Different approaches to Biblical Theology


If you want a less technical introduction to Biblical Theology, try Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel and Kingdom: A Christian Interpretation of the Old Testament (Exeter: Paternoster, 1981), or his According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (Leicester: IVP, 1991). Goldsworthy’s more advanced work for students and preachers is Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (Leicester: IVP; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000).

Other helpful publications on biblical theological themes include:

W. J. Dumbrell, The Search for Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994)

P. E. Satterthwaite, R. S. Hess, G. J. Wenham (ed.), The Lord’s Anointed: Interpretation of Old Testament Messianic Texts (Carlisle: Paternoster; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995)

T. D. Alexander, From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Main Themes of the Pentateuch (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995)

R. J. Gibson (ed.), Interpreting God’s Plan: Biblical Theology and the Pastor (Adelaide: Open Book, 1997; Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998)

T. D. Alexander & S. Gathercole (ed.), Heaven on Earth: The Temple in Biblical Theology (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2004)

Various volumes in the series New Studies in Biblical Theology (ed. D. A. Carson, Leicester: Apollos; Downers Grove: InterVarsity).

I gave some introductory lectures on Biblical Theology at Oak Hill College in London, which can be downloaded from the College’s website. These were for the benefit of people from local churches who were enrolled in our part-time evening course.

My little book on Isaiah (Christ and his People in the Book of Isaiah [Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 2003]), was an attempt to demonstrate how the discipline of Biblical Theology could help preachers move appropriately from the exegesis of passages in Isaiah to a Christian application. In the introductory chapter, I talk about the particular help given to me by Graeme Goldsworthy’s writings and engage also with the significant work by S. Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method (Grand Rapids/Cambride UK: Eerdmans, 1999).

However, almost everything I have written has been influenced by the study of Biblical Theology, in one way or another. In particular, my studies on atonement, sanctification, sexuality, and worship show the value of a whole-Bible perspective, when topics are controversial and alternative ways of looking at the biblical evidence are proposed.

A recent publication edited by Scott J. Hafemann and Paul R. House, Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), contains essays on various important biblical themes such as covenant, commands, atonement, Servant of the Lord, Day of the Lord, and people of God, which are examined across the Bible as a whole.

A critical review by Paul Sanders reveals the difficulties experienced with this method of biblical interpretation by those who do not hold the same evangelical convictions about the nature of Scripture.


2 thoughts on “Different approaches to Biblical Theology

  1. Bob Wetmore

    You have written 2 of my very favorite books in biblical theology (“Possessed by God” and “Engaging with God”). I am teaching biblical theology at Forman Christian College in Lahore Pakistan. We have looked at several books describing the philosophical approach to doing biblical theology, but someone needs to write a book for how to use biblical theology to develop “indigenous theology” in the non-western world. The missions textbooks are big on context, but have no clue on how to figure out biblical theological truths.
    I am assuming that Carson’s basic approach (following the redemptive history within its context, recognizing biblical typology and progressive revelation) is the best way forward. Maybe God might lead you to devote some time to developing a handbook for non-western theologians to use the principles of biblical theology to answer questions they face in their very unique contexts.


    1. That’s an interesting challenge Bob. I think it would be essential for someone living and working in another culture to attempt that, because you understand the biblical worldview and can reflect on how that applies in Pakistan. You could start with a simple theme like salvation and trace through the biblical view and compare it with the teaching of the majority religion in your country. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your post. I don’t look at my website often enough!


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