Biblical Theology Articles

The Ontological and Systematic Roots of Biblical Theology

Graeme Goldsworthy


The rising popularity of biblical theology

When Brevard Childs analysed what he called the crisis of biblical theology, he was concerned mainly with the American biblical theology movement. This was seen as an attempt to break the impasse between the two immoveable opponents, evangelical conservatism and liberalism. In thus delineating the crisis, Childs mainly ignores the positive contributions to biblical theology of the evangelical and reformed biblical scholars. Edmund Clowney is mentioned only in passing in an endnote, while Geerhardus Vos rates no mention at all.

Childs tries to understand the apparent demise of the movement that gave us significant contributions from John Bright, G. E. Wright, and James Smart. Significantly, he sees the unsolved problems that dogged the movement as including the ontological aspects of the nature of revelation through the divine and human dimensions of the Bible, and the nature of biblical authority. The former showed itself in the move away from the assumption of the God who speaks and towards the idea of historical events as revelation. There was a consequent reassessment of the biblical writings now understood as records of human reflection on those revelatory events. This was seen in the unsuccessful attempt to restart the theological quest without any radical questioning of the historical-critical method that had killed it in the first place.

Childs himself has continued to engage the biblical theological task from the same stance of unresolved historical-critical issues while at the same time asking important theological questions. The result is far more positive than the spiritually bankrupt material of the old liberal exegetical commentaries. Furthermore, the comparatively recent revivals of the canonical perspective and literary regard for the finished biblical documents have produced much of value. Yet, it has to be said that the distinctly evangelical attempts to address the spiritual poverty of liberal exegesis, especially in the revival of evangelical biblical theology, have been largely ignored in scholarly circles. This is, no doubt, because of an uncompromising attitude on both sides to certain theological dogmas, including the nature of God and the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Even if the evangelical position has been at times unhealthy in its unreflectiveness, it has led to a growing popularity of biblical theology among evangelicals. Contributions from both sides of the Atlantic and from Australia have, in time, changed many people’s approach to the unity and coherence of the Bible. Growing numbers of Christian educators are concerned to provide integrated curricula for Sunday Schools and for all levels of Christian education. They are encouraged by the fact that people of all ages tend to respond with enthusiasm if they can be shown that there is real coherence to the biblical story, and that principles governing our understanding of how any text relates to the contemporary Christian are within their grasp.

The appeal of biblical theology to the layperson is increased when it is explained in a non-technical way of letting the Bible speak on its own terms. Thus, the idea is gaining ground that we can, and should, produce biblical theologies even for children and young people. These would show themselves mainly in curricula of Bible teaching for Sunday schools and day school religious education. Of course there are different evangelical approaches to the subject of biblical theology, a fact that can be easily demonstrated by reference to some of the more recent treatments by evangelical authors. There are also matters over which we find substantial agreement. I would include the following:
1.The inspiration and authority of the Bible.
2.The unity of the biblical message within its diversity.
3.The continuity of certain basic biblical themes.
4.The organic relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament.
5.The fulfilment by Christ of all Old Testament expectations. There is also a range of approaches to all these subjects that indicates readiness of evangelicals to think through some of the issues of theological method.

It is difficult to estimate how widespread the revitalised biblical-theological approach to biblical studies and exposition has become. There is evidence of its continual growth in Britain, the US, and Australia. Publications from a range of publishers, including IVP’s New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, demonstrate as well as help promote this new interest. It is a fact, also, that the growth of expository preaching goes quite naturally hand in hand with a revived biblical theology. All this is to be welcomed. But does it come at a price? And if there are attendant dangers to this renewed emphasis on contextual exegesis and application of texts, how can they be avoided?

The pitfalls of the diachronic synthesis

There are two complementary methodological emphases to be found among biblical theologians. One is the synchronic analysis that enquires into the theological stance of individual documents and their authors. This is the prime emphasis of exegesis and close reading of the text. The more recent developments in literary criticism have brought a welcome change in that critics are once again concerned with the finished canonical documents rather than focusing mainly on their pre-history and sources. The other major emphasis in biblical theology is the diachronic synthesis of the theology of the canonical documents. The diachronic approach in biblical theology ideally builds on the synchronic analysis of individual documents in order to understand the diversity of material within the canonical unity. This is sometimes popularly referred to as “the big picture approach.” It is central to any theological method that presupposes a canon of authoritative Scripture. Such an approach forces us to confront the issues of biblical history and the coherence of the narrative arc. Related to it are the longitudinal thematic studies which follow the development through Scripture of various theological concepts and which presuppose some kind of overall unity in the canon.

This scenario sets us up for the classic problem of emphasising one perspective at the expense of the other. In other words, when the exegete gets down to a close reading of a text there is always the attendant problem of losing sight of the forest (the big picture) for the trees (close exegesis). Contextual exegesis demands that we refuse to be content with our understanding of an individual text until we understand its place in the entire canon. In biblical theology, synchronic analysis of the theology of individual documents needs to be linked constantly with the diachronic synthesis of the theology of the whole range of biblical literature. This, of course, assumes that the task can be done. It presupposes the dogmatic construct of theological unity within the diverse expressions of the different documents.

Carl Trueman has offered an important caution concerning the possibly deleterious effects of the growing popularity of biblical theology. Indeed, he spoke from his own experience of the way, in some circles, that biblical theology was being allowed to crowd out other important perspectives on Christian truth. He was most particularly concerned about the neglect of systematic theology. Just as close reading of individual texts needs to be linked with the synthesis of the whole biblical message, so the narrative of salvation-history needs to be related to the distillation of doctrine in contemporary form. This was a timely warning, although I was constrained to respond with some disagreements about the cause of the problem. Nevertheless, Trueman alerts us to some real dangers in the growing popularity of biblical theology. We need to take these on board, examine the causes and address ourselves to the necessary countermeasures.

The busy pastor easily succumbs to the temptation to avoid a careful and close reading of the text, particularly in the Old Testament. Once it is accepted that all texts relate in some way to Jesus Christ, it is all too easy to run quickly to look for the link between the text and Jesus without first carefully working through the exegesis of the text. This can lead to both superficial understanding of the chosen text, and a superficial linking to Christ. The end result tends to be the production of the same outcome from a multitude of different texts. In sermons, the “Jesus bit” can become so predictable that it provokes a “ho-hum” response of boredom. Quite clearly this is reprehensible and can only bring the practice of biblical theology in expository preaching into disrepute. It results in the Old Testament’s witness to Christ being diluted and downgraded as the substructure to New Testament Christology. An insipid Christology is inevitably the outcome.

A second pitfall, and one that Trueman rightly focuses on, is the tendency to think that biblical theology is the only necessary theological discipline. One easily understands how a new sense of the coherence of the biblical story is attractive to those whose experience of the Bible up till now has been a fragmented one with no clear sense of how the various parts relate and form a whole. Furthermore, as the sense of the redemptive history that binds the parts together intensifies, one may become increasingly dismissive of the great doctrinal formulations of the Christian church. As Trueman points out, how God acts takes over from any concern for who and what God is. In other words, the economy of salvation drowns out concerns for the ontological questions about the being of God. One may encounter this at a popular or layperson’s level thus: “We have the Bible; why should we be bothered with theology?” Some biblical theologians may be tempted to assert that, if we have biblical theology, we have no need for systematic theology at all. I can easily understand why some people prefer the dynamics of the biblical story to an abstract discourse on the attributes of God, or on the finer points of Christology. The difference for some is like comparing the telephone directory to a good novel. This is an attitude that should alarm us.

The relationship of biblical theology and systematic theology

The relationship of salvation-history, or the economy of salvation, to doctrine, especially ontology, is crucial. It is easy to point to the distinctions between biblical theology and systematics in a way that favours one or the other. Much of our modern thinking, particularly in science and academia, seems to work towards specialisation. So it is with theology and biblical studies. The field is vast and specialisation is inevitable. But unless we are aware of something of the grounds for the distinctions made between the disciplines, and have some notion of the holistic nature of truth, then fragmentation can lead to a blinkered approach that exalts only one aspect at the expense of all others.

Under the impulses of the enlightenment, biblical studies and theology have tended to grow apart. In evangelical scholarship, when considering the distinctions between biblical theology and systematics, there has been a tendency to perceive a hierarchy in relationship. Thus, a typical evangelical approach sees the groundwork done in exegesis of the text as a first step in biblical theology. Then, biblical theology provides the data for the derivation of systematic or dogmatic formulations. So, Geerhardus Vos regarded biblical theology as a part of exegetical theology, and the order then would be thought of as exegesis of the text leading to biblical theology from which systematics are derived. Practically speaking, there is sound logic in this.

The discussions among evangelical scholars concerning the relationship of biblical and systematic theology seem to have followed fairly constantly the order of exegesis ? biblical theology ? systematic theology. John Murray, in the second of his two articles on Systematic Theology, makes certain distinctions between the two disciplines: biblical theology deals with the history of the data of special revelation; systematic theology deals with the data of both general and special revelation “in its totality as a finished product.” Murray criticises the non-evangelical biblical theologies of the twentieth century. He rightly rejects the preoccupation of G. E. Wright and others with the notion that revelation is constituted by God’s acts, as distinct from God’s word. Murray, however, does not really take the discussion beyond this polemic against non-evangelical biblical theology and systematics, and his assertion that systematics is wholly dependent upon a proper attention to biblical exegesis. He maintains that systematic theology should be rooted in biblical theology because special revelation comes to us in historical form that cannot be neglected if we are to appreciate the unity of special revelation. One role of this unified perspective of biblical theology is to prevent the wrong use of texts in supporting doctrine. So far, so good!

Richard Gaffin has referred to the fatal divorce of biblical theology from dogmatics, a matter that, more recently, also concerns Francis Watson. But a divorce fatal for whom? Like Murray, Gaffin majors on the undeniable point that good systematics needs good biblical exegesis. Good biblical theology is “the basis and source of Systematics.” He also refers to the views of Vos, and concludes that both Vos and Murray are concerned in particular with “the importance of biblical theology for systematics.” Biblical theology, then, impresses the systematician with the historical character of revelation (not to be confused with history as revelation). It is indispensable to systematics because it is “regulative of exegesis.” Gaffin, then sees that it is the task of biblical theology to minister to systematics. But, he says nothing about the task of systematics to minister to biblical theology. The fatality afflicts the systematician insofar as he attempts to theologise without good exegesis and biblical theology informing him.

A more recent article in this debate comes from Gerhard Hasel. This is a largely historical survey of the changing roles attributed to biblical theology in relation to systematics once the idea of the former as a distinct discipline was accepted. Krister Stendahl’s now famous distinction between “what it meant” (biblical theology) and “what it means” (systematics), along with some of Stendahl’s critics, comes under scrutiny. The debate has now shifted largely due to the influence of existential theologians such as Bultmann and Tillich. Whatever we may think of these radical thinkers, they point to another dimension hitherto largely ignored; the role of presuppositions or prejudice in understanding. Once again, in his evangelical concern that theology should be biblical, Hasel concludes with a series of propositions about the nature of biblical theology, the last four of which are instructive of his perspective on the relationship of the two disciplines. Biblical theology, he maintains, must not accept a structure imposed from systematics or external philosophical systems. Biblical theology is foundational for systematics. Again the order is clearly asserted: systematics is dependent upon biblical theology and therefore derivative of it.

I would not want to suggest that no evangelical theologians have gone beyond this perception of the relationship of the two disciplines. Nevertheless, the discussion does seem to have largely stalled at this point. One exception is seen in Grant Osborne’s treatment. He first states that biblical theology “collates the partial theologies of individual passages and books into an archetypal ‘theology’ of Israel and the early church.” Then, “Systematic theology re-contextualises biblical theology to address current problems and to summarise theological truth for the current generation.” Again, “Biblical theology constitutes the first step away from the exegesis of individual passages and toward the delineation of their significance for the church today.” In his discussion of the relationship of the various kinds of theology, Osborne gives the main controlling function to historical theology. Although he describes exegesis, biblical theology, and systematics in trialogue, it is historical theology that does the talking back to the others. But, he moves on from there to show how he thinks biblical theology and systematics are interdependent.

Osborne notes Gadamer’s approach to hermeneutics within the tradition or community understanding. But, preconceived dogmatic categories may hinder the task of letting the Bible speak for itself and on its own terms. The solution is the hermeneutical circle (or spiral), so that Osborne moves to state that the order, exegesis ? biblical theology ? systematics, is too simple. The key point, which is rather muted, is: “The dogmatic pre-understanding of the biblical theologian interacts in a type of ‘hermeneutical circle’ as each discipline informs and checks the other.” It is a pity that Osborne has not developed this important point, for it takes us beyond the simplistic position expressed by Murray and others in which exegesis ? biblical theology ? systematics is maintained. A more recent discussion of the matter is found in contributions by Kevin Vanhoozer and Howard Marshall.

Vanhoozer, in company with Gaffin and Watson, laments the divorce between theology and biblical studies. He begins by informing us, “I will argue that the gulf currently separating biblical from systematic theology can be bridged by better appreciating the contribution of the diverse biblical genres, and that a focus on literary genre could do much to relieve the ills currently plaguing both their houses.” His concerns are important, for they warn against ignoring the function of literary genres as instruments of world-views. But his major concern is the construction of systematics. More needs to be said about the role of systematics in the construction of biblical theology.

Howard Marshall’s concerns are similar to Vanhoozer’s in seeking to understand the way from the biblical data to the formulation of theology and doctrine. He suggests, among other things, that there is a parallel or an analogy between the relationship of the Old Testament to the New and the relationship of the canonical texts to the formulation of systematics. This is a useful point for it can, I believe, be demonstrated that within the totality of biblical revelation the process of conceptualisation is taking place during the course of salvation history. The Old Testament does not simply tell the story of Israel, but in the telling, the story is interpreting it in a way that lays the foundation for post-biblical systematic conceptualisation. This is nowhere clearer than in the reapplication by the prophets of the story to make it the basis of their eschatology. This insight, however, could have been pushed further. For, just as the relationship of Old Testament to the New invites an emphasis on the process and progressiveness from Old to New, there is also a vital dimension of the New providing the hermeneutical key to the Old. Thus, to follow the parallel again, while there is an undoubted methodological progression from biblical theology to systematics, there is also a vital input of systematics that makes biblical theology viable.

The Dogmatic Foundations of Biblical Theology

In what follows I will attempt to delineate some of the dogmatic presuppositions that are essential to biblical theology and without which it cannot be pursued. Some years ago I raised this question of the relationship of dogmatics to biblical theology, but it would seem that the general discussion still tends to become bogged down in the false assumption of the priority of an implicitly neutral and objective exegesis. The question is clearly wider than the relationship of these two disciplines since it affects the way the results of these disciplines are perceived to impinge upon the Christian lives of individuals and of the church as a whole. Thus, while I had to disagree with certain aspects of Carl Trueman’s Themelios editorial, I am in substantial agreement with his concerns about the fragmentation of theological studies and their applications. His was a timely warning. Far too much is at stake to try to deal with all the issues in one brief article. Trueman’s main concern was that the predominantly economic perspective of biblical theology, especially when governed by a framework of salvation-history, has tended to suppress interest in and concern for the ontological dimensions in theology, and thus in Christian doctrine. However, my contention is that it is not biblical theology as such that has brought this about so much as the lamentable and utterly culpable neglect of both biblical theology and Christian doctrine in the churches. Nevertheless, the remedy is ultimately in an informed pastorate that understands the importance of educating laity both in the “big picture” aspects of a comprehensive biblical theology, and in the fundamental concepts of Christian doctrine. At the heart of both these disciplines is the ontological Trinity. Thus, if the ontological Trinity is the reason biblical theology is what it is, then the relationship of the two disciplines must be looked at in this light.

The doctrine of the Trinity confronts us with a number of dilemmas in the matter of methodological and conceptual priority. A typically reformed approach to doctrine is exemplified in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. The Confession commences in a manner that is in broad agreement with Calvin’s Institutes: the question of the knowledge of God, and the need for fallen humanity to have a supernatural revelation of God. Berkhof, similarly, starts his systematics with a couple of chapters on the existence and knowability of God. Then follows a lengthy discussion of the attributes of God. In other words, there is some agreement that, while the ontological question has a certain priority, it demands that a yet prior epistemological question be settled. Calvin begins his Institutes with the epistemological question that leads him to pose the necessity for supernatural revelation in Scripture and then for the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit to enable fallen sinners to be regenerated and to become receptive to the divine word. If Calvin had been writing today he might perhaps have commenced the Institutes with a more philosophical discussion of subjectivity-objectivity.

The biblical theologian who accepts the canonical coherence of the source documents has already made a dogmatic assumption, or a whole series of them, about the nature of the biblical canon. This is only to say that our doctrine of Scripture is itself drawn from Scripture. If we then recognise that the Bible causes us to reckon with its testimony to the ontological Trinity as the ultimate source of all reality, including the canon, we might feel justified in an arrangement that starts with dogma concerning God (the objective). Yet it is we (the subjective element) who are contemplating this objective. In the final analysis, whether we view this from the perspective of biblical theology or the perspective of dogmatics, we find that the relationship of the subjective and objective is always before us.

Thus, we know the ontological Trinity in terms of his being as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Forsaking, with the aid of historical theology, all forms of modalism, we acknowledge that the names of the persons of the Trinity are not mere functions of the dimensions of the economy of salvation but rather are generative of them. But then, as it were, we take one step back to survey the source of this knowledge. It shows itself to be the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. This, biblically speaking, is not confined to the historical event of the incarnation, but involves the testimony of the whole of Scripture to this space-time event involving the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, the doctrine of the Trinity, as distinct from the ontology of the Trinity, is a by-product of the doctrine of the incarnation. So, once again with the help of historical theology, forsaking all temptations to aberrant Christology, we recognise the interdependence of the dogmatic formulations about God and Christ with the actual space-time outworkings of salvation-history and the prophetic revelation of the economy of salvation. This in turn raises the question of where we can find this incarnate being, the God-Man Jesus of Nazareth. The answer is: in Scripture alone. That’s fine, until we see that the same Scripture tells us that the subjective element of our ability to know God is defunct because of our sinfulness. Enter the epistemological enabling of the Holy Spirit, again as something that we know of only from Scripture.

So, the long and the short of it all is that somehow the biblical theologian and the dogmatic theologian are both confronted with the same unavoidable “chicken and egg” dilemma of the question of priority? Is priority in God as the source of reality; in Jesus as the mediator of the knowledge of God; in Scripture as our only source of God’s inspired testimony to Jesus; or in the Holy Spirit’s enabling of the once incapacitated human mind and spirit to know the truth? The answer is clearly, “yes; all of the above.” Thus we can make the distinction between the ontological priority of the Trinity, the hermeneutical priority of the incarnate Christ, the material priority of the Scriptures, and the epistemological priority of the Spirit’s inner testimony to the regenerated heart of man. These all coinhere, are interdependent, and relate in the hermeneutical spiral. This interdependence is no greater a burden on our subjective knowing than is the coinherence of the three persons of the Trinity, or the coinherence of the divine and human natures of Christ, or of the divine and human natures of Scripture, or of the relationship of the divine Spirit’s indwelling of the believer and our own humanity. Not only is it no greater burden, it is also of the same importance.

Reclaiming the relationship of ontology, systematics, and biblical theology

An evangelical biblical theology will overlap, to a greater or lesser degree, with non-evangelical biblical theologies. But there will always be an essential difference that stems from the difference in presuppositions. At their base, these presuppositions are ontological. This has often been recognised and expressed, particularly at the apologetic level of defence of the evangelical position. What has not been so well worked out is the way these differences impact upon matters that go far beyond the discipline of biblical theology. If we are at all consistent in the way we think and theologise, then it is a matter of differing world-views that affect the way we perceive and evaluate the significance of every single datum of our knowledge.

There are at least two fundamental ways in which evangelical theologians can work towards some kind of redress of the situation that has developed in the fragmenting of theological studies. While recognising that none of us have the time or the ability to be specialists in every area, we can at least strive to approximate the ideal that Broughton Knox expressed to his colleagues on the faculty of Moore College: that we should all aim to be polymaths. I remember, as a junior faculty member being rather discouraged by this because I was only just managing to keep marginally ahead of my Old Testament students in my preparation, and I was in no position to be boning up on dogmatics and historical theology. More recently I have recognised the wisdom of his conviction. I am now totally convinced that biblical theologians and systematicians (or dogmaticians) should not only talk to each other more, but they should spur each other on to a greater understanding of the mutuality of their respective disciplines. If we are to prevent the debacle depicted by Carl Trueman, and we may already be too late, then we must ensure that in the academy and in the local church, biblical and dogmatic theology are not only taught but are shown to be interdependent.

Grant Osborne rightly perceived that the hermeneutical spiral is a methodological concept that helps us avoid using biblical studies merely to bolster already formed dogmatic formulations. The history of biblical studies and biblical interpretation shows how easily dogmatic formulations can distort the outcome of biblical studies. Whether it was the ‘rule of faith’ in the hermeneutics of the Church Fathers, the authority of tradition in the medieval church, or relegation of biblical theology to the proof-texting of confessional creeds, there has always been the danger of the results of exegesis being subjected to dogma. The answer is not to revert to the straightline approach of exegesis ? biblical theology ? systematic theology, but to engage the hermeneutical spiral by recognising, owning, and progressively testing our theological presuppositions.

The dogmatic basis of biblical theology lies in the fact that no empirical datum of exegesis has independent meaning, and no datum of theology or interpretation has independent meaning. Fact, logic and method are not independent of revealed truth. To grant them such independence would be to set up a natural theology in opposition to revelation. There are no self-evident rules of logic and investigation which enable exegesis to proceed safely without first submitting to the gospel by which the truth-suppressing framework of humanism is replaced by the fear of the Lord.

I conclude with some practical suggestions:

1.In the academy teachers of the major disciplines should give attention to understanding and teaching the interplay of their respective disciplines. Where possible, curricula should be designed to give some emphasis both to specialisation and integration of theological studies.
a.Biblical studies (introduction and exegesis) should be taught in a way that demonstrates their relation to biblical theology.
b.Neither Old Testament nor New Testament studies should be taught as if the other did not exist or did not matter.
c.Biblical, Systematic, Historical, and Practical Theology departments should talk to each other and seek to understand their dependence on each other.

2.In the local church pastors should make it a matter of priority that both biblical theology and basic doctrine are taught, especially to those who will exercise any teaching ministry.

3.In the family, parents should aim to make their children literate in the unity of the Bible’s message, and introduce them to key doctrinal concepts, as well as to principles of Christian living.

4.Individual Christians need to cultivate the practice of reading the Bible on the large scale as well as in ‘devotional’ tit-bits.

All of these practices stem from an evangelical dogma of Scripture as the word of God inscripturate, by which the Word of God incarnate comes to us and mediates the knowledge of God to his people.

ENDNOTES:

Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology in Crisis (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970).
Notably in his Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (London: SCM, 1992). Childs’ commentary on The Book of Exodus, The Old Testament Library (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974), virtually replaces the older contribution to that series by Martin Noth. A comparison of the two illustrates the point.
Carl Trueman, Editorial: “A Revolutionary Balancing Act,” Themelios, 27:3, 2002.
“Ontology and Biblical Theology,” Themelios, 28:1, 2002.
For the purpose of this paper I will be content to regard systematic theology and dogmatics as close enough to consider as one. One distinction that could be made is that dogmatics specifically belongs to the doctrinal formulation of a particular Christian tradition (denominational). But, since systematics will usually be produced by theologians operating within a given Christian tradition, the distinction can be rather blurred.
G. Vos, Biblical Theology, Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948), p. 13.
John Murray, “Systematic Theology,” Westminster Theological Journal, XXVI, 1963.
Richard Gaffin, “Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology,” in John H. Skilton (ed.) The New Testament Student and Theology (Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976).
Francis Watson, Text and Truth: Redefining Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 1997), pp. 1-8.
Gaffin, p. 36; a quote from B. B. Warfield.
Gaffin, p. 41.
Gaffin, p. 44.
Gerhard Hasel, “The Relationship Between Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology,” Trinity Journal, NS Vol. 5, No. 2, 1984, 113-127.
Prejudice, as Hans-Georg Gadamer pointed out, is not to be avoided but recognised. For him, prejudice and presupposition are the same thing, and it can be altered through the processes of the hermeneutical spiral.
Some earlier so-called biblical theologies organised their material according to doctrinal categories.
Grant Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1991), p.14.
Osborne, p. 263.
Osborne, p. 264.
Osborne, p. 269.
Kevin Vanhoozer, ‘From Canon to Concept: “Same” and “Other” in the Relation Between Biblical and Systematic Theology,’ Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology, 12/2, 1994, pp. 96-124. I. Howard Marshall, ‘Climbing Ropes, Ellipses and Symphonies: the Relation Between Biblical and Systematic Theology,’ in Philip E. Satterthwaite and David F. Wright (eds.), A Pathway into the Holy Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994, pp. 199-219.
Vanhoozer, p. 96.
G. Goldsworthy, ‘“Thus Says the Lord!” –The Dogmatic Basis of Biblical Theology,’ in P. T. O’Brien and D. G. Peterson (eds.), God Who is Rich in Mercy: Essays Presented to Dr. D. B. Knox (Homebush West: Lancer, 1986), pp. 25-40. D. A. Carson, “Unity and Diversity in the New Testament,” D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge (eds), Scripture and Truth (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), p. 91, recognises that every theist “is a systematician before he begins his exegesis.”
L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (London: Banner of Truth, 1958).
Goldsworthy, ‘“Thus Says the Lord!” –The Dogmatic Basis of Biblical Theology,’ p. 38.


This article first appeared in Reformed Theological Review, Vol. 62/3, Dec. 2003 and appears here with permission. No part of this article may copied or transmitted, in any form, without the prior permission of the publisher.

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