What is Biblical Theology and Why Do We Need It? By Greg Beale (with notes on the lecture)



Exegesis: “Biblical exegesis is the attempt to determine an author’s meaning (and ultimately God’s meaning) in one particular passage through such things as the analysis of its genre, of textual criticism, grammar, the tracing of the flow of thought, historical background, meaning of words, figures of speech, and the relationship with other biblical passages that are clearly quoted or alluded to.”

Systematic Theology: ST is “the branch of theology that seeks to elaborate the whole and the parts of Scripture, demonstrating their logical (rather than merely historical) connections and taking full cognizance of the history of doctrine and the contemporary intellectual climate and categories and queries while finding its sole ultimate authority in the Scriptures themselves, rightly interpreted. Systematic theology deals with the Bible as a finished product” (Carson).

Biblical Theology: BT is “that branch of theology whose concern it is to study each corpus of the scripture in its own right, especially with respect to its place in the history of God’s unfolding revelation. The emphasis is on history and on the individual corpus.“ (Carson)

Biblical theology is “nothing else than the exhibition of the organic progress of supernatural revelation in its historic continuity and multiformity” (Vos)

In this light, a biblical theological approach to a particular text seeks to give its interpretation first with regard to its own literary context and primarily in relation to its own redemptive-historical epoch, and then to the epochs preceding, and following it.

BT has an ethical demand. It makes a demand upon us. It applies to our lives.

3 BT Implications for preaching and teaching:

  1. How does the idea of this text relate to the purpose of the book?

  2. How does this text relate to the previous epochs or books of the Bible?

  3. How does a text relate to the following epochs or books of the Bible?

When you’re in a particular text you should give the whole picture to the degree that you can. Try to relate the text to an earlier text or theme that is spoken of earlier and how it flowers later in redemptive history. We are to tap into the whole counsel of God.


  1. The protestant canon of the OT and NT composes the divinely inspired, authoritative database of material for doing “Biblical Theology.”

  2. Later biblical quotations of, and allusions to earlier scripture, unpack the meaning of that earlier scripture and the earlier scripture sheds light on the later development.

  3. The divine authorial intentions communicated through human authors of scripture are accessible to contemporary readers. What human authors have said, contemporary readers can understand not exhaustively but enough for salvation and sanctification. This is the clarity of Scripture.

Implications for preaching and teaching:

  1. Always preach from the canon.

  2. Preach with confidence that scripture can be communicated clearly and that we can discover what it means.

  3. The OT in the OT and the OT in the NT is a crucial component to doing BT.

A pastor wants to identify the OT quote or clear allusions (without becoming parallelomaniacs).

Quotations and allusions from the OT are used in many different ways (see Beale’s handbook on the NT use of the OT).:

  1. Indicating fulfillment

  2. Indicating an analogy

  3. Indicating a prophecy that is not yet fulfilled but will be in the future

  4. Typology – typology is the study of analogical correspondences between persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God’s special revelation, which, more clearly from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic or foreshadowing nature.



  1. Analogical correspondence

  2. historicity

  3. Forward-pointing

  4. Escalation

  5. Retrospection – some things you can only see more clearly after the fact. (more clearly, meaning you could see it somewhat)

“Indirect Event Prophecy” – prophecy through events (e. g. Hosea 11.1 in Matthew 2)

Not limited to those clearly identified by the NT (interpretive method)

Typology Implications for preaching and teaching

  1. Be aware of OT narratives that have a typological function

    1. Interpretive hints from OT authors

    2. Patterns (e.g. Noah as a “second Adam figure”)

    3. Repeated events (e.g. creation and new creation)

  2. Not every event or Biblical character is a type.


  1. They assumed corporate solidarity or representation. (fathers rep families, kings/prophets rep nations)

  2. Christ as the Messiah is viewed as representing the true Israel of the OT and the true Israel (the church) in the NT.

  3. History is unified by a wise and sovereign plan so that ealier parts are designed to correspond and point to the latter parts.

  4. The age of eschatological fulfillment has come in Christ.

  5. The later parts of biblical history function as the broader context to interpret earlier parts because they are all inspired by the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Messiah is the goal toward which the OT pointed and is the end-time center of redemptive history.

These first 4 presuppositions solve 2 huge problems :

  1. prophecies about Israel applied to the church

  2. prophecies of Israel applied to Jesus

Implications for preaching and teaching:

  1. Shows continuity of promises and prophecies applied to the church and Jesus.

  2. Demonstrates how history can be interpreted as prophecy

THE CHRISTOTELIC (all of Scriptures is designed to point to the Christ) VIEW OF ALL SCRIPTURE

2 Cor 1:20 For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Him…

Matt 5.17 – “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Christ fulfilled the Law and the Prophets:

  1. The verbal prophecies

  2. The typological events/prophecies

  3. Jesus as the prophet, priest, and king

  4. As the ultimate teacher

  5. By keeping the whole law

Luke 24.27, 44 - Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures… Then He told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Goldsworthy: “While some texts may be more peripheral to the main message, no text is totally irrelevant. Thus, an event or person in the historical narratives of the Old Testament may never be specifically mentioned again. But it functions theologically within its own epoch, even if only to be one of the less prominent events or people in the outworking of God’s plan. It will always be part of a larger whole whose theological significance can be determined” (Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture).

The characters in the book of Acts are patterned after Christ (like Stephen’s death with Christ’s). Paul goes here and there and everywhere, then he sets his face to Jerusalem where he’ll get arrested to die.


Proposed “Centers” for the OT (some):

  • God (or his presence)

  • Israel

  • Relationship between God and Israel

  • Election

  • Promise

  • Covenant

  • Kingdom (Goldsworthy)

  • God’s demand for exclusive worship

Proposed “Centers” for the NT:

  • Anthropology (patterning our lives after Jesus, [Bultmann])

  • Salvation History (Cullman)

  • Covenant

  • Love

  • Christology

  • Justification

  • Reconciliation

  • Restoration from exile

  • Kingdom

  • Promise

  • New creation

Beale thinks that most of these are too specific and aren’t broad enough. Others think there isn’t a center but there are many or there is a multiperspectival way of looking at it.

For Beale, he thinks that there is a storyline that should be worked toward that doesn’t champion one theme nor conclude that there is no center and there’s just a multiplicity of themes.

The OT Storyline:

“The Old Testament is the story of God who progressively re-establishes his new creational kingdom out of chaos over a sinful people by his word and Spirit through promise, covenant, and redemption, resulting in the worldwide commission to the faithful and judgment (defeat or exile) for the unfaithful, unto his glory.”

The NT storyline is continuity with the old:

“Jesus‘ life, trials, death for sinners, and especially his resurrection by the Spirit have launched the fulfillment of the eschatalogical already-not-yet new-creational reign, bestowed by grace through faith and resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this new-creational reign and resulting in judgment for the unbelieving, unto the triune God’s glory.”

The point: we ought to work towards a storyline. Paul said, “for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole plan of God.”

Implications for preaching and teaching:

  1. Interpretation first with regard to its own literary context

  2. Interpretation in relation to its own redemptive-historical epoch

  3. Interpretation in relation to the epochs preceding and following it

Definition of preaching: “Expository preaching is ‘Bible-centered’ preaching. That is, it is handling the text in such a way that its real and essential meaning as it existed in the mind of the particular Biblical writer [and of God] and as it exists in the light of the over-all context of Scripture is made plain and applied to the present-day needs of the hearers’” (Greidanus citing Unger).

Giving the broader view "in light of the over-all context of Scripture" is using BT.

Isaiah 6.9-10 uses Deut 29.4. If preaching Isaiah 6 you should say something about Deuteronomy and Jesus quoting it in the gospels. How does it relate to what precedes and what follows?

Romans 12.1 – understand the sacrificial system in the OT to Jesus and now our living sacrifices tied to our following Jesus with cruciform lives. Give that broader context.

Crucial Questions:

(1) Where are we living in the redemptive, historical storyline right now?

e.g. 1 John 2.18 - Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard, “Antichrist is coming,” even now many antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour.

That’s from Daniel 7-12 and the last hour opponent and tribulation.

Application – some just chill because the Antichrist isn’t here yet. John says antichrist is here in a very real sense now. How are we to respond to this? Be loyal to God in the face of antiChristian deceptions by making Scriptures even more our central focus. Pastors preparing sermons, it’s even more crucial you don’t sluff off because of the latter day tribulation. Deception is all around us and it is in our churches or threatening our churches and if we are not feeding our people with the word of God then they will be susceptible. We will be susceptible.

(2) How does our passage relate to Christ and our relationship to him? A lot of Christians think we’re living after the Bible. We’re still in the latter days.

In Luke 24.32 the Emmaus travelers said: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

The Spirit will cause your heart to burn if you preach Biblical-theologically as Christ did in Luke 24.