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Biblical theology

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"Biblical theology seeks to discover what the biblical writers, under divine guidance, believed, described, and taught in the context of their own times" (Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible, p. 61).

Biblical theology is based first and foremost on the Bible itself. It takes the Scriptures as they are given to us to be the inspired, authoritative word of God. Further, it assumes that the canon was provided by the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of human authors. From an evangelical perspective, biblical theology also assumes that the original autographs of Scripture were inerrant.

Separating biblical theology from systematic theology Edit

Donald Hagner defines biblical theology as "that discipline which sets forth the message of the books of the Bible in their historical setting. Biblical theology is primarily a descriptive discipline. It is not initially concerned with the final meaning of the teachings of the Bible or their relevance for today. This is the task of systematic theology. Biblical theology has the task of expounding the theology found in the Bible in its own historical setting, and its own terms, categories, and thought forms. It is the obvious intent of the Bible to tell a story about God and his acts in history for humanity’s salvation." (From introduction to A Theology of the New Testament by George E. Ladd, Revised 1993, p. 20).

In systematic theology, one attempts to summarize biblical doctrine, addressing theological topics one by one to summarize all the biblical teaching on each particular subject. However, Biblical theology is not a discipline completely separate from systematic theology. In fact the approach in biblical theology will overlap systematic theology at numerous points. It should ultimately end up with application, which is done through the process of practical theology.

So, rather than tracing certain subjects through the Scriptures and then summarizing the teaching (as in systematic theology), biblical theology takes a canonical approach to the matter. While recognizing the theological unity and coherence of the canon, biblical theology looks at the theological contributions of the individual books and authors. It is a study of the nature, substance, and the content of the theology found in the Bible.

Old Testament theologyEdit

"Though Old Testament theology has a close relationship to the New Testament the two have discrete witnesses of their own. Therefore Old Testament theology must state the Old Testament's unique message before incorporating the New Testament perspective. The ultimate goal is still to produce biblical theology yet to unite the testaments at the proper moment. This procedure is sound on historical, canonical and exegetical grounds and will make scriptural unity plainer than starting from the opposite end of the canon. It will also make the Old Testament's unique value for theology clearer." (Paul House, Old Testament Theology, p. 54)

New Testament theologyEdit

Marshall (2004, p. 23) writes that the aim of students of New Testament theology is to explore the New Testament writer's developing understanding of God and the world, more particularly the world of people and their relationship to one another. He continues later that "in essence, then, we are trying to grasp the understanding of God and his relationship to the world reflected in the various documents" (p. 28). In other words, it studies the progressive revelation of God, whether it be through themes or the individual New Testament writers. It seeks to find the meaning, rather than the application of the text.

Resources and ReferencesEdit

  • Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan, Inter-Varsity Press, 1991.
  • Paul R. House, Old Testament Theology, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
  • Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology, Zondervan, 1978.
  • George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, Eerdmans, 2nd Revised Edition, 1993.
  • I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology, InterVarsity Press, 2004
  • Ben C. Ollenburger, Elmer A. Martens, Gerhard F. Hasel (editors), The Flowering of Old Testament Theology, Eisenbrauns, 1992.
  • Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, Banner of Truth, 1975.

External linksEdit

Biblical theologyEdit

Old Testament theologyEdit

New Testament theologyEdit


Branches of Theology
   Biblical theology | Historical theology | Philosophical theology | Systematic theology | Practical theology    


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