Seek To Discover What Paul Meant By What He Said

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Biblical theology

Biblical theology “seeks to discover what the biblical writers, under divine guidance, believed, described, and taught in the context of their own times.” ^[1]^ It is based first and foremost on the Bible itself, and takes the Scriptures as they are given to us to be the inspired, authoritative word of God. Further, biblical theology 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.


Biblical theology and systematic theology

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.” ^[2]^

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 theology

“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.” ^[3]^

New Testament theology

Marshall 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.^[4]^ N. T. Wright also notes that the “phrase has come to designate, more or less, the attempt to read the New Testament from a historical point of view, and, either simultaneously or subsequently, to draw its major theological emphases together into a coherent statement which can then address subsequent generations, our own included.” ^[5]^


  1. ? Robert W. Yarbrough, “Biblical Theology” in Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Walter E. Elwell (Baker, 1996), p. 61.
  2. ? George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, revised ed. (Eerdmans, 1993), p. 20.
  3. ? Paul House, Old Testament Theology (IVP, 1998), p. 54.
  4. ? I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology (IVP, 2004), p. 23.
  5. ? The New Testament and the People of God. Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 1 (Fortress Press, 1992), pp. 18-19.


Biblical theology
  • Scott J. Hafemann, ed. Biblical Theology: Retrospect and Prospect. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
  • Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology. Banner of Truth, 1975.
  • Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. InterVarsity Press, 1991.
  • T. Desmond Alexander, et al. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Exploring the Unity & Diversity of Scripture. InterVarsity Press, 2000.
Old Testament theology
  • Bruce K. Waltke, with Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach. Zondervan, 2007.
  • John H. Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology. Zondervan, 1995.
  • Paul R. House, Old Testament Theology. InterVarsity Press, 1998.
  • Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology. Zondervan, 1978.
  • Willem A. VanGemeren, ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, 5 vols. Zondervan, 1997.
New Testament theology
  • Thomas Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Baker Academic, 2008.
  • George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 2nd revised edition. Eerdmans, 1993.
  • I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology. InterVarsity Press, 2004.
  • Colin Brown, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 4 vols. Zondervan, 1986. Abridged version, edited by Verlyn Verbrugge, 2003.
  • Larry R. Helyer, The Witness of Jesus, Paul and John: An Exploration in Biblical Theology. IVP Academic, 2008.

External links

Biblical theology
Old Testament theology
New Testament theology

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


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