Biblical Theology: Books, Subjects, Summary, and More Info

Biblical Theology is a specific field of study in Christian Theology that studies how the diverse parts of the Bible connect to form a unified whole. It seeks to understand what the Bible says about itself by identifying the common symbols and theological themes that manifest throughout its many narratives. It provides a comprehensive framework for learning about the overall story of the Bible and seeing it as a single, coherent storyline that points to Jesus Christ as the centerpiece of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.

This field of study examines the Scriptures through some important interpretational guardrails. The historical, cultural, and literary contexts of the biblical stories are vital to consider when reading and interpreting the Bible. One theologian notes that Biblical Theology is the only thing that saves us from taking the Bible out of context and, therefore, misusing it.1 What an author intends to convey carries much more theological validity than the reader’s subjective interpretation of their words.

Biblical Theology recognizes and affirms the significance of authorial intent when it comes to correctly interpreting the Bible. 

Furthermore, by analyzing those authors, Biblical Theology details the development of God’s kingdom on earth throughout history. In particular, the stages of kingdom development are informed and broadly guided by covenants established between God and man. The outworking of these covenantal conditions eventually culminated in a new covenant established by Jesus Christ with us.

It’s no surprise why this field of study is such a popular one, especially within local churches. There’s a good chance that your pastor relays some amount of Biblical Theology to you during their Sunday sermon. That’s because it’s necessary when it comes to understanding the Bible and its stories. So, strap in as we explain more about the subjects and significance of Biblical Theology.

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Helpful Books about Biblical Theology

Biblical Theology books help you better understand the theological beliefs and expectations within the storyline of the Bible. It’s helpful to know how the Scriptures connect together because it impacts the ways that we read it. Needless to say, reading the Bible correctly is obviously important. That’s why we’ve listed some of the best and most helpful Biblical Theology books below.

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New Dictionary of Biblical Theology

Dust jacket of the book, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology.
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The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology is reference compilation edited by T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. They consulted with other editors and compiled articles from numerous authors to produce this book. It’s undeniably comprehensive, meticulously detailed, and a theologically significant milestone of a book.

It’s also evident that the editors structured this book to be understandable and easy to navigate. The organizational layout of it makes flipping between cross-references very manageable and accommodating. Readers will intuitively and regularly find insightful connections between different subjects that intersect in Biblical Theology.

The NDBT is divided into three parts (Introduction, Biblical Corpa and Books, Biblical Themes) with each part containing multiple sections. “Introduction” provides specialized information about the history, challenges, and practicality of Biblical Theology in general. “Biblical Corpa and Books” is an examination of every book in the Bible and how they fit together. “Biblical Themes” contains an alphabetical list of central ideas, recurring patterns, and theological topics that manifest throughout the Bible. The book itself is an insightful guide for anyone interested in exploring the theological narratives of the Bible.

Why It's #1

Instead of one author, the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology has two excellent Biblical theologians as editors. In this case, the editors consulted with two additional editors to produce the best book possible. As a result, this book has over 100 contributors, and they make the NDBT one of the finest Biblical Theology books available. Every serious student of the Scriptures should own a copy.

What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns

Dust jacket of the book, What is Biblical Theology?
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What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns, is an introductory survey of the biblical narrative from the scholarly perspective of James M. Hamilton Jr. As evidenced by its lack of footnotes and straightforward read, Hamilton’s book was written for the layman who is self-educatingSo, if you didn’t know there was a difference between Biblical Theology and other types of theology, this is the book for you. 

Hamilton arranges the book into three parts: The Bible’s Big Story, The Bible’s Symbolic Universe, and The Bible’s Love Story. The first part centers on understanding the Bible’s unified storyline throughout the passage of time. The second part pays special attention to the symbols, imagery, typology, and patterns that emerge throughout that storyline. Lastly, the third part focuses on the unique role of the Church. Hamilton’s insights demonstrate that the Bible undoubtedly has deeper layers of meaning in it.

Hamilton’s unique style of writing pulls the reader into a new way of thinking about the Bible. He methodically moves through the Bible’s noteworthy moments while spotlighting the recurring symbols and patterns which emerge throughout them. Ultimately, Hamilton demonstrates how the biblical authors foreshadowed and connected Jesus Christ to the redemptive plan of God.

The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments

Dust jacket of the book, The King in His Beauty.
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“The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments” by Thomas R. Schreiner is a remarkable and comprehensive work that delves deep into the theological tapestry of the entire Bible. Schreiner, a highly respected theologian and scholar, offers readers a masterful exploration of the Old and New Testaments, highlighting the unity and coherence of the biblical narrative.

One of the standout features of this book is its commitment to demonstrating the Bible’s overarching message: the kingship of God in both the Old and New Testaments. Schreiner’s writing is both scholarly and accessible, making complex theological concepts understandable while maintaining depth. He successfully weaves together the theological threads of the Bible’s various books, providing a thorough examination of the key themes and motifs that resonate throughout Scripture.

Schreiner’s work excels in offering readers a clear and comprehensive view of how the Old and New Testaments relate and build upon each other. His analysis of the Bible’s use of God’s kingship and kingdom is enlightening and underscores the central message of the entire biblical narrative.

The book is thoughtfully structured, providing readers with a logical progression of ideas. Schreiner’s commitment to the biblical text’s authority and his depth of research are evident throughout, making this work an invaluable resource for theologians, scholars, pastors, and any reader interested in a comprehensive exploration of the Bible’s theological message.

In conclusion, “The King in His Beauty” is an exceptional resource that not only showcases the theological unity of the Old and New Testaments but also offers a fresh and insightful perspective on God’s kingship as a central theme in the Bible. Schreiner’s scholarship, clarity, and dedication to highlighting the Bible’s core message make this book a must-read for anyone seeking a deep and coherent understanding of the theological narrative of Scripture.

The Significance of Biblical Theology

Biblical Theology is the very backbone of Christian Theology, and therefore, its significance cannot be overstated. It’s ongoing attempt to fully comprehend the unified storyline of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is perpetually relevant. Biblical interpretations are informed and influenced by an analysis of ancient issues, core concepts, and essential themes of the Bible. 

Furthermore, this field of study grapples with the complicated circumstances and situations that permeate the Bible’s story. It helps us comprehend what God was doing for us or communicating to us through some notably perplexing scenarios. Discerning the authorial intent of the biblical writers helps equip us with a deeper understanding of the Bible

Essentially, Biblical Theology helps us understand what the Bible originally meant so that we can interpret it accurately today.

Biblical Theology helps separate the archaic issues from the relevant ones when it comes to interpretation. The Bible is full of important stories that involve confusing customs and cultural norms of the ancient Near East. However, Biblical Theology uncovers the principles behind the stories to help clarify what does and doesn’t apply to us.

This field of study ultimately affects what we believe about the Bible and how we interpret its overall message. Primarily, Biblical Theology examines and explains the Gospel message about Jesus Christ. In so doing, it reveals God’s love and mercy through the plan of salvation for mankind.

Main Subjects in Biblical Theology

There are some important subjects that shape the field of Biblical Theology. Not only are they developed and refined throughout the Bible, but they also help drive its story forward. These subjects help categorize sections of the Bible, outline the inner workings of its theological themes, foreshadow coming events, and generate expectations about the future. Biblical Theology is markedly involved with connecting the dots between the topics below. 

The Old Testament

The Old Testament is a collection of sacred writings that form the first part of the Christian Bible. It was written over the course of several centuries by numerous authors, and its pages contain literary genres like narrative, poetry, prophecy, songs, and wisdom literature. It records the history of ancient Israel and cryptic prophecies about the coming Messiah, but it also relays practical advice for a godly lifestyle through divine guidelines like the Ten Commandments. The Old Testament lays the theological foundations for the New Testament through thematic stories and prophetic typologies that foreshadow the coming of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The New Testament

The New Testament is a compilation of historical records that comprise the second part of the Christian Bible. It contains four accounts that document the life of Jesus Christ (Gospels) and multiple letters from the Apostles to other Christians (Epistles). The Gospels record the life and deeds of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. His Apostles wrote the subsequent epistles to address specific issues and circumstances in the early Church, and they contain insightful teachings about holiness and the Christian lifestyle. These 27 canonical books combine to form a comprehensive understanding of the Gospel message about forgiveness for sin, salvation through Jesus, and eternal life in the kingdom of God. Within Christianity, the New Testament is widely regarded as the final revelation from God to humanity and as the completion of the story started by the Old Testament.

Biblical Covenants

Covenants are important plot points that advance the storyline of the Bible through promises from God. Biblical covenants are agreements made by God with His human partners, and each of them reveals something meaningful about the relationship between man and God. There are five ecumenically recognized covenants outlined in the Scriptures (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and the New Covenant). A significant promise is attached to each of these Biblical covenants, and the Scriptures refer back to them at different points in its pages. However, based on the parameters that constitute a covenant, many theologians believe there are more than just these five Biblical covenants. Although there may be different Biblical covenants, they tend to be categorized into one of the following categories: works-based covenants or grace-based covenants. 

In the Bible, there is a clear distinction between a works-based and a grace-based covenant. A covenant of works is a two-way agreement, and a covenant of grace is a one-way agreement. In a works-based covenant, when God makes a promise, receiving the blessings of His promise(s) is contingent on the actions and/or obedience of the person/people in the covenant. Under this model, the covenant is a two-way agreement in which God blesses or curses the person/people in accordance with their obedience or disobedience to the guidelines of the agreement. In a grace-based covenant, when God makes a promise, there are no stipulations to uphold in order to receive that promise. Under this model, the covenant is a one-way agreement in which God labors to bring the promise(s) to pass. These two types of Biblical covenants are the framework for understanding the cohesive storyline of the Scriptures.

The Kingdom of God

The kingdom of God is a primary theme that can be traced throughout the entirety of the Bible. It was crudely foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the unified kingdom of Israel, but it was definitively inaugurated through the finished work of Christ in the New Testament. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus created the spiritual pathway for people to have eternal citizenship in it through belief. However, although believers are citizens, the kingdom of God has not yet been fully manifested on earth. As such, the Scriptures often refer to the kingdom of God as a present reality but also a future destination. This already-but-not-yet dynamic permeates the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. Currently, Christians are ambassadors of the God’s kingdom and testify to the truth of its coming. Essentially, the kingdom of God is the people of God under the rule of God on earth and in heaven.

The Messiah

The term “Messiah” or “Christ” is a term that emerged from the Hebrew Bible and means “anointed one.” The Messiah is an eschatological figure within Judaism expected to redeem God’s people from the powers of evil. He is prophesied to be a descendant of King David, and ultimately, his messianic mission is to deliver God’s people from their enemies. However, the Hebrew Bible (known as the Old Testament) ends with an expectation of the Messiah’s arrival but without revealing the identity of this person.

The Christian Bible continues the story of the Old Testament by identifying Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ (Messiah). The first four books of its New Testament, the Gospels, provide a detailed description of His story and approach to the messianic mission. Although the Jewish people were expecting a political Messiah to deliver them from their physical enemies militarily, Jesus came to deliver people from their spiritual enemies. However, the New Testament ends without Jesus fulfilling every messianic prophecy foretold in the Old Testament. This raises some legitimate theological questions regarding the Messiahship of Jesus, but because of His resurrection from death and ascension to heaven, we have a new expectation of the Messiah a second coming.

The Gospel Message

The Gospel is a message of good news and revolves around God’s redemptive plan for humanity through Jesus Christ. It highlights God’s desire for mankind’s spiritual restoration through the forgiveness of sin and salvation from judgment. It proclaims that God sent Jesus to live a sinless life, die on the cross as a sacrificial atonement for human sin, and triumphantly rise from the grave after three days thereby conquering death itself. As a result, Jesus can offer eternal life to all who trust in Him as Savior and follow Him as Lord. In response to this good news, everyone is urged to repent of their sin, believe in what God did through Christ, and establish a personal relationship with Jesus as the exclusive pathway to reconciliation with God. The Gospel message is the central theme in Biblical Theology and the crux issue of Christianity.

Prophecy and Prophets

Prophecy is a term associated with the foretelling of future events. Prophecy is oftentimes cryptic and open to interpretation before being fulfilled, but its meaning becomes clear in hindsight. However, unlike fortune telling, prophecy is centered around what God has said will come to pass in the BibleAlthough God uses humans to reveal and articulate prophecy, the prophecy itself doesn’t originate from the human mind. Instead, God is the source of all true prophecy. Therefore, when someone prophesies without being told to do so by God, it’s called false prophecy. 

Prophets were spiritual men and women used by God to reveal and articulate prophecies to others. However, these people did more than foretell future events; in fact, that was only a small part of their role. Most often in the Bible, the role of the prophet was to rebuke people and leaders for their sinfulness. Consequently, prophets became the targets of others’ anger and were martyred for their faithfulness to God. Prophets are important people in the Bible, and a number of Old Testament books are named after specific prophets. 

Summary of Biblical Theology

Biblical Theology is a field of study that revolves around understanding how Scripture interprets itself. It considers the theological connections between the Old Testament and New Testament. This includes mapping how biblical authors utilize quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament.

This field of study helps us ascertain more about the kingdom of God and our role in it. Additionally, it develops a comprehensive framework for understanding the Gospel message.

Biblical Theology is uniquely involved with analyzing and interpreting the theological ideas that develop in the storyline of the Bible.

Biblical Theology inevitably points to the cross of Christ. It ultimately concludes that Jesus Christ is the focus of God’s redemptive plan for humanity; salvation comes through Him. Furthermore, it affirms that Christ is the final and fullest revelation from God to mankind. Jesus is the apex story of the Bible.

The significance of Biblical Theology cannot be overstated. This field of study is the foundational framework for every other branch and subsection of theology. Essentially, you are doing Biblical Theology whenever you read the Bible and connect the dots of its storyline.

FAQs Answered by Biblical Theology

According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah. His sinless life, sacrificial death, and permanent resurrection defeated the power of death and accomplished salvation for humanity. Furthermore, He has eternal life and promises to give it to His followers.

The Gospel message contains the salvific story about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus created the pathway for God to forgive the sinfulness of humanity. People who put their trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sin will be saved on Judgment Day. Those trusting Christ are given the gift of the Holy Spirit and become part of the kingdom of God. 

The kingdom of God is both a present reality and a future destination. Presently, it exists in the hearts of believers everywhere, and its location on earth is the Church. As such, Christians are ambassadors of the kingdom who testify to its truth while waiting on Christ to return. In the future, the kingdom will be fully manifested throughout the entire earth with Jesus Christ reigning as King.

Yes! The Old Testament is invaluable to Christianity. Without the Old Testament, we could not properly understand the story of Jesus Christ and the context for it. Furthermore, Jesus and all the Apostles believed that the Old Testament was Scripture inspired by God. Although much of the Old Testament is ancient history, its contents and insights are still applicable for our modern day.

The New Testament contains 27 books of the Bible. The first four books are called Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and in short, they record the life of Jesus Christ. The fifth is the book of Acts, and it records the deeds of the Apostles following the resurrection and subsequent ascension of Christ. Books 6-18 are epistles from the Apostle Paul to various churches and people. Books 19-26 are epistles from other Apostles to other churches and people. Lastly, book 27 is a unique epistle written by the Apostle John and full of apocalyptic literature.

  1. P. J. H. Adam, “Preaching and Biblical Theology,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 108.