"Biblical Theology" - Definition

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Donnie Hale | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Oct 6 2011 6:33 PM

A close friend is struggling a bit with applying a proper definition of "biblical theology" (as distinct from "systematic theology") to some seminary coursework he's facing. I also struggle with wrapping my head around the concept that the phrase is trying to convey.

Is there anything in the Logos resources that might help with this? I have "Platinum" plus a lot of journals and a fair number of other add-on resources.

Thanks,

Donnie

 

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Ron Corbett | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 6 2011 6:48 PM

Donnie Hale:
Is there anything in the Logos resources that might help with this?

 

I copied this small excerpt from New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Don't recall if this was added later or came with my Platinum package.

History of Biblical Theology

           Introduction

biblische Theologie) was first used in the early 1600s, but the attempt to discern a unified and consistent theology in the scriptures of the OT and NT is much older.

While some trace the origin of biblical theology to the Protestant Reformation, and others to J. P. Gabler’s 1797 address, ‘An Oration on the Proper Distinction Between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology and the Specific Objectives of Each’, the fact is that the Christian church was concerned from a very early date to articulate a ‘biblical theology’ in some form. As far as is known, the actual term (*theologia biblica,

Have you tried a search yet? Try: "biblical theology" (I ran such a search with Large Text selected in the Search Fields box) Try it and let us know how it works out.

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Simon Pleasants | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 6 2011 6:55 PM

I'd also recommend the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (it's part of the IVP Reference Collection)

http://www.logos.com/product/8588/the-essential-ivp-reference-collection-version-3#012

It has a good introductory article about Biblical Theology.

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Mark Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 6 2011 7:03 PM

Donnie:

A definitition from the Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology:

Biblical Theology. Study of the Bible that seeks to discover what the biblical writers, under divine guidance, believed, described, and taught in the context of their own times.
Relation to Other Disciplines. Biblical theology is related to but different from three other major branches of theological inquiry. Practical theology focuses on pastoral application of biblical truths in modern life. Systematic theology articulates the biblical outlook in a current doctrinal or philosophical system. Historical theology investigates the development of Christian thought in its growth through the centuries since biblical times.
Biblical theology is an attempt to articulate the theology that the Bible contains as its writers addressed their particular settings.

Elwell, W. A., & Elwell, W. A. (1997). Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed.). Baker reference library; Logos Library System. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

The Ways of Our God by Charles Scobie begins with a discussion of just what is Biblical Theology. There is too much to copy here.

The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology gives the following description:

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. While we distinguish it from other theological disciplines, such as systematics, historical theology, apologetics and practical theology, its relationship to these disciplines is one of interdependence. Because biblical theology is the fruit of exegesis of the texts of the various biblical corpora it has a logical priority over systematics and the other specialized types of theologizing. However, the mutuality of the disciplines can be seen in our coming to the task of exegesis with certain dogmatic presuppositions about the nature and authority of the Bible. Furthermore, the history of theology and of biblical interpretation means that we engage in our task as biblical theologians from within a living tradition of the Christian church. 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 and, to achieve this, it must work with the mutual interaction of the literary, historical, and theological dimensions of the various corpora, and with the inter-relationships of these within the whole canon of Scripture. Only in this way do we take proper account of the fact that God has spoken to us in Scripture.

Alexander, T. D., & Rosner, B. S. (2001). New dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

This same work adds later on in the Introduction:

Biblical theology is characterized by two distinct but related activities which may be broadly described as analysis and synthesis. The first seeks to reconstruct the individual theologies of the writings or collections of writings of the Bible. Exemplary here is G.B. Caird’s biblical theology of the NT which hosts an imaginary symposium with the various authors in attendance, such as Luke, Paul, John and the author of Hebrews, a sort of apostolic conference in which each distinctive voice is heard. The accent in such work is on the particular contribution to theology of the book or books in question.
There is a temptation in studying the Bible’s theology too quickly to read one part of it in the light of another and thus to miss the individual contours of the terrain and flatten out the whole. In doing biblical theology much is lost if James is read in the light of Paul, or Mark in the light of Matthew. It is more accurate and productive first to let James be James and Mark be Mark and so on, thus appreciating their particular colours and hues, before going on to see how their perspectives look on the larger canonical canvas. Too often one part of the Bible is given undue and oppressive priority over the others (see Unity and Diversity of Scripture).
Part Two of the present volume employs this method, analysing the distinctive theologies of the various corpora and books of the Bible in their own right. To analyse the theology of a book of the Bible is to read it as articulating a particular vision of the divine–human relationship, to consider its unique part in the progressive unfolding of God’s plan of salvation for humanity.
Part Three focuses on the task of synthesis by presenting the theology of particular themes across the whole Bible. This approach, called ‘pan-biblical theology’ by James Barr, is concerned ultimately to construct one single theology for the Bible in its entirety. It confronts the question: in what sense can the Old and New Testaments be read as a coherent whole (see Relationship of the Old Testament and New Testament)? This question has many facets and lies at the heart of not only the method but also the substance of biblical theology.

Alexander, T. D., & Rosner, B. S. (2001). New dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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Mark Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 6 2011 7:10 PM

Here's another from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible:

Branch of theological inquiry devoted to identifying distinctive themes in various sections of the Bible (e.g., the OT or the writings of the apostle Paul), tracing them from one section to another, and discovering any overall unifying theme that draws the whole Bible together.
The task of the biblical theologian is thus (1) to discern the particular emphases of individual writers (such as the social justice of Amos or human love in the Song of Solomon); (2) to compare and contrast treatments by different writers of a single theme (e.g., the different approaches to salvation in John’s Gospel and Hebrews); and (3) to attempt to integrate into a single comprehensive whole all the various emphases of the biblical writers.

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (339). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.

 

Here's a helpful comparison of Biblical and systematic theology from Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary:

BIBLICAL THEOLOGY — theology as it is understood from the perspective of the biblical writers themselves. This category of theology must be carefully distinguished from systematic theology, which systematizes and re-expresses the teachings of the Bible through the use of modern concepts and categories. Biblical theology is biblical because it states the theology of the Bible by limiting itself to the language, categories, and perspectives of the biblical writers. It attempts to arrive at this understanding without modern theological biases or assumptions.

Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary. 1995 (R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison & Thomas Nelson Publishers, Ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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Donnie Hale | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 6 2011 7:30 PM

All of these replies in short order are excellent. I believe I have most / all of the resources referenced so far. I'm going to try that "large text" search as soon as I can.

Keep 'em coming! :)

Thanks again,

Donnie

 

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Larry Heflin | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 6 2011 9:01 PM

The Moody Handbook of Theology has a decent discussion about the distinctions between biblical, systematic, historical, dogmatic theology etc. Here is a summary statement that may give you a sense of what's under discussion:

Biblical theology investigates the periods of history in which God has revealed Himself or the doctrinal emphases of the different biblical writers are set forth in a systematic fashion. Biblical theology, while presented in a systematized form, is distinct from systematic theology that assimilates truth from the entire Bible and from outside the Scriptures in systematizing biblical doctrine. Biblical theology is narrower. It concentrates on the emphasis of a given period of history as in the Old Testament or on the explicit teaching of a particular writer as in the New Testament.

Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997), 20.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 6 2011 9:54 PM

Larry Heflin:
Biblical theology investigates the periods of history in which God has revealed Himself or the doctrinal emphases of the different biblical writers are set forth in a systematic fashion.

I'm missing something - that sounds like Scripture study to me.Smile

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George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 6 2011 10:19 PM

MJ. Smith:

Larry Heflin:
Biblical theology investigates the periods of history in which God has revealed Himself or the doctrinal emphases of the different biblical writers are set forth in a systematic fashion.

I'm missing something - that sounds like Scripture study to me.Smile

In a sense it is except that rather than simply explicating one particular passage you examine the entire view of a particular writer together with the implications thereof.  You can then differentiate it from the views of other authors.

george
gfsomsel

יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

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Larry Heflin | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 6 2011 11:34 PM

MJ. Smith:

Larry Heflin:
Biblical theology investigates the periods of history in which God has revealed Himself or the doctrinal emphases of the different biblical writers are set forth in a systematic fashion.

I'm missing something - that sounds like Scripture study to me.Smile

Yeah, Bingo; kinda. The quote I lifted doesn't do justice to the article which has more to say, such as

where this author is (or, is not) coming from,

The term biblical theology can be used in different ways. Although the usage adopted in this volume focuses on a special method of theological study, it should be understood that the term is widely used to refer to a movement that is basically antagonistic to evangelical faith. (p. 19)

and more to the question of the original poster,

In contrast to systematic theology, which draws its information about God from any and every source, biblical theology has a narrower focus, drawing its information from the Bible (and from historical information that expands or clarifies the historical events of the Bible). Biblical theology thus is exegetical in nature, examining the doctrines in the various periods of history or examining the words and statements of a particular writer. This enables the student to determine the self-disclosure of God at a given period of history.

Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997), 21.

Overall, I thought it was a decent introductory article when I read it a while back for just such a clarification as the OP has requested. A more thorough treatment that I have read is in Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament by Eugene Merrill. Logos has some of his other works, but not that one.

Larry

 

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DMB | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 7 2011 7:10 AM

Mmmm ... .George, that was a very suave answer. And tremendous arguments hidden in those simple words.

"God will save his fallen angels and their broken wings He'll mend."

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Dave Moser | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 7 2011 8:09 AM

My favorite explanation comes from Gerhardus Voss' "Biblical Theology" which, unfortunately, isn't available in Logos.

He says that while systematic theology draws a circle [i.e. what is within the bounds of orthodoxy], biblical theology draws a line [i.e. what is the overarching narrative of redemption?].

In reality, systematic theology draws multiple circles within the greater circle of orthodoxy (e.g. the doctrine of man, the doctrine of God, the doctrine of the Church, etc) and biblical theology draws multiple lines in parallel (e.g. the overall narrative of temple, the overall narrative of adoption, the overall narrative of redemption, etc).

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 7 2011 6:36 PM

Dave:
biblical theology draws a line [i.e. what is the overarching narrative of redemption?].

That sounds to me like narrative theologyWink

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 7 2011 7:40 PM

Larry Heflin:
The Moody Handbook of Theology has a decent discussion about the distinctions between biblical, systematic, historical, dogmatic theology etc. Here is a summary statement that may give you a sense of what's under discussion:

Yes Good post. Oft times we can gain a deeper understanding by studying what something is NOT. This article sheds light on the other distinctions. I'm seeing some overlap between Systematic, Historical and MJ's "Narrative"

Big Smile If you find yourself caught somewhere without your Logos library and half an hour to kill, ponder whether or not a writer's age has anything to do with which type of Theology he writes. Big Smile Generally I would conclude a young author writes dogmatic, an elderly writes Systematic, a middle-age writer focuses on Historical, and a Pastor of any age usually sticks with Biblical and ignores extra-Biblical considerations. (Remember, I said "generally." ) Think there is any merit?   Coffee

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 7 2011 8:17 PM

Dave:
He says that while systematic theology draws a circle [i.e. what is within the bounds of orthodoxy], biblical theology draws a line [i.e. what is the overarching narrative of redemption?].

Many would agree with those definitions.

But not our Zionist friends:  http://www.jcstudies.com/articleDetail.cfm?articleId=77

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 7 2011 10:42 PM

Dave:
In reality, systematic theology draws multiple circles within the greater circle of orthodoxy (e.g. the doctrine of man, the doctrine of God, the doctrine of the Church, etc) and biblical theology draws multiple lines in parallel (e.g. the overall narrative of temple, the overall narrative of adoption, the overall narrative of redemption, etc).

Would those circles be intersecting or concentric?

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Greg B | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 8 2011 6:23 AM

George Somsel:

MJ. Smith:

Larry Heflin:
Biblical theology investigates the periods of history in which God has revealed Himself or the doctrinal emphases of the different biblical writers are set forth in a systematic fashion.

I'm missing something - that sounds like Scripture study to me.Smile

 

In a sense it is except that rather than simply explicating one particular passage you examine the entire view of a particular writer together with the implications thereof.  You can then differentiate it from the views of other authors.

Among its more conservative practitioners (Vos, Goldsworthy, et al) is the view that God is the author of the whole of the Bible.  Therefore, they don't limit their examination of the overall arc of the narrative to a single author but are looking for the sweep of the story from Genesis to Revelation. Also, there tends to be a lot of emphasis on the chronological order of the revelation, with the newer explaining and expanding the older.

Greg

 

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fgh | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 9 2011 1:52 PM

Super Tramp:
Catholic

Thanks for the link.

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 12 2011 12:37 PM

fgh:

Super Tramp:

Thanks for the link.

I found that one very interesting too. I am forever amazed at the wide world "out there."

The internet is humbling, educational, amusing and scary.

 

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