An Introduction to the Topic…
Biblical Theology isn’t exactly what it may sound like at first. I am here speaking about Biblical Theology as a noun and not as an adjective. I mean to communicate that I’m speaking about a thing that is called “Biblical Theology” and not describing the kind of theology that arises from good reading and faithful exposition of that reading. Even still, what makes this title “Biblical Theology” so easily confusing is that this thing does arise out of good reading and faithful exposition of that reading. Confused yet? Here is an example that I hope will help. If you were tasked with explaining John 3 to a children’s Sunday school class, you would likely read, define terms, mark the transitions in the chapter from thought to thought, and then write out all your findings in a coherent way that is appropriate to your audience. At the end of your task, can we say you were doing theology? Certainly. Can we say you were being Biblical? I am sure of it. But is that what this article is talking about? No.
Biblical Theology is sometimes referred to as a theological method to studying the Bible or a theological discipline. Geerhardus Vos, speaking about Biblical Theology, suggested to rename the discipline as “History of Special Revelation”. Also, he identified this theological discipline’s methodology as being “determined by historic progression of God’s revelation” and therefore distinguishable from the logical method of organizing theology in the discipline called “Systematic Theology”. 1
Another helpful voice on this topic is B.S. Rosner. “What is Biblical Theology? To sum up, biblical theology may be defined as theological interpretation of Scripture in and for the church. It proceeds with historical and literary sensitivity and seeks to analyze and synthesize the Bible’s teaching about God and His relations to the world on its own terms, maintaining sight of the Bible’s overarching narrative and Christcentric focus.” “…biblical theology maintains a conscious focus on Jesus Christ”. 2
Notice how both Voss and Rosner highlighted a historical progression or sensitivity. This is because a major focus of “Biblical Theology” is to study not only the overarching narrative of the Bible as being a cohesive story, but also the smaller parts of the grand story point to that one unified, Christ-centered, grand narrative. Let me illustrate what “Biblical Theology” is with two simple examples.
“Biblical theology is principally concerned with the overall theological message of the whole Bible. It seeks to understand the parts in relation to the whole…” -New Dictionary of Biblical TheologyTweet
Exhibit A: The Overarching Narrative
A few times each year at Calvary Baptist Church of Roy, I will take time to preach a sermon on the Topic of the “Big Story of the Bible”. That sermon is an illustration of what “Biblical Theology” is. In those sermons, I will often trace the progress of the History of Redemption in at least four parts: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Glorification. Almost immediately, those four useful points of telling the grand narrative are easily recognizable as thoroughly Scriptural and as a church, I think we are edified as we see the Christ centered “History of Special Revelation”.
Exhibit B: The Parts in Relation to the Whole
In Genesis 2-3, we can easily recognize the concept of “Temple” as being the meeting place of God and man in the Garden. After the fall, in Genesis 28, we see Jacob naming the place Bethel, the house of God or a “Temple”, where he saw the LORD in a vision. Jacob was fearful to be in this meeting place of God and man. Later, in Exodus, God instructed Moses how to construct the tabernacle as a portable meeting place between God and man with fearful commandments on how to live in relation to this ‘Temple’. Eventually, King David in 2 Samuel 7, would desire to build God a house or a “Temple”, but the LORD refused to allow David to fulfill his dream and instead promised to build a house for David. The language of building a house for David was a prophetic word pointing to Jesus. David’s son Solomon did build the “Temple” of the LORD that David dreamed of in 2 Chronicles 5-7, and terrifyingly, fire fell from heaven to signify the presence of God resting upon this “Temple” as the new and permanent meeting place of God and man. The “Temple” was destroyed by God’s own design as He punished His holy nation for their rebellion, and then the “Temple” was rebuilt as God led His holy nation back into Jerusalem, and prophets like Malachi declared that the Lord would come to His holy Temple. As we study the Gospel accounts, it isn’t long before we see Jesus calling Himself the “Temple”, and rightly so, because He is the ultimate and perfect meeting place between God and man. After the Crucifixion, where they destroyed Jesus’ “Temple”, He raised it again in three days. Later, in the Pauline epistles specifically, the church of God is identified as both Jesus’ body and the “Temple” of the living God. The culmination of this “Temple” theme is clearly seen in Revelation 21 where there is no “Temple” because Jesus is the “Temple” of this ultimate and eternal meeting place of God and man.
-Soli Deo Gloria
- Vos, G. (2007). Biblical theology: Old and New Testaments. Carlisle, PA, PA: Banner of Truth Trust.
2. Alexander, T. D., & Rosner, B. S. (2001). New dictionary of biblical theology. Downers Grove,, IL: InterVarsity Press.