On January 13th I will begin teaching a course on Biblical Theology at Calvary. This is something that I am very excited about.

What is Biblical Theology?

What is Biblical Theology? Well, imagine that you are standing at the edge of a very large and very thick forest. You are adamant about reaching a specific destination on the other side. You have no map. Obviously, once you enter the forest it would be very hard to get your bearings, to see exactly where you are in relation to the destination, and so forth.

In this situation it would be crucial to have a “birds-eye view,” a map to direct you. See, a good map reduces any area that is too vast for us to understand from a limited perspective. Seeing the whole keeps us from “missing the forest for the trees.” This is what Biblical Theology does – gives us the “birds-eye view.”

Why is Biblical Theology Important?

Although the Bible is our source for theology, it does not necessarily present Christian doctrine in a systematic way. In a sense, all true Christian Theology must be “Biblical” theology. But Biblical Theology as a discipline has a specific purpose. Geerhardus Vos helps clarify when he wrote that “Biblical Theology occupies a position between exegesis and Systematic Theology”[1] among the theological disciplines. In fact, D.A. Carson argues that Biblical Theology stands closer to the text than Systematic Theology.[2] Systematic Theology attempts to order biblical material according to subject or theme. Biblical Theology serves a different purpose, as Thomas Schreiner argues;

“Biblical theology focuses on the storyline of scripture—the unfolding of God’s plan in redemptive history, so that in every passage…we consider the place of that text in relationship to the whole storyline of the Bible.”[3]

The Bible is a history of God’s progressive revelation to mankind, and Biblical Theology provides a map to helps us understand the overall unity of the Bible. It examines the several stages of biblical history and their relationship to one another. More specifically, Biblical theology is a means of looking at one particular event in relation to the total picture with an aim for understanding. It helps us see that there is a central message to the Bible rather than a number of unrelated stories and themes.

One of the most important questions we can ask is “by what process has God revealed himself?” The answer to this question will help us properly apply the Scripture. Some parts of the Bible are difficult to understand. Sometimes you can take a group of Christians who all believe that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant, and authoritative word of God, and yet they disagree over certain things like;

  • What does this particular passage actually mean?
  • How does this passage fit into the Bible as a whole?
  • How does the Old Testament apply to you and me?

Christians with very similar convictions about the Bible can disagree over what the Bible teaches on certain subjects. “Truth matters” and you will “defend what you believe to be true.”[4] I am not going to suggest that studying Biblical Theology will solve all of our interpretive problems. But, I agree with Graeme Goldsworthy when he argues that;

“Any Christian who wants to understand the reasons for the differences, and who wants to develop a sound method of approaching the text of the Bible in order to find out what it really says and means, needs an understanding of Biblical theology.”[5]

I invite you to join us a we begin to study Biblical Theology on January 13th. Here is a list of books that I will be using to develop the material. I encourage you to begin reading so that you can help me develop this course.

I also encourage you to visit the website “Beginning With Moses”, this is a great resource for Biblical Theology.

  1. Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, V.
  2. D. A. Carson, “Systematic and Biblical Theology,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 94.
  3. Thomas Schreiner, “Preaching and Biblical Theology”, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 10 (2006), 20-29.
  4. Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 19.
  5. Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 19.

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