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Lecture 1: The Necessity and Viability

of Biblical Theology
Graeme Goldsworthy
Graeme Goldsworthy is a minister
of the Anglican Church of Australia and
has served in churches in Sydney and
Brisbane. He is a graduate of the Uni-
versities of Sydney, London, and Cam-
bridge, and earned his Ph.D. at Union
Theological Seminar y in Richmond,
Virginia. He lectured at Moore Theologi-
cal College, Sydney, in Old Testament,
Biblical Theology, and Hermeneutics.
Now retired, Dr. Goldswor thy continues
as a visiting lecturer at Moore College
to teach a four th-year B.D. course in
Evangelical Hermeneutics. He is the au-
thor of many books, including Preaching
the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture
(Eerdmans, 2000), According to Plan:
The Unfolding Revelation of God in the
Bible (InterVarsit y, 2002), and Gospel-
Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations
and Principles of Evangelical Biblical
Interpretation (InterVarsit y, 2007).
Biblical Theology and the Doctrine
of Scripture
I have never really considered myself
to be an academic. During my working
life, I have spent more years in full-time
pastoral ministry than I have in full-time
theological teaching. I mention this only
to emphasize that my passion for the
discipline of biblical theology was not
only driven by the academy, but also by
the perceived pastoral need for ordinary
Christians in churches to be better able
to understand the Bible. What, then, is
required for people to understand the
Bible as Gods one word about the one
way of salvation?
When a person is converted from
unbelief to faith in Jesus Christ as Sav-
ior and Lord, a number of changes take
place. They are not all instantaneous and
complete since some involve a process
of growth and maturing. These include
what Paul refers to in Rom 12:1-2 as the
renewal of the mind. This is an aspect of
sanctifcation in which the transformation
process goes on throughout life. Part of
becoming more Christ-like is learning
to think Christianly about all things
including Scripture. The way a new
convert begins the process of develop-
ing a doctrine of Scripture cannot be
stereotyped, for a lot depends on the
circumstances and the Christian context
in which conversion takes place. Not-
withstanding the variety of experiences
to which any group of Christians would
testify, the common feature is that sooner
or later, in one way or another, a personal
faith in Christ will lead to some kind of
personally held doctrine of Scripture. The
view of the Bible that has been caught or
taught will form the basis for a develop-
ing understanding of, frst, the authority
and, second, the content of Scripture. A
third area is, in my opinion, often left
unformed, stunted, and embryonic. This
is the understanding of the relationship of
the parts to the whole, the perceptions of
structure and, above all, the notion of the
centrality of the gospel to the whole Bible.
While recognizing that there are many
ways in which biblical Christianity can be
compromised, even in the most ardently
evangelical church, I want to view the
matter before us primarily as it should
affect Christians in a church that honors
the Bible as the inspired word of God and
as our supreme authority in all matters of
doctrine and Christian living.
Conversion to Christ, then, must affect
the way people view the Bible. They
may have come out of militant atheism,
unrefective agnosticism, self-centered
postmodernism, or just plain ignorance of
all things Christian. But conversion will
mean that the word through which Christ
is made known will take on a growing
coherence and authority. Regrettably, it
is true to say that in many evangelical
congregations, while the authority of the
Bible is usually asserted or implied, the
coherence of the canon, its inner unity, is
left largely to chance.
What, then, are the driving forces for
doing biblical theology, and when did the
discipline emerge? Craig Bartholomew,
commenting on the frequently-made
claim that Johann Philipp Gabler started
it all with his inaugural address at Alt-
dorf in 1787, says, But biblical theology,
in the sense of the search for the inner
unity of the Bible, goes back to the church
That is undeniable, but from
where did the church fathers get this
sense of inner unity? Obviously they
were responding to the gospel and the
apostolic testimony that they perceived
in the Scriptures themselves. I suggest
that the emergence of biblical theology
is a feature of the dynamic of revelation
within Scripture itself, and becomes evi-
dent the moment the prophetic word in
Israel begins to link previous prophetic
words and events into a coherent pattern
of salvation history. This happens in the
way the prophets, beginning with Moses,
speak a thus says Yahweh word into
the contemporary events and link it with
what has preceded it. A case in point is
the unfolding of the signifcance of the
covenant with Abraham as it governs
subsequent events. The events of Genesis
12-50 cannot be properly understood
apart from the initial promises to Abra-
ham and their frequent reiteration. The
narrative of Exodus is in the same way
taken up under this covenant. The whole
course of salvation history in the Old
Testament from Moses onwards is an
expansion of the words in Exod 2:23-25:
During those many days the king of
Egypt died, and the people of Israel
groaned because of their slavery
and cried out for help. Their cry for
rescue from slavery came up to God.
And God heard their groaning,
and God remembered his covenant
with Abraham, with Isaac, and
with Jacob. God saw the people of
Israeland God knew.
All the subsequent events of the Penta-
teuch are the outworking of the Abra-
hamic covenant. So also is the narrative
of events in the Former Prophets. The
covenant is seen as the formal vehicle for
conveying the reality of Gods redemptive
rule over his people. The joint themes of
kingdom and covenant that are estab-
lished with Abraham reach back to the
beginning of creation and Gods dealing
with mankind. These themes are subse-
quently developed as the foundations of
the matrix of revelation in the Bible.
This process of progressive revelation
continues throughout the Old Testament
in a way that demands our investigation
of the nature of the unity of the canonical
Scriptures. The rich diversity of literary
type or genre in no way undermines the
overall unity that is discernible. It is clear,
however, that the tensions between prom-
ise and fulfllment that so characterize the
Old Testament are never resolved in the
Hebrew Scriptures themselves. These ten-
sions are found in the history of Israel as it
goes from Egyptian captivity to its zenith
under David and Solomon, and in the
subsequent decline leading to captivity
in Babylon. The restoration under Cyrus
fails to deliver the expected kingdom, and
we are forced to look beyond for the ful-
fllment of the kingdom promised by the
prophets. The New Testament takes up
the challenge by asserting that the person
and work of Jesus of Nazareth constitute
the fulfllment and resolution.
The process of theologizing goes on
throughout the Old Testament texts.
This simply means that the individual
texts, the books or corpora, are essen-
tially books about God and his word-
interpreted deeds. It is this recognition
that God is the central character of the
Bible that makes biblical theology viable.
Theological refection and discourse is
everywhere. God is speaking, command-
ing, promising, judging, and revealing
his plan and purpose. In the passage of
time, various prophetic speakers and
writers refect on the past, and speak the
word of God for the future. The people
of the Bible respond to God in different
ways ranging from a deep conviction of
faith to rebellious unbelief. Sinfulness
and unbelief require us to make a distinc-
tion between the religion of Israel and
the theology of the Old Testament. This
distinction was obliterated in the history-
of-religions approach that overshadowed
Old Testament theology in the nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries.
When we come to the Latter Prophets,
it is clear that they understand the his-
tory of Israel as history under judgment
because of unbelief. Their three-fold
message of indictment, judgment, and
hope of restoration is as varied as their
historical and social contexts. But one
thing they have in common is the recog-
nition that the Day of the Lord, the great
day of restoration and fnal salvation, is
shaped by and will recapitulate the his-
torical experience of Israel from Abraham
to David, Zion, and the temple. Thus,
while Israels history is history under
judgment, it is also the pattern-making
medium for Gods redemptive word and
actions. For the pre-exilic prophets, the
perspective is largely that the future
restoration from exile will be the moment
of fulfllment. But the restoration proves
to be a disappointment, and it is the role
of the post-exilic prophets to project
the hope of Israel to a future coming of
the Lord, a hope that remains unfulflled
at the end of the Old Testament period.
This prophetic sense of the continuity
and of the dynamic of salvation history
is maintained in the New Testament.
The consequence of all this is that our
doctrine of Scripture, to be robust and
maturing, needs to involve more than an
abstract concept of authority and inspira-
tion. It needs shape, and it is the gospel
of our Lord Jesus Christ that gives it that
shape by providing the center on which
all Scripture converges. In this regard,
hermeneutics intersects with dogmatics,
and both intersect with biblical theology.
We cannot really have any useful concept
of the authority of the Bible unless we
have some notion of what the authorita-
tive word is telling us. Consistent Chris-
tian theism asserts that the person and
work of Jesus of Nazareth provide the
reference points for the development
of hermeneutics, and the derivation of
dogmatics. As the word of God must be
self-authenticating, so it must be self-
interpreting. Authority and interpreta-
tion both come from within Scripture.
This is the only way it can be if we accept
the biblical perspective on the matter.
Gods fullest and fnal word is the Word
incarnate, Jesus Christ. Consequently,
while the interpretation of each Testa-
ment needs the other, the primary focus
is that the New Testament must interpret
the Old and not vice versa.
We can summarize the biblical per-
spective in this way: God creates all
things by his word and speaks to the
pinnacle of creation, the human pair,
in words that are intended to be under-
stood and obeyed. The twin word-events
of creation and address establish Gods
word as the medium of his action and
communication. The rebellion of Adam
and Eve is a rejection of the word of God
and its self-authenticating authority and
meaning. The fall is a moral revolt that
demands judgment. Any redress must be
both revealing and redeeming. Scripture
is the Spirit-inspired word that accurately
preserves for us the whole process of
Gods redemptive word active in human
history. The doctrine of Scripture as the
written word of God must focus on both
authority and structure. The doctrine of
the authority of the Bible demands the
task of biblical theology, which is to seek
to understand both the structure and the
content of Scripture. But, because, as Paul
states it, The natural man does not accept
the things of the Spirit of God, for they are
folly to him, and he is not able to under-
stand them because they are spiritually
discerned (1 Cor 2:14), there is the need
for regeneration and the inner testimony
of the Holy Spirit if one is to grasp both
the authority and meaning of Scripture.
The Role of the Gospel in Biblical
First, in order to understand the place
of the gospel in biblical theology, tentative
defnitions of both gospel and biblical theol-
ogy are called for. One way to defne the
gospel is in the terms Paul uses in Rom
1:1-4. Here he states four crucial things
about the gospel.
Romans 1:1 reads, Paul, a servant
of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle,
set apart for the gospel of God. The
frst point is probably self-evident: it is
Gods gospel. However, the epistle to the
Romans implies that this gospel is Gods
solution to his own problem of how to
justify the ungodly.
In the second verse, it is the gospel
which he promised beforehand through
his prophets in the holy Scriptures. It is
the gospel of the Old Testament prophets
and cannot be regarded as replacing or
discarding the Old Testament antecedents
to the coming of Jesus. It means that Jesus
is the fulfllment of prophecy, and this
fact alone makes biblical theology neces-
sary. Then, in verse three, it is the gospel
concerning his Son, who was descended
from David according to the flesh. It
concerns the Son of God whose lineage
goes back to the theologically signifcant
fgure of David. We may infer from this
that, though there can be no gospel with-
out the Father or the Holy Spirit, its focus
is on the incarnate Son. This Davidic
lineage also points to the structure of
biblical theology in redemptive covenant
and kingdom history.
Finally, in verse four, the Son was
declared to be the Son of God in power
according to the Spirit of holiness by his
resurrection from the dead. The defn-
ing moment is the resurrection which, of
course, implies the death of Jesus which,
in turn, implies the life of Jesus. The res-
urrection fulfls the promises concerning
the rule of the son of David. The gospel,
then, is Gods message of the person and
work of Jesus, testifed to by the Old Tes-
tament, and coming to its climax in the
exaltation of Jesus.
The defnition of biblical theology is
harder to achieve. I can only give it to
you as I understand it. Biblical theology
is the study of how every text in the Bible
relates to every other text in the Bible. It
is the study of the matrix of divine rev-
elation. At the heart of the gospel is the
person of Jesus Christ; he is the word of
God come in the fesh. The nature of the
gospel is such that it demands that it be at
the center of the biblical message. Biblical
theology is, then, the study of how every
text in the Bible relates to Jesus and his
gospel. Thus we start with Christ so that
we may end with Christ. Biblical theology
is Christological, for its subject matter
is the Scriptures as Gods testimony to
Christ. It is therefore, from start to fnish,
a study of Christ.
How biblical theology is actually done
will depend a great deal on our dogmatic
presuppositions about the nature of Scrip-
ture. If we do not have confdence in the
Bible as the inspired word of God, we will
treat it as a collection of human docu-
ments. Liberalism killed biblical theology
because it could not allow for the unity of
Scripture as refecting the one purpose of
its one Author.
I must hasten to add that my saying
that biblical theology is a study of Christ
is not Christomonism. Jesus, as the one
mediator between God and man (1 Tim
2:5), makes the Father known. Union with
Christ makes us sons who are able by the
Spirit to cry Abba, Father. (Gal 4:6)
Biblical theology is much more than
simply relating the events of the story in
chronological order, even if accompanied
by theological comment in the process. It
needs to be analytical of the theological
dynamics within the big story. What is
the nature of the progress of revelation?
Is it a gradual dawning of the light, or is
it a series of discreet steps? What is the
relationship between the two Testaments?
In biblical theology there needs to be the
kind of theological refection that would
help us to see the great recurring themes,
both in their unity and their diversity.
We observe the way in which the proph-
ets deliberately recapitulate the earlier
history of redemption in their eschato-
logical projections. We seek to analyze
the dynamics of prophetic fulfillment
and typology.
Biblical theology is, to quote my own
teacher Donald Robinson, the study of the
Bible in its own terms.
As I understand
it, biblical theology involves frst of all the
close reading or exegesis of the parts in
order to understand the theological per-
spectives contained. These must then be
synthesized into an understanding of the
unity of the theology of the whole canon.
The wider synthesis will then affect our
understanding of the signifcance of the
parts. But, why should we have any con-
fdence that such a task can be realized?
Such confdence can only come from
the gospel itself. The writers of the four
Gospels point the way by their handling
of distinct aspects of the relationship of
the person and ministry of Jesus to the
Old Testament Scriptures. This theolo-
gizing of the evangelists, that is integral
to their historiography, leaves us in no
doubt about the conviction of Jesus and
his apostles as to the unity of the biblical
message with its center in the person of
When we take the New Testament
documents on their own terms, we fnd
that everywhere the theologizing of the
Old Testament is continuing, but now
done in the light of the fullest revelation
of God given to us in Jesus. But I think
that all too few evangelicals actually
refect on the relationship of the person
of Christ and his gospel, as they perceive
it, to their convictions about the Bible.
I refer here especially to a sense of the
inner dynamic and unity of Scripture
that makes it possible to speak of the
whole as containing a single story. The
early Christian apologists had to deal
with this unity while opposing two main
enemies. On the one hand, the Gnostics,
such as Marcion, in order to preserve
their docetic view of Christ, wanted to
sever all connection with the Old Testa-
ment. On the other hand, the majority of
Jews wanted to sever all connection with
apostolic Christianity. Both Gnostics and
non-Christian Jews solved the problem of
the theological relationship of Jesus to the
Old Testament by complete separation.
The Christian way of dealing with both
challenges would eventually be formu-
lated in terms of unity and distinction in
the relationship of the two Testaments.
Some scholars have queried the pos-
sibility of doing biblical theology at all.
Others have found a gospel-centred
approach to biblical theology unaccept-
able. This is because the primary pre-
suppositional stance of Christian theism
is disputed. For example, James Barr
Biblical theology has had its enthu-
siasts, who cannot understand why
anyone would question its valid-
ity as a subject; it has also had its
opponents, some of whom consider
it to be impracticable as an area
of research, or unacceptable as an
academic subject, or useless to the
religious community, or all three
of these.
The evangelical biblical theologian
works from a hermeneutic of confi-
dent enquiry, while the sceptic usually
reflects an Enlightenment attitude of
suspicion. Between these two poles of a
hermeneutic of faith and a hermeneutic
of radical suspicion, lie a whole variety
of approaches to the doing of theology
either as a formal discipline or as an
intuitive exercise in building some kind
of personal worldview. The problem
in defning biblical theology lies in the
nature of this spectrum. Some reject
even the desirability of attempting any
kind of theology which implies such
questionable dimensions as a God who
speaks, and a canon of Scripture that is
uniquely tied to the revelation of God or
privileged by divine inspiration. Biblical
theology is then reduced to the history
of religious ideas. Others embrace the
challenge with enthusiasm but qualify it
with principles and procedures that are
independent of the Scriptural witness.
Still others, and notably Christian theists,
assert a hermeneutical spiral that builds
its presuppositional base upon the bibli-
cal scenario.
This latter approach provides a start-
ing point that is something like the
following: Faith in the Jesus of the bibli-
cally presented gospel drives us to the
acceptance that the biblical record overall
is faithful and true. Jesus is Lord and this
is his word. From this it is a short step
to acceptance of the biblical claims to
present the word of the living God who
addresses us. The prophetic formula,
Thus says the Lord is but one aspect of
this truth claim to be Gods word. Thus,
the conviction of faith together with an
inductive approach to individual biblical
texts provide a dogmatic basis for the
deductive return to the same texts and to
the whole range of canonical Scripture.
It may seem logical to think of the
inductive, exegetical task as a purely
objective and foundational exercise upon
the results of which theology is based.
But, few, I think, would argue today
for the notion of such an objective and
presupposition-less exercise. Exegesis is a
theological task that makes most sense if
understood as engaged by rational beings
that are created in the image of a rational
God whose chosen medium of expression
is his rational word. Exegesis pursued on
the basis of the kind of humanistic ratio-
nalism that ignores the basis of our ratio-
nality in a rational God, but rather fnds
it in an irrational appeal to time and blind
chance is, to the theistic mindset at least,
absurd and self-defeating. As Gerhard
Hasel states, Biblical theology employs
the theological-historical method which
takes full account of Gods self-revelation
embodied in Scripture in all it dimen-
sions of reality.
He points out that even
von Rad recognised that the historical-
critical method cannot do justice to the
Old Testament scriptures claim to truth.
The bottom line of this is that it does
indeed make sense to pursue an under-
standing of the Bible in its own terms
(as Donald Robinson, phrased it). Many
of the objections to this are born of the
hermeneutics of suspicion, while others
are the result of the practical diffculties
in dealing with such a large and diverse
collection of books. Notwithstanding the
early struggles to defne the Christian
canon, at the heart of the churchs accep-
tance of the Bible, as uniquely the word
of God, is the self-authenticating word
of Jesus. Jesus himself provides the basis
for our recognition of the canon when,
for example, he declares, My sheep hear
my voice. I know them, and they follow
me. (John 10:27). Unlike Rome, which
says that the church rules the canonical
process, we believe that the canonical
process stems from the authority of Jesus
and itself rules the church. Furthermore,
it was Jesus who made the connection
between the Old Testament and himself
in a way that establishes the nature of the
unity of the Bible.
Jesus imprimatur on the Hebrew
canon, itself a manifestly diverse collec-
tion of books, is the essential basis for the
Christian theists confdence that some
kind of unity within the diversity of the
Bible can be recognised. Once again a
dogmatic presupposition begins to form
which helps in the task of describing the
relationship of the parts to the whole;
of the diversity to the unity, and of the
discontinuity to the continuity within
the Bible. Faith in Jesus as the starting
point for serious, believing, study of the
Bible soon involves us in the question of
Christology (what it means for Jesus of
Nazareth to be the Christ) and the ques-
tion of theology (what it means for Jesus
to be the Word come in the fesh, to be
the incarnation of the second Person of
the Trinity). The Christian doctrine of the
Trinity and the Christology of the two
natures of Christ are closely related since
both are integral to the gospel message.
Both involve us in the recognition that
unity and distinction exist together in
God as the relationship of Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit; and in Jesus as true God
and true man yet one person. As some
Christian apologists and theologians have
asserted, the way God is and the way Jesus
is show that both unity and diversity are
equally ultimate, and that it is characteris-
tic of non-Christian thought and of heresy
to express relationships as either unity or
diversity. Unity without distinction leads
to fusion (for example, in the Trinitarian
heresy of modalism); distinction without
unity leads to separation (for example, in
the Trinitarian heresies of tritheism and
Arianism). This is not to deny that there
are valid either-or distinctions: such as
heaven or hell, light or darkness, good
or evil.
In approaching the Bible, then, we may
state a Christian theistic approach as tak-
ing its start from the gospel. In doing so it
becomes involved in a hermeneutic spiral,
which includes dogmatic presupposi-
tions about God and the Bible and which
tests those presuppositions by the text
of the Bible itself. The unity of the Bible
lies not only in the coherence of its nar-
rative structure, but also in the fact that
the whole of it constitutes a testimony to
Christ and the salvation he brings. The
unity of the Bible is thus a corollary of
faith in Jesus Christ rather than some-
thing initially established on empirical
grounds. The authority of the Bible lies
not only in the fact of inspiration, but
also in every texts inspired relationship
to Christ who is the very truth and Word
of God incarnate.
Thus, the Bible as the word of God and
Jesus as the Word of God do not consti-
tute two different words that somehow
compete. There is a unity between them,
in that our only knowledge of the Word
incarnate is through the word inscriptur-
ate as it conveys its truth and authority
through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Yet this unity is not fusion for there are
also important distinctions. Jesus is not a
book that we have here with us. He is not
here; he is risen, and he makes himself
present by his word and Spirit. He is God
who came in the fesh, and he remains the
God-Man in his exaltation. Furthermore,
the Bible is not God, and Christians do
not worship it.
Unity in the Bible, then, is seen in the
claims of Jesus including those in Luke
24:25-27 and 44-45 that the three parts of
the Hebrew canon are about him, or in
his statement to the Jews in John 5:39-47
that the Scriptures testify of him and that
Moses wrote about him. Unity is seen in
the way Jesus is constantly declared to
be the fulfller of the prophetic promises,
both individually and comprehensively. It
is seen in the way Jesus is portrayed as the
one who in the eschaton brings about the
consummation of all things, so that the
overarching story of the Bible is perceived
as a progression from creation to the new
creation. Many doubt the unity of the
canon or that there is a theological center.
But, on the basis of Jesus own testimony
we have to say that the diverse theologi-
cal themes fnd their center and unity in
Jesus himself. Paul House states it thus:
[U]nitary biblical theology is possible
because a united Trinity has breathed out
these texts.
The necessity for biblical theology lies
in an analytical Christology that goes
well beyond the simplistic assertion, as
important as it is, that Jesus died for our
sins. There are further considerations in
the Christology of the New Testament
that address the question of the unity of
the biblical account. The comprehensive
and cosmic Christ that the New Testa-
ment testifes to is a far more complex
fgure than the basic personal savior of
popular evangelical piety. The question of
the nature of the problem and the solution
to the problem is crucial. It is sometimes
asked, If Christ is the answer, what is
the question? The gospel must show us
both the problem and the answer. But it
does both by its constant self-reference in
terms of its antecedents in the Old Testa-
ment. Thus, it is not only individuals and
the nations that need a savior, for the
whole creation is under judgment and is
being redeemed. Evangelicals frequently
stress the importance of the new birth,
but tend to do so as a purely individual
and subjective experience related to con-
version. The biblical theological perspec-
tive places personal regeneration within
the wider cosmic scope that leads from
creation to new creation.
The cosmic Creator-Christ of John 1
and Colossians 1 points to the need to
understand the inner dynamics of the
gospel and of salvation as they affect the
whole of creation. If, as Paul indicates
in Rom 8:19-23, the signifcance of Gods
judgment in Genesis 3 includes the fall
of the universe on account of the frst
Adams sin, then the last Adam comes to
restore the universe and effect the new
creation. The summing up of all things
in Christ that Paul speaks of in Eph 1:10
echoes his perspective in Col 1:15-20 of the
cosmic implications of Jesus being and
his death. Not only is Jesus the blue-print
of creation, the Creator and upholder of
all things; he restores all things.
This perspective helps us to under-
stand the New Testament pattern of
eschatology. I fully realize that my under-
standing is not that of many evangelicals.
I can only put it as I see it. Adrio Knig in
his book, The Eclipse of Christ in Eschatol-
expresses well what I understand
to be the perspective of the New Testa-
ment. Pauls categories of justifcation,
sanctifcation, and glorifcation indicate
the dynamics of redemption. In mak-
ing atonement for sin, Jesus dealt with
the fall, not only of mankind, but of the
universe. His life, death, and resurrection
constituted the reassembling of reality
representatively in his own person. He is
the locus of the new creation (2 Cor 5:17).
Though it is representative of a wider
reality, it is still the power of God for sal-
vation. The ascension of Jesus means that
a representative Man is justifed by his
own merits so as to be acceptable in the
presence of God. We are justifed in our
union by faith with the justifed Christ
and his merits. We are being sanctifed
through the same gospel as we are con-
formed more and more to the image of
Christ. We shall be glorifed when Christ
comes again to judge the living and the
dead and we shall be like him (1 John 3:2).
The implication of this perspective for
biblical theology, then, is that all proph-
ecy and promise in the Old Testament
were fulflled in Christ at his frst coming.
The exaltation of Christ is the fnal dem-
onstration of this as Paul indicates in Acts
13:32-33: We bring you the good news
that what God promised to the fathers,
this he has fulflled to us their children
by raising Jesus. So, in 2 Cor 1:20, Paul
asserts, All the promises of God fnd
their Yes in him. Thus, the end of the
ages has come with Jesus of Nazareth as
Paul tells us in 1 Cor 10:11. Hebrews 1:2
tells us that it is In these last days [that]
God has spoken to us by his Son. For
John, the coming of Jesus means that this
the last hour (1 John 2:18). For Peter, Jesus
was made manifest in the last times (1
Pet 1:20).
But the promises go on being ful-
flled. What was representatively done in
Christ, now becomes experiential reality
in the world through the preaching of
the gospel as it is sovereignly applied by
the Spirit of God. The whole of the end
has come for us in Christ. The whole of
the end is coming in the world and in us
through the gospel. The whole of the end
will come with us as the great consumma-
tive event when Jesus returns in glory to
judge the living and the dead.
Let me summarize this point: The
gospel message concerns the historical
event of the incarnation of God the Son
as Jesus of Nazareth. It tells of his birth,
life, death, resurrection, and ascension
as the activity of God by which we are
saved and creation is restored in him. The
person of Christ as the incarnate God, the
God-Man, is at the heart of the dynam-
ics of salvation in which the one acts for
the many. It is the means by which God
reconnects all aspects of reality in the
person of Christ and, at the same time,
deals with the moral problem of discon-
nectedness, that is, of sin. Just as the cre-
ation fell with the sin of the frst Adam,
so with the last Adam, and through his
cross, the creation is renewed or regener-
ated. The unity-distinction in Christ is
the pattern of truth that informs us of all
relationships, not least of those within the
biblical corpora.
The work of Christ in his ministry
includes his being the fulfller of the Old
Testament promises. It is on the grounds
of his word, and that of the apostles that
come after him, that we accept the basic
tenet that the Old Testament is a book
about Christ. The events of the Old Testa-
ment and the prophetic words that inter-
pret these events are thus testimonies to
the coming Christ. The hermeneutics of
the person of Christ intersect with the
hermeneutics of the work of Christ.
establish the canon as diversity within
unity and as a book about Christ.
Challenges to Biblical Theology
I will not here rehearse at length the
details of the history of biblical studies.
Suffce it to say that certain key events
have affected the fortunes of biblical the-
ology. There was, as I have expressed it
in my recently published book on herme-
neutics, a continual eclipsing of the gospel
in biblical interpretation. Beginning with
the sub-apostolic age, there was the grow-
ing dominance of dogma over exegesis
and hermeneutics. Church dogma, or
the rule of faith, began to determine the
outcome of exegesis and hermeneutics.
Gnostic and Platonic infuences in the
allegorical interpretations of Scripture
predominated from the second to the
sixteenth centuries. Then, influenced
by Aristotelian empiricism, Aquinas
established the basis of Roman Catholic
theology, which has remained largely
unchanged to the present, as essentially
liberal because of his dualism of nature
and grace. The Enlightenment subjected
biblical studies to the latest philosophical
fashions eclipsing any place for a God
who speaks a word in a way that can be
understood. The Enlightenment gave us
the modernism of the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, and this in turn gave
way to post-modernism.
There are two main kinds of challenge
to biblical theology that I can see. The frst
is the disappointing rejection or neglect of
it by many evangelicals. This may happen
in response to poorly worked expressions
of biblical theology, or because of an
inconsistent evangelicalism that obscures
the imperative to engage in biblical theol-
ogy. I will defer further discussion of this
until my third lecture. The other is the
academically driven refusal to regard the
Bible in the traditional way as being the
inspired word of God. Ironically, many
of the fne exponents of biblical theology
have had such an Enlightenment view
of the Bible, but they nevertheless perse-
vered in trying to uncover the inner unity
of the Bible. One such was Gabriel Hebert,
an English Anglo-Catholic monk who
taught at a seminary in South Australia
and made a number of much appreciated
visits to Moore College. His work was one
of the infuences on my teacher Donald
Robinson and, thus, on me. Yet, in 1957 he
published Fundamentalism and the Church
of God
in which he was highly critical
of evangelicalism in general and, in par-
ticular, of the New Bible Commentary pub-
lished by the InterVarsity Fellowship in
1953. This criticism provoked Jim Packers
classic evangelical response in Funda-
mentalism and the Word of God.
Robinson, who motivated me to pursue
biblical theology, refers to a number of
scholars who infuenced his thinking; but
they were not all evangelicals. He men-
tions C. H. Dodd and Oscar Cullmann,
along with Hebert.
It is clear that we can be somewhat
eclectic in our approach to scholarship.
What separates me from non-evangelicals
like Hebert is not the quest for the inner
coherence of the biblical story, but the
theological presuppositions that gov-
ern this quest. This is illustrated in the
American experience of the twentieth
century. Brevard Childs, in his famous
1970 monograph Biblical Theology in
attempted to understand what
was perceived to be the demise of the
so-called American school of biblical
theology represented by men like G. E.
Wright and my own mentor John Bright.
He saw it as an attempt to build a bridge
between fundamentalism and liberal-
ism. He rightly recognized that there
was a crisis in the understanding of the
doctrine of Scripture. He went on from
there in the 1970s to develop his canonical
approach. In doing so, he did not, in my
opinion, suffciently come to terms with
the doctrine of Scripture that he himself
identifed as the chief cause of the biblical
theological movements demise.
Childs was influenced by the his-
torical-criticism of the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries. Yet, we can only be
grateful that he provided a considerable
impetus in the move back to the biblical
documents as we have them as the locus
of theological concern. But, the lack of
consensus about theory and practice
continues to hinder progress. As far back
as 1979, the Adventist theologian Gerhard
Hasel, in a paper to the Evangelical Theo-
logical Society, wrote,
Biblical theology is today in a state
of disarray. The disturbing fact that
there is no one defnition of this
feld on which biblical scholars can
unanimously agree is highlighted
by the diversity of approaches in
the unprecedented volume of recent
He goes on to refer to eleven different
theologies of the New Testament and at
least twelve theologies of the Old Testa-
ment published in the previous decade.
These, he said, reveal basic disparities
regarding the nature, function, method,
and scope of biblical theology. The
Roman Catholic theologian John L. McK-
enzie opens the introduction to his Old
Testament Theology with this comment:
Biblical theology is the only discipline
or subdiscipline in the feld of theology
that lacks generally accepted principles,
methods, and structure.
Charles Scobie, in referring to the
legacy of Gabler, indicates that his desig-
nation of biblical theology as a purely his-
torical pursuit allows it to be undertaken
as a secular exercise. Gablers famous
distinction between biblical and system-
atic theology encouraged the idea that
he had thus established the discipline of
biblical theology and that it did not exist
before him. Because his approach sat so
comfortably with the Enlightenment, it
led to the division of the discipline into
Old Testament theology and New Testa-
ment theology, to the eventual decline of
biblical theology, and then to its demise.

But there has always been a conserva-
tive minority seeking to preserve the
traditional views of the Bible recovered
for us by Calvin and Luther. The heirs of
the Reformation have remained, usually
a minority, sometimes persecuted in the
academy, but tenaciously holding on to
the authority of the Bible. The uneasy
sense of the unity of the biblical message
held throughout the Middle Ages was
largely stripped of its allegorism and
scholasticism by Luther and Calvin. This
allowed a truly evangelical biblical theol-
ogy to be reborn. At times it looked like
the runt of the litter but, in the providence
of God, it has latterly grown and matured,
not least in Australia and Britain as well
as in North America.
Childss 1970 monograph outlines the
following problematic issues that chal-
lenged biblical theology and led to its
alleged demise:
(1) The relationship of history to
(2) The problem of the unity of the
(3) Claims to the distinctiveness of
biblical thought.
(4) The distinctiveness of biblical
(5) The question of a theological cen-
tre, and the relationship of biblical
studies to theology.
I believe that, while these are issues that
we must all be concerned with, the prob-
lematic nature of them is largely driven
by the alien philosophical presupposi-
tions of liberal scholarship. That is why
evangelicals, once they are introduced to
the discipline, have usually been much
more positive and optimistic about the
pursuit of biblical theology.
Childs also points to the issues that
Gerhard Ebeling referred to in his book
Word and Faith published in English in
This was an attempt to redefne
biblical theology and repair one of
Gablers detrimental effects by rejoining
the historical and the theological ele-
ments. But Ebeling saw the theological
unity of both Old and New Testaments as
fragile. He also suggested that the histori-
cal discipline cannot be confned to the
study of a dogmatic entity that we call the
canon. In this we must part company with
Ebeling. James Barr, who seems rather
ambivalent about biblical theology, enu-
merates a number of points that various
scholars have raised in opposition to the
discipline thus:

(1) It is a purely historical study.
(2) It cannot achieve anything.
(3) Theology is not admissible in the
(4) It is dependent on invalid lin-
guistic features.
(5) It clashes with sociological and
literary studies.
(6) There is no such thing as a theol-
ogy of the Old Testament.
All of these challenges, I suggest, can
be counter-challenged from the stand-
point of Christian theism and evangeli-
cal theology. Others have sought to cast
doubt on the discipline in similar ways.
John Collins
and another Roman Catho-
lic theologian, Roland Murphy,
raised the problem of a critical biblical
theology. It seems to me that they exhibit
the Roman Catholic ambivalence to his-
torical critical studies that is generated by
Thomism. Collins concludes that
Historical criticism, consistently
understood, is not compatible with
a confessional theology that is
committed to specific doctrines
on the basis of faith. It is, however,
quite compatible with theology,
understood as an open-ended and
critical inquiry into the meaning
and function of God-language. Bib-
lical theology on this model is not
a self-suffcient discipline, but is a
subdiscipline that has a contribu-
tion to make to the broader subject
of theology.

More recently, David Penchansky has
argued from a postmodern perspective
that biblical theology is a political exer-
With the touching assumption that
we should understand his own authorial
intent, he asserts that both the protago-
nists and the detractors of biblical theol-
ogy have imposed their own meaning on
the biblical text. He can only know this if
he has understood their meaning and has
not imposed his meaning on their texts or
on the biblical text.
We do not have time to pursue these
objections to biblical theology. It will
have to be enough to suggest a common
element in them. In saying that they all
stem from a presuppositional base that is
itself unbiblical is not to say that these are
issues that need not be faced by the evan-
gelical biblical theologian. I personally
fnd reading critics like James Barr stimu-
lating and often salutary. They remind me
of things that I may be taking for granted
and which remain unexamined. But, in
the end, it is a question of what Robert
Reymond refers to, after Archimedes, as
our pou stthe place where I stand
my ultimate reference point.

The presuppositional position of Chris-
tian theism is set out by Calvin in the
opening chapters of his Institutes.
recently, Carl Henry has given a more
contemporary statement in his Toward
the Recovery of Christian Belief.
Of the
same ilk are the presuppositional apolo-
gists and theologians such as Cornelius
Van Til, Robert Reymond, John Frame,
and Richard Pratt. The genius of Calvin,
in my view, is revealed in his opening
chapters in which he tackles the question
of true subjectivity and objectivity. He
anticipates the Trinitarian structure of the
entire Institutes in these frst few chapters.
Knowledge of God and knowledge of self
are interdependent. His understanding
of the nature of subjectivity in relation
to objectivity could well be contem-
plated by many evangelicals who have
a propensity to the internalizing of the
objectivity of the gospel. Calvin outlines
his understanding in successive chapters.
The knowledge of God, the sensus deitatis
(sense of deity), is imprinted on every-
man. But sin corrupts and suppresses this
natural theology so that it cannot operate
authentically. Hence, there is the need for
special revelation of Scripture. This wit-
ness is confrmed by the inner testimony
of the Holy Spirit. Word and Spirit are
inseparable, and the word, to bring life
must be both revelatory and redemptive.
Calvin was convinced that proofs of the
credibility of Scripture will only appeal
to those who have the inner witness of
the Spirit.
Summary Conclusion:
The Necessity of Biblical Theology
It is time now to draw together some of
the threads of this discussion. This can-
not be exhaustive given our constraints
of time and space. I have suggested a
number of reasons for my conviction that
the pursuit of biblical theology is not an
optional extra but a necessity. In sum-
mary, the necessity of biblical theology
stems from the gospel. Biblical theology
is most likely to fourish when we are con-
cerned to understand all the dimensions
of the gospel as they have been revealed.
The gospel as theological center to the
Bible implies the following:
(1) The dynamic of redemptive-history
from creation to new creation, with Jesus
Christ at the center, points to a distinctly
Christian view and philosophy of his-
tory. The course of world history, accord-
ing to the Bible, serves the kingly rule
of the Lord God as he moves all things
inexorably to the conclusion that he has
determined from before the foundation
of the world.
(2) The reality principle in the incarna-
tion demands that every dimension of
reality that the Bible expresses be exam-
ined. The reality principle in Jesus is that
he is shown to be God incarnate, the new
creation, the last Adam, the new temple,
the new Israel, the new David, and the
true seed of Abraham. We could extend
the list, but I think the point is made. The
essential thing is that he is the Immanuel,
God among us in perfect relationship to
humanity and to all the dimensions of
reality that the Old Testament presents as
the typological antecedents to his coming.
(3) The conviction of faith from the
apostles onwards is that in Scripture there
is not a confusion of conficting testimo-
nies but a variegated testimony to the
one saving work of God in Jesus Christ.
The sense of a redemptive plan coming
to fruition in Christ can be seen from the
beginning of the apostolic church. Both
Peter, in Acts 2:16-36, and Paul, in Acts
13:16-41, proclaim a pattern of events in
Israel leading to David and then to fulfl-
ment in Christ. Stephens apology in Acts
7:2-53 could also be called a mini-biblical
theology. In all the New Testament epis-
tles, there is a sense of a narrative that lies
behind and is implied by the theologizing
and pastoral comment.
(4) The discipline of biblical theol-
ogy is required by the big picture of
the canon of Scripture as Gods word to
mankind. It is the one word given to us
so that men and women may be saved
and, standing frm in the assurance of
their free justifcation in Christ, may press
on with confdence towards the goal of
their high calling in Christ, emboldened
by the blessed hope of Christs return in
glory to judge the living and the dead,
and encouraged by the vision of the new
heaven and new earth in which righ-
teousness dwells for eternity.

This article was originally presented as
part of the Gheens Lectures, delivered
March 18-20, 2008, at The Southern Bap-
tist Theological Seminary.
Craig Bartholomew, Biblical Theology,
in Dictionary for Theological Interpretation
of the Bible (ed. K. Vanhoozer; Grand
Rapids: Baker, 2005), 84.
D. W. B. Robinson, Origins and Unre-
solved Tensions, in Interpreting Gods
Plan: Biblical Theology and the Pastor (ed.
R. J. Gibson; Carlisle: Paternoster, 1997), 7.
James Barr, The Concept of Biblical
Theology: An Old Testament Perspective
(London: SCM, 1999), xiii.
Gerhard Hasel, The Future of Biblical
Theology, in Perspectives on Evangelical
Theology (ed. K. Kantzer and S. Gundry;
Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 184.
Ibid., 185.
Paul House, Biblical Theology and the
Wholeness of Scripture, in Biblical The-
ology: Retrospect and Prospect (ed. Scott
Hafemann; Downers Grove: InterVar-
sity, 2002), 270.
Adrio Knig, The Eclipse of Christ in
Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
See my Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2006),
chapter 19.
A. G. Hebert, Fundamentalism and the
Church of God (London: SCM, 1957)
J. I. Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word
of God (London: InterVarsity, 1958)
Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology in
Crisis (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970).
Hasel, The Future of Biblical Theology,
J. L. McKenzie, A Theology of the Old
Testament (London: Chapman, 1974), 15.
C. H. H. Scobie, The Ways of Our God:
An Approach to Biblical Theology (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 6.
Childs, Biblical Theology in Crisis, chapter
Gerhard Ebeling, Word and Faith (Lon-
don: SCM, 1963).
Barr, The Concept of Biblical Theology,
chapter 14.
John J. Collins, Is a Critical Biblical
Theology Possible? in The Hebrew
Bible and Its Interpreters (ed. W. H.
Propp, B. Halpern, D. N. Freed-
man; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns,
1990), 1-17.
Roland E. Murphy, Reflections
on a Critical Biblical Theology, in
Problems in Biblical Theology: Essays
in Honor of Rolf Knierim (ed. Henry
T. C. Sun, Keith L Eades, with James
M. Robinson and Garth I Moller;
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997),
Collins, Is a Critical Biblical Theol-
ogy Possible?, 14.
David Penchansky, The Politics of
Biblical Theology (Studies in Amer-
ican Biblical Hermeneutics 10;
Macon: Mercer University, 1995).
Robert L. Reymond, The Justifcation
of Knowledge (Phillipsburg: Presby-
terian and Reformed, 1979), 79-85.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian
Religion (ed. John T. McNiel l;
trans. Ford Lewis Battles; 2 vols.;
Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960),
Carl F. H. Henry, Toward a Recovery
of Chri st i an Beli ef (Wheaton:
Crossway, 1990).
Lecture 2: Biblical Theology in the
Seminary and Bible College
Graeme Goldsworthy
Graeme Goldsworthy is a minister
of the Anglican Church of Australia and
has served in churches in Sydney and
Brisbane. He is a graduate of the Uni-
versities of Sydney, London, and Cam-
bridge, and earned his Ph.D. at Union
Theological Seminar y in Richmond,
Virginia. He lectured at Moore Theologi-
cal College, Sydney, in Old Testament,
Biblical Theology, and Hermeneutics.
Now retired, Dr. Goldswor thy continues
as a visiting lecturer at Moore College
to teach a four th-year B.D. course in
Evangelical Hermeneutics. He is the au-
thor of many books, including Preaching
the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture
(Eerdmans, 2000), According to Plan:
The Unfolding Revelation of God in the
Bible (InterVarsit y, 2002), and Gospel-
Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations
and Principles of Evangelical Biblical
Interpretation (InterVarsit y, 2007).
The Awakening and Its
Implications: A Personal
Confession and Testimony
At the risk of appearing to be self-
serving, I want to give you some idea of
what makes me tick as a biblical theolo-
gian. I think this is necessary if you are
to appreciate my position and to assess
its relevance to yourselves. I am a child
of my country and its culture, and of the
spiritual heritage of Calvinistic evan-
gelical Anglicanism through which I was
converted at the age of sixteen.
In the year 1770, the year Beethoven
was born and the year of the Boston
massacre, Lieutenant James Cook, Royal
Navy, sailed a 106-foot-long converted
Yorkshire collier, His Majestys Barque
Endeavour, up the entire length of the east
coast of Australia, mapping some 2,000
miles of it as he went. Six years later, an
ongoing dispute between King George III
and the British colonies in North America
had come to a head. This resulted in the
unavailability of those regions as a dump-
ing ground for the malcontents and petty
criminals of Britain and Ireland. Conse-
quently, attention turned to the newly
charted east coast of Australia as an alter-
nate venue to which the riff-raff could be
sent. On January 26, 1788, after a voyage
of eight months, Captain Arthur Phillip,
in command of a feet of eleven ships,
moored in Sydney Cove and established
the frst European settlement in Australia
as a British penal colony. Among those
who landed was the Reverend Richard
Johnson, an evangelical Anglican minis-
ter. The inclusion of a chaplain to the frst
feet had been planned for some time, but
the decision to appoint Johnson to this
post appears to have been infuenced by
some prominent evangelicals including
William Wilberforce and John Newton.
On a street corner in Sydneys Central
Business District there now stands a stone
commemorative monument marking
the venue of the frst Christian service
in Australia, held on February 3, 1788,
and recording that Johnson preached on
Psalm 116:12: What shall I render unto
the Lord for all his benefts toward me?
The content of the sermon is now lost but
there is some conjecture that, as an evan-
gelical, Johnson would have included
verse 13 in his exposition: I will take the
cup of salvation, and call upon the name
of the Lord. It cannot be claimed that the
present evangelical nature of the Angli-
can Diocese of Sydney is due to Johnson.
But, certainly the evangelical make-up of
the diocese goes back to these beginnings
that were built on by a succession of key
evangelical leaders.
I began my theological studies at
Moore College in Sydney in 1956. The
college was founded a hundred years
earlier in 1856 by the evangelical bishop
of Sydney, Frederick Barker. He had
been influenced by the great Charles
Simeon in Cambridge, and he remained
a staunch evangelical throughout his
life. The nineteenth century was a time
of rampant secularism during which
the older universities in Australia were
established without theological faculties.
Consequently, the training of clergy had
to be done elsewhere. Up till this time the
Church of England in Australia had relied
on English and Irish clergy coming to the
colonies. This dependence on imported
church leaders lasted, many would think,
much longer than it should have. Marcus
Loane, the Principal of Moore College
when I entered in 1956, was in 1966 to
become the frst Australian Archbishop
of Sydney. As one of the oldest tertiary
institutions in Australia, Moore College
was set up to train clergy for the Angli-
can Church. One hundred and ffty years
later, it remains an Anglican institution
with its main purpose to train clergy
for the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. But
it has become quite international and
interdenominational with a small but
steady stream of Presbyterian, Baptist,
and other students, and students from
Britain, Europe, and the USA, as well as
from South America, south and south-
east Asia.
When I entered Moore, I had never
heard of biblical theology and would
probably have understood the term to
mean simply theology that accorded with
the Bible and was thus orthodox and not
unbiblical. There was no distinct course
of Biblical Theology taught at that time.
We were, however, urged to read John
Brights The Kingdom of God, and Geerhar-
dus Voss Biblical Theology: Old and New
Testaments. Edmund Clowneys Preaching
and Biblical Theology, published in 1961,
was also to have a considerable infuence
at Moore. Moves toward instruction in
biblical theology as a distinct discipline
had begun at Moore in the early 1950s
when Donald Robinson taught a course
in the story of the Bible with emphasis
on the people of God. As far as I know,
Moore College was for some time the only
theological or Bible college in Australia to
teach a course in biblical theology.
In 1996 the annual School of Theology
at Moore, a series of public lectures, was
devoted to the subject of biblical theol-
ogy. The frst paper was given by Donald
Robinson who for many years was vice-
principal of the college before taking up
the post of Bishop of Parramatta and sub-
sequently Archbishop of Sydney. As he
had been largely responsible for introduc-
ing biblical theology to the curriculum,
Robinson was asked to tell something
of how it came to be established as a
subject at Moore. The printed versions
of these School of Theology lectures by
Bishop Robinson and other members
of the Moore faculty were published in
a little volume, Interpreting Gods Plan.

Robinson frst considers the possibility
that the nature of his account refects
the relative isolation of Australia from
wider theological discourse in the period
under review.
Robinson describes how
the Anglo-Catholic monk, Gabriel Hebert,
in 1957 gave lectures to the Brisbane
Anglican Clergy School on the subject
of Christ the Fulfller. He comments,
In these he propounded an outline of
the contents of the Bible in three stages
somewhat similar to that which I was
developing in the Moore College course.

In commenting on Heberts published
criticism of the New Bible Commentary, to
which Robinson himself had contributed,
he noted that
Hebert thought the New Bible Com-
mentary was weak and timid in
exegesis, that it lacked a full world
view, an integrated biblical theol-
ogy, and an adequate view of the
church. My point in rehearsing all
this is that our biblical theology
course was being fashioned in the
midst of an on-going debate with Dr
Hebert himselfof a most charita-
ble and constructive kind, I should
sayon these very questions.
Robinson explains that in the devel-
opment of the course, The aim was to
assist [the students] in their approach to
theological study in general, and to the
study of the Bible in particular.
He fur-
ther comments that, A distinction was
drawn between the study of the Christian
religion in its various aspects (including
credal doctrines, church history, Prayer
Book) and the study of the Bible in its own
terms to discover what it is all about.

This phrase, the study of the Bible in
its own terms (italics mine), is the key to
Robinsons approach to biblical theology.
Robinson developed the course into a
treatment of seven main issues:

(1) The character of the Bible: its
scope and structure.
(2) The people of God; including a
study of the biblical covenants.
(3) The signifcance of Abraham and
his seed. This dealt with the bibli-
cal story of the outworking of the
promises to Abraham as it reached
its climax with David and Solomon.
(4) A treatment of the two great
themes of exodus/redemption, and
(5) The prophetic view of promise
and fulflment.
(6) The New Testament claim that all
this is fulflled in Christ.
(7) Principles of biblical interpreta-
Here Robinson comments signifi-
Based on the foregoing understand-
ing of what the Bible is about,
we enunciated a biblical typol-
ogy using the three stages in the
outworking of Gods promise to
Abraham, that is, (a) the historical
experience of the fulflment of Gods
promise to Abraham through the
exodus to the kingdom of Davids
son in the land of inheritance, (b)
the projection of this fulflment into
the future of the day of the Lord, by
the prophets, during the period of
decline, fall, exile and return, and (c)
the true fulflment in Christ and the
Spirit in Jesus incarnation, death,
resurrection, exaltation and in his
parousia as judge and saviour in a
new heaven and new earth.
I remember well the occasion in late
1957, my second year as a student at
Moore, when I frst heard this scheme
expounded. It was in the context of an Old
Testament lecture and Donald Robinson
was the lecturer. A student, with more
that a trace of pain in his voice, asked the
pointed question as to how all this mate-
rial we had been seeking to absorb over
the course really ftted together. Robinson
expounded briefy the three-fold schema
to which I have just alluded. If anything
ever did, this blew my mind. I went away
and drew a diagram of it, and began to
think about the principles involved and
to fll in for myself the details. I have been
doing that ever since. Robinsons sum-
mary of biblical theology as a biblical
typology using the three stages in the
outworking of Gods promise to Abra-
ham is, in my opinion, the key to the
matter. It is to Donald Robinson that I owe
my initial insights into the structure and
content of revelation that constitute the
subject of biblical theology.
How things have changed! English
and Irish evangelicals established the
evangelical nature of Sydney diocese and
Moore College. British and continental
theologians, along with some notable
Americans in the Reformed tradition,
were the key twentieth century influ-
ences in biblical theology being estab-
lished in Australia. But, in a review of the
published 1996 Moore College lectures,
Interpreting Gods Plan, Chris Green, an
Englishman and vice-principal of Oak
Hill College in London wrote this rather
whimsical yet fattering assessment:
Like the duck-billed platypus, con-
temporary biblical theology is an
Australian animal the existence of
which many have doubted and even
mocked. Is it a hybrid? A joke? An
aberration? An impossibility?
The analogy is cute even if not entirely
accurate. There is no doubt that Moore
Colleges love affair with biblical theol-
ogy has rubbed off onto some modern
evangelicals in England and also further
afeld. It is also being planted by Moore
College graduates doing missionary
work in Africa, South America, Asia, and
Europe. It is being further developed as
courses by the Moore College Department
of External Studies which has some 5,000
students in over ffty countries. But, let us
not forget the European and American
infuences that were behind things being
started at Moore in the frst place. It is true
that, for a long time Australian theology,
like the Australian fauna, seems to have
refected our comparative isolation from
the rest of the world. I would suggest
that the acceptance of biblical theology
once it was at all understood, at least in
part refects the situation that Australian
Christians felt in a society that was from
its outset highly secular and lacking the
kind of Christian foundations that shaped
early American society. We needed the
Bible to be intelligible in order to combat
secularism from a fairly fragile base.
In 1973 I was invited to be a visiting
lecturer at Moore College and to teach the
course of Biblical Theology to frst-year
students. I set about to teach for one hour
per week the three-fold schema proposed
by Donald Robinson and that I had been
working over in my mind for the previous
ffteen years. I had come to the conclusion
over time that this schema laid bare the
structure of biblical revelation far better
than any of the other proposals that I was
aware of.
Inevitably the students asked about
books on the subject and I found it dif-
fcult to suggest any beyond John Brights
The Kingdom of God and Clowneys Preach-
ing and Biblical Theology. But, my views
differed from these books in some sig-
nifcant ways. Soon the students began
to badger me to write something myself;
a suggestion I rejected as foolish. In time,
however, the students prevailed. With the
promise of editorial help from a former
student who was going into Christian
publishing, I began the task as soon as I
had moved with my family to Brisbane in
1975. Gospel and Kingdom
was completed
in early 1976 and was rejected as unsuit-
able for publication by an Australian
and a British publisher in turn. It was
eventually taken up by Paternoster Press
in England.
Gospel and Kingdom finally saw the
light of day in 1981 and is still in print,
a fact that refects the need for such a
work rather than any literary value. Two
other biblical studies, one on the Book
of Revelation and one on the Wisdom
literature followed, both published by
Paternoster. My next attempt at biblical
theology, According to Plan,
in 1991, was geared at being a little more
comprehensive in treating the whole Bible
than Gospel and Kingdom had been. It was
worked out on the ground in the context
of a local church in Brisbane and tried out
chapter by chapter on several successive
groups of ordinary church members.
When I returned full-time to Moore
College in 1995 I was again given the
task of teaching the frst-year course in
Biblical Theology. By this time Moore
had expanded its curriculum well beyond
the basic ordination course taught when
I was a student. Now independent of the
Anglican regulatory body, i.e., the Aus-
tralian College of Theology, Moore gains
its accreditation from the Department
of Education of the State of New South
Wales. There are three different one-year
diploma courses for lay people who want
to get a basic knowledge of the Bible and
theology. The three-year Bachelor of
Theology is the basic course for ministe-
rial candidates. The four-year Bachelor of
Divinity is the requirement for Anglican
ordinands in the Diocese of Sydney. There
is a part-time M.A. in theology, a full-time
research M.Th. degree, and the Ph.D. can
be done in conjunction with either the
University of Sydney or the University of
Western Sydney. The point I want to make
is that in all the undergraduate theology
courses (the three one-year diplomas,
the B.Th., and the B.D.) biblical theology
is a compulsory subject over and above
the normal courses in Old and New
Testaments. A student transferring from
another college and seeking credits will
only be granted them on successful com-
pletion of the course in biblical theology.
Why is biblical theology, as a distinct
and compulsory course, so important to
the ethos of an evangelical college like
Moore? Again I must burden you with
a little of our local history. If it does not
cause you to question the place of biblical
theology in the American scene, perhaps
you will at least understand something
of what has been driving it in our corner
of Australia.
I believe it was just after the conclu-
sion of World War II that Moore College
expanded its two-year ordination course
with a preliminary year to concentrate on
study of the Bible, and to break the back
of New Testament Greek. It was into this
preliminary year that biblical theology
was later introduced. It is, I think, fair to
say that one important failure that this
subject helped to address was the lack
of any explicit integration in the core
subjects of the ordination course. There
was also the need to improve biblical
literacy. In the biblical studies curricula
of the externally regulated ordination
course there was nothing to require
any interaction between the subjects.
Of special concern was the fact that the
current academic ethos encouraged the
complete separation of the two parts of
biblical studies: Old Testament and New
Testament. For better or for worse, this
formal separation has remained in the
Moore College curricula. But, I have great
confdence that the main reason for this
is practical and not ideological.
Christian ministry is concerned to
bring salvation, in the broadest biblical
sense of that word, to people by evan-
gelism and nurture. It requires the com-
prehensive application of the gospel. The
gospel gets people converted and is, thus,
necessary in evangelism to build up the
church and because people need saving.
But, contrary to some popular misconcep-
tions, we do not move on from the gospel
in Christian living, but with the gospel.
The gospel is the power of God for all of
salvation, and this means that it is also the
matrix for sanctifcation. And it will be
the gospel that brings us to the consum-
mation in fnal glorifcation.
This raises all kinds of questions, not
least about preaching and teaching the
Bible in churches. I will return to that in
my next lecture. But, if we understand the
seminary to be the place where people are
prepared for such gospel-oriented min-
istries, the question is raised about how
the gospel is taught. We need to ask how
the Old Testament relates to such gospel
ministry. At the very least, we have to
say that the study of the Old Testament
is the study of the gospel in type. Gods
dealings with Israel testify to and fore-
shadow the gospel. The New Testament,
then, is the exposition of the gospel as
Jesus fulfls the expectations of the Old
Testament. Christian doctrine expounds
in contemporary terms the implications
of the gospel for our understanding of
God, humanity, and the created world.
Church History is the study of how suc-
cessive generations of Christians have
understood and responded to the gospel
in the world.
In an evangelical seminary, the almost
complete separation of biblical studies
from systematic theology, that Francis
Watson laments in his book Text and
is unlikely to happen. In other
words, teachers of systematic theology
will endeavor to teach what they believe
to be biblical and, therefore, true doctrine.
But how will the students perceive the
relationship of systematic theology to the
Bible? What is the goal of biblical studies?
The legacy of Gabler and the Enlighten-
ment was to bring about the separation
of Old Testament and New Testament
even by biblical theologians. The writ-
ing of biblical theologies of the whole
Bible was overshadowed in the twentieth
century by the plethora of either Old
Testament or New Testament theologies.
Even evangelical biblical scholars largely
avoided the task of an integrated biblical
theology. No doubt the necessary divi-
sion of labor and the sheer size of the task
would be cited in defence of this situa-
tion. The writing of biblical theologies of
the whole Bible has always been seen as
problematic. One reason for this is that
the theological relationship of the two
Testaments remains perhaps the great-
est of the ongoing problems for biblical
studies. Even when we assert that there
is no ideological reason for separating the
two Testaments, the need for division of
labor still exists. This diffculty is surely
refected in the seminary and Bible col-
lege curricula.
I think that there are at least two ques-
tions that must be constantly before the
seminary and Bible college. The frst is
What shall we do with the Bible? and
the second is the question Jesus asked,
What do you think of the Christ: whose
Son is he? These two questions are inter-
related in that the answer to each depends
on the answer to the other. This does not
reduce to a vicious circle, for we believe
that the sovereignty of God in salvation
brings us to a subjective conviction of the
objective truth of the gospel and, thus, of
the Bible. I refer again to the place of the
inner testimony of the Spirit who works
in tandem with the Word of God.
Unity and Distinction of
Theological Disciplines
One approach to defining biblical
theology, as a subject for the curriculum,
is to state it negatively in contrast to other
theological disciplines. In this regard,
there is some agreement that biblical
theology can be distinguished from
systematic theology; and that it is in some
sense historical and descriptive of what
is in the Bible. We may also recognize
both continuity with historical theology
as well as important differences. We can
defne biblical theology at its simplest as
theology as the Bible reveals it (that is,
within its historical framework and, thus,
as a process). Geerhardus Vos defnes it
thus: [biblical theology is] that branch
of Exegetical Theology which deals
with the process of the self-revelation
of God deposited in the Bible.
self-revelation involves the word of
God, communicated within history, and
revealing the nature of Gods acts within
human history. Voss relating of biblical
theology to exegetical theology (exegesis
with a view to getting at the theological
content of the text) reminds us that it
deals with the exegesis of the unique text
that we have received as the inspired
word of God.
In seeking to compare and contrast
the nature of biblical theology with other
theological disciplines we should not
overlook the diffculty in strictly defning
the parameters of each, or in assessing
the relationship they bear to one another.
Historically, the Reformation provided
an essential impetus to biblical theology.
Even modern Roman Catholic biblical
studies must owe something to the
fact that the Bible was released from its
bondage to a clerical monopoly. This was,
of course, not only due to the Reformers
recovery of the Bible, and translations into
the vernacular, but also to the invention
of the printing press. I have already
alluded briefy (in Lecture 1) to the fact
that Calvin in particular emphasized a
presuppositional approach that grounded
the hermeneutics and method of biblical
study in the Bible itself. Our ultimate
presupposition is the ontological Trinity
revealed through Jesus Christ. The
presuppositional framework includes
those basic biblical assertions that involve
the epistemology both of the unregenerate
and of the regenerate person. Bearing
in mind this presuppositional basis
for biblical theology, we can seek to
distinguish it from other disciplines in
terms of method and scope.
Biblical Theology is Distinct from
Systematic or Dogmatic Theology
When teaching biblical theology, I
constantly reminded the students that to
be good biblical theologians they need
also to be good systematic theologians.
While some distinguish systematic from
dogmatic theology (systematic theology
following a logical or philosophical
organization, and dogmatics following a
church confessional organization) I will
treat them here as one. This is Doctrine.
It is systematic because it involves the
systematic organization and classifcation
of the data of biblical doctrines on some
kind of logical basis. Biblical theology,
on t he ot her hand, adopts mai nly
redemptive-historical and thematic
perspectives. Systematics is dogmatic
in that it is the orderly arrangement of
the teachings of a particular view of
Christianity. Dogmatics involves the
crystallization of teachings as the end of
the process of revelation and as what is
to be believed now. While a high view
of doctrine would maintain that there
is a certain absolute and unchangeable
nature to the truth, it nevertheless
strives to represent it in a contemporary
fashion that is both understandable and
applicable in the present.
Doctrine does not seem to be very
highly regarded by a lot of evangelicals,
which is not only a pity, it is perilous. In
some cases it is due to a lack of careful
teaching or the failure to draw out the
doctrinal implications of a sermon. It is
a challenge to the professors of theology
to so enthuse the seminary students with
the importance of theology and doctrine
that they will see it as an integral part of
their on-going ministry.
Biblical theology looks at the progres-
sive revelation that leads to the final
formulation of doctrine. But, we remind
ourselves that, while systematic theology
is derivative of biblical theology, the two
continually interact. The relationship of
biblical and systematic theology is subject
to ongoing debate. While some of the
early impulse for biblical theology came
from the dissatisfaction with a sterile
orthodox approach to dogmatics, some
biblical theologies were nevertheless
driven by dogmatics in that the categories
of dogmatic theology were used for the
organization of biblical theology and
its concepts. This is one step away from
theology as the Bible presents it. This
organizational feature should be clearly
distinguished from the necessary use of
dogmatic truths as the presuppositions
for doing biblical theology.
While there is an important sense in
which biblical theology is derivative of
dogmatics, it is also true to assert that
biblical theology stems from a dogmatic
basis. This is the point I made in my frst
lecture that the ultimate presuppositions
of our dogmatic base go back to the
effectual call of the gospel of Christ. It is
his self-authenticating word that alone
can bring submission to the authority of
the Bible and engender a thirst for it as
the word of God. If it is true to say, as I
believe it is, that we begin with Christ so
that we may end with Christ, the formal
expression of this is that we begin with a
doctrinal presupposition so that we may
end with formulated doctrine.
In his editorial to Themelios (vol. 27, no.
3 [2001]) Carl Trueman expressed some
concern that the resurgence of biblical
theology in Britain, which had been partly
fuelled by its revival in Australia, was
showing a downside. He did not dispute
the importance of biblical theology, but
felt that, at least in the way some handled
it in Britain, it was leading to a neglect
of systematic theology in general and
of Trinitarian ontology in particular. I
was constrained to respond to this in an
article that Trueman graciously accepted
and published in Themelios (vol. 28, no.
1 [2002]). I felt that biblical theology was
being blamed for a problem that probably
had other causes. I had frst expressed my
views on the dogmatic basis of biblical
theology in an essay for the Broughton
Knox Festschrift published in 1986.
Jesus is Lord and Christ is a dogmatic
assertion which drives biblical theology:
Christ authenticated himself and
established the dogmatic basis upon
which the frst Christians engaged
in the task of understanding and
interpreting their Old Testament
scriptures. From the outset a funda-
mental Christology determines bib-
lical theology. It is Jesus Christ, the
Word incarnate, who informs the
biblical theologian of what actually
is happening in the whole expanse
of revelation.
The question of the relationship of
systematic and biblical theology has been
aired by a number of biblical scholars
over the years. Kevin Vanhoozer, in his
1994 Finlayson Lecture in Edinburgh,
argued for t he ref i nement of t he
biblical theologians approach to the
various literary genre of the Bible.
is a reminder that the matter of how
language works and is used by biblical
authors is crucial to theology. Mostly
the evangelical approach has been to
see a logical progression from exegesis
to a biblical-theological synthesis of the
sum of exegetical exercises, and thence
to the formulation of doctrine. There
is, of course, an undeniable logic to
this. My concern has been to keep this
within the evangelical hermeneutical
spiral. On these terms, biblical theology
is the activity of the epistemologically
regenerated mind that adopts the gospel
as its pou st, its fundamental reference

Biblical Theology is Distinct from
Historical Theology
If Biblical Theology is an historical
discipli ne, how does it differ from
historical theology? The latter is usually
taken to be the study of the history of
Christian doctrine or, more broadly, the
history of Christian ideas. It looks at
the way the church came to formulate
doctrines at different periods of its
history. It is interested in key Christian
t heologi ans and t hi nkers, and i n
the struggles that so often led to the
formulation of doctrines and confessions
of faith. It is, thus, an important dimension
of church history. Biblical theologians and
dogmaticians are concerned with the
history of theology because we do not
want constantly to reinvent the wheel,
nor do we want repeatedly to fall foul of
ancient heresies. To put it another way, we
do not do theology in a vacuum but from
within a living and historical community
of believers. We go on evaluating the
benefts of climbing on the backs of the
theologians that have gone before us.
In one sense historical theology is a
continuation of biblical theology in that
it refects on the theology of Gods people
at any given time. But there is an obvious
difference: just as the theological views
of Israel at any given point in history
do not necessarily coincide with the
theology of the Old Testament, so too in
the history of the church, the theology of
the people is not necessarily, in fact never
is completely, the theology of Jesus and
the apostles. The source materials of the
two disciplines are different. Historical
theology looks at how people responded
to the gospel revelation. Biblical theology
seeks to understand the revelation itself
as it unfolds.
Biblical Theology is Distinct from
Practical or Pastoral Theology
In general terms we are here talking
about formulations of different aspects
of the way the Word of God impinges
on peoples lives. Theologies of evange-
lism, church ministry and life, Christian
education, counselling, marriage and
human relationships, pastoral care, and
the like would all ft into this category.
If systematic theology is derivative of
biblical theology, then pastoral theol-
ogy is derivative of systematic theology.
Systematic theology is concerned with
the contemporary application of biblical
truth. Pastoral theology involves certain
specifcs of this contemporizing as it deals
with Christian behavior and practice.
Biblical theology interacts with, and even
presupposes certain aspects of systematic
theology. In the same way systematic the-
ology will fnd that it must interact with
pastoral theology so that it may address
the ongoing needs of the people of God.
Biblical Theology in Ministerial
Geerhardus Vos was installed as
professor of Biblical Theology at Princ-
eton Seminary in 1894. In his inaugural
lecture, he propounded his view of the
nature of biblical theology. He then went
on to say,
I have not forgotten, however, that
you have called me to teach this
science for the eminently practical
purpose of training young men for
the ministry of the Gospel.
Given that most theological curricula in
the seminaries and Bible colleges seem to
refect their nineteenth century roots, can
biblical theology be taught within such a
framework? I have argued that, to be true
to our evangelical view of the Bible, we
must engage biblical theology. The evan-
gelical institution is in an overall better
position to shape a biblically based course
than an institution driven by liberalism.
But, history suggests that a self-conscious
and intentional inclusion of biblical theol-
ogy is not endemic in evangelical insti-
tutions. If I am right in suggesting that
this refects our indebtedness to patterns
of pedagogy that developed under the
Enlightenment, then it is alarming. If it is
driven by the desire to maintain high aca-
demic standards that require a division
of labor, that is another matter. I suspect
that there is a further reason for the lack
of formal courses in biblical theology. It
is, I think, largely due to the uncertainties
that have surrounded the subject, and
the general state of fux that still exists.
As recently as 2001, J. G. McConville of
Gloucestershire University (UK) wrote,
Biblical theology is a somewhat
slippery creature, which at times
basks in the sun and at other times
retreats quietly, or even ignomini-
ously, into the shade. If it seems
at frst glance to have a simplicity
about it, this is deceptive, and it has
a habit of changing its form when
it re-emerges for another phase of
its life. At present, Biblical theology
shows signs of reaching its prime,
after a spell in the wilderness.
I suggest that it is up to the evangelical
scholars, seminaries and colleges to see
that this prime, if such it is, does not
lead to another retreat into the shade.
Two things at least will be needed for
this: frst, the ongoing struggle to defne
the foundations, the parameters, the
method, and the structure of biblical
theology, and, second, the implementa-
tion of courses of instruction in biblical
theology at both the undergraduate and
graduate level.
An examination of the literature by
evangelical biblical theologians illustrates
what I mean. There are clearly differences
of opinion about how to do biblical theol-
ogy, and, thus, of what a frst course in
biblical theology should look like. Writers
such as Vos, Clowney, and Van Gemeren
have given their analyses of the structure
of revelation. But a comparison of them
shows little agreement. More recently
Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen
have published The Drama of Scripture

designed as a text for an introductory
course in biblical theology. There are
great strengths to this book but it fails, in
my opinion, to adequately deal with the
structure of revelation. I myself believe
that the structure proposed by Hebert and
Robinson is the one that best lays bare the
matrix of progressive revelation.
Brevard Childs comments that G. E.
Wright lamented the neglect of biblical
theology in America, saying that it was
diffcult to fnd a leading graduate school
where one could specialize in it.
I did a graduate segment on biblical the-
ology, it was about biblical theologians,
not about the Bible itself. I believe we
need biblical theology as one of the frst
courses in Bible for all seminary students.
My opinion that is bred of my own experi-
ences is that biblical theology should not
only be a distinct subject in the seminary,
but also it should be a compulsory core
subject for anyone aspiring to be a teacher
of Gods word. But, can biblical theology
be taught within a curriculum structure
that does not include it as a discreet sub-
ject? Of course it can. But will it be? The
answer to that depends on the faculty
and the curriculum requirements of the
seminary. Within the departments of
biblical studies, will the Old Testament
professors know what the New Testament
professors are doing, and vice versa? Will
the teachers of biblical studies engender
a sense of biblical theology and train the
students in its method?
The separation of the disciplines was
encouraged by the secular tone of the
universities. Even in Europe, Britain,
and the US, once the Enlightenment had
taken hold, the separation was seen as
the academically respectable way to go.
But, in my understanding, the seminary
and the Bible college are signifcantly dif-
ferent from the university in their aims.
They will overlap to varying degrees
with the aims of the university faculties
of religion and theology, but their distinct
task is to prepare people for gospel min-
istry in the church of God. So, what kind
of training is necessary to best prepare
men and women for the whole range of
ministries in the church? At least since
the nineteenth century, the typical semi-
nary curricula have centered on the three
areas of Bible, Doctrine, and History, and
these, with a variety of skills training,
will go on providing the core of ministe-
rial education. It would be hard, I think,
to argue against their inclusion in some
way or other.
How such core courses are conducted
and with what kind of curricula is still an
issue. In considering this we should be
driven by our understanding of Christian
ministry and what lies at its heart. But,
our understanding of Christian ministry
will depend to a great degree on what
we do with the Bible. At a conference
on revisioning theological education for
the twenty-frst century held in Nairobi
in 1998, Victor Babajide Cole raised the
important matter of integration in the
theological curriculum.
In particular
he was concerned with the relationship
of theoretical theology to ministerial
practice. He referred to a book by Elliot
Eisner who suggested that formal school
curricula fall into three categories. These
are (1) the explicit curriculum of what the
school intentionally and in reality offers
to students; (2) the implied curriculum of
non-salient aspects of what the school in
fact teaches students but not intention-
ally so; and (3) the null curriculum of
things deliberately omitted from teaching
by the school. Biblical theology will be in
one or other of these categories, but in an
evangelical ministry school I believe it
belongs in the explicit curriculum. It may,
by default, be part of the implied curricu-
lum in biblical studies, which means that
it is probably a part of standard training
in exegesis. If it is in the null curricu-
lum, its absence will speak volumes in
the way students learn to handle the Bible
and how they pass on their habits to those
they preach to and teach.
As a teacher of Old Testament, I some-
times found myself out of step with col-
leagues who thought that Old Testament
means just that, and that establishing
links with the New Testament are not our
business. I had to disagree because I saw
before me each day men and women who
would go on to various ministry posi-
tions to expound the Old Testament as
Christian Scripture. Don Carson made a
similar point in his important 1995 article:
All Christian theologians, including
those whose area of specialization is
the Old Testament or some part of
it, are under obligation to read the
Old Testament, in certain respects,
with Christian eyes. . . . [N]o Chris-
tian Alttestamentler has the right
to leave the challenge of biblical
study to the New Testament depart-
ments. The Gospel records insist
that Jesus himself, and certainly his
earliest followers after him, read
the Old Testament in christological
ways. Jesus berated his followers for
not discerning these points them-
The bottom line in this is the question:
will the integration of theological studies
into a workable basis for Christian minis-
try be left to the students themselves, or
will the structure of the course provide
at least some guidance in this important
matter? I have reason to believe that once
students are aware of the potential of
biblical theology they are keen to engage
it. In recent years we have had a succes-
sion of students coming to Moore College
all the way from Britain and the United
States with the express purpose of taking
advantage of instruction in evangelical
biblical theology.
Biblical Theology and
The relationship of the twin concerns
of biblical theology and hermeneutics
was something that took me somewhat
unawares. When I wrote Gospel and
Kingdom, the title I proposed was the
rather prosaic A Christian Interpretation
of the Old Testament. In his wisdom, Peter
Cousins, the editor at Paternoster Press,
chose Gospel and Kingdom as the title and
my proposal became the sub-title. On the
second printing the back cover contained
a piece of a rather generous review from
a British journal, The Christian Graduate.
It began, At last! A book on hermeneu-
tics for the ordinary man in the pew. It
suddenly dawned how thick-headed I
had been not to realize that my pursuit
of a biblical theology was an exercise in
hermeneutics. I have been rather relent-
less in applying this insight, if coming
to see the blindingly obvious can be
called an insight. When I wanted to give
something back for the three years I had
been able to spend at Union Theological
Seminary in Virginia devoting myself
for most of the time to the study of the
Wisdom literature, it seemed only right
and logical to write something of a bib-
lical theology of wisdom for ordinary
Christians. Hence Gospel and Wisdom

was the result. Now, I rarely tackle a
subject that requires Christian comment
and appraisal without asking the biblical
theological question. My method is to
start with Jesus and the apostles to make
clear that we always go back to the Old
Testament to read it through Christian
eyes. I start with Christ so that I may fn-
ish with him. Hermeneutically he is the
Alpha and the Omega.
While there is a great deal of literature
available on a whole range of important
topics written by credible and able evan-
gelical theologians, the place of biblical
theology as a way of gaining a good
understanding of specifc matters is not
so much in evidence. It seemed to me
that this can only refect our failure to
instruct students, the future preachers,
teachers, and writers, in biblical theology
as a method of coming to grips with the
multitude of topical issues that face the
ordinary Christian. When Moore College
gave me time off to write my book on
I searched through a mass of
literature in the Moore College library on
the theory and practice of preaching. The
element almost totally lacking in books
by evangelical as well as non-evangelical
writers, even those who saw expository
preaching as of prime importance, was
biblical theology as one of the preachers
key tools of trade.
When, at the suggestion of a student, I
set out to write my book on Prayer and the
Knowledge of God,
again I searched the
literature. I could not fnd anything that
approached being a biblical theology of
prayer. Most of the books were about the
importance, the purpose, and the practice
of prayer. How can such a massive and
important subject be really understood
without tracing its part in the progressive
revelation in the Bible?
Because Christian ministry is gos-
pel ministry, seminary teachers need
to understand that we are all inter-
dependent in our own specialities. Our
common love of the Bible means that we
should be more aware of how the Bible
is being taught and applied in courses
other than our own. The great advantage
of the wider move to canonical theology
is the serious manner in which it treats
the Christian Bible as one book. As I
have already indicated, evangelicals have
always been people of the canon, though
unfortunately this is often the theory
rather than the practice. No professor of
New Testament studies can avoid deal-
ing with the wider canon since the Old
Testament keeps appearing as the pre-
supposition to the theology of the New
Testament. Old Testament professors
perhaps need the canonical perspective
to be more intentionally before them.
For me it was the theology of the Old
Testament that found its fulflment in the
New that made it imperative to at least
raise the question of how the Old Testa-
ment should be interpreted as Christian
Scripture. The other motivation was the
pastoral one and the conviction that the
Old Testament is a book about Christ. At
the 2000 Wheaton conference on bibli-
cal theology, Paul House commented,
[F]rom positive collaboration with bibli-
cal, dogmatic, philosophical and practical
scholars I am convinced that unitary bib-
lical theology is the best venue for experts
in these felds to share their best insights
with one another.
Summary Conclusion
This lecture has been very much a
personal odyssey that I hope has not been
tedious for you. There are at least two
reasons why I have gone down this track.
The frst is that I think it is important for
people to understand how a particular
emphasis arose and why there is a bit of
a crusade going on to promote biblical
theology. The second is related, in that I
am still on a mission. That mission is to
try to remove some of the ambiguity and
uncertainty about the pursuit of biblical
theology as a distinct discipline in its own
right. I wish that every seminary and
Bible college would take up the challenge
to provide an introductory course in big
picture biblical theology and then strive
to keep the vision alive in the way biblical
studies are conducted.
I believe that it is doubly important
that evangelical colleges teach biblical
theology, deliberately, intentionally,
and not just hope that the biblical stud-
ies teachers between them will get the
message across. One reason why it is
not done is specialization. A second is
that academic deans and registrars are
understandably shy of one more course
on top of the large number already
clamoring for attention as necessary in
ministerial training. A third is perhaps
the main reason for the neglect of biblical
theology. Even among evangelicals there
is no real consensus about what biblical
theology is and how it should be done.
Because of these diffculties, I recognize
that the approach to biblical theology in
individual seminaries and Bible colleges
may differ from what I have suggested. I
certainly do not want to imply criticism of
situations of which I have no knowledge
or do not understand. These are my per-
sonal convictions born of my experience
as a Christian minister living in one of the
most secular of western societies.
I will close on this note: I believe that,
if we begin with Christ clothed in his
gospel and work out from there, not only
is biblical theology possible, but it is an
absolute necessity in order to be con-
sistent with the gospel. At a time when
everything seems to conspire to convey
a sense of the diversity of Scripture, we
need to recover its unity within diver-
sity. An evangelical biblical theology
employs the Trinitarian and Christologi-
cal perspective of unity and diversity. I
can think of no better way to make the
great Reformation dicta become realities
as we proclaim salvation that is by grace
alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone,
grounded on the Scriptures alone, and all
this to the glory of God alone.
This article was originally presented as
part of the Gheens Lectures, delivered
March 18-20, 2008, at The Southern Bap-
tist Theological Seminary.
D. W. B. Robinson, Origins and Unre-
solved Tensions, in Interpreting Gods
Plan (ed. R. J. Gibson; Carlisle: Paternos-
ter, 1997), 5.
Ibid., 1.
Ibid., 5
Ibid., 6.
Ibid., 7-9.
Ibid., 9.
Gospel and Kingdom: A Christian Inter-
pretation of the Old Testament (Exeter:
Paternoster, 1981).
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revela-
tion of God in the Bible (Leicester: Inter-
Varsity, 1991).
Francis Watson, Text and Truth: Redefning
Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerd-
mans, 1997).
Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old
and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Eerd-
mans, 1948), 13.
Thus Says the Lord: The Dogmatic
Basis of Biblical theology, in God Who
is Rich in Mercy: Essays Presented to D.
B. Knox (ed. P. T. OBrien and D. G.
Peterson; Homebush West: Lancer, 1986),
Ibid., 33.
Kevin Vanhoozer, From Canon to Con-
cept: Same and Other in the Relation
Between Biblical and Systematic Theol-
ogy, Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theol-
ogy 12, no. 2 (1994): 96-124.
G. Vos, The Idea of Biblical Theology
as a Science and as a Theological
Discipl i ne, i n Redemptive History
and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter
Writings of Geerhardus Vos (ed. R. B.
Gaffn; Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and
Reformed, 1980).
J. G. McConville, Biblical Theology:
Canon and Plain Sense, Scottish Bulletin
of Evangelical Theology 19, no. 2 (2001):
Craig Bart holomew and Michael
Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Find-
ing Our Place in the Biblical Story (Grand
Rapids: Baker, 2004).
Craig Bartholemew, Introduction
to Out of Egypt: Biblical Theology and
Biblical Interpretation (Scripture and
Hermeneutics Series; vol. 5; Milton
Keynes: Paternoster, 2004), 4.
Victor Babajide Cole, Integration in the
Theological Curriculum, Evangeli-
cal Review of Theology 23, no. 2 (1999):
D. A. Carson, Current Issues
i n Bibl ical Theology: A New
Testament Perspective, Bulletin for
Biblical Research 5 (1995): 40f.
Now included in The Goldsworthy
Trilogy (Milton Keynes: Paternoster,
Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian
Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
Prayer and the Knowledge of God:
What the Whole Bible Teaches (Leices-
ter: InterVarsity, 2003).
Paul House, Biblical Theology and
the Wholeness of Scripture, in Bib-
lical Theology: Retrospect and Prospect
(ed. Scott Hafemann; Downers
Grove: InterVarsity, 2002), 270.
Lecture 3: Biblical Theology
in the Local Church and the Home
Graeme Goldsworthy
Biblical Theology and
Expository Preaching
In his book, The Sermon Under Attack,
Klaas Runia quotes P. T. Forsyth as saying,
It is, perhaps, an overbold beginning, but
I will venture to say that with its preach-
ing Christianity stands and falls.
is no doubt that we are faced with the
hard questions of the nature of preaching
and its importance. Do we capitulate to
the modern theorists and theologians, or
do we press on and preach the traditional
Sunday sermon expounding the Bible and
calling people to repentance and faith?
Do we persevere in this even if it seems
that in numbers of regular listeners we
may be losing ground? As far back as the
early 1970s, a survey in the United States
showed that, on the whole, evangelical
seminaries were growing at a time that
many of the more liberal ones were strug-
gling to maintain numbers of students.
Certainly that is still the situation in
Australia. Many evangelicals would sug-
gest that their emphasis on the Bible as
the focus of the teaching and preaching
of the church is one main reason for such
growth. Anecdotal evidence would indi-
cate that there is something in this claim.
Evangelical Protestants stand in a
long and venerable tradition, going back
to the Reformation, of the centrality of
preaching in the activities of the gathered
congregation. We could appeal to the
practice of the Reformers, the Puritans,
and the leaders of the Evangelical revival,
not to mention all the great preachers of
the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth
centuries. There are stirring accounts of
men like Wesley, Whitefeld, Spurgeon
and, more recently, Campbell Morgan,
Lloyd-Jones, and Billy Graham, whose
preaching to thousands was profoundly
effective in the conversion and edifca-
tion of so many. We have to ask about the
stimulus for this activity through which
multitudes have been converted to Christ.
Can it really be simply a passing phenom-
enon destined to become outdated as we
have now entered a more technologically
oriented age of electronic communication
media? There are good biblical reasons
for not giving up on preaching the word.
To begin with, there is a close rela-
tionship between preaching and bibli-
cal theology. Peter Adam, in his article,
Preaching and Biblical Theology in
the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology
says that we can summarize a biblical
theology of preaching thus: God has
spoken; It is written; Preach the Word.

We can of course be more precise about
such a biblical theology to show how the
practice of proclamation of the Word of
God lies at the very heart of the bibli-
cal story of salvation. On the one hand
a biblical theological survey of the role
of proclamation in the Scriptures is
important for understanding the central-
ity of the preached word in the world
today. On the other hand the nature of
the word preached will affect the way
preaching is undertaken. This is where
biblical theology should be no longer an
Graeme Goldsworthy is a minister
of the Anglican Church of Australia and
has served in churches in Sydney and
Brisbane. He is a graduate of the Uni-
versities of Sydney, London, and Cam-
bridge, and earned his Ph.D. at Union
Theological Seminar y in Richmond,
Virginia. He lectured at Moore Theologi-
cal College, Sydney, in Old Testament,
Biblical Theology, and Hermeneutics.
Now retired, Dr. Goldswor thy continues
as a visiting lecturer at Moore College
to teach a four th-year B.D. course in
Evangelical Hermeneutics. He is the au-
thor of many books, including Preaching
the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture
(Eerdmans, 2000), According to Plan:
The Unfolding Revelation of God in the
Bible (InterVarsit y, 2002), and Gospel-
Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations
and Principles of Evangelical Biblical
Interpretation (InterVarsit y, 2007).
optional extra for enthusiasts, for it is
the very heart of expository preaching.
There is a well-known adage that a
text without a context is a pretext. But,
what is the necessary context of any
given text that prevents it from becom-
ing a pretext? The evangelical doctrine
of Scripture includes the unity of the
Spirit-inspired testimony to the Christ
within the whole canon. We should need
to ask the question about context only
to remind ourselves that it is a given. To
ask about the context of a given text is to
ask about its meaning; it is even to ask
what we may legitimately designate by
the literal meaning of the text. Francis
Watsons proposal merits consideration.

He says the literal sense of the biblical
texts comprises (1) verbal meaning (locu-
tion), (2) illocutionary and perlocutionary
force, and (3) the relation to the center.
For those unfamiliar with the terminol-
ogy of speech-act theory, the frst two
relate to authorial intent, and the third
to what Watson calls the speech-act that
lies at the centre of Christian scripture,
the life, death and resurrection of Jesus
as the enfeshment and the enactment of
the divine Word.
Watson is thus happy
to describe the incarnate Christ as the
central speech-act of Scripture and the
literal meaning of a text includes its rela-
tionship to him.
The answer we give to the question:
what do you think of the Christ? will
inevitably refect our understanding of
the unity of the Bible. Biblical Theology
reminds us that the understanding of the
whole is built up from the parts and, at
the same time, the parts can only be fully
understood as parts of the whole. Biblical
theology, as I have thus far tried to defne
it, involves us in the two-fold exercise of
analysis or exegesis of individual texts,
and the synthesis of the individual texts
into a big picture or metanarrative. Once
we accept the overall unity of the Bible we
have to realize that every single text is in
some way supported by every other text.
No individual part of Scripture stands
alone. The context of any text, which
prevents its misuse, is the whole canon.
This, in practical terms, does not mean
that we have to be making explicit links
from, say, a chosen text being preached,
across to every other text. It would be
impossible to do so. But it does mean that
we will be aware that there are such links
and that we need to explore the important
paths that our text points us to. This is
not merely the progression through texts
from one part of Scripture in order to fnd
its meaning in another. There is an inter-
play of texts that affects the meaning of
all of them. Above all, the fact that Jesus
is the center of Scripture and that he is
the one Mediator between God and man,
seems to me to indicate that the connec-
tion between texts, however far apart they
are, is to be found by the relationship of
each to the center, that is, to the Christ of
the gospel.
Biblical theology provides the needed
way of handling the contextual signif-
cance of the preachers chosen text. We
should remind ourselves that the three
dimensions of Scripture; the literary, the
historical, and the theological, are insepa-
rably interwoven. To deal with the literary
qualities of the text apart from its place in
the ongoing history of the saving acts of
God will reduce it to a timeless platitude
whose relationship to the Word of God is
immediately jeopardized. It has been one
of the features of modern hermeneutic
confusion that the emphasis on the locus
of meaning has shifted from theology to
history and then to literature, as if these
were alternate possibilities instead of
interdependent realities. Likewise, the
movement of the hermeneutical focus
from authorial intent, to autonomous text,
and fnally to the reader has also involved
an either-or perspective, rather than a
both-and perspective. It is one of the
strengths of the adaptation of speech-
act theory by a number of theologians
including Kevin Vanhoozer, Nicholas
Wolterstorff, and Anthony Thiselton, that
it has refocused the legitimate place of
all three loci. Christians should be sensi-
tive to the need to focus on all legitimate
dimensions as interdependent and not
treat one at the expense of the others. As I
have already asserted, the doctrine of the
Trinity and its correlate in the doctrine of
the two natures of Christ should remind
us that relationships exist as unity and
Biblical theology enables us to under-
stand the biblical teaching on any given
topic in a holistic way. We are not depen-
dent on a few proof-texts for the establish-
ment of a doctrine or for understanding
the nature of some important concept.
We can look at what lies behind the
developed concept as we may have it
in the New Testament, and ask what is
really impelling it into the prominence it
has. We can observe the various strands
that give this doctrine its texture and its
richness. We can then better evaluate the
importance it should have in the contem-
porary church.
Here, then, is the challenge to the
preacher who would be true to the bibli-
cal text so that the use of individual texts
does not become a pretext. Preaching that
uses a snippet of biblical text as a spring-
board for launching into a discourse
on anything and everything other than
what the text is really about in its own
context, is guilty of distorting the word
and robbing it of its true saving power.
It is a matter of concern that so many
books on preaching seem to be mostly
concerned with sermon craft, rhetoric,
and communication. For some reason,
the obvious perspective of the unity of
the Bible, the overall message of biblical
revelation, seems to become submerged
under a mass of lesser concerns.
As I mentioned in my previous lecture,
when I was researching my book Preach-
ing the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture
I was disappointed to find that, even
among evangelical writers on preach-
ing, the subject of biblical theology was
rarely mentioned. In books dealing with
the importance of expository preaching
one might expect some emphasis on the
need for a holistic approach to the bibli-
cal canon. I believe that it is the role of
biblical theology to provide us with that
perspective of the unifed message of the
Bible. In keeping with my stated prefer-
ence for opening up any biblical topic
using the method of biblical theology,
I would have liked here to give a more
detailed introduction to a biblical theol-
ogy of preaching. This would be to deal
with the theme of preaching or procla-
mation in the Bible rather than dealing
with the matter of our preaching from
the Bible. However, the two are closely
related if distinguishable. A biblical theol-
ogy of the theme of the word of God and
its proclamation provides the structure
and motive for applying the discipline
of biblical theology more generally to the
task of preaching.
In my previous lectures I have endeav-
ored to show something of the structure
of the metanarrative of Scripture. In
essence it was described as the revelation
of Gods kingdom, and of the way into it,
in three stages: the kingdom revealed in
Israels history; the kingdom revealed in
prophetic eschatology; and the kingdom
revealed as fulflled in Christ. Each of
these stages is related to the others, but
in the end salvation is through Christ and
him alone. This salvation is not merely
the initial experience of conversion and
the consequent hope of heaven. It also
involves the whole process by which,
during this life, God is conforming us
through his word and Spirit more and
more into the image of Christ, and the gift
of perseverance by which he will bring us
fnally to glory. Thus, all proclamation,
including that of the Old Testament, must
somehow point people to Christ. Chris-
tian living and sanctifcation are moti-
vated and structured by the gospel. In
theological terms, our justifcation is the
basis of our sanctifcation. Furthermore,
the gospel of our justifcation establishes
the pattern for eschatology. Just as the
most important thing that is said about
humanity in creation is in terms of our
relationship to God as created in his
image, so the most important thing that
can be said about redeemed humanity
in the regeneration is our relationship to
Christ who is the true image of God. It is
the role of biblical theology to uncover the
relationship of every part of the Bible to
Christ so that we can preach Christ from
all of Scripture, and relate our redeemed
humanity to Christ by means of every
part of Scripture.
The preacher, then, seeks first to
understand the text in itself by means
of exegesis. But the task is not fnished
until that text, with all its detail, is related
to the fulflment it has in Christ. In this
stage of exegesis one should not hurry on
to Christ too quickly. To do so can lead
to a superfcial understanding of the text
which, in turn, will lead to a superfcial
understanding of the Christ to whom it
points and testifes. In considering the
task of preaching from the Old Testa-
ment we are led by the study of biblical
theology to take account of the way that
every event and person, every theological
concept, somehow fnds its fulflment in
Christ. To fesh out that rather extreme
statement, let me propose the following
Christological markers (each of which
could be the subject of a separate lecture):
(1) Christ is the God of the Old
Testament who has now come in
the fesh.
(2) Christ is the true and faithful
people of God.
(3) Christ is the true Israel, the true
Son of David, and thus the true Son
of God.
(4) Christ is, in his humanity, the
new creation.
(5) Christ is the prophet, priest,
king, wise man, and faithful Isra-
(6) Christ is the new temple in which
God dwells among his people.
Each of these points is, I believe, sustain-
able from the way the New Testament
treats the fulfllment of the Old Testa-
ment in Christ. The dark side must also
be recognized. If Jesus, who knew no
sin, was made sin for our sake, (2 Cor
5:21), then his act of vicarious sacrifce
and atonement demonstrates to the full-
est extent the seriousness of sin. In that
sense he even functions as the antitype
of creations alienation from God.
All of these roles can be seen in the
way the New Testament relates the Old
Testament to Christ. This relationship is
a two-way thing; we understand the New
Testament only as the fulfllment of the
Old. On the other hand the message of
the New is that Jesus of Nazareth makes
clear the full meaning of the Old. Thus,
there is priority to the New for it brings to
us the revelation of Gods fnal and fullest
word which is Jesus.
Preachers who ignore these relation-
ships or who avoid the task of trying to
understand them, do so to their detri-
ment. Those who work at understand-
ing the Bible on its own terms will be
rewarded over and over as people come
alive to the proclamation of a Bible that is
understandable in its one comprehensive
message about God, his righteous judg-
ment, his love for us in Christ, and the
coming of his kingdom. Only by such
a holistic exposition can we convey the
necessity and nature of Gods judgment
to a skeptical world. When we apply
biblical theology to preaching, and do so
with prayerful humility before God, we
may expect that the power of the gospel to
convert and to change peoples lives will
be most evident.
Having said all that, I need to point
out that the place of biblical theology in
expository preaching is not always agreed
upon or understood by evangelicals. I
believe one main reason for this is the
fuid nature of biblical-theological study
and the lack of consensus about what it
entails. Recently I have received emails
from a young pastor in the Netherlands,
a pastor of a Flemish church in Belgium,
a pastor from a large church in Illinois,
and a former student now ministering in
an Anglican Church in Sydneys west. The
frst three of these echoed matters that
some Moore College students brought
to my attention soon after I returned to
teach there in 1995. The gist of the com-
mon problem raised was that certain
diffculties arise from the application of
my biblical theological perspective to
the Old Testament as a means of fnding
the signifcance of the text in relation to
Jesus. Exposition of the Old Testament
text inevitably seemed to be a precursor
to a predictable and almost stereotyped
application. This was variously described
as: Ho-hum! Here comes the Jesus bit,
or So now we can say Hooray for Jesus.
My former student told me that some
time ago he had preached on 1 Samuel 17
giving a biblical-theological account of
the signifcance of David slaying Goliath.
Subsequently, an elderly retired minister
in the congregation indicated some dis-
quiet about the way the sermon had been
handled. The matter he raised was the old
controversy between exemplary preach-
ing as against a redemptive-historical
approach. Specifcally, he suggested that
Hebrews 11 gave grounds for emphasiz-
ing Davids faith as an example to us,
rather than the redemptive-historical per-
spective on David as a type of Christ, our
substitute redeemer. However, I do not
believe that a careful reading of Hebrews
11 does lead us to that conclusion in view
of the qualifcations made in vv. 13-16
and 39-40. In any case it is not a bland
either-or situation. My correspondent
referred to the retired mans view that
biblical theology was the scourge of the
recent crop of students graduating from
Moore College!
The question of the problem of all Old
Testament sermons ending up with the
same platitudes about trusting Jesus is
important. If that is what happens, then
there is something seriously wrong. Since
Jesus and the apostles testify to the fact
that the Old Testament is a book about
Christ we must be careful to understand
what it is saying before running too
quickly to the New Testament and fnding
a superfcial or stereotyped fulfllment
in Christ. The Reformers were clear that
the foundations of Christology were to
be found in the Old Testament. On this
basis they could speak of Jesus in terms
of his role as prophet, priest, and king. To
these I would add the role of wise man,
although wisdom could be subsumed
under the fulfllment of Davidic (and Sol-
omonic) kingship. I have already alluded
in my frst lecture to my understanding
of Christ as the one who reconnects all
things in himself. The great cosmic pas-
sages such as Eph 1:10 and Col 1:15-20 are
important here. I will not repeat what I
have already said. I want only to empha-
size that there is a great deal more to Jesus
than his being the Son of God who died
on the cross for our sins. Our Christology
as it comes out in our preaching should
refect every aspect of reality that is dealt
with in both Old and New Testaments.
Biblical Theology in
Christian Education
Biblical theology involves big picture
Bible reading. The canon is the ultimate
context that provides the hermeneutical
framework for any text of the Bible. As I
have already indicated, biblical theology
should aim to uncover and show the
inter-connectedness of all parts of the
Bible. My experience is that adults, many
who have been Christians for a long time,
express some amazement that they have
never seen or been shown this macro-
structure of revelation before. Certainly
a lot of published curricula for teachers
of children and young people seem to
major on fragmentary approaches to
the Bible. One of the prime reasons for
teaching adults to become mature in their
understanding of the Bible is that most
of them sooner or later will have some
teaching role, if not in Sunday Schools
and youth groups, then as parents of
their own children. In my opinion, no
person should be assigned to teach the
Bible in church groups unless they have
read and understood some basic biblical
theology. Ideally, they should have
undergone some more formal instruction
in biblical theology. Pastors also have a
responsibility to see that Sunday school
curricula and teaching materials used for
all age groups are at least gospel-based
and Christ-centred. But, I would argue
for more. We need Christian education
curricula and courses for all ages that
enable the learners to grasp the sense of
the one complete and integrated message
of Scripture.
One of the difficulties we face is
created by who we are as evangelicals.
We believe passionately in the need
for people, young and old, to make a
personal response of faith to the gospel,
and to maintain that commitment of faith
to their lifes end. Some evangelicals tend
to assume that the task of any and every
session of Bible teaching is not completed
until some kind of imperatival application
and even appeal has been made.
Let me clarify this. I am certainly
not opposed to application since every
part of the Bible certainly applies to
us. All Scripture is breathed out by
God and profitable for teaching, for
reproof, for correction, and for training in
righteousness, that the man of God may
be competent, equipped for every good
work (2 Tim 3:16-17). It is the question of
how it applies that is the issue. Over the
years that I have listened to Bible talks
and group discussions, I have noticed that
a certain perspective almost always seems
to predominate. After some brief attempt
to understand what the passage is saying,
the questions frequently asked frst are
how does this apply to us?; what does
this teach us about ourselves?; or, what
is God saying to me? But, it seems to me
that this is to jump the gun and, to mix
the metaphors, to be in danger of short-
circuiting the texts.
Let me put it another way. Gramma-
tically, the biblical material is cast in
two main modes: the indicative and the
imperative. Biblical narrative is essen-
tially indicative, that is, it is a telling of
what is (or was). One of the prevalent
errors in much Christian writing and
preaching is to simply turn indica-
tives into imperatives. This is done in
the interests of relevance and personal
involvement. But the Bible presents very
clear distinctions between indicatives and
imperatives. The gospel is indicative. The
call to repentance and faith is impera-
tive. How we live as Christians is the
imperative, of which the New Testament
contains much. But the imperatives, the
oughts of the Christian life, spring from
the indicatives of the gospel. Of course,
even imperatives can be misapplied when
taken out of context. The application of
the Sinai law is an obvious case.
The classic evangelical piety that wants
to leap from the narrative immediately to
the imperatives usually manages to short-
circuit the text so that the biblical road
from, say, an Old Testament narrative
to us bypasses the central indicative
which is Christ. At best, this fails to
show the genuine connection between
text and hearer. At worst, it results in
moralizing, distorted pietism, and even
gross legalism. Thus, the frst question
that I believe we should ask when it
comes to the matter of applying the
text is not What does this tell us about
ourselves? but What does this tell us
about Christ?
I want to make a brief comment about
biblical theology and young people.
Developmental psychologists may tell us
that young children fnd abstract concepts
diffcult to assimilate. The retired minis-
ter that I referred to earlier, who criticized
the David and Goliath sermon, had spent
most of his ministry dealing with Chris-
tian education for young people. He felt
that children fnd the biblical theological
approach too abstract, whereas using
David directly and fully in exemplary
fashion (with all the incidentals) is more
concrete. I respect this mans experience,
but I think he has really not understood
what biblical theology is about. For chil-
dren, the telling of the biblical narrative
should be just that. There is nothing
abstract about telling the stories of what
God has done. Furthermore, exhorting
children to have faith without coming to
the point of what the object of that faith
is, is about as abstract as you could get!
I am confdent that, had the sermon in
question been delivered to children, the
approach would have been appropriately
geared to the younger audience.
The teenage years are crucial for the
formation of mature, adult views of life
and faith. While it may be important to
treat matters in a more problem-centred
way, the last thing Christian high school
students need is mere legalism or a mys-
tical relation with Jesus. Problem-based
studies dealing with relationships, sexu-
ality, drugs, social justice, environment
and the like, need a biblical-theological
underpinning so that it becomes second
nature to search for the Christian position
as one that is implicated by the gospel.
The alternative is to provide pat, ready-
made answers supported by proof texts
and in isolation from the solutions to
other problems. Not only is this spoon-
feeding approach misleading, it does not
help the students learn how to use the
Bible for themselves. To teach biblical
theology is to teach people to read the
Bible intelligently.
Biblical Theology in the
Christian Home
While there are some obvious differ-
ences between the Christian home and
the local church, there are also some
important similarities. Most Christian
parents, I think, would recognize the
duty they have to extend the ministry of
the church into their home-life in mat-
ters of leadership and spiritual nurture.
Whether we operate in a baptistic or a
paedobaptist-covenantal framework is, in
my opinion, not the ultimately signifcant
thing. Evangelicals of both persuasions
agree on this: that the child of a Christian
home is a gift of God to the parents who
have the privilege and responsibility to
make the person and work of Christ real
to that child. Blended with the normal
parental love and nurture will be prayer,
a progressive instruction in the word of
God, and reliance on the Holy Spirit to
apply Gods word.
Unfortunately, we have not always
been well served in childrens literature.
This situation is sometimes reflected
in the curricula produced for Sunday
Schools. In my experience two main
problems characterized a lot of material
for young people. The frst was fragmen-
tation so that there was little sense of the
unity of the biblical story. The second
was the constant style of application. If it
wasnt repetitiously evangelistic, it was
moralistic and thus verging on legalism.
I know this is a gross generalization, and
I can only speak out of my own limited
experience. Years ago I started saying that
we really need a good biblical theology
written for children. I knew I was not a
childrens writer although from time to
time I was urged to give it a go. Recently
an excellent work for young children has
appeared from Crossway in Wheaton.
This is David Helms The Big Picture Story

There is one aspect of teaching the
Bible in the Christian home that I believe
needs to be emphasized. The strategy of
application in the home should not be
the same as the strategy at an evange-
listic meeting or in the weekly sermon.
I sometimes think that evangelicals are
lacking in confdence in the power of the
word to do its work. It seems to me that it
is more important to allow the teaching of
the Bible to build a sense of the narrative
that leads to Jesus, than to be constantly
trying to find an immediate personal
application every time the Bible is opened
or a Bible story told. Constant application
easily leads to the child believing that this
Christian faith stuff is all about what he
or she must do. The missing focus is often
the sense that this is what God has done.
What God has done should take priority.
It must do, for until there is a sense of
what God has done any application in
terms of what we must do will be warped
and corrupted. At the evangelistic level,
there is no point in telling children, or
adults, that they need to trust in Jesus
until we have told them what that means,
why they need to, who Jesus is and what
he has done to make him worth trusting.
The Pastor as a Biblical Theologian
I believe people in churches have the
right to expect their pastors to be both
godly and competent in theology. Just
what criteria they have to assess such
competency would vary a great deal
from church to church and from person
to person. It is not too much to suppose
that good theological training will fnd
expression as professional competence
in the way the pastor preaches, teaches,
evangelizes, counsels, and answers dif-
fcult questions. The pastor who has been
tuned to biblical theology will, I believe,
have the potential to give better leader-
ship in some important areas. I would
like to suggest at least fve areas in which
biblical theology might be seen as integral
to a soundly biblical pastoral practice.

First, biblical theology is integral to, and
helps promote, a high view of the Bible. This
for many people means a high doctrine
of Scripture, perhaps in terms of the
supreme authority of the inspired and
infallible texts. Certainly, the supreme
authority of the Bible over tradition and
reason is a generally accepted mark
of evangelicalism. By a high view of
the Bible, I mean that once the chosen
doctrinal terminology concerning the
nature and authority of the Bible has
been duly considered and installed, this
will be employed self-consciously and
with intent as the touchstone of all faith
and practice. Biblical theology can play a
signifcant role in this.
To begin with, biblical theology, by
exposing the inner structure of biblical
revelation becomes the source of an ongo-
ing adventure in discovering new ways
that the texts are interconnected. The
interconnectedness of texts is what gives
them meaning. The more we understand
the structure of Scripture, the better able
we will be to fnd our own place within
the biblical story.
That is to be well on
the way to making valid interpretations
of the way particular texts apply to us.
Quite simply, if we can see how any text
relates to Jesus Christ then, since we also
study to know how the people of God
relate to him, we can grow in understand-
ing of how the text relates to us through
Christ the mediator. One of the greatest
antidotes to destructive critical views is
the biblical-theological perspective on
the coherence of the whole canon. To take
one example: In the 1980s a prominent
Anglican bishop called into question the
orthodox Christian doctrine of the bodily
resurrection of Jesus. He was quoted as
saying that we did not need a knock-
down miracle to impress us. If, as it
seems, he was implying that Christians
saw the resurrection purely as a story
calculated to impress unbelievers, then he
totally missed the point. Biblical theology
helps us to see the connection between all
the promises of God to Israel, and Jesus
in his resurrection.
Second, biblical theology promotes a high
Christology. This is to approach the ques-
tion, What do you think of the Christ;
whose Son is he? When Hans Kng, the
rather unconventional Roman Catholic
theologian, wrote his book On Being a
Christian, he asked a pointed and disturb-
ing question: which Christ?
Christ do we proclaim and worship? Is
it the Christ of popular piety, the Christ
who requires us to approach him through
his mother, the Christ of dogma, the
Christ of the enthusiasts, or the Christ of
literature? There are two main ways to
pursue the subject of Christology that,
I believe, are complementary. The one is
a biblical-theological approach, and the
other is a dogmatic approach. Both are
necessary, but the need for a thoroughgo-
ing biblical-theological approach is not
always appreciated at the level of pasto-
ral ministry. It is important that people
know something of the one they are being
exhorted to put their trust in. Have we not
all at some time heard the evangelistic
sermon that calls on people to come to
Jesus without having given the slightest
indication as to why and on what basis?
When biblical theology shows us how all
the great themes about God, his people,
and the promises are gathered together
in Christ, then faith in Christ takes on
a meaning that is all too rarely attained.
Third, biblical theology promotes a high
view of the gospel. Very early in the history
of the church, the loss of the objective
and historic gospel went hand in hand
with the loss of the historical and natural
meaning of the Old Testament. Catholi-
cism developed on the back of a biblical
theology heavily slanted towards the alle-
gorical interpretation of Scripture. Both
Catholicism and allegorical interpretation
involved the de-historicizing of the gos-
pel. The Reformation re-historicized both
the gospel and the Old Testament. The
prime focus recovered in the Reformation
was the justifcation of the sinner on the
basis of the objective, historical work of
Christ for us. Catholicism had reversed
the vision so that the prime focus was on
the work of Christ, or his Spirit, within
us. This meant the reversal of the rela-
tionship of sanctifcation to justifcation.
Infused grace, beginning with baptismal
regeneration, internalized the gospel, and
made sanctifcation the basis of justifca-
tion. This is an upside-down gospel.
The attempts of the Antiochenes to
keep an historical and typological her-
meneutic to the fore largely failed to
take hold in the medieval church. Thus,
the historical acts of God in the Old
Testament were allegorized into being
something other than the typological
and historical antecedents to the histori-
cal gospel. Many evangelicals, I fear, are
more Catholic than Protestant in that
the main focus of the gospel is seen to
be Jesus living in my heart. This is the
Roman Catholic infused grace all over
again with the same results. Assurance of
salvation is seen to be based on the sub-
jective experience of sanctifcation, and is,
thus, eroded if not completely destroyed.
I am asserting that the loss of a robust
biblical theology from our evangelical
preaching and teaching leads to a blur-
ring of the gospel. The important biblical
doctrine of the new birth of the believer
has often been hijacked from its biblical-
theological context and transformed to
become the essential gospel. In practice,
much evangelical ministry concentrates
more on what God can do in our lives
now, at the expense of what God has done
for us in the life, death, and resurrection
of Jesus. Of course both are valid aspects
of the biblical teaching, but it is the per-
spective of the relationship of the two that
becomes distorted.
Fourth, biblical theology promotes a
high view of the ministerial task. It is to
be regretted that many ministers find
themselves overworked, under-funded,
under constant pressure to conform to
the preconceived ideas about the minister
and his role, and burdened with expecta-
tions of success rather than faithfulness.
The result is that many ministers become
pragmatic and driven by the search for
the next program that will bring people
through the doors on a Sunday. There is
no more potent antidote to pragmatism
than the reinforcing of the truth that
the gospel is the power of God for salva-
tion. I want to be bold here and claim
that biblical theology can have real and
observable effects in our lives and min-
istries. In the frst place, biblical theology
will help the minister to be clear as to
what the gospel is that is Gods power
for salvation. Understanding the breadth
of the biblical view of salvation will
help prevent the harassed pastor from
being side-tracked into the wrong kind
of success.
A biblical-theological focus is a key
antidote to distorted perspectives in that
it contextualizes texts that might other-
wise be taken out of context. Unfortu-
nately, the minister who strives for this
focus will often meet opposition because
it will mean dealing with distinctions
within the broader unity. Popular opin-
ion does not like fne distinctions, even
if important. Thus, if one suggests that
something which is good has usurped
the place of something better, or the best,
one is likely to be accused of rejecting the
good thing altogether.
Any minister struggles with the need
to establish priorities for time and tasks.
Ministers are increasingly expected to
be effcient and effective CEOs of fairly
complex local church organizations. Once
again pragmatism easily takes over. With-
out in any way trivializing the problems,
we recognize that the offce of pastor-
teacher is frst and foremost the offce of
theologian. The role of biblical theology in
this relates to the fact that it interacts with
the necessary abstractions of systematic
theology, or church doctrine, and ties
them to the history of redemption and of
the people of God. In practical terms, bib-
lical theology resonates with the reading
and expository preaching from the Bible
week by week, and with peoples reading
of the Bible at home. Ministers need to
carry with them the biblical doctrine of
doctrine. Biblical theology is the bridge
between text and doctrine and keeps it
from being abstract. Both the minister
and his people need the perspective that
we together are heirs to the whole won-
derful process of salvation-history that
culminates in Jesus Christ. This is what
makes the ministerial task worth doing.
Fifth, biblical theology promotes a high
view of the people of God. Christians need
a biblical anthropology as well as a
biblical ecclesiology in order to resist
the tendency to the self-centeredness of
our sinful nature. Evangelicalism was
afficted by nineteenth century individu-
alism, which has ripened into post-mod-
ern subjectivism. A biblical-theological
survey of the theme of the people of God
builds up a sound Christology and a
realistic anthropology. The people of God
are defned by their union with Christ,
a union that in turn is defned by who
and what Christ is. Only in a secondary
way are we defned by our relationship
to the great heroes of faith in the Bible.
That is why their relationship to Christ is
so important to the interpretation of the
narratives in which they fgure.
When we start to lose sight of this bib-
lical perspective, it is easy to downgrade
the people of God in our churches into
the core membership of an organization.
They are perceived in practice as fnancial
supporters of the institution and the vol-
untary helpers in a multitude of activities,
some good, some indifferent, some inimi-
cal to the gospel. Let pastor and people
study the great themes of the people of
God through the method of biblical theol-
ogy. Let them ponder the wonder of it all,
that the process that began with Adam
and Eve and which is consummated in
the visions of the book of Revelation of
the people of God worshipping before
the throne of God and the Lamb, is really
and truly the same process into which our
local church is caught up.
A biblical theology of the people of
God will include a biblical theology of
the church. This is too big a subject to do
more in this lecture than simply indicate
that it is there and needs attention. At the
very least it is important as an antidote to
the rampant individualism and subjectiv-
ism of our time. But, the doctrine of the
church is not only a matter of a corporate
sense of being in Christ, it is also a matter
of being in the world. When, for example,
the frst three chapters of the Book of
Revelation are treated as separate from
the rest of the book, as is often done in
series of sermons and Bible studies, the
signifcance of the seven churches of Asia
Minor is largely lost. When the book is
taken as a whole, and provided it is not
done with an exclusively futurist per-
spective, then we learn that the ordinary,
small, unremarkable, congregations, as
much as any other, are in the front line of
Gods action in this world to redeem and
judge the whole universe.
Biblical theology in the church must
begin in the pastors study. Above all,
biblical theology involves a way of think-
ing about how one uses and applies the
Bible. It is a way of thinking that needs to
be cultivated about all the issues of pas-
toral ministry. It is a method of approach
to almost any matter that confronts us in
ministry. It is a way of training ourselves
in theological reflection that will pay
handsome dividends if we persevere.
Often there are no clear doctrinal for-
mulations to assist us in facing certain
issues, and we are left with a few Bible
verses that might spring to mind, along
with a certain amount of experience-
based wisdom. It is in such cases that
biblical theology comes into its own.
Whatever the subjectprayer, guidance
or knowing the will of God, assurance,
the fulflment of prophecy, secular pow-
ers, miracles, Israel and the Palestinians,
social justice, suffering, the Sabbath,
leadership, life after death, church and
denominations, and the whole range of
ethical issuesbiblical theology provides
a strategy for investigation. It enables us
to make progress on subjects that do not
turn up in concordances (because they do
not involve any single and obvious bibli-
cal word), nor in handbooks of doctrine
(because they are not perceived to be
central matters of doctrine).
Summary Conclusions:
Biblical Theology in Our
Post-Modern World
In this series of lectures, I have tried
to do several things. First of all, I wanted
to give attention to the nature of biblical
theology and the necessity for it to be part
of every Christians equipment for life
and ministry in the world. In my second
lecture, I turned attention to the academy,
particularly to those seminaries and col-
leges concerned with ministerial training.
For whatever reason, and however it is
justifed, the lack of introductory courses
in biblical theology in, so it would seem,
the majority of such institutions is to be
regretted. It may betray in some cases
tardiness in facing the realities of our
modern and postmodern societies and in
changing our understanding of the kind
of curriculum needed to address those
realities. In other cases it may show that
the theoretical aspects of the essence and
method of biblical theology are still so
diffuse that it gets left in the too hard
basket. In this third lecture, I have tried
to address the matter of ministry in the
front line: preaching and pastoral care,
Christian education, and one of the most
important of all, the ministry of Christian
parents to their children.
These three aspects, the theoretical
foundations, the formal instruction in
the Christian academy, and the ministry
in the church and in the Christian home,
are all inter-related. If ministry in the
local church is mediocre, it will breed
mediocrity in those that seek to enter
ministry. It will encourage mediocrity
in the home ministry. The evangelical
academy is more likely to have entry
requirements that include consideration
of the academic ability of the applicant,
indications of ministry gifts, and proof
of spiritual maturity. One advantage of a
denominational structure is that it is likely
to have resources to facilitate the business
of encouraging interest in full-time
ministry and in laying down criteria for
acceptance into the seminary. However,
non-denominational organizations can
also make effective contributions to the
promotion of ministry training.
It is because of the inter-relationship of
the church, the home, and the academy
that what happens in one will affect what
happens in the others. Twenty years ago
Scott Hafemann issued a warning in an
article entitled Seminary, Subjectivity,
and the Centrality of Scripture: Refec-
tions on the Current Crisis in Evangeli-
cal Seminary Education.
I suspect the
problems of modernity affecting evangel-
ical thinking have only intensifed in this
postmodern age. Hafemann noted, after
J. D. Hunter, that many evangelical lead-
ers were participating in the prevailing
culture of modernity, that evangelicals
responded to the challenge to their iden-
tity by trying to bend without breaking,
and that evangelicals had become their
own worst enemy. This latter was seen in
the move frst to de-objectivization and
then to subjectivization. This leads to
evangelicals doubting the importance of
serious exegesis of the biblical text:
Thus because what one feels about
the Bible and God is now culturally
supported it can easily be wedded
with ones subjective experience as
the primary source of certitude for
liberals and the growing source of
certitude for evangelicals.

He goes on to point to an emerging theo-
logical support for evangelical unwilling-
ness to put in the hard effort in exegesis of
the text, a theology strikingly similar to
classical liberalism. This includes the idea
that a personal relationship with Christ
lessens the need to look at Scripture his-
torically, the borrowed charismatic pneu-
matology that the Spirit becomes the only
exegete we need, and the transferring of
the locus of revelation from the Bible to

Others have been sounding similar
warnings on a broader front of evangeli-
cal religion. Many will be familiar with
David Wellss books No Place for Truth,
and God in the Wasteland. In a recent
essay The Supremacy of Christ in a
Postmodern World, part of a volume
by the same name, Wells points to the
postmodern ethos as including removal
of a transcendent God and revelation
in favor of spirituality without religion
and which is entirely from within and
directed to the self. In the face of this and
of the threats posed by global terrorism,
Wells comments that Evangelicalism,
now much absorbed by the arts and tricks
of marketing, is simply not very serious
It would be fatuous to claim that the
whole answer to the evangelical malaise
is biblical theology. On the other hand,
I do not really think we can avoid the
disasters that Wells and Hafemann warn
of without a return to serious exegesis
of the biblical text. Hafemann sees part
of the diffculty for the seminary to be
persuading the incoming students that
Greek and Hebrew and close attention to
the exegetical task are important when
this is so foreign to both the secular cli-
mate and the ethos of much evangelical-
ism. As Geerhardus Vos defned biblical
theology as a part of exegetical theology,
I would perhaps reverse the order. Either
way, they belong together. Exegesis is not
complete until the signifcance of the pas-
sage is seen in relation to the whole story,
and thus to Christ.
I believe it is true to say that what starts
in the academy may take a generation or
more to flter to the level of the layper-
son in the local church. The tragedy of
this becomes clear when Bible-believing
Christians suddenly fnd themselves at
the mercy of a rampant liberal in their
pulpit. However, the seminary and Bible
college can also influence things for
reform and for an increase in biblical
ministry. The task is not easy, especially
if the youth of our churches are imbibing
a culture and world-view that is alien
to Christianity. Wells is right to see the
problem as a clash of worldviews. But
if he and Hafemann are right in their
analysis, the task is great. It is not only
introductory courses of biblical theology
in the seminary that we need. The need
is also great for the biblical theologians
to work with the historians and dogmati-
cians to hammer out the viable methods
and procedures so that biblical theology
will have some recognizable theoretical
basis that stems from divine revelation
in Scripture.
I conclude on this note: The gospel
is about objective historical events, not
about subjective experience and ideals.
Subjective experience, to be valid, must be
the fruit of the gospel. The gospel is about
the transcendent God of creation doing
something to rectify the corrupted his-
tory of mankind, not about a self-centered
technique of personal self-improvement.
The good news is that the Man from
heaven has re-written our personal his-
tories so that what counts before God is
that when we were dead in our trespasses
and sins, God made us alive with Christ,
raised us up with him, and made us to sit
with him in heavenly places (Eph 2:5-6).
The cancer of subjectivism that threatens
the very existence of true biblical religion
is not new; it is as old as Adams rebel-
lion. But, the remedy must at the very
least involve a determined return to the
historic and objective gospel as the only
basis for a true spiritual subjectivity.
The gospel is above all a sovereign
work of our God with consequences for
eternity that were planned from before
the foundation of the world. Whatever
the human dimensions in the resurgence
of biblical theology, the divine dimension
is the indispensable cause of all that is
good. If the quest for a viable, legitimate,
and consequential biblical theology is of
God, then our responsibility as academ-
ics and Christian pastors is great indeed.
The discipline of biblical theology will
only prosper and bear fruit in the church
if we, the theologians, repent for past
omissions and pray for the Spirit of God
to do a powerful work and to revive his
word among us and in this needy world.

This article was originally presented as
part of the Gheens Lectures, delivered
March 18-20, 2008, at The Southern Bap-
tist Theological Seminary.
Klaas Runia, The Sermon Under Attack
(Exeter: Paternoster, 1983), 1, quoting
P. T. Forsyth, Positive Preaching and the
Modern Mind (New York: Hodder &
Stoughton, 1907).
Peter Adam, Preaching and Biblical
Theology, in New Dictionary of Biblical
Theology (ed. T. D. Alexander and
Brian S. Rosner; Downers Grove:
InterVarsity, 2000), 104.
Francis Watson, Text and Truth:
Redefning Biblical Theology (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 123.
Ibid., 121.
David Helm, The Big Picture Story
Bible (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004).
See my essay, The Pastor as Biblical
Theologian, in Interpreting Gods
Plan: Biblical Theology and the Pastor
(ed. R. J. Gibson; Carlisle: Paternos-
ter, 1997), 110-29.
See Craig G. Bartholomew and
Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of
Scripture: Finding Our Place in the
Biblical Story (Grand Rapids: Baker,
Hans Kng, On Being a Christian
(Glasgow: Collins, 1974), 126-44.
Scott Hafemann, Seminary, Sub-
jectivity, and the Centrality of
Scripture: Refections on the Cur-
rent Crisis in Evangelical Seminary
Education, Journal of the Evangelical
Theological Society 31, no. 2 (1988).
Ibid, 137.
Ibid, 138-40.
David Wells, The Supremacy of
Christ in a Postmodern World,
in The Supremacy of Christ in a
Postmodern World (ed. John Piper
and Just i n Taylor; Wheaton:
Crossway, 2007), 23.