Christians who love the Bible, should love biblical theology. More than any other discipline, biblical theology has the power to take the student on an exciting journey into the overall meaning of the biblical text. Early on in my study of biblical theology, I was told about the transformative power of one particular book and one particular biblical theme. That book was The Temple and the Church’s Mission by G.K. Beale (IVP). Eventually I read through that book and now agree with all the praise that was heaped upon it.
Beale’s work on the temple, showing how that theme is developed from Eden all the way to the New Jerusalem, can be truly transformative. Beale is not the only scholar to uncover this biblical theme, but his book perhaps more than any other, has advanced our understanding of all that is meant by God’s pledge to dwell with man in a visible temple.
The one drawback to Beale’s earlier title was that it was quite difficult to work through. Beale is exhaustive in his treatment of primary and secondary literature. He builds cases for each of the NT allusions he finds to OT passages. He interacts with the second temple Judaistic writings in his effort to understand what the people of the Bible’s day would have thought when they heard various images and themes about the temple. All of that reads more like a theological tome than a helpful and practical book for church use.
Ours is an age of conferences. Dozens of conferences vie for our attention, from a variety of ministries. For those who cannot attend, livestreaming is a way to experience the thrill from afar. Another common way to expand the reach of a conference is to turn the series of messages into a book. The success of such books is usually limited, but in this book we have an exception.
Here is Our God:
In What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible, Jason DeRouchie brings together 16 other evangelical OT scholars to produce a truly one-of-a-kind resource. Rather than being a work by scholars for scholars, this is a work for the Church. The Old Testament is expounded and analyzed from the perspective of the cross of Christ, and the result is an unpacking of the Gospel in the Old Testament. Today’s believers are provided a practical approach to reading and studying the Old Testament. And as the authors remind us, the Old Testament was the Bible of Jesus and the early Church.
The book surveys each of the 24 books of the Old Testament—24 books according to the Hebrew numbering, that is. And the Hebrew order of the books of the Old Testament is the order the contributors to this volume follow. Each chapter gives a brief introduction as to the setting and author of that Hebrew book and then focuses on a discussion of the book’s major themes with particular regard to how it fits into the overall canonical structure. Jason DeRouchie provides introductions to each of the major sections of the Hebrew Bible: the Torah (or Law), the Prophets, and the Writings, as well as an overview of the entire Old Testament. Throughout the volume, there are beautiful, full-color photos of scenes from the Holy Land. Additionally, there are countless charts and tables on helpful subjects relating to the material covered. Memory verses and suggestions for additional reading round out each chapter. The KINGDOM Bible reading plan is also included as an appendix and will help readers in continuing to read through and appreciate the Hebrew Bible in the canonical order this book stresses.
Peter Gentry & Stephen Wellum are seeking a middle way between covenant theology and dispensational theology. As a covenant theology loving Christian I found their critiques even-handed and thoughtful. Anyone interested in developing a theology that fits within the big picture narrative of Scripture would benefit from Kingdom through Covenant.
They first define biblical theology as:
…concerned with the overall message of the whole Bible. It seeks to understand the parts in relation to the whole. As an exegetical method, it is sensitive to literary, historical, and theological dimensions of various corpora, as well as to the interrelationships between earlier and later texts in Scripture. Furthermore, biblical theology is interested not merely in words and word studies but also in concepts and themes as it traces out the Bible’s own story line, on the Bible’s own terms, as the plot line reaches its culmination in Christ. (p. 33)
After establishing the ground rules for their hermeneutical method, they offer a history of both dispensational theology and covenant theology. If you are interested in the history of these interpretations as well as the finer points these chapters are gold. It provides a concise survey and accurate comparison of both systems.
Christians today are blessed with a wide variety of resources for studying the Bible. In America, it seems that every few months some must-read theology book hits the press and promises to revolutionize our understanding of God’s Word. And many of these books truly are helpful. We really have no excuse for not understanding Scripture more and being more conformed into the likeness of Christ, given the endless resources meant to help us do just this.
“Christianity bears many similarities to a story, a language, a game and a culture. Hopefully, these analogies help to fill a need… But they were never the truth. They were vehicles for the truth.”
Last year, under the editorial direction of Andreas Kostenberger, Zondervan began the Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series. The first installment was Kostenberger’s contribution A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters. The BTNT series seeks to provide a biblical theology of the entire NT in eight volumes with a biblical/thematic approach.
This year the next volume is A Theology of Luke and Acts by well known Luke commentator Darrell Bock. Darrell Bock has written a few other books on Luke and Acts: Luke (IVP), Luke (NIVAC), Luke (BECNT), and Acts (BECNT). A Theology of Luke and Acts is not a commentary but rather a thematic look at the biblical theology of Luke and Acts as a literary unit.
The essential purpose for Luke-Acts is “to show that the coming of Jesus, Christ, and Son of God launched the long-promised new movement of God. The community that has come from his ministry, the suffering these believers experienced, and the inclusion of Gentiles are part of God’s program promised in Scripture” (p. 29). According to Bock, Theophilus needed assurance that this new movement (Christianity) was a legitimate work of God given the amount of persecution it underwent. Luke assures him that the persecution is not a judgment of God but rather part of the plan of God to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations.