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biblical theology

Treier on Biblical Theology and Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Posted by on Feb 16, 2010 in biblical theology | 5 comments

‘Biblical theology’ has long influenced modern theological method, especially Protestant, as both boon and bane. Its role has been seen as either pivotal or problematic in the attempt to construe the Christian Bible as scripture with unified teaching for the contemporary church. The attempt to unfold biblical teaching as having organic unity, related to an internal structure of theological concepts, is frequently perceived as a failure, a has-been that leaves us only with fragmentation – between parts of the Bible, between academy and church, church and world, clergy and laity, and between various theological disciplines. Today a new movement is afoot, often labelled ‘theological interpretation of scripture’. Some of its adherents define this practice as distinct from, even opposed to, biblical theology. Others treat the two practices as virtually coterminous, while perhaps contesting what ‘biblical theology’ is typically taken to be in favour of
new theological hermeneutics. Much of the difficulty in defining the relationship, then, stems from lingering debates about what biblical theology can or should be. The rest of the difficulty is perhaps rooted in the dilemma of any interdisciplinary efforts: how to breach unhelpful sections of disciplinary boundaries without redefining territory so nebulously that no one knows where they are. (Daniel J. Treier, “Biblical theology and/or theological interpretation of scripture?” Scottish Journal of Theology 61.1 (2008), 16)

Helyer on Evangelical Definitions and Presuppositions in Biblical Theology

Posted by on Feb 10, 2010 in biblical theology | 1 comment

Evangelical definitions [of Biblical Theology] incorporate the following elements:

  • Biblical theology confines itself to the Bible. Thus, it is canonical in scope.
  • Biblical theology seeks to trace the progressive unfolding of God’s revelation through time and space. Thus, it is descriptive and historical in method.
  • Biblical theology seeks to summarize the basic teachings of the Bible in regard to its theological content (i.e., what it teaches concerning God, human beings, sin, salvation, ethics and final destiny). Thus, its task is theological in nature.
  • Biblical theology seeks to present these teachings in the categories that are actually used by the biblical writers themselves. Thus, it is foundationally exegetical.
  • Biblical theology seeks to organize and state these teachings, themes, and ideas in a coherent manner. Very often, this involves central or controlling ideas that give coherence to all the other ideas. Thus, it is synthetic and systematic in organization.

Evangelical biblical theology also assumes certain, basic presuppositions. These may be stated as follow:

  • God exists and has revealed himself in human language in the canonical Scriptures.
  • The inspired, canonical Scriptures possess an inherent authority and are trustworthy.
  • The message of Scripture is coherent and exhibits an essential unity.
  • The message of Scripture functions as a rule of faith and practice. Biblical theology is thus not merely descriptive but rather is normative as well.

(Larry R. Helyer, The Witness of Jesus, Paul and John: An Exploration in Biblical Theology (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008),p. 21-22) (italics in original)

Barr on Biblical Theology as something new

Posted by on Feb 8, 2010 in biblical theology | 2 comments

Biblical theology is something new, in the sense that it is searching for something that is not already known. Biblical theology is not, at least according to its implicit assumptions, something already laid down in a past or ancient tradition: in this sense it belongs to a different category from (say) Calvinist theology or Anglican theology. The theology of the Bible, as most modern biblical scholarship has envisaged it, is something that has still to be discovered. One is looking for it, rather than simply restating something that has been handed down from the past. Naturally, practitioners may well hope, according to their starting preferences, that it will turn out to be rather like (say) Lutheran theology or Methodist theology or whatever their own theological background may be; but what they are looking for is something of a different intrinsic nature. Its base and its mode of scholarly identification are of a quite different kind from the base or the mode of scholarly identification of any one of the traditional theological positions. (James Barr, The Concept of Biblical Theology: An Old Testament Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), p. 3) (italics in original)

Goldsworthy on misunderstanding the term biblical theology

Posted by on Feb 4, 2010 in biblical theology | Comments Off on Goldsworthy on misunderstanding the term biblical theology

The name “biblical theology” is often misunderstood because it is not always appreciated that it is a technical term that refers to a particular way of doing theology. Thus some evangelicals will speak of biblical theology as that which contrasts with unbiblical or liberal theology. Therefore it needs to be stressed that we use the term formally to designate theology, not as a statement of what Christians believe now about any given topic (Christian doctrine), but theology understood from the perspective of the biblical writers within their own historical context. While systematic theology or, as it is sometimes called, dogmatic theology is concerned with establishing the Christian doctrine of any given topic of the Bible, biblical theology is concerned with how the revelation of God was understood in its time, and what the total picture is that was built up over the whole historical process. (Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000, p. 26)

Wright on Presuppositions

Posted by on Feb 1, 2010 in biblical theology | Comments Off on Wright on Presuppositions

We have seen that the study of the New Testament involves three disciplines in particular: literature, history and theology. They are, as it were, among the armies that use the New Testament as a battleground. Many of the debates which have occupied scholars as they have crossed the terrain of gospels and epistles have not been so much the detailed exegesis of this or that passage, but the larger issues as to which view of history, or of theology, they will take, and which pieces of territory they can then annex with a claim of justified allegiance. It is there inevitable – though some will perhaps feel it regrettable – that we must spend some time at this stage seeing what these large issues look like, and getting some idea as to what the options are between them. Until we do this, study of Jesus, Paul and the gospels will remain largely the projection of an undiscussed metaphysic: if we do not explore presuppositional matters, we can expect endless and fruitless debate. (N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), p. 31)

Marshall on two errors of method in Biblical Theology

Posted by on Jan 28, 2010 in biblical theology | 8 comments

[I]t should be clear that we cannot simply lump all the books of the New Testament together indiscriminately and use them as a quarry for the stones, which we shall use to build our edifice. It would be possible to create a compilation of theological statements from the New Testament that has nothing more than a harmonizing assembly of quotations taken at random from any of its books. Such an approach would wrench the statements out of their contexts and lack the careful examination of their nuances to establish precisely what they were intended to affirm and imply. It would also assume that the quotations will all necessarily reflect the same point of view. But is a collection of texts a theology? There has to be some kind of arrangements. If so, how does one decide how to group the texts? To create a building rather than a cairn it is necessary to have some kind of plan or design.

Consequently, the first approach cannot in practice be separated from a second, accompanying tendency. This is to take over an existing plan such as is found in a textbook of systematic theology without any firm evidence that this framework was in the minds of any of the New Testament authors. However, it has to be said that people who do this are usually quite convinced that their framework is that of the New Testament.

Two errors of method thus come together in this combination of approaches, the indiscriminate use of the books of the New Testament as if they all necessarily reflected identical thinking, and the use of a later framework as if it were that of the New Testament. The result can be distorting and anachronistic. (I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2004), p. 24-25)

Morris: What they meant or What they mean?

Posted by on Jan 25, 2010 in biblical theology | Comments Off on Morris: What they meant or What they mean?

The question inevitably arises concerning how far we are to repeat what the New Testament writers have said and how far we are to interpret it. Is our primary concern with “what they meant” or with “what they mean”? There is no substitute for pursuing the former question. We must make a sincere attempt to find the meaning the authors conveyed when they wrote their books in their own historical situations. But, of course, as we do so some element of interpretation is inevitable. We read these writings across a barrier of many centuries and from a standpoint of a very different culture. We make every effort to allow for this, but we never succeed perfectly. In this book I am striving hard to find out what the New Testament authors meant, and this not as an academic exercise, but as the necessary prelude to our understanding of what their writings mean for us today.

We must bear in mind that the writers of the New Testament books were not writing set theological pieces. They were concerned with the needs of the churches for which they wrote. (Leon Morris, New Testament Theology, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986, p. 10)

Biblical Theology – Static or Dynamic?

Posted by on Jan 18, 2010 in biblical theology | 2 comments

[O]ur New testament authors were not attempting to write a ‘theology’, but were engaged in apologetic and dialogue. The real problem with talking about ‘New Testament theology’, however, is that it suggests something static and complete, whereas what we have in the New Testament is a number of different people all ‘doing theology’ in different situations. We do not have an inanimate corpse, labelled ‘New Testament theology’, laid out on a mortuary slab and waiting for dissection; rather we have a series of photographs of people vigorously engaged in the process of ‘theologizing’, trying to work out the significance of their faith. (Morna Hooker, “The Nature of New Testament Theology,” in The Nature of New Testament Theology, Ed. Christopher Rowland and Christopher Tuckett, Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2006, p. 77)

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.

Hafemann on Biblical Theology as a Response to the Bible

Posted by on Jan 11, 2010 in biblical theology | Comments Off on Hafemann on Biblical Theology as a Response to the Bible

[B]iblical Theology is an abiding response demanded by the subject matter of the biblical text itself. At the descriptive level, biblical theology recognizes that authors and editors of the biblical texts understood themselves to be preserving and interpreting the significance of God’s redemptive acts in the history of Israel, Jesus and the church. At the prescriptive level, biblical theology will and must last as long as the Bible is held to be God’s Word about himself and his relationship to his creation. The Bible is not merely a witness to revelatory events or theological ideas but is itself an expression of theological activity and affirmation. To do biblical theology is to go where the Bible leads us, since the Scriptures are a record of historical events interpreted in terms of their theological significance. (Scott J. Hafemann, Biblical Theology: Retrospect and Prospect, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002, pg. 15-16)