A seminary professor of mine told our class that as preachers, we have the opportunity to not only preach the Word of God, but also to help people understand how their Bibles are put together and how each of the various parts of the Bible relate to the whole.
This not only feeds the sheep the Word of God, but also enriches their personal Bible reading by having a deeper understanding of its themes, symbols, and story.
What he was referring to is the study of biblical theology, which can help all Christians understand the Bible at a greater depth. Biblical theology examines key themes, images, and patterns that make up the diverse landscape of the Bible.
In What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns, Dr. James M. Hamilton, associate professor of biblical theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, presents a short primer on the topic of biblical theology in just under 120 pages.
Hamilton introduces the topic of biblical theology, examines major symbols in the Bible story, and concludes with several short chapters explaining the church’s place in the Bible’s grand story.
Hamilton explains his purposes for the book in the first chapter:
The world does have a true story. The Bible tells it. This book is about the Bible’s big story, and it’s about how we become people who live in that story. To do biblical theology is to think about the whole story of the Bible. We want to understand the organic development of the Bible’s teaching so that we are interpreting particular parts of the story in light of the whole. As an acorn grows into an oak tree, Genesis 3:15 grows into the good news of Jesus Christ. (12)
Hamilton summarizes his purposes for readers doing biblical theology:
In brief, I hope that you will adopt the perspective of the biblical authors and that you will read the world from the Bible’s perspective, rather than reading the Bible from the world’s. (23)
For those who know anything about Jim Hamilton, you will know that this man knows Scripture and knows Biblical Theology. This is very clear in What is Biblical Theology? Hamilton provides a brief introduction to a greater topic that introduces the basics of biblical theology without getting too deep into specifics.
I enjoyed this book and thought that Hamilton hit his mark of equipping readers to read the world from the Bible’s perspective and help them know the basics about how their Bibles are put together. I was encouraged and awed at many of the examples and connections shared by Hamilton–and any book that can drive you to worship does something truly special.
The book whetted my appetite for a deeper and more comprehensive study of many of the topics it introduces, but at times seemed to only skim the surface of biblical theology. Some of the chapters were so brief, that I thought they could have been combined with multiple other chapters (some chapters were three pages long).
This is a book for people new to the study of biblical theology, and one that more experienced readers will find helpful, but possibly wanting more. Although leaving people wanting more is a drawback for some, it seems to be the purpose of this very book (as the title implies), and a purpose that it fulfills.
At the end of the book Hamilton provides several book recommendations for further reading including According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible by Graeme Goldsworthy, which I would recommend as a more comprehensive introduction.
In the end What is Biblical Theology? adds a worthy title to the biblical theology bookshelf that is a worthy primer on a wonderful subject. I am happy to recommend it to anyone looking to understand the basics of biblical theology.
Title: What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns
Author: Jim Hamilton Jr.
Publisher: Crossway (2013)
In Leadership Resources International’s pastoral training program Training National Trainers, pastors all over the world are taught biblical theology and basic hermeneutical tools through the immersive study of the Scriptures. God uses His Word and this training to help pastors preach God’s Word with God’s heart.