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Biblical Theology

 Biblical theology is a discipline within Christian theology which studies the Bible from the perspective of understanding the progressive history of God revealing Himself to humanity following the Fall and throughout the Old Testament and New Testament. Like covenant theology scholars have tended to use the term Biblical Theology in different ways, therefore biblical theology is difficult to define

Biblical theology seeks to understand a certain passage in the Bible in light of all of the biblical history leading up to it and later biblical references to that passage. Biblical theology seeks to put individual texts in their historical context since what came before them is the foundation on which they are laid and what comes after is what they anticipate. Biblical theology is sometimes called the "history of special revelation" since it deals with the unfolding and expanding nature of revelation as history progresses through the Bible.

The motivation for Biblical theology comes from such passages as Luke 24.27: "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to [the disciples] what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." The assumption of this text seems to be that the Old Testament anticipated the messiah and that Jesus fulfilled those prophecies.

Biblical theologians suggest that, in order to understand the intended meaning of a Biblical text, one must understand what the text points toward or back to. For instance, when reading about the sacrificial system in the Old Testament, Biblical theologians follow the trajectory the Bible lays out for that system (namely, pointing to Jesus as the true sacrifice), and likewise, when a New Testament text refers back to the Old Testament (for example, Jesus being the son of David and heir of his covenant), they try to understand that text against its proper, specified background.

Biblical theology sees the concept of revelation as progressive; each new truth supports, expands, and stands upon former revelations of God's truth like brick laying. This progressive revelation moving to the crucifixion in Christ and then on through the New Testament acts of the Apostles under the direction of the Holy Spirit awaiting the Second Coming of Jesus.

Biblical theology focuses on the storyline of scripture-the unfolding of God's plan in redemptive history. Biblical theology is not confined to only the New Testament or the Old Testament, but that it considers both Testaments together as the word of God. Indeed, biblical theology works from the notion that the canon of scripture functions as its norm, and thus both Testaments are needed to unpack the theology of scripture. We can only understand the New Testament when we have also grasped the meaning of the Old Testament, and vice-versa.

Too often expositionial preachers limit themselves to Leviticus, Matthew, or Revelation without considering the place they inhabit in the storyline of redemptive history. They isolate one part of the scripture from another, and hence preach in a truncated way instead of proclaiming the whole counsel of God. We must acknowledge the progress of revelation from the Old Testament to the New Testament. It is fruitful to consider the scriptures from the standpoint of promise and fulfillment: what is promised in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament.

Biblical Typology is an important element of Biblical theology. Typology is the divinely intended correspondences between events, persons, and institutions in the Old Testament and their fulfillment in Christ in the New. Typology acknowledges a divine pattern and purpose in history. God is the final author of scripture - the story is a divine drama. And God knows the end from the beginning, so that we as readers can see adumbrations of the final fulfillment in the Old Testament

Not only do the New Testament authors observe these "divinely-intended correspondences." The Old Testament authors do as well. For instance, both Isaiah and Hosea predict a new exodus that will be patterned after the first exodus. In the same way, the Old Testament expects a new David who will be even greater than the first David. We see in the Old Testament itself, then, an escalation in typology, so that the fulfillment of the type is always greater than the type itself. Jesus is not only a new David, but the greater David.

Surely the promise for the church of Jesus Christ is not that we will possess the land of Canaan some day! Rather, upon reading the New Testament, we learn that the promise of the land is understood typologically and also escalated into a final fulfillment in the New Testament. Hebrews explains that the promise of rest given under Joshua was never intended to be the final rest for the people of God (Heb 3:7-4:13). Paul explains that the land promise for Abraham cannot be confined to Canaan but has been universalized to include the whole world (Rom 4:13). We discover in Hebrews that we as believers do not wait for an earthly city but a heavenly city (Heb 11:10, 14-16; 13:14), a city to come. Or, as John puts it in Revelation 21-22, we await the heavenly Jerusalem, which is nothing other than a new creation.

In other words, if we preach from Joshua, and we do not emphasize our inheritance in Christ and the new creation, then we have failed miserably to communicate the storyline of scripture in expositing the book. We also must read all of scripture canonically, so that the Old Testament is read in light of the whole story - the fulfillment that has come in Jesus Christ.

If we preach the scriptures canonically, using biblical theology, then we will proclaim Christ from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. However, if we do not preach the Old Testament canonically, in light of biblical theology, it will too often be passed over in Christian preaching. We are not faithfully serving our congregations if they do not understand how the whole of scripture points to Christ, and if they do not gain a better understanding from us of the storyline of the Bible.

Biblical theology can be compared with and is complemented by systematic theology, in that the former focuses on historical progression throughout the Bible while the latter focuses on thematic progression. Systematic theology deals with a single topic in each place it is dealt with, whereas biblical theology seeks to follow the flow of "redemptive narrative" as it unfolds.