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Gamble on Biblical Theology and Exegesis

Posted by on Jan 13, 2010 in biblical theology | 6 comments

Biblical theology as a separate discipline has tried to keep its theologizing based upon grammatical-historical exegesis. That means theology is within the historical, linguistic and social structure of Scripture. Thus, biblical theology is intimately bound to solid biblical exegesis. The biblical text is comprehended within its proper historic and literary framework. As hinted at earlier, without biblical theology, competent exegesis is impossible. (Richard C. Gamble, “The Relationship Between Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology”, in Always Reforming: Explorations in Systematic Theology; Ed. A.T.B. McGowan; Downers Grove: IVP, 2006, p. 223)

When considering the relationship between exegesis and biblical theology, extreme care must be taken. It is difficult to separate the two disciplines cleanly. Biblical theology must begin with exegesis, and thus the biblical theologian must be cognizant of the grammar, syntax, structure, semantics, historical background, and literary framework of a text. In fact, this type of analysis (i.e., exegesis) is the first step of biblical theology, and should be completed adequately before the biblical theologian begins to synthesize the biblical information.


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  1. 1-14-2010

    So, how can Susan, Lilian, Amber, John, Dexter and Curtis sit in their living room with the Bible open and do theology?

  2. 1-14-2010


    They must begin with exegesis. I think that each one of them can bring some of his or her own expertise and understanding to the exegesis in order to help everyone understand.

    The difficulty in biblical theology is that systematic (dogmatic) theology issues are usually considered along with exegesis. But, we must begin with exegesis, understanding a passage in its context as much as possible before we begin to look at theological issues.


  3. 1-16-2010

    I’m not sure the movement is also so clear cut. Here’s another Childs quote to add to your collection, this time on the relation between dogmatics and exegesis.

  4. 1-18-2010


    The biblical theology movement is not clear cut at all. Thanks for the link.


  5. 1-18-2010

    I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with this line of thinking. Stephen’s question was right in line with my concern, and I’m not sure I completely understand your answer.

    Perhaps it’s just because of academic baggage with the term “exegesis”, perhaps it is the detailed way in which you said, “[T]he biblical theologian must be cognizant of the grammar, syntax, structure, semantics, historical background, and literary framework of a text.”

    This type of explanation will scare off the average believer and automatically give them reason to believe that they need an educated “theologian” to explain the text to them. Rather, I believe that we must allow the average reader/listener to hear the text themselves and trust the Spirit of God to speak through it to them.

    We cannot begin with a presumption of ignorance. This is particularly interesting if you look at NT writers’ use of OT passages. Almost every one of those usages of OT passages would receive a failing grade in seminary today because of their lack of consideration of the factors you mentioned.

    I fear that the explanation given here, while appealing to the intellectual, serves to maintain a clergy/laity divide in the body. I am certain, based on our many discussions in the past, that this is not your intention, but I believe it is a natural and unavoidable consequence.

    I’m open to clarification and correction, though, to be sure. 🙂

  6. 1-19-2010


    Apparently we hosted a “Steve Sensenig” hour on the blog! 🙂 Seriously, thanks for all the comments.

    When I said that we must be aware of the “grammar, syntax, structure, semantics, historical background, and literary framework of a text,” I’m speaking of things that we are generally aware of. We understand the subject/verb/object relationship. We understand how a sentence is put together. We seek to learn about the meaning of words and phrases in context. We know that the culture of the authors was different than our own. We typically put all of these together to help us understand what a certain text means.

    However, there are other texts where we (of Christians in general) throw all of these things out the window. We know what a passage means because of our theology or our tradition. We must learn to exegete (understand) these passage in the same manner that we understand others, even if – and especially if – that understanding differs from our theology/tradition.