interpretive lens through which these extra-biblical data are analyzed.

Taken as a whole, all of this provides a system of doctrine. Because God is orderly and trustworthy, his entire self-revelation in the Bible gives us a system of doctrine. This is why it is not only necessary but also entirely appropriate for us to learn and teach systematic theology. In fact, learning and teaching systematic theology is explicitly anticipated in the scriptures. Many passages show this, but one will suffice. In giving his instructions to his pastor and friend, Timothy, Paul writes, “Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”[1] There is a pattern of teaching which Timothy needed to follow, a systematic theology he was to maintain and to teach.

But there is another type of theology called biblical theology. Biblical theology, like systematic theology, uses the Bible as its sourcebook, but it does so in a slightly different way. Rather than beginning with a question or a topic, biblical theology seeks to let the Bible raise the questions and emphases. In other words, biblical theology pays special attention to the way in which the progressive revelation of the Bible introduces certain themes. Since the Bible is a progressive revelation (not every question is answered in Genesis and we must read scripture as a whole), we can present our theological categories and conclusions in the manner in which they are presented – progressively, as the text unfolds. This, in essence, is the project of biblical theology.

Sometimes biblical theology is limited to a certain section of the Bible – leading perhaps to an Old Testament Theology, a New Testament Theology, or a Pauline Theology. But whether the source material is limited or not, biblical theology will always be seeking to look for the questions and answers as they emerge organically from the text of scripture and to present them in that organic fashion.

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Tim Bertolet – What is Biblical Theology?

Dock on the Ocean [RESIZED]_1 We all want our theology to be Biblical so that what we believe and obey is derived from the Bible. However, that is not typically what we mean when we say “Biblical theology”. Biblical theology is a way of understanding the Scripture that pays specific attention to the unfolding of God’s acts of revelation and redemption. It sees the Bible as one consistent storyline that climaxes in Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2). By using the word “storyline” we mean that God’s acts of redemption are consistent and unfold with greater and greater revelatory detail until the revelation of redemption, His ultimate goal.

As such, when we talk about Biblical theology, we recognize that Scripture is not a hodge-podge of stories; rather, the Bible presents an ongoing and connected series of events making up the one plan and purpose of God. Similarly, poetry and proverbs are not random religious experiences of God’s people jumbled together as a memory for us; rather, they serve in specific ways to complement, flesh out, and further reveal this plan and purpose God that will culminate in Jesus Christ.

Biblical theology is different from systematic theology but in reality they complement each other. At their best both disciplines arise from Scripture and are grounded in proper exegesis of the Biblical text. Systematic theology is concerned with specific topics of Scripture and seeks to examine all that the Bible says on a particular topic. Scripture will be the “data” for systematic theology. Take Christology as an example. The theologian will consider Phil. 2, John 1, and various other passages—to determine what the Scripture teaches about Jesus’ deity, humanity, and the relationship of these two natures and move into further detail.

Biblical theology, on the other hand, is concerned with the organic growth and progress of God’s revelation. For example, looking at the promises of the Messiah, in Biblical theology, one will trace the history of God’s revelation. One might for example start with Genesis 3:15 and trace the promises through the Abrahamic covenant and to the Davidic covenant or how the Messianic Psalms build upon the Davidic covenant, or how the Christology of Hebrews builds upon the concept of covenant.

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Amy Sherman – The Basics of a Biblical Theology of Work

Buildings_from_the_Park_NYC To inspire their flock about their daily work, congregational leaders need to start with the vital truth that work preceded the fall. This truth is foundational for faithful vocational stewardship. Work is not a result of humankind’s fall into sin. Work is central in Genesis 1 and 2. There it is—right in the midst of paradise, right in the picture of God’s intentions for how things ought to be. Work is a gift from God. Work is something we were built for, something our loving Creator intends for our good.

Work is not evil, nor is it a side effect of sin. This truth can be hard for congregants to trust when they are frustrated in their jobs or unfulfilled in their careers. It’s certainly true that the curse of Genesis 3 brought toil and futility into work. Ever since, our experience of work involves pain as well as pleasure. But work itself is good. It has intrinsic value.

How We Participate in God’s Own Work

Human beings are made in the image of God, and God is a worker. Human labor has intrinsic value because in it we “image,” or reflect, our Creator. In Faith Goes to Work, author Robert Banks discusses God as our “vocational model,” describing the various sorts of work he does and how myriad human vocations give expression to these aspects of God’s work. Banks’s model is helpful for teaching congregants the intrinsic value of work. Pastors can explain the various ways in which God is a worker, and then encourage their congregants to identify where their own labors fit. God’s labors include the following:

Redemptive work (God’s saving and reconciling actions). Humans participate in this kind of work, for example, as evangelists, pastors, counselors, and peacemakers. So do writers, artists, producers, songwriters, poets, and actors who incorporate redemptive elements in their stories, novels, songs, films, performances, and other works.

Creative work (God’s fashioning of the physical and human world). God gives humans creativity. People in the arts (sculptors, actors, painters, musicians, poets, and so on) display this, as do a wide range of craftspeople such as potters, weavers, and seamstresses, as well as interior designers, metalworkers, carpenters, builders, fashion designers, architects, novelists, and urban planners (and more).

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Andreas J. Köstenberger – The Present and Future of Biblical Theology

In his influential address, “Discourse on the Proper Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology, and the Right Determination of the Aims of Each,” Johann Philipp Gabler (1753-1826) lodged the programmatic proposal that scholars ought to distinguish between biblical and systematic theology. In his lecture, delivered at the University of Altdorf in 1787 (the year the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia), Gabler urged his colleagues to place their theological edifice more overtly on a scriptural foundation: “There is truly a biblical theology, of historical origin, conveying what the holy writers felt about divine matters.” Gabler claimed that a biblical theology conceived along these lines would provide the historical and rational scientific framework enabling systematic theology to relate biblical truths to contemporary life and thought.

At its core, Gabler’s distinction between biblical and systematic theology marks an important foundation stone to this day. Biblical theology is essentially a historical discipline calling for an inductive and descriptive method. We must carefully distinguish between biblical and systematic theology before we can accurately describe the theology of the biblical writers themselves. Some of us may find this to be a truism hardly worth stating. But as a survey of the last decade of biblical-theological research will show, the need to (1) ground biblical theology in careful historical work, (2) conceive of the discipline as essentially inductive and descriptive, and (3) distinguish biblical from systematic theology continues to be relevant, even urgent, if the discipline is to continue its viability.

What follows surveys the present state of biblical theology, gauged by a selective survey of evangelical works produced during the past decade or so. Then it discusses ramifications of this survey for the future of the discipline.

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D. A. Carson – Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology

Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology

D. A. Carson

To relate the nature and functions of systematic theology and biblical theology respectively proves distractingly difficult because various scholarly camps operate with highly divergent definitions of both disciplines, and therefore also entertain assumptions and adopt methods that cannot be reconciled with those of other scholarly camps. The permutations from these intertwined variables ensure the widest diversity of opinion; no analysis of the relations between systematic and biblical theology can sweep the field. Some of these difficulties must be explored before useful connections between the two disciplines can be drawn. Because more debate attaches to biblical theology than to systematic theology, and because biblical theology is the focus of this volume, that is where we must direct primary attention.

Biblical Theology
Before attempting to sort out the conflicting definitions of biblical theology, we shall do well to consider the bearing of a number of topics on the discipline.

History of Biblical Theology
Because the history of biblical theology is surveyed elsewhere in this volume, here we may restrict ourselves to a mere listing of some of the turning points that have given rise to different apprehensions of biblical theology.

In one sense, wherever there has been disciplined theological reflection on the Bible, there has been a de facto biblical theology. The first occurrence of the expression itself, however, is in 1607, in the title of a book by W. J. Christmann, Teutsche [sic] Biblische Theologie (no longer extant). The work was apparently a short compilation of proof texts supporting Protestant systematic theology. This usage enjoyed long life; it was alive and well a century and a half later in the more rigorous four-volume work by G. T. Zachariae (1771-75). A century earlier, however, the German pietist P. J. Spener, in his famous Pia Desideria (1675), distinguished theologia biblica (his own use of Scripture, suffused with reverence and piety) with the theologica scholastica that prevailed in Protestant orthodoxy.
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