For my Biblical Interpretation class at CBU I am requiring Robert Plummer’s 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible and Graeme Goldsworthy’s According to Plan. Although the latter book is technically (and subtitled) “an introduction to biblical theology,” I am requiring it because, as Goldsworthy notes, “biblical theology is essential for hermeneutics” (25). In chapter one, Goldsworthy gives the following reasons why this is the case:
- “Biblical theology gives us the means of dealing with problematic passages in the Bible by relating them to the one message of the Bible” (21).
- “Biblical theology enables us to relate any Bible story to the whole message of the Bible, and therefore to ourselves” (22).
- “Biblical theology shows the relationship of all the parts of the Old Testament to the person and work of Jesus Christ, and, therefore, to the Christian” (23).
- “Biblical theology enables us to map out the unity of the Bible by looking at its message as a whole” (24).
- “Biblical theology provides the basis for the interpretation of any part of the Bible as God’s word to us” (25).
What you might notice from this list is that the first four points essentially say that biblical theology enables us to read the Bible as a whole and not just individual parts. This is vital to the task of interpretation, as each passage, chapter, section, and book of the Bible cannot be understood without placing it in the larger context of the biblical canon. This helps interpreters deal with two major roadblocks, namely problematic passages (#1 above) and the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament (#3). It also allows us to read the Bible as a unified story (#2) about Jesus Christ (#3b), which is then the proper way to understand application (#5). Biblical theology, in other words, gives us the context for interpretation (the whole Bible and its story), the object of interpretation (Jesus Christ), and the goal of interpretation (transformation into Christ’s image. Biblical theology could not be more important to the task of interpretation.