Origin and History (§ 1).
Study of New Testament Theology (§ 2).
The Old Testament (§ 3).
Limitations (§ 4).
Constructive Work (§ 5).
The True Aim (§ 6).
Biblical theology, or the orderly presentation of the doctrinal contents of Scripture, is a comparatively modern branch of theological science. In general the term expresses not so much the construction of a theology which is Biblical in an especial sense as a method of dealing with the Biblical matter which is midway between exegesis and dogmatics. Its object and limitation can be shown best by tracing its history.
So long as the Church felt or admitted no discord between its tradition and the Biblical tradition, there was no need to compare or contrast the contents of the Bible with the teaching of the Church. On this account the beginnings of a Biblical theology appear in the circles of the theologians of the Reformation, who perceived in Scripture the test by which to try ecclesiastical tradition. Since to them the Bible was the sufficient, self-explaining basis of dogmatics, by this juxtaposition the possibility was given of a separate treatment of the doctrinal contents of the Bible. The first timid effort confined itself to a discussion of the customary quotations (Sebastian Schmidt, Collegium Biblicum in quo dicta Veteris et Novi Testamenti juxta seriem locorum . . . explicantur, 1671). Under the influence of Pietism the close connection of dogmatics and the Bible was relaxed, because in the latter was seen less an infallible source of knowledge than a means of grace (A. F. Büsching, Gedanken von der Beschaffenheit und dem Vorzuge der bibl.-dogm. Theologie von der scholastischen, Lemgo, 1758, and similar works). When in the eighteenth century J. S. Semler and his school busied themselves in discovering the differences in date and characteristics of the different books of the Bible, and brought to light the dissonance between crystallized dogma and New Testament teaching (a dissonance greater still in the case of the Old Testament), the desire naturally arose to show the essential agreement of the teaching of the Church and that of the Bible by an unprejudiced study of the latter (G. T. Zachariä, Biblische Theologie oder Untersuchtung des biblischen Grundes der vornehmsten kirchlichen Lehren, 5 vols., Göttingen, 1771-86). The rationalistic school, in
Probably under the influence of Schleiermacher especial attention was directed to the New Testament, and the "systems" of the different apostles were separately treated (the Pauline by Meyer, 1801, L. Usteri, 1824; the Johannine by K. Frommann, 1839). Along with this an effort was made to show the unity of the Gospel in the very variety of individual conceptions (of the many important works, note A. Neander, Geschichte der Pflanzung . . . der christlichen Kirche, Hamburg, 1832; B. Weiss, Lehrbuch der biblischen Theologie, Berlin, 1868; W. Beyschlag, Neutestamentliche Theologie, Halle, 1891). At the same time another class of theologians was eagerly engaged in tracing the differences of the individual conceptions to their very roots. According to Hegel's formula the crystallized dogma was a synthesis of the two sharp opposites of Paulinism and the primitive apostolate, and this development was followed up in all its details from a literary-historical point of view (F. C. Baur; H. E. G. Paulus; F. C. A. Schwegler, Nachapostolisches Zeitalter, Tübingen, 1846; O. Pfleiderer, Paulinismus, Leipsic, 1873; C. Holsten, Evangelium des Paulus und Petrus, Rostock, 1868; A. Hilgenfeld, Urchristentum, Jena, 1854). In like manner the life of Jesus and its sources were treated, in connection with which work there originated a countless number of monographs on the selfconsciousness of Jesus and the titles he assumed. The result from this point of view was the conviction that New Testament theology has to deal not with a completed whole, but with a mobile and developing Christianity. Hence "Biblical Theology" and "Introduction" together represent simply a part of the apparatus of general church history (cf. A. Hausrath, Neutestamentliche Zeitgeschichte, Heidelberg, 1868; O. Pfleiderer, Urchristentum, Berlin, 1887).
Parallel to this development of New Testament theology was that of Old Testament theology. Students came to discern the narrowness and onesidedness of the Old Testament religion, upon which Hengstenberg vainly insisted in his obliteration of the limits between the Old and the New Testament. In acknowledging the principle of slow historical genesis, others sought to understand the development of the Old Testament religion by the principle that no doctrine is completed in the Old Testament, no doctrine in the New Testament is altogether new (G. F. Oehler, Theologie des Alten Testaments, Tübingen, 1873-74; similarly Schultz and Riehm). J. Wellhausen (Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels, Berlin, 1886) and A. Kuenen produced a revolution in the treatment of the Old Testament. Under the influence of their religious-historical suppositions and literary-critical conclusions, Old Testament theology served to describe how from the supposed original conditions, from animism and totemism, the prophetic monotheism of the prophets and ultimately the theocratic ceremonialism of postexilic Judaism gradually developed (B. Duhm, Theologie der Propheten, Bonn, 1875; R. Smend, Alttestamentliche Religionsgeschichte, Freiburg, 1893; S. Kayser and Marti). In this way the Old Testament religion was placed on a level with other religions, and the surprisingly rich discoveries concerning the ancient Orient and the rising science of the history of religion grasped hands with this method of treatment. It was a natural consequence to show that the New Testament possesses a rich heritage of religious fancy common to ethnic religions (cf. especially H. Gunkel, Schöpfung und Chaos, Göttingen, 1895; Religionsgeschichtliche Abhandlung des Neuen Testaments, 1904). The idea of unity and special individuality of the New Testament thus goes by the board.
In glancing over the development of Biblical theology, it is surprising to see how this branch has worked out its own disintegration. In the beginning the aim was to make the Bible the only and sole source of Christian doctrine in the Reformers' understanding of the phrase, by allowing it to speak for itself without introducing any diluting medium. The investigator sought to penetrate its polymorphous nature, and finally saw that under his touch the uniting bond had disappeared which formerly kept together the disparate parts and made it an undivided object of scientific research. This self-immolation the discipline owes to a one-sided maintenance of the historical and religious-historical method. Biblical theology must indeed be a historical science; but the adjective must not become a noun and the method must not master the subject. For in this study there are fundamental perceptions which can not be obtained by literary criticism and general historical researches. Thus the subject itself–namely, the whole Bible–suggests the question whether the subject-matter is the remains of a religious literature or documents, productions, and descriptions of a history which is fixed by a revelation from God. And the answer to this question is of the greatest import for the investigation. How different must be the verdict of higher criticism, provided the miracles or the declarations of Jesus are regarded as a priori historically possible or impossible; how much the selection of the matter decides whether one shall find only religious-ethical views, or historical facts of the "religion of Jesus," or that "the belief in Christ" belongs to the essence of Christianity.
For this reason there has always existed an opposition to the development described above. The history of salvation with its literary deposit
Accordingly it is not the task of Biblical theology to criticize the theology of the Bible and to judge it by the measure of a probable understanding of the original to be obtained scientifically, but to show as a matter of fact what the contents of the Bible are and at the same time to bring into view the different forms and shapes in which these contents are offered. It owes to the Church a pure exhibition of the "word" by the preaching of which the Church has lived in all ages. On this account no help is gained by considering some "probable gospel of Jesus," sought behind the sources, but the necessity is that the Jesus Christ of primitive tradition be described, and that in the various forms in which it has been handed down. Again, the highest aim is always to produce a theology of the entire Bible (such an effort is K. Schlottmann, Kompendium der biblischen Theologie, 2d ed., Leipsic, 1895). But the separate treatment of the Testaments will generally recommend itself for practical reasons, since a great deal of preliminary work is necessary on the Old Testament, and because the difference of degrees of revelation must be indicated. But the correlation between the two must, after all, never be overlooked. It is a matter of course that the Biblical theology of the whole Bible can never dispense with exegesis. But it raises itself above the purely exegetical by its relation to systematic theology. It is released from the duty of exhibiting all the mazes and changes of development which are not essential to the understanding of the unified whole. On the other hand, it must not be misled into compressing Biblical riches into a narrow, one-sided system, which will take the form of contemporary dogmatics, for the dogmatic interest will take charge of the process of digesting the immense amount of subject-matter. One task of Biblical theology is to open the way of return from contemporary crystallization into formulas in dogmatics to the source itself. In this sense it will be of very great service to evangelical theology, provided it directs us to disclose more clearly and richly God's word in Holy Scripture and thus protests in the name of the document of revelation against every claim of human infallibility, for "God alone is infallible" (Zwingli).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Discussions on the methods of the discipline are in: C. A. Briggs, Study of Holy Scripture, pp. 569-606, New York, 1899 (historical and critical, discriminating); G. R. Crooks and J. F. Hurst, Theological Encyclopœdia and Methodology, pp. 249-255, New York, 1894; A. Cave, Introduction to Theology, pp. 405-421, Edinburgh, 1896; W. Wrede, Ueber Aufgabe und Methode der sogenannten neutestamentlichen Theologie, Göttingen, 1897; L. Emery, Introduction à l'étude de la théologie protestante, pp. 122-127, Paris, 1904 (the foregoing all contain bibliographies). An excellent review of recent literature is furnished in the Theologische Rundschau, May, 1907 (an excellent periodical devoted to the review of works on theology).
Works additional to those in the text which deal with the whole of Biblical theology or of some phase of both the O. and the N. T. are: L. Noack, Die biblische Theologie, Halle, 1853; F. Gardner, The Old and the N. T. in their Mutual Relations, New York, 1885; H. Schultz, Alttestamentliche Theologie, Göttingen, 1885, Eng. transl., Edinburgh, 1892; W. L. Alexander, A System of Biblical Theology, 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1888; C. L. Fillion, L'Idée centraIe de la Bible, Paris, 1888; C. G. Chavannes, La Religion dans la Bible, 2 vols., Paris, 1889; C. H. Toy, Judaism and Christianity, Boston, 1890 (called by Dr. Briggs "the best book on the subject"); A. Duff, O. T. Theology, Edinburgh, 1891 (original); R. H. Charles, Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life in Israel, Judaism and Christianity, London, 1899 (the one book in the field).
Additional and worthy books on O. T. theology are: C. H. Piepenbring, Théologie de l'Ancien Testament, Paris, 1886, Eng. transl., New York, 1893; A. Dillmann, Handbuch der alttestamentlichen Theologie, Leipsic, 1895 (posthumous); W. H. Bennett, Theology of the O. T., London, 1896 (a handbook); R. Smend, Lehrbuch der alttestamentlichen Religionsgeschichte, Freiburg, 1899; A. B. Davidson, The Theology of the O. T., Edinburgh, 1904 (somewhat disappointing).
Additional works on the N. T. are W. F. Adeney, Theology of
the N. T., London, 1894 (corresponds to Bennett
on the O. T.); H. J. Holtzmann, Lehrbuch der neutestamentlichen Theologie, 2 vols., Tübingen, 1897 (one of the
best on the subject); G. B. Stevens, Theology of the
N. T., New York, 1899; E. P. Gould, Biblical Theology of
the N. T., New York, 1900; D. F. Estes, An Outline of
N. T. Theology, ib. 1901; J. Bovon, Théologie du N. T., 2 vols., Lausanne, 1893-94, vol. i, 2d ed., 1902.
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