Biblical Theology

“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.”

This definition is taken from the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Biblical theology (BT) is one of the most rewarding ways to study the Bible and especially if you have good tools. Here are a few of the best BT resources I have used in the past:

From Eden to the New Jerusalem: Exploring God’s Plan for Life on Earth by T. Desmond Alexander ($14). Often BT is theme-centered and here Alexander takes the theme of God’s dwelling place and walks from Genesis to Revelation. God’s hope of global presence on the earth (Eden) was shattered by sin. Later, God’s presence on earth is concentrated with a nation (Israel), then in a tent (tabernacle), then in the city of Jerusalem (the temple), then to the Savior (Christ as the tabernacle; John 1:14), then to a group (the Church), and—in the future restoration—God’s presence will dwell across a rejuvenated planet (New Earth). If you have never read any BT, this little book by Alexander is a wonderfully developed and well-written example of how BT is done.

Also, on this topic of God’s dwelling presence it should be noted that a more detailed work is G. K. Beale’s contribution to the New Studies of Biblical Theology series (edited by D.A. Carson), titled: Temple and the Church’s Mission: Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God ($20). I highly recommend it. But if you are new to BT stick with Alexander.

Another very good general intro to BT and it’s major themes of study see According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible by Graeme Goldsworthy ($16).

Biblical Theology by Bruce Waltke and Gordon Fee ($60). This collection of 23 lectures (29 hours in length) was recorded in 1995 at Regent College. Waltke covers an intro to BT and OT BT in 12 lectures. Gordon Fee covers NT BT in 11 lectures. The collection is packaged with two PDF files: a massive 390-page OT lecture outline (Waltke) and a 125-page NT lecture outline (Fee). An outstanding resource.

The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology by Charles H. H. Scobie ($36). A thematic approach to BT that sketches out the connections between the OT and the NT on 20 major themes of the Bible under four broad headings of God’s Order, God’s Servant, God’s People, and God’s Way. A one-volume BT of the entire Bible will leave the reader unsatisfied at times but for thematic scope Scobie is useful and especially if you are new to the discipline of BT.

New Dictionary of Biblical Theology ($34). Contributions from the best biblical theologians including D.A. Carson, Alexander, Scobie, and Graeme Goldsworthy. It’s comprised of three sections: (1) essays that provide a wonderful intro to BT, (2) a look at the theology of each canonical book of the Bible, and (3) articles on the 200 most prominent biblical themes. It illustrates how BT is done canonically and thematically.

I came to value the NDBT when I took a BT course at RTS-DC (Futato/VanPelt). It is the most often referenced dictionary in my library as evidenced by the fact that I own three copies—one printed copy in my home office, one printed copy in my work office, and an easily searchable electronic version in Logos. Some books would be a bargain if they were twice the cost. The NDBT is one of them.

Old Testament Theology by Paul R. House ($27). The most readable single-volume BT of the OT, House is always inspiring and packed with theological punch. Slightly more advanced readers will appreciate Bruce Waltke’s An Old Testament Theology: A Canonical and Thematic Approach ($30).

Introduction to Biblical Theology by D.A. Carson. I list this out of personal curiosity. This is a course taught each autumn at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I’m told that after an intro to BT, Carson teaches through 20 various themes from Scripture. As hard as I’ve tried, I have been unable to find any existent audio recordings of this course or even copies of personal notes from students of the course. If you do have notes from this course, and you are willing to share them, please let me know in the comments. [UPDATE: Daniel passed along two versions of student notes from the course. Thanks a ton!]

Other works that come to mind (like Geerhardus Vos) but I’ll stop.

So what about you? What other BT works have you benefited from?

6 thoughts on “Biblical Theology

  1. Tony,

    As always, great job on this post and it is very helpful. I just started working through Michael Lawrence’s contribution to the 9Marks series this AM. It’s entitled Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church. In the introduction to this book, he references some books he finds helpful. It appears from what I’ve read so far that this will be an accessible volume for many in our churches who might be intimidated by more scholarly BT works. Just a thought.

    Thanks again for the post.

  2. Preaching and Biblical Theology, by Edmund Clowney.
    Anything by Sydney Greidanus.
    Knowing Jesus Through the OT, by Christopher Wright.

    But this is a great list, Tony

  3. I started with Vaughan Roberts’ God’s Big Picture and Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel & Kingdom.
    The New Studies in Biblical Theology series are consistently helpful.
    And Chris Wright’s Knowing Jesus through the OT was v.helpful.

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