Verbum 9 Tip 9i: Biblical Theologies

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Biblical Theologies

The separation of Biblical theology from wholistic (Orthodox), systematic (Catholic), and confessional (Lutheran, Anglican) theologies was foreign and puzzling to me when Faithlife added this section. I discovered that I was familiar with the concept, if not the name, outside the evangelical context.

Biblical theology. In 1787 J. P. Gabler drew a distinction between biblical theology and dogmatic theology, the former being the non-dogmatic description of the religious doctrines contained in the Bible and the latter the traditional dogmatic interpretation of them. The term is now more often used with reference to a movement among biblical scholars in the mid-20th cent. which was derived from the thought of K. *Barth and others of similar outlook. Though by no means homogeneous, it usually exhibited the following characteristics: (1) Biblical concepts were held to be sui generis, and in particular a sharp contrast was drawn between Hebrew and Greek thought, to the advantage of the former. (2) Biblical concepts were held to be still adequate for all essential purposes. (3) God’s action in history was taken to be the primary medium of revelation, and a distinctive stream of ‘salvation history’ was often isolated. Christian faith was held to be based on events as opposed to ideas. (4) Emphasis was placed on the inner coherence of the biblical material, often represented as centred upon certain key concepts, e.g. ‘*covenant’ or ‘*kerygma’. (5) A fairly conservative attitude was taken with regard to the historical trustworthiness of the biblical records.

In Britain and America the movement was less conceptually based than it was in Germany, where it underlay G. *Kittel’s influential Wörterbuch of the NT. It provided a route by which scientific study of the Bible could make its way in the RC Church and has had considerable influence on the choice and arrangement of the biblical material in the modern liturgies of the RC and other Churches. In 1961 it was seriously challenged by J. Barr on the ground that it failed to do justice to the complex interrelations of biblical and non-biblical cultures. Others have argued that it exaggerated the historical trustworthiness of the Bible. Considerable diversity is now found within the biblical material, and further study of cultural relativism has raised doubts whether biblical ways of thinking can be applied to the contemporary situation in the way the proponents of biblical theology presupposed. These included O. *Cullmann, C. H. *Dodd, G. von *Rad, and A. Richardson (1905–75).

G. E. Wright, God Who Acts: Biblical Theology as Recital (Studies in Biblical Theology, 8; 1952). J. Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford, 1961), esp. pp. 263–87; id., The Concept of Biblical Theology: An Old Testament Perspective (1999), and other works of this author; B. S. Childs, Biblical Theology in Crisis (Philadelphia [1970]); H.-J. Kraus, Die Biblische Theologie (Neukirchen, 1970); W. J. Harrington, OP, The Path of Biblical Theology (Dublin, 1973); D. [E.] Nineham, The Use and Abuse of the Bible (1976), esp. pp. 73–93; J. D. G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament (1977; 2nd edn., 1990); J. D. Smart, The Past, Present, and Future of Biblical Theology (Philadelphia [1979]); H. Reventlow, Hauptprobleme der Biblischen Theologie im 20. Jahrhundert (Darmstadt, 1983; Eng. tr., 1986).[1]

Or, approaching Biblical theology from the perspective of hermeneutics:

…biblical theology constitutes the first step away from the exegesis of individual passages and toward the delineation of their significance for the church today. At this level we collect and arrange the themes that unite the passages and can be traced through a book or author as a whole. This is done in three steps: first, we study the theological themes in terms of individual books, then we explore the theology of an author, and finally we trace the progress of revelation that unites a Testament and even the Bible as a whole (that is, the historical development of these themes throughout the biblical period). In this way biblical theology collates the results of exegesis and provides the data for the systematic theologian to contextualize in developing theological dogma for the church today.

The discipline was late developing (see Reventlow 1992; Scobie 2000; Bartholomew 2005), for until the late eighteenth century it was considered systematic theology.[2]

From Verbum Help:

Biblical Theologies Section

The Biblical Theology section appears in the Passage Guide.  This section is structured similarly to the Confessional Documents and Systematic Theologies sections.

Results can be viewed by Subject or Resource.

•     Subject categories are Prolegomena, Theology Proper, Bibliology, Christology, Pneumatology, Soteriology, Anthropology, Hamartiology, and Other.

•     Resource groups are Johannine Literature, New Testament, Old Testament, Pauline Epistles, Reference, Thematic, and Whole Bible.[3]


Prerequisite reading: Brannan, Rick, and Peter Venable. Biblical Theology Cross-References: Dataset Documentation. Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2015.

To understand the underlying principles the following articles are helpful.

Resources included: Biblical Theology Cross-References: Dataset Documentation contains a comprehensive list of the resources included. Should you find a resource that appears in the guide but is not listed, report it as a typo. Resources that should be added to the guide, request their addition at Logos Resource Updates | Faithlife. The discussion group Activity - Lexham Biblical Theology Cross References Dataset - Faithlife is available to discuss the use, structure, and potential improvements of the data.

Section heading bar

The section heading bar has the expected functions with no “save to passage list” and a new “settings” function.

P9-1 SBM Biblical Theology

The Settings option in the section bar menu simply opens the Settings Menu that appears on the section bar itself. This allows the user to create a subset of the available resources for specific purposes rather than always running against all the appropriately tagged resources that one owns.

P9-2 SB Settings

There is also the standard preview and open of Verbum Help for the guide section.

P9-3 SB Help Preview


Sequence – subject

The first group heading in Biblical Theologies offers two views: subject and resource. The section in subject sequence (note the orange line indicating that subject is active).

P9-4 Content Subject

Understanding the subject categories is required to select the results most likely of interest to you. You will encounter them again in the Systematic Theologies section. From the dataset documentation:

Relationships include the 12 classic categories of systematic theology, as well as a few more that are useful in this context.

Classic Systematic Theology Categories

•  Prolegomena: Introductory material involving the study and nature of systematic theology

•  Theology Proper: The study of the being, attributes, and works of God

•  Bibliology: The study of the Bible

•  Christology: The study of Christ

•  Pneumatology: The study of the Holy Spirit

•  Soteriology: The study of salvation

•  Anthropology: The study of humanity

•  Angelology: The study of angels

•  Demonology: The study of demons

•  Hamartiology: The study of sin

•  Ecclesiology: The study of the church

•  Eschatology: The study of the last things

Additional Categories

•  Exegesis: Discussion is more focused on exegetical matters than on theological discussion

•  Theologians: Discussion of theologians or a particular theologian

•  Traditions: Discussion of denominations, groups, or particular applications of systematic theology (e.g. Dispensationalism)

•  Other: Theological discussion that is not presently categorizable[4]

Sequence – resource

The second option presents the data in resource sequence, again with the orange line indicating the active option.

P9-5 Content Resource

Here the categories are self-explanatory but they are still documented in the dataset documentation if you need more clarity.

These labels include:

•  General Epistles: The literature focuses on the general epistles (Hebrews, James, 1–2 Peter, and Jude)

•  Johannine Literature: The literature focuses on the Johannine corpus (Gospel of John, 1–3 John, and Revelation)

•  Lukan Literature: The literature focuses on the Lukan corpus (Luke and Acts)

•  New Testament: The literature focuses on the New Testament

•  Old Testament: The literature focuses on the Old Testament

•  Pauline Epistles: The literature focuses on the Pauline corpus (Romans, 1–2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1–2 Thessalonians, 1–2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon)

•  Psalms: The literature focuses on the Psalms

•  Reference: The literature serves as a general reference

•  Thematic: The literature handles thematic issues

•  Whole Bible: The literature frames the discussion using the whole Bible[5]

Note that the deuterocanonicals are not listed independently so I verified that they are, in fact, included.

P9-6 Deuterocanonicals


Content in subject sequence:

  • Theological category (expand/contract)
  • Corpus (fixed)
  • Article title and resource name (interactive)
  • Requested referenced highlight in an extract for context

P9-7 Subject Sequence Content

Content in resource sequence:

  • Corpus (expand/contract)
  • Resource book cover thumbnail and title (expand/contract)
  • Theological category (fixed)
  • Article title
  • Requested referenced highlight in an extract for context
  • Search option

P9-8 Resource Sequence Content

Interactions on data

Visual cue

Data element




Theological category


Resource thumbnail book cover and title


Expand/contract the section below the heading


Resource sequence: Resource thumbnail book cover and title in


Standard resource preview (2)



Right click


Drag and drop


Blue link on mouse-over

Subject sequence: Resource title

Mouse over

Standard resource preview (2)


Open resource to title page (3)

Right click

Open Context menu on resource title (4)

Drag and drop

Open resource to title page in pane of user’s choice (3)

Blue link

Article title

Mouse over

Standard article preview (5)


Open resource to the start of the article (6)

Right click

Open Context menu on the article title (7)

Drag and drop

Open resource in a pane of the user’s choice to the start of the article (6)

Search result highlight

Bible reference in article’s text

Mouse over

Preview of article at point of reference (8)


Opens the article with the selected reference on the first line (9)

Right click

Opens Context menu on the reference (10)

Drag and drop

Opens the article in the pane of the user’s choice with the selected reference on the first line (9)

Search icon/blue text

Resource only: Search (resource title)

Mouse over

Preview of Search argument (11)


Executes the Search (12)

Right click

Opens a Context menu on the Search (13)

Drag and drop

Executes the Search in the pane of the user’s choice (12)

Search icon/blue text

Resource only: Search All Biblical Theologies

Mouse over

Preview of Search argument (14)


Executes the Search (15)

Right click

Opens a Context menu on the Search (16)

Drag and drop

Executes the Search in the pane of the user’s choice (15)

Blue text

More >>


Display additional detail results

(1) Expand/contract


P9-9 Expand Before


P9-10 Expand After

(2) Resource preview

P9-11 Resource Preview

(3) Open resource

P9-12 Open Resource Title

(4) Resource context menu

P9-13 Resource CM

(5) Article preview

P9-14 Article Preview

(6) Open to beginning of article

P9-15 Article Beginning

(7) Article Context Menu

P9-16 Article CM

(8) Preview of highlighted reference

P9-17 Reference Preview

(9) Open resource to article positioned at reference

P9-18 Article At Reference

Note that unlike a search, the Guide does not highlight the matching reference in the text itself.

(10) Reference Context Menu

P9-19 Reference CM

It is notable that the reference is identified as text not a Biblical reference in the Context menu.

(11) Resource search preview

P9-20 Resource Search Preview

(12) Resource search execution

P9-21 Search Resource Execution

(13) Resource search context menu

P9-22 Search Resource CM

(14) All Biblical theologies search preview

P9-23 Search All Preview

(15) All Biblical theologies search execution

P9-24 All Search Execution

(16) All Biblical theologies search context menu

P9-25 All Search CM


The tagging used for corpus and subject is not exposed for user searches. However, there is some user-controlled search elements:

  • The user may use a collection of their own creation to limit the input into the Guide via the settings on the section header bar
  • The guide itself builds two types of searches which the user may modify to more closely meet their needs.

Supplemental materials

None that come to mind. On occasion one may wish to use Factbook to identify the theological stream to which the author of a resource subscribes. However, this data is still sparsely populated.

cent. century.

RC Roman Catholic, Roman Catholicism.

RC Roman Catholic, Roman Catholicism.

id. idem (Lat., the same person).

tr. translation.

[1] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 207–208.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Rev. and expanded, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 347.

[3] Verbum Help (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2018).

[4] Rick Brannan and Peter Venable, Biblical Theology Cross-References: Dataset Documentation (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2015).

[5] Rick Brannan and Peter Venable, Biblical Theology Cross-References: Dataset Documentation (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2015).

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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