Biblical theology

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Because scholars have tended to use the term in different ways, biblical theology has been notoriously difficult to define. [1]



Although most speak of biblical theology as a particular method or emphasis within biblical studies, some scholars have also used the term in reference to its distinctive content. In this understanding, biblical theology is limited to a collation and restatement of biblical data, without the logical analysis and dialectical correlation between texts that systematic theology emphasizes. [2]

Theology Study of the nature of deities and religious belief

Theology is the critical study of the nature of the divine. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries.

Biblical studies academic field

Biblical studies is the academic application of a set of diverse disciplines to the study of the Bible. For its theory and methods, the field draws on disciplines ranging from archaeology, ancient history, cultural backgrounds, textual criticism, literary criticism, historical backgrounds, philology, and social science.

Systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that formulates an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the doctrines of the Christian faith. It addresses issues such as what the Bible teaches about certain topics or what is true about God and his universe. It also builds on biblical disciplines, church history, as well as biblical and historical theology. Systematic theology shares its systematic tasks with other disciplines such as constructive theology, dogmatics, ethics, apologetics, and philosophy of religion.

Although the distinction existed prior, the beginning of biblical theology as a significant and separate discipline can be traced to J. P. Gabler’s 1787 address upon his inauguration as professor at the University of Altdorf, when he used the term and called for a separate discipline apart from the dogmatic emphasis of the confessions. [3]

Johann Philipp Gabler German theologian

Johann Philipp Gabler was a German Protestant Christian theologian of the school of Johann Jakob Griesbach and Johann Gottfried Eichhorn.

University of Altdorf Cultural heritage monument in Landkreis Nürnberger Land, Bavaria, Germany

The University of Altdorf was a university in Altdorf bei Nürnberg, a small town outside the Free Imperial City of Nuremberg. It was founded in 1578 and received university privileges in 1622 and was closed in 1809 by Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria.

Some scholars focus on the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible and falls in the field of Old Testament theology. The field started out as a Christian endeavor written mostly by men and aimed to provide an objective knowledge of early revelation, working as much as possible only with these biblical texts and their historical contexts, in the twentieth century it became informed by other voices and views, including those of feminist and Jewish scholars, which provided new insights and showed ways that the early work was bound by the perspectives of their authors. Key scholars have included Walther Eichrodt, Gerhard von Rad, Phyllis Trible, and Jon Levenson. [4] :xv ff

Old Testament First part of Christian Bibles based on the Hebrew Bible

The Old Testament is the first part of Christian Bibles, based primarily upon the Hebrew Bible, a collection of ancient religious writings by the Israelites believed by most Christians and religious Jews to be the sacred Word of God. The second part of the Christian Bible is the New Testament.

Hebrew Bible Canon of the Hebrew Bible.

The Hebrew Bible, also called the Tanakh or Mikra, is the canonical collection of Jewish texts, which is also the textual source for the Christian Old Testament. These texts are composed mainly in Biblical Hebrew, with some passages in Biblical Aramaic. The form of this text that is authoritative for Rabbinic Judaism is known as the Masoretic Text (MT), and is divided into 24 books, while the Protestant Bible translations divide the same material into 39 books.

Old Testament Theology is the branch of Biblical theology that seeks theological insight within the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. It explores past and present theological concepts as they pertain to God and God's relationship with creation. While the field started out as a Christian endeavor written mostly by men and aimed to provide an objective knowledge of early revelation, in the twentieth century it became informed by other voices and views, including those of feminist and Jewish scholars, which provided new insights and showed ways that the early work was bound by the perspectives of their authors.

Others focus on the New Testament; the field of New Testament theology likewise seeks understanding from within the bounds of these documents and their historical contexts. Key scholars have included Rudolf Bultmann, Hendrikus Boers, and N. T. Wright. [5]

Rudolf Bultmann German theologian

Rudolf Karl Bultmann was a German Lutheran theologian and professor of New Testament at the University of Marburg. He was one of the major figures of early-20th-century biblical studies and a prominent voice in liberal Christianity.

N. T. Wright Anglican bishop

Nicholas Thomas Wright ) is an English New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and retired Anglican bishop. Between 2003 and 2010, he was the Bishop of Durham. He then became Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary's College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

In evangelicalism

In evangelicalism biblical theology is a discipline of theology which emphasises the progressive nature of biblical revelation. Graeme Goldsworthy explains the relationship between biblical theology and systematic theology as follows:

Evangelicalism, evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide, transdenominational movement within Protestant Christianity which maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ's atonement. Evangelicals believe in the centrality of the conversion or "born again" experience in receiving salvation, in the authority of the Bible as God's revelation to humanity, and in spreading the Christian message. The movement has had a long presence in the Anglosphere before spreading further afield in the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries.

Progressive revelation is the doctrine in Christianity that the sections of the Bible that were written later contain a fuller revelation of God than the earlier sections. For instance, the theologian Charles Hodge wrote:

"The progressive character of divine revelation is recognized in relation to all the great doctrines of the Bible... What at first is only obscurely intimated is gradually unfolded in subsequent parts of the sacred volume, until the truth is revealed in its fulness."

Graeme Goldsworthy is an Australian evangelical Anglican theologian specialising in the Old Testament and Biblical theology. His most significant work is a trilogy: Gospel and Kingdom, Gospel and Wisdom, and The Gospel in Revelation. Goldsworthy has authored several other books including According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible, and Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture. He holds the M.A. of the University of Cambridge in England, and the Th.M. and Ph.D. of Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia.

Biblical theology, as defined here, is dynamic not static. That is, it follows the movement and process of God's revelation in the Bible. It is closely related to systematic theology (the two are dependent upon one another), but there is a difference in emphasis. Biblical theology is not concerned to state the final doctrines which go to make up the content of Christian belief, but rather to describe the process by which revelation unfolds and moves toward the goal which is God's final revelation of his purposes in Jesus Christ. Biblical theology seeks to understand the relationships between the various eras in God's revealing activity recorded in the Bible. The systematic theologian is mainly interested in the finished article - the statement of Christian doctrine. The biblical theologian on the other hand is concerned rather with the progressive unfolding of truth. It is on the basis of biblical theology that the systematic theologian draws upon the pre-Pentecost texts of the Bible as part of the material from which Christian doctrine may be formulated. [6]

The work of Gregory Beale, Kevin Vanhoozer, Geerhardus Vos (Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments), Herman Nicolaas Ridderbos (The Coming of the Kingdom), Meredith Kline (Kingdom Prologue), Graeme Goldsworthy (According to Plan, Gospel and Kingdom), Vaughan Roberts (God's Big Picture), James Hamilton (God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment), and Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum (Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants) [7] have helped popularize this approach to the Bible. [8] Especially important for bringing this field of study into the confessional tradition was Old Princeton theologian, Geerhardus Vos (Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments) [9] . They summarize the message of the Bible as being about "God's people in God's place under God's rule and blessing" (in Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom, Paternoster, 1981).

See also

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Dispensationalism is a religious interpretive system and metanarrative for the Bible. It considers Biblical history as divided by God into dispensations, defined periods or ages to which God has allotted distinctive administrative principles. According to dispensationalist theology, each age of God's plan is thus administered in a certain way, and humanity is held responsible as a steward during that time. Dispensationalists' presuppositions start with the harmony of history as focusing on the glory of God and put God at its center - as opposed to a central focus on humanity and their need for salvation. A dispensational perspective can be seen in the writings of Jewish sects dating from around the time Christianity arose, for example in the Dead Sea Scrolls Community Rule (1QS). Early Christian fundamentalists embraced the system as a defense of the Bible against religious liberalism and modernism, and dispensationalism became the majority position within Christian fundamentalism.

Biblical inerrancy Doctrine that the Bible is without error

Biblical inerrancy is the belief that the Bible "is without error or fault in all its teaching"; or, at least, that "Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact". Some equate inerrancy with biblical infallibility; others do not. The belief is of particular significance within parts of evangelicalism, where it is formulated in the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy".

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Christian theology:

John Murray (theologian) Scottish-born Calvinist theologian

John Murray was born in Bonar Bridge, Scotland. He was a Scottish-born Calvinist theologian who taught at Princeton Seminary and then left to help found Westminster Theological Seminary, where he taught for many years.

Covenant theology Protestant framework for biblical interpretation

Covenant theology is a conceptual overview and interpretive framework for understanding the overall structure of the Bible. It uses the theological concept of a covenant as an organizing principle for Christian theology. The standard form of covenant theology views the history of God's dealings with mankind, from Creation to Fall to Redemption to Consummation, under the framework of three overarching theological covenants: those of redemption, of works, and of grace.

Meredith George Kline was an American theologian and Old Testament scholar. He also had degrees in Assyriology and Egyptology.

Princeton Theology

The Princeton Theology was a tradition of conservative, Christian, Reformed and Presbyterian theology at Princeton Theological Seminary lasting from the founding of that institution in 1812 until the 1920s, after which, due to the increasing influence of theological liberalism at the school, the last Princeton theologians left to found Westminster Theological Seminary. The appellation has special reference to certain theologians, from Archibald Alexander to B.B. Warfield, and their particular blend of teaching, which together with its Old School Presbyterian Calvinist orthodoxy sought to express a warm Evangelicalism and a high standard of scholarship. W. Andrew Hoffecker argues that they strove to "maintain a balance between the intellectual and affective elements in the Christian faith."

In Christianity, the gospel, or the Good News, is the news of the coming of the Kingdom of God. The message of good news is described as a narrative in the four canonical gospels.

Paul King Jewett (1920–1991) was a Christian theologian, author and prominent advocate of the ordination of women and of believer's baptism. He taught systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is credited with helping develop Fuller into one of the largest seminaries in the country.

Christian eschatology is the branch of theological study relating to last things, such as concerning death, the end of the world, the judgement of humanity, and the ultimate destiny of humanity. Eschatological passages are found in many places in the Christian Bible, with many being found in the Old Testament prophets, especially in Isaiah and Daniel. Many are also found in the New Testament books, such as Matthew 24, Matthew 25, the General epistles, the Pauline epistles, and the Book of Revelation. This article is currently a general overview of the different Christian eschatological interpretations of the Book of Revelation. The differences are by no means monolithic as representing one group or another. Many differences exist within each group.

Redemptive-historical preaching is a method of preaching that emerged from the Reformed churches of the Netherlands in the early 1940s. The debate concerned itself with the question: "How are we to preach the historical narratives of the Bible?"

Geerhardus Vos American theologian

Geerhardus Johannes Vos was an Dutch-American Calvinist theologian and one of the most distinguished representatives of the Princeton Theology. He is sometimes called the father of Reformed Biblical Theology.

The Federal Vision is a Reformed evangelical theological conversation that focuses on covenant theology, Trinitarian thinking, the sacraments of baptism and communion, biblical theology and typology, justification, and postmillennialism. A controversy arose in Calvinist, Reformed, and Presbyterian circles in response to views expressed at a 2002 conference entitled The Federal Vision: An Examination of Reformed Covenantalism. The ongoing controversy involves several Reformed denominations including the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA), and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States (RPCUS), and the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA).

Vern Poythress American theologian

Vern Sheridan Poythress is an American Calvinist philosopher, theologian, and New Testament scholar.

Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. is a Calvinist theologian, Presbyterian minister, and was the Charles Krahe Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1999 to 2012.

Cessationism versus Continuationism is a Christian theological dispute concerned with the question whether the charismatic gifts are currently in operation.


  1. Carson, D. A. "Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology". In New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000, 89.
  2. Carson, D. A. "Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology". In New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000, 102.
  3. Gabler, Johann P. "An Oration on the Proper Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology and the Specific Objectives of Each". In Old Testament Theology: Flowering and Future. Sources for Biblical and Theological Study. Edited by Ben. C. Ollenburger. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2004.
  4. Brueggemann, Walter (1997). Theology of the Old Testament : testimony, dispute, advocacy ([Nachdr.]. ed.). Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN   978-0800630874.
  5. Via, Dan O. (2002). What is New Testament theology?. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press. ISBN   9780800632632.
  6. Goldsworthy, Graeme (2000). "Gospel & Kingdom". The Goldsworthy Trilogy. pp. 45–46.
  7. Gentry, Peter and Stephen Wellum (2018). Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (2nd ed.). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
  8. Gaffin, Richard B. J. "Introduction". In Redemptive history and biblical interpretation: The shorter writings of Geerhardus Vos. Edited by Gaffin, Richard B. J. Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co, 1980, p. xiii.
  9. Vos, Geerhardus (1975). Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth.