WHAT IS BIBLICAL THEOLOGY?

from D. A. Carson

BIBLICAL THEOLOGY (BT) answers the question, How has God revealed his word historically and organically? BT studies the theology of individual biblical books (e.g., Isaiah, the Gospel of John), of select collections within the Bible (e.g. the Pentateuch, wisdom literature, the Gospels, Paul's letters, John's writings), and then traces out themes as they develop across time within the canon (e.g., the way in which the theme of the temple develops, in several directions, to fill out a "whole Bible" theology of the temple). At least four priorities are essential:

  • Read the Bible progressively as a historically developing collection of documents.¬†God did not provide his people with all of the Bible at once. There is a progression to his revelation, and to read the whole back into some early part may seriously distort that part by obscuring its true significance in the flow of redemptive history. This requires not only organizing the Bible's historical material into its chronological sequence but also trying to understand the theological nature of the sequence.
  • Presuppose that the Bible is coherent. The Bible has many human authors but one divine Author, and he never contradicts himself. BT uncovers and articulates the unity of all the biblical texts taken together.
  • Work inductively from the text - from individual books and from themes that run through the Bible as a whole. Although readers can never entirely divorce themselves from their own backgrounds, students of BT recognize that their subject matter is exclusively the Bible. They therefore try to use categories and pursue agendas that the text itself sets.
  • Make theological connections within the entire Bible that the Bible itself authorizes. One way to do this is to trace the trajectory of themes straight through the Bible. (That's what the following articles in this study Bible do). BT often focuses on the turning points in the Bible's storyline (see "A Bible-Theological Overview of the Bible," p. 2637), and its most pivotal concern is tied to how the NT uses the OT, observing how later Scripture writers refer to earlier ones.