Biblical theology is integral to the whole process of discerning the meaning of the biblical text and of applying this meaning to the contemporary scene. (B.S. Rosner, “Biblical Theology” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Downers Grove: IVP, 2000, pg 3).
Four or five years ago, as I was contemplating continuing my studies toward a PhD, I had to choose a major area to study. My first thought was New Testament, and that is a wonderful area of study. I love Koine Greek, both reading and translating, and I’m particularly interested in linguistics and discourse analysis.
However, I decided to study biblical theology. And, as broad as the statement above by Rosner seems to be, I’ve found that it is true. Anyone who has read the Bible and has attempted to apply what they’ve read to their lives has practiced biblical theology.
As a generalist (someone who desires to study many different areas), biblical theology was the right choice for me. Biblical theology touches on many of the other disciplines within biblical and theological studies: New Testament, Old Testament, Exegesis, Systematic (Dogmatic) Theology, Historical Theology, Hermeneutics (Biblical Interpretation), etc.
In the last century (especially the last half of the last century), the discipline of biblical theology changed. New approaches began to grow out of what some called “the death of biblical theology.” These new approaches led toÂ what we now know as liberation theology, feminist theology, narrative theology, canonical theology, and many others. New authors began to examine the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Centuries-0ld categories (systematic categories) began to be questioned and re-examined.
So, this is the discipline that I decided to delve into. And, I’ve loved it! I loved studying both the New Testament and the Old Testament. I’ve enjoyed reading and discussing books on systematic theology and hermeneutics.
I’ve also found that biblical theology is a great basis for studying the church. I’ve been interested in the study of the church (ecclesiology) for some time now. Combining my desire to understand biblical theology with my desire to study the church seemed natural, and it has worked very well. (Many of my blog posts here were written as a result of that study.)
Now, I’m finishing my prospectus and beginning to my write my dissertation for my PhD. Both biblical theology and ecclesiology (the study of the church) will play a large role in my dissertation. In fact, my dissertation will be a biblical theology of the purpose of the assembling of the church (thus, the title of this blog).
One of the difficulties of studying biblical theology is that there is no agreed upon methodology. Almost every scholar agrees that biblical theological methodology begins with exegesis. But, methodological differences begin there: What passages should be exegeted? How should they be exegeted? How should those passages be combined with other passages? How should the theology be applied in contemporary culture?
And, so, apart from being united in calling their works a “biblical theology”, scholars are usually united in very little else. From their analysis of the text to the synthesis into a theology, different authors take (sometimes vastly) different approaches. Thus, methodology usually determines the result of any biblical theological study.
I’m planning to write several posts concerning biblical theology. Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Who wants to read a blog post about biblical theology, much less several blog posts?” Don’t worry. First, I will continue to write about the church, like I have for the last three+ years. Second, remember that you already practice biblical theology.
More than likely, your methodology (like mine, and most other people’s) is a default methodology based on what you’ve been taught or based on your system of theology. You may find, as I have, that portions of your theology are not based on Scripture, but instead are based on historical, philosophical, or cultural extrapolations.
Hopefully, these posts will help all of us think about how we study Scripture and how we apply that study to our lives.