Biblical Theology and Interpretation (IG500): History and Creation

Going through my undergraduate notes I found that the most helpful exercise I did was not simply taking notes, but summarizing that day’s material. Here is my summary from my first seminary class: Biblical Theology and Interpretation (IG500).

Today we dealt with the history and definition of biblical theology, creation, and creation applied throughout the Scriptures.

This gets a bit much for a blog post, so if you want read more, just click on the link below.

History and definition of “biblical theology”

While the term “biblical theology” was first used in the title of a now non-extant German book in the early 17th century, biblical theology formally began in the early 18th century in response to the emerging Protestant systematic theologies. J. Spener, part of a pietistic movement in Germany, sought to connect these systematic theologies with godliness, piety, and devotion; the result he termed “biblical theology.”

In the mid-18th century, Gabler (who is called the “father of biblical theology”) argued that biblical theology ought primarily be an inductive discipline that works with biblical text as opposed to systematic theology which builds large theoretical structures based on too little—that is, not enough attention to biblical text itself, and is divisive amongst Christian groups. If scholars would just ground themselves in a more robust biblical theology, they would have a stronger systematic theology and hence more agreement. But put into the framework of the increasing skepticism of the day, this led to a focus on the text, but not believing it could be put together as a whole.

Therefore, in 1800 we see the first Old Testament theology and in 1802 we see the first New Testament theology. There were a few biblical theologies, but only a few. The trend to focus primarily on the text while ignoring the whole continued s skepticism grew. As a result theologies started to becoming even more refined: no longer was it Old Testament theology, but rather the theology of the Pentateuch; no longer was it New Testament theology, but rather the theology of Mark – and eventually the theology of the sources in Mark.

Over and against this, but while still wanting to use the insights of biblical theology, was the orthodox confessional camp (that is, those with a high view of Scripture and believed God had spoken) which looked at the biblical documents inductively and individually, but also sought to see how those documents are put together as one cohesive whole.

We see at least six items from the Genesis 1-2 account:

  1. God spoke everything into existence (nothing like this in other ancient texts)
  2. God made everything, but He himself is unmade (in Greco-Roman thought, it was only a demi-god who would create the physical (for the physical was bad in their thought)).We this motif used in Acts 17 when Paul preaches to the Athenians and speaks of God’s aseity (that is, the fact that God is uncreated and not dependent upon anything or anyone else for his existence).
  3. Creation establishes our accountability before God. → Our first obligation as created creatures is to recognize the fact that we are created and owe God everything.
  4. Creation begins the storyline of Scripture that God made everything good. Not only does this set up the background against which the Fall makes sense. (The Fall greatly tarnished something very good. It wasn’t bad before the Fall.)
  5. Humans are made in the image of God. Thus we are simultaneously like everything other part of creation (in that we are created), but also different (in that we are the only creation created in the image of God).Hence, there has only arisen a redeem for fallen humans (who are made in the image of God) and not angels (who are not made in the image of God).This, then, ties into Christology as part of what salvation accomplishes is renewing the image of God in humans. (cf. Col. 1:15; 3:10)
  6. God gives humans stewardship (which is not exploitation) over creation.

Creation Applied
In addition to the Acts 17 text, we also looked at other text where the creation motif is found.

  • In the book of Job, God appeals to creation at the end when He speaks to Job.
  • Psalm 8 is bookended with the majesty of the Creator. It is within this framework, then, that the unimaginable privilege given to man is elucidated. It is thinking from the inherent trajectory of antecedent biblical text (creation as described in Gen. 1-2) and turning it into praise.
  • Psalm 19 moves from praise for creation (general revelation) to praise for the law (specific revelation). This is the template Paul uses in Romans 1.
  • In Romans 8 creation groans for the day of redemption.
  • 2Peter 3:11ff describes the “new heaven and a new earth” as “the home of righteousness” (2Peter 3:13) showing that the problem is one of unrighteousness.
  • Finally, Revelation 21-22 ties up the whole story of redemption showing that creation will be restored: a nice bookend.

[related link that I haven’t read.]

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