The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Jun 24, 2016

Preparing to teach NT Biblical Theology: Resources and Decisions

In the early stages of my doctoral studies, I had the privilege of taking "Biblical Theology" with Dr. Andreas J. Kostenberger at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. My first of two papers for that class (on a Petrine theology of prophecy), with the encouragement of Dr. Kostenberger, was submitted for publication and eventually ended up in the Bulletin for Biblical Research, vol. 21.2 (2011). Consequently, I am very passionate about the subject, and now, for the first time, I have the opportunity to teach the entire class at the seminary level here in Menomonee Falls, WI.

The first question is, obviously, "What is biblical theology"? It is not, contra the name, "theology that is biblical as opposed to unbiblical." In fact, it is very possible to conduct "biblical theology" that is in antithesis to the Christian faith. On the other hand, biblical theology is most definitely not "systematic theology." While I am still working on my own definition for the class, I would strongly view the former as allowing the text to give us theological categories rather than starting with theological categories and seeing what the text has to say about them. In other words, systematic theology says "I wonder what the Bible has to say about angels," having already made up its mind which topic to investigate. Conversely, biblical theology says, "I wonder what theological topics are important to Jude and how does he develop them?" The difference is significant. Both are essential, (systematics is necessary to see how all the pieces fit together and show what relevance they have to everyday belief), but biblical theology must precede systematics if we wish to avoid a sort-of "conservative rationalism" that places our opinion of what topics are important over the text's opinion of what topics are important. 

A plethora of resources on biblical theology exist. Indeed, simply settling on a textbook is causing me grief! (In a pleasant sort of way; much like a child "grieves" over having to choose between two competing flavors of ice cream). Option one will be Frank Thielman's Theology of the New Testament, which from what I understand conducts biblical theology the way I want it done (not that I'm the authority on "how it should be done!"). Once it arrives in the mail, I shall proceed to analyze it. The second option will be to have the students purchase (but only read part of) the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (IVP Academic), and then supplement their reading with a book of their choice from one of the many excellent series out there, e.g., New Studies in Biblical Theology (IVP), New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology (B&H Academic), Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Zondervan), etc.

For the required paper, I am planning on allowing two approaches: 1. focusing on how a particular theme is developed in a particular book or author (e.g., Atonement in Hebrews; Kingdom in Matthew; etc.) or, 2. Tracing a major theme throughout the entire New Testament, either from a canonical or historical perspective (e.g., tracing the theme of the Parousia in the NT); the latter, of course, requires enough knowledge of the NT to know what themes are most important to the majority of the NT and will require 
acknowledging tension when necessary (key point: tension does not mean contradiction; there's a difference).

Finally, there's a series of articles that I intend to have them read. Foundational to understanding the entire discipline are, I believe, the articles by D. A. Carson ("Current Issues in Biblical Theology: A New Testament Perspective,"  BBR 5.1, 1995) and Andreas J. Kostenberger ("The Present and the Future of Biblical Theology," Themelios 37.3, 2012). These both provide an excellent overview of the state of the field of study today.

I'll also force them to read my own article in BBR on Petrine theology (just because very few people write on Petrine theology, a noticeable exception being Larry R. Helyer's excellent The Life and Witness of Peter). After that, there's a few articles I've taken a fancy to that I consider to be good examples of biblical theology: Torrey Seland, "Resident Aliens in Mission: Missional Practices in the Emerging Church of 1 Peter" (BBR 19.4, 2009); Josh Chatraw, two articles in JETS (vol. 54.3, September 2011; and vol. 55.2, June 2012), the first of which refutes Bart Ehrman on "contradictory theologies" when comparing the Synoptics, and the second of which provides a needed balance to N. T. Wright's corporate view of repentance in Luke. In addition, I liked what I saw in Robert L. Plummer's "Imitation of Paul and the Church's Missionary Role in 1 Corinthians," JETS 54.3 (Spetember 2011), so they'll probably read that as well.

Finally, I'm thinking of having my students read a brand-new article in a top-tier journal: Jack Levison, "A Theology of the Spirit in the Letter to the Hebrews," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 78 (2016).
In this fascinating article, Levison attempts to correct the assumption a la H. B. Swete, Barnabas Lindars, et al, that there is no "theology of the Spirit" in Hebrews. Although I do not agree with everything Levison writes (mostly the first half--I think he's over-reacting to areas where Hebrews diverges from the LXX, and also his approach to the warning passages), I'm nevertheless thinking of having my students read this article because Levison provides an excellent example of how to correct a dearth of scholarship on a biblical-theological theme. His five concluding points are well-thought out (and I would only really quibble with how he develops the first one): in Hebrews, 1. "The Holy Spirit is the interpreter of Scripture," 2. "In the push for perseverance in this letter, the Holy Spirit plays a central role," 3. "The Holy Spirit is essential to the process of salvation," 4. "The theology of the Spirit communicates the currency of salvation," and 5. "This theology of the Spirit communicates the currency of salvation."

So that's the plan for "biblical theology" at Baptist Theological Seminary! There's a ton of resources out there, but I would advise the reader interested in dipping his or her toe into the ocean of biblical theology to start with Carson's and Kostenberger's articles, both of which are available for free online.