Monthly Archives: September 2013

“What Is Biblical Theology?” Table of Contents

To give you an idea of the book, here’s a look at the Table of Contents:

1. A Better World Breaks Through
2. What Is Biblical Theology?

Part 1: The Bible’s Big Story
3. The Narrative
4. Plot: Conflict, Episodes, and Theme
5. The Mystery

Part 2: The Bible’s Symbolic Universe
6. What Do Symbols Do?
7. Imagery
8. Typology
9. Patterns

Part 3: The Bible’s Love Story
10. A Song for the Lady in Waiting: The Bride of Christ in Biblical Theology
11. The Church’s Identity in the Story
12. The Church’s Setting in the Story
13. The Church’s Plot Tension and Its Resolution

The 3 main sections of this book can be simplified into 3 words:
Story, Symbol, and Church.

I’ve made it up to Chapter 11: The Church’s Identity in the Story, and so far I’m really enjoying this book. It’s simple, yet good. Basic, but deep. I’ve read of a lot of what he’s saying from one of his other books (God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment), but this is still great stuff. There are new insights that I hadn’t seen before. It’s a quick and fairly easy read for anyone and everyone.

More on this book soon.

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What Is Biblical Theology?

What Is Biblical Theology?

What is the Bible? Is it just a random collection of old stories? Just another book from thousands of years ago with a few good lessons for us to learn? Or is there something more going on within the pages of Scripture? Is it possible that the ancient books of the Old and New Testaments are part of a single, unified story, begun long ago but extending into our world today?

James Hamilton shows us how the 66 books of the Bible follow an overarching story line, helping Christians to read and interpret the Bible through the worldview of the biblical writers and as the early Christians read it. Hamilton examines key symbols, patterns and themes that are found throughout Scripture. He helps readers to really grasp and be transformed by the theology of redemption contained in and revealed through God’s Word. 

While not always seen on the surface, the biblical narrative (sixty-six books written by numerous authors and including stories, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses) possesses a deep inner unity. Hamilton’s focus is for the reader to be shaped and conformed by the biblical story. Instead of making it all about us, we are to find ourselves in the story of redemption.

Why Study Biblical Theology? 
Hearing the word theology can be like hearing your teacher tell you to work out a Gaussian distribution (bell curve) in your Statistical Analysis class. “….what?” Often times our brains shut off. But Jim Hamilton is an author who does a good job of clearly presenting the thematic threads that run throughout Scripture. The Bible is a story; God is the Storyteller. Reading the Lord of the Rings is different than working out the inverted bell curve of a skewed plane. Just typing that gives me chills.

Disoriented Bible reading leads to disoriented living. Too often the Bible reader parachutes into a passage without understanding the immediate context or the overall context of the entire Bible. Getting oriented to the whole story of the Bible is the only way to right interpretation, and right interpretation equals right living. The reader will be able to better understand God’s Word, know the mind of Christ, and glorify God.

Hamilton offers the reader an aerial view of the forest before we can begin to walk among the trees. What Is Biblical Theology? provides a very helpful start for beginning students, and students of all levels will be blessed in the reminder of the patterns and themes that make Scripture such a deep and glorious book.

[A big thanks to Netgalley, Crossway, and Jim Hamilton for making this book available to review and allowing me to review it.] 


What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns


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The Structure of Deuteronomy’s Law Code?

Is the book of Deuteronomy just a mishmash of history (chs. 1-4), events (journey into the land, chs. 5-11), and law codes (chs. 12-25)? Seemingly endless amounts of random-specific situations that could never all seem to happen to a single person in their lifetime. Is there a rhyme or reason to these passages?

In Millar’s book Now Choose Life: Theology and Ethics in Deuteronomy, he goes through the book of Deuteronomy and shows how the people then (and us today) are to find ethics on how to live in the book. It’s not the kind that says, “Obey this and God will accept you” but “because of what God has done for you, do this.” 

In Deut. 5 Moses repeats the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) to the new generation in Moab and tells them the greatest commandment (6:5), how they are a chosen people, and that it is because of their status in His eyes and because of His blessings to them that they should remember Him. To remind them of their weak, feeble morality Moses retells of their rebellions, how he was made angry and had to make a new set of tablets, and that despite their hard hearts the Lord loves them, has chosen them, and will reward their love and obedience. In 11:32 Moses says, “And you shall be careful to observe all the statutes and judgments which I set before you today” and is connected to 12:1 by Moses telling them what the statutes and judgments are: These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth.”

Then we run into an onslaught of strange laws that seem to have no bearing on the text, much less our own life. Apparently these laws meant something to the people then, but is there any modus operandi to the author’s reason for writing Deuteronomy in such a way?

Well, in fact, yes. In fact, it’s not that Moses sat there and started to write whatever laws came into his head, (a.k.a. “Hey, this sounds like a good one!”), but it’s possible that the structure of the laws from Deut. 12-25 follows the Ten Commandments giving in Deut. 5.

This is not a perfect understanding; there are still problems with this scheme. The Decalogue is never actually quoted in chapters 12-25, and the connections are not always clear. However, reading Deuteronomy in this light helps to better understand it as being written with an actual purpose, style, and reason.

  • #1-2 Right Worship (12:1-28)
  • #3 False Oaths (13:1-14:27)
  • #4 Sabbath (15:1-18; 16:1-17)
  • #5 Authority (16:18-20; 17:2-20; 18:1-22)
  • #6 Homicide (19:1-13, 20; 21:1-9, 22-23; 22:8)
  • #7 Adultery and Illicit Mixtures (22:9-11; 22:13-23:1; 23:3-15, 18-19)
  • #8 Theft and Property Violations (23:20-26; 24:7)
  • #9 Fair Treatment of Fellows (24:8-25:4)
  • #10a Coveting Neighbor’s Wife (25:5-12)
  • #10b Coveting Neighbor’s Property (25:13-16)

This is not a perfect understanding; there are still problems with this scheme. The Decalogue is never actually quoted in chapters 12-25, and the connections are not always clear. However, reading these chapters in this light does give structure to the reading of Deuteronomy, which, with this book, is much appreciated.

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