What is Biblical Theology? By James M. Hamilton Jr.

I love Biblical Theology.  I love it because Jim Hamilton inspired me to love it.  I love it because it makes me love my Bible and the God that it reveals.  I am privileged to have studied with Dr. Jim Hamilton at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Jim was not only my professor, but pastor, and friend.  I could not have been more happy to see this little manual (128pp), What is Biblical Theology?, published because it gives me one more staring point in sharing the passion I learned from Jim for God’s Word with my friends.

Biblical Theology, in my opinion, is the must important, foundational way of learning to read our Bible.  As Jim says, “To do biblical theology is to think about the whole story of the Bible…[it is] understand[ing] the organic development of the Bible’s teaching so that we are interpreting particular parts of the story in light of the whole” (12).  The Bible does this through the use of symbols, imagery, typology, and patterns.  The result is one big narrative that encapsulates all of what God is doing in our world through the person of Christ.  When rightly seen, the developing story of the Bible is far from being just a disjointed, multi-part fiction series; it is the framework for life and the worldview that God has given to His people.  When we begin to take on the mind of the Biblical authors we begin to enter into the only story that matters.

In What is Biblical Theology? Jim communicates an intense passion for the Word (and I would expect nothing less).  It is in the Bible that we experience God.  We come to know Him by learning to read well his revelation of Himself (20).  And that is what Biblical Theology is, “learning to read the Bible from the Bible itself” (20).  Jim’s main Hope is that after reading his work “you want more – more of the Bible” since it is the seat of God’s self-revelation (21).

What is Biblical Theology? is broken up into three parts: part 1 recounts the Bible’s big story; creation, fall, redemption, restoration, part 2 explains the parlance of Biblical Theologians; what do they mean by symbols, imagery, typology, and patterns, and part 3 puts what the reader has learned to use as the Bible’s love story is laid out.  What is really great about the whole book is that it is teaching you Biblical Theology by doing it throughout.  Jim cannot describe Biblical typology without showing you amazing types in the Bible!  Not only does he show you amazing connections in the Bible, but He applies their significance to life.  This is Biblical Theology done well.  I guarantee the reader will find something new about the word of God through Jim’s explanation of Biblical Theology.  As an example, my mind was blown on page 51 where Jim describes the way Isaiah’s reflections on David influenced the writing of his prophecy of the suffering servant.

The mystery and surprise to Jim’s work is its radical focus on the church!  This is a really refreshing breath of air in the midst of an evangelical culture that regularly tears down the bride of Christ.  Through good Biblical theology modeled Jim tackles the question, “If the church is so special in God’s program, why does it seems so unimpressive?” (97).   I will leave the answer to this question for the reader to discover.  Jesus will marry His righteous, redeemed bride.

My only critique of What is BiblicalTheology? is that those looking for a didactic cut and dry guide to Biblical theology may find themselves lost in the sea of imagery that is throughout the book.  Jim loves the imagery of the Bible and cannot speak about the Bible or life but by talking in the Bible’s imagery about its imagery.  This is the mark of a true Biblical Theologian! By nature of my relationship to Jim, I knew exactly what he was saying, but someone fresh to the discipline of Biblical Theology may find himself or herself grasping for an anchor.  My advice for that reader is to take the ride.  Relax in the imagery of the Bible and let it wash over your soul again and again until the Holy Spirit sets his anchor by giving you eyes to see and ears to hear.

Hearing the big story of the Bible for the first time was my biggest take away from Seminary. I am saddened that I had to what so long for something so critical to the way I read my Bible.  But you don’t have to go to seminary to get the story of the Bible.  I highly encourage you to pick up What is Biblical Theology?.  Biblical Theology helps Christians understand that the classic literature narrative of hope, salvation, and the defeat of evil is true!  And God is the original author of this grand story line that we love!  As Jim says, “Biblical Theology… [is] a way of getting out of a false world into the real one, a transporter enabling us to inhabit the story of the Scriptures” (97).


Hamilton, James M. What is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014. 128pp. $12.99
Powered by Blogger.