By Chester K. Lehman
© 1971 See end of this page for details.

1. Formative Ideas of Biblical Theology

"In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (Heb. 1:1). With these words the writer of the letter to the Hebrews expressed in brief yet most fundamental and significant language a primary concept of the formative ideas and structural pattern of biblical theology. The words "God spoke" lead to the very heart of this discipline. The writer hereby gave witness to the most stupendous fact of all human history. God spoke to mankind. And, further, it was by the prophets through whom God spoke. By this restrictive statement it becomes clear that God did not speak just to any one but rather to a chosen group of His servants called prophets.

In Old Testament history these prophets were the mouthpieces of God. In the most apropos times they spoke God's word to the people. These messages came in many parts and in many ways. This suggests that He used the most significant ways and means of communication to His people. The climactic manner of God's speaking was by His Son. There is a definite progress from God's speaking through the prophet to His speaking through the Son. The form of language suggests that God not only spoke by His Son but also in His Son. This suggests the organic unity of all God's revelation whether given through the prophets or through the Son. A very important chronological aspect becomes apparent in His closing words. It was in the last days that God spoke by a Son. This reflects a grand eschatological view of God's revealing work. The prophets looked forward to an era beyond their time which they called the latter days. Through the coming of the Son, this prophetic period, the latter days, took its beginning.

These definitive ideas of God's revelation to man are voiced elsewhere in the New Testament. Jesus gave a new dimension to the spoken word of God when He said, "Everything written about me in the law . . . and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled" (Lk. 24:44). Jesus hereby referred to the Old Testament in its entirety. In this way He gave witness to the grand unity, the unfolding character, and the forward look of the Old Testament. The most distinctive character of this body of writings was that they looked forward to the coming of Christ. This unique character of these writings becomes greatly accentuated in the claim that everything must be fulfilled. This cannot be predicated of any other body of writings.

Paul gave a similar testimony when he declared to the people at Antioch, "We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus" (Acts 13:32, 33). Thus all that the Old Testament Scriptures foretold of the coming One was very appropriately known as the good news, the gospel. In his letter to the Galatians (3:15-18) Paul gave some insight into the character of the Old Testament revelation, especially on the point of its structure. He brought the promises made to Abraham and the law into perspective by stating that the latter did not annul the former. The promises could not be broken because God gave them by covenant agreement. This covenant relation between God and His people obtained supreme importance throughout biblical history and on this account the two parts of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments (covenants) respectively, bear these titles. Paul affirmed the unique nature of the Bible by his use of the expressions the holy scriptures and the sacred writings. He maintained its distinctiveness by stating that "All scripture is inspired by God." This God-breathed Scripture possesses the most extraordinary values in being "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete. equipped for every good work" (Rom. 1:1, 2; 2 Tim. 3:15-17).

Peter gave yet another insight as to the divine character of the prophetic Scriptures. He wrote, "No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Pet. 1:20, 21). These words express two aspects of the Scriptures: the divine and the human. Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God, and yet men spoke. [1]

Drawing together these formative ideas concerning the process of divine revelation, we note these points: (1) God spoke to man. This speaking of God to man was divine revelation. (2) The agent of this divine revelation was the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. (3) God's speech to mankind was limited to chosen individuals, most of whom were called prophets. Being called of God they spoke from God and for this reason they possessed special authority. (4) This revelation from God was not limited to only one disclosure or to words alone. It came in many parts and in various ways. (5) God's word pertained not only to man in his then present need. It has a forward look. It was a word of promise. Its very character was eschatological. As noted earlier, the prophets looked forward to a coming age, the latter days, in which God would bestow upon His people untold blessings of deliverance and salvation. (6) These divine revelations centered in the good news, the gospel, and pertained to the coming One, the Messiah, the Christ, who would rule in the kingdom of God. This distinctive characteristic of the Old Testament has no parallel in any other body of writings.

(7) The biblical revelation began in the Garden of Eden when God encountered Adam and Eve after their transgression. He spoke not only words of judgment and consolation but He also implanted a hope. He promised that He would put enmity between the serpent and the woman. He would send One who would bruise the head of the serpent. Hope was built on the promise. This gives the fundamental character of divine revelation. Throughout the entire Old Testament era God continued to give many promises upon which hope could be built. (8) God's revelations were vitally bound up with covenants which He made with His people. Through these sacred agreements God drew His people to Himself. His unfolding revelation further expounded the meaning of this covenant relationship. This covenant relationship became the fundamental connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament. (9) God's revelation was closely bound up with the nature and circumstance of human history. Thus God's promises to Abraham were in a different historical setting from that of giving the law.

(10) This divine revelation possesses two general characteristics, unity and progress. The unity is found in that whether the revelation was through the prophets or through Christ, in all of it God spoke. The progress is seen in the unfolding of divine revelation throughout the entire Bible and of its coming to a climax in Christ. Naturally it becomes one of the major tasks in the study of divine revelation to gain the proper sense of relationship between unity and progress in divine revelation. (11) There is need also for determining the relation between the spoken word of God as recorded in the Bible and the written word, the Bible itself. The words of God's spokesmen - the prophets, Christ, and the apostles - are words of God. The closely related idea of the written Word as being God-breathed and so in all verity the Holy Scriptures and the sacred writings, places the written Word in the same category as the spoken word.

(12) Finally, distinctive values are ascribed to the Holy Scriptures. They possess the dynamic for instructing one for salvation. They are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. With these values the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

These twelve formative ideas constitute in the large the author's concept of biblical theology. Obviously they form a distinctive approach to this study. My reason for this approach is found in what I conceive to be the Bible's own claims pertaining to the nature of its contents. By the grace of God, I shall make a strenuous effort to give an exposition of the biblical view of divine revelation. With these formative ideas of divine revelation before us, the definition of biblical theology should now be possible.


2. Definition of Biblical Theology - A Survey of Recent Approaches and Definitions

Biblical theology is that branch of biblical interpretation which deals with the revelation of God to men in the light of the revealing activity of God, the spiritual experiences of men to whom He spoke, and the character of the written Word. This definition of biblical theology holds to the fundamental ideas of such scholars as J. H. Titcomb, C. F. Oehler, Hermann Schultz, A. B. Davidson, Geerhardus Vos, E. J. Young, and J. B. Payne. Writing in 1871, Titcomb gave a significant title to his book: Revelation in Progress from Adam to Malachi. He looked at the Old Testament "as containing a series of gradual and progressive revelations, which, while given from the time of Adam to that of Malachi, under every variety of circumstance, were yet marked by an organic unity of purpose which historically culminated in Christianity, and in it alone found their true meaning and fulfillment." [2]

Oehler, in his monumental work, said: "Biblical theology has the task of exhibiting the religion of the Bible according to its progressive development and the variety of the forms in which it appears. The theology of the Old Testament has therefore to follow the gradual progress by which the Old Testament revelation advanced to the completion of salvation in Christ; and to bring into view from all sides the forms in which under the Old Covenant, the communion between God and man found expression." [3]

Hermann Schultz wrote, "Biblical theology (is) that branch of the theological science which gives a historical presentation of revealed religion during the period of its growth." [4]

Vos, to whose work I am most deeply indebted, wrote: "Biblical theology is that branch of exegetical theology which deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible." [5] He also noted that "the inward, hidden content of God's mind can become the possession of man only through a voluntary disclosure on God's part. God must come to us before we can go to Him." Since it is impossible for the spirit of man to penetrate into the Spirit of God, it is necessary for God to open up to us the mystery of His nature before we can acquire any knowledge concerning Him. Vos gave four main aspects which determine the study of biblical theology: (1) The historic progressiveness of the revelation process, (2) The actual embodiment of revelation in history, (3) The organic nature of the historic process observable in revelation, and (4) The practical adaptability of revelation. [6]

E. J. Young and J. Barton Payne followed in the spirit of Vos. The latter defined biblical theology simply as "the biblical history of divine redemption."[7] To Payne, biblical theology was historical, divine, and redemptive. It derived its knowledge of the will of God from the Bible.

A. B. Davidson held that "Biblical theology is the knowledge of God's great operation in introducing His kingdom among men, presented to our view exactly as it lies presented in the Bible." [8] Elsewhere he noted that God's operation extended over long periods of time and culminated in the coming of God's Son. He emphasized that Old Testament theology is a historical science and that the presentation of the Old Testament religion in Old Testament theology is genetic. Its progress was organic. He held that Old Testament theology is a development. It is completed in New Testament theology. [9]

The past fifteen years have marked a very significant revival of study of biblical theology both of the Old Testament and the New. While most of these works represent some departure from the traditional, conservative viewpoint and movement in the direction of neoorthodoxy, the most significant advance is found in a new discovery of the unity of the Bible. Though understood differently by contemporary theologians, this is the grand truth to which conservative scholars have held all through the history of the study of biblical theology. A second characteristic of most modern biblical theologies centers in a lowering of the value of the written Word. While it seems evident that some students have overstated the claims of the Bible for itself, it is apparent that many modern scholars do not accept the Bible's claims for its origin and authority. Although these scholars pay a high tribute to the fact of God's revelation to man, it is to be regretted that the Bible's claims for itself are not fully recognized. The problem centers in an overemphasis of the human side of the origin and nature of the Scriptures to a corresponding neglect or rejection of the divine aspects of these matters.

A scholar of this class is Edmond Jacob, professor of the University of Strasbourg. "The theology of the Old Testament," said Jacob, "may be defined as the systematic account of the specific religious ideas which can be found throughout the Old Testament and which form its profound unity." [10] The viewpoint of Jacob becomes clear when he says that within the Old Testament itself it is already possible to speak of theology. The Old Testament counts among its authors several real theologians. By this he would have us understand that "a theology of the Old Testament should be able to draw inspiration from those theologians in such a way as not to fit the Old Testament into a modern scheme or explain it according to a dialectic which is fundamentally foreign to it." [11] The author noted further that the New Testament, too, is the theology of the Old Testament, for its essential purpose is to show that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah promised to Israel to whom all Scripture bears witness. Jacob insists that a theology of the Old Testament which is founded on the Old Testament as a whole can only be a Christology. What was revealed under the old covenant through a long and varied history in events, persons, and institutions, is in Christ gathered together and brought to perfection. This idea is based upon the principle of the unity of the two Testaments and a fortiori on the internal unity of the Old Testament itself. His critical view of the Old Testament itself is reflected briefly when he says, "The unity of the Old Testament is in no way incompatible with what critical and historical study has revealed about the very diverse elements that have gone into its composition, for the collections of books and traditions have not prevented the Old Testament from remaining as one book and the expression of one religion. That is an objective fact and consequently justifiable from scientific study." [12]

George A. F. Knight gave a clue to his distinctive viewpoint by entitling his book, A Christian Theology of the Old Testament. He pointed out that the Old Testament is nothing less than Christian Scripture. That is, "A theology of the Old Testament must arise out of the combined thinking of the whole church. The Old Testament is a Book that must be read within the walls of the Christian church since the 'church has received the Old Testament from the hand of Jesus.' Therefore an exposition of the Old Testament cannot confine itself merely to a critical and historical analysis either of its books or its teaching." [13] Still further expressing his viewpoint, Knight said, "This Christian Theology of the Old Testament is consequently an attempt to discover and present the total meaning of the Old Testament. It does not attempt to analyze the progressive thought of Israel about God and about God's mighty purposes. But it does seek to discover what the Old Testament has to say to the twentieth century in the light of the Christian revelation as a whole." [14, 15]


3. Impact of Philosophical, Critical, and Theological Thought upon the Study of Biblical Theology

Biblical theology, like any other theological discipline, has been affected by existing types of thought. It lies beyond my purpose to give a history of this discipline, but it is essential to take a look at the development of biblical theology. [16] The term "biblical theology" was used first of a collection of proof texts that were adduced in support of the doctrines of the church. It stood over against the philosophical and theological presentation of systematic theology. The Pietists used the term, as Vos said, "to voice their protest against the hyperscholastic method in the treatment of dogmatics." [17] John Phillip Gabler first spoke of biblical theology as a historical science in his Altdorf inaugural oration in 1787, "Concerning the Correct Distinction Between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology." Gabler defined the work of biblical theology as the statement of the "Religious Ideas of Scripture as an Historical Fact, so as to distinguish the different times and subjects, and so also the different stages in the development of these ideas." [18] While it was distinctly to his credit to see the need for a historical treatment of the Bible, it is necessary to observe that he was limited by his philosophical rationalism. Vos noted this when he said: "The chief characteristic of this school was its disrespect for history and tradition, and the corresponding worship of reason as the sole and sufficient source of religious knowledge. A distinction was drawn between (a) past beliefs and usages recorded in the Bible as a matter of history, and (b) what proved demonstrable by reason." [19] Rationalistic thought has continued to impose a negative influence upon the study of biblical theology.

In such a rationalistic environment, E. W. Hengstenberg was the first to exert a positive influence on the theological treatment of the Old Testament. In his extensive four-volume work, Christology of the Old Testament, with all of its one-sidedness, Hengstenberg "very distinctly aimed at finding all the fundamental New Testament doctrines not in the process of growth, but ready-made." [20] Another important figure in the development of biblical theology was Johann Christian Konrad von Hofmann, who wrote an important two-volume work in 1841-44 entitled Prophecy and Fulfillment in the Old and New Testaments. Hofmann belonged to the Erlangen school of theology. He originated the idea of the Heilsgeschichte Theologie (Theology of Redemption). Writing as a historian and theologian, he saw the manifestations of God's activity in history. He demonstrated that the progress of prophecy and of history bore a close relationship. He regarded the history of Israel as a related chain of actions that led up to and prepared for Jesus Christ. "In the holy and blessed man Jesus," he said, "the history of the relation of God and man has reached its preliminary con-"summation." [21]

The rise of the historical-religious school had far-reaching effects upon the study of biblical theology. Through the influence of Graff, Wellhausen, Gunkel, Kuenen, Wrede, Troeltsch, and many others, the theory of evolution was applied to the development of Israel's religion. Wellhausen, in particular, conceived of Israel's religion as beginning with Animism and passing through stages of Polytheism to Henotheism and finally to Monotheism, which stage was reached only in the days of the prophets of Israel. The Bible thus is a product of human, evolutionary development. It is to be viewed only as a history of religion without any revelation of God to this nation. Obviously, this reconstruction of Israel's history according to the pattern of evolutionary development runs diametrically opposite to the Bible's own representation of itself. While modern scholarship has greatly modified the Graff-Wellhausen critical view of the Old Testament, the general impact of this theory upon biblical theology still remains. This heightens our present responsibility to gain a correct view of the Bible's representation of its own origin.

A historicism dominated by the philosophy that miracles are impossible exerted a real tyranny over theological thought. Theological writings which support the Bible's record of the miraculous have had great difficulty in securing a hearing. It is highly gratifying that acceptance of the Bible's clear presentation of supernatural events in biblical history is again gaining ground. This is made possible in part by the evident historical sense and integrity of the biblical record itself. Historicism showed itself influenced more by philosophy than by plain historical evidence. Eichrodt stated the problem very clearly when he wrote of the rediscovery of the proper approach to our task: "This is no new problem, certainly, but is one that needs to be solved anew in every epoch of knowledge - the problem of how to understand the realm of Old Testament belief in its structural unity and how, by examining on the one hand its religious environment and on the other its essential coherence with New Testament, to illuminate its profoundest meaning. Only so shall we succeed in winning back for Old Testament studies in general and for Old Testament theology in particular that place in Christian theology which at present has been surrendered to the comparative study of religions." [22]

We move forward to consider Barth and the theology of crisis, otherwise known as neoorthodoxy. Undoubtedly, Barth holds the first place among theologians of the first half of the twentieth century. He was able to capture the attention both of liberalism and conservatism. For my purpose, Barth's concept of the Word of God is of prime importance. He distinguished three senses of the Word of God. The first and highest sense was the revealed Word or the Word that God spoke. This Word is Jesus Christ. The second was the written Word, the Bible, and the third was the preached Word. My present concern has to do with the first two of these senses. To Barth the revealed or spoken word of God is alone the Word of God. The written word cannot he called, in any proper sense, the Word of God with the same meaning as the revealed or spoken word. The written word possesses the character of the revealed or spoken word only when through the written word God encounters man. This is the existential aspect of Barth's thought which he gained from Kierkegaard. Barth emphasized that God has encountered man, not only the prophets but all men throughout human history. This gives a definitely subjective turn to his thought. The Bible does not give us full truth. The encounter of God with man becomes the channel of truth, according to his theology.

Barth's thought has several important implications for the study of biblical theology. First and foremost is the positive one of his recognition of the revealed or spoken word of God. Barth recognized that God spoke to man. God, the eternal, the absolute, the wholly other, encountered man. This encounter is a genuine human experience. This is the theology of crisis.

Second, Barth held that the center of theology is Christ, the superhistorical, not Jesus, the historical. For this reason Barth rejected the historicity of the fall of man. According to his thinking, it is a super-historical verity. On this account historical facts are nothing more than parables and demonstrations of the divine. [23]

It is at once apparent that this viewpoint is devastating to the biblical presentation of sacred history. It becomes apparent that this viewpoint makes it well-nigh impossible for us to lay hold of the spoken word of God. The spoken word of God is learned only through the divine encounter and not through the written record of His Word. But how can we gain a knowledge of the Christ and of Jesus without a written word?

Third, the low value given to the written word for all practical purposes robs us of the historical basis of biblical theology. With full recognition of the problems with regard to the interpretation of the biblical record, the only valid approach to biblical theology is the recognition of the internal claims which the Bible makes for itself. If some historical claims are rejected, no basis remains for accepting as historical any recorded event in the Bible. In spite of the stature of Barth, he has failed to give recognition to the uniquely divine and hence accurate character of the written word. This is not to ignore the place of critical studies of the Bible. Both lower criticism and higher criticism have a valid function in spite of the devastating effects of negative criticism.

Fourth, the recent developments of neoorthodox thought have given a commendable expression of the grand unity of the Bible. Scholars such as Baab, Eichrodt, Jacob, Knight, Vriezen, Rowley, and others are discovering that the Bible centers in Christ. The Old Testament looks forward to and prepares for the coming of Christ and the New Testament records the fulfillment of the Old. The use of the Old Testament by New Testament speakers or writers is being given very careful study. This has been the source of great enrichment of both Old Testament and New Testament biblical theology. There still remains the need of recognition by neoorthodox scholars of the biblical claim to inspiration.

Fifth, the serious implication for the study of biblical theology centers in Form Criticism. According to this viewpoint, oral tradition preceded the writing of the Bible. Early Old Testament history was preserved for centuries of time by oral tradition. The life and teachings of Christ were orally preserved in the church for several decades. The common outcome of this procedure is to maintain that the Old Testament contains much that is a backward projection of thought held when the historical books were written. In other words, the doctrinal content of the Pentateuch is the backward projection of the theological thought held by the prophets. The written teachings of Jesus represent the thought of the Apostolic Church at the time when the Gospels were actually written. While the general integrity of oral tradition is usually recognized, considerable freedom is taken to reject certain elements in the account which may not appeal to the student as being historical. In this way certain scholars reject all records of the supernatural. The most serious aspect of this question is seen in the rejection by some of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. These scholars fail to see that biblical writers followed a modern criterion for the writing of history, that of the validity of the testimony of eyewitnesses who are both competent and trustworthy. True indeed, the supernatural as depicted in the Bible lies beyond present human experience. But this does not make impossible the occurrence of supernatural events. When competent and honest witnesses bear testimony to the supernatural, we have adequate ground for their historicity.


4. Bearing of Pentateuchal Criticism on Old Testament Biblical Theology

It is now obviously necessary to pay some attention to the hearing of Pentateuchal criticism on our study. Students with the traditional viewpoint have held that the Pentateuch is Mosaic. This means that it is a product of the Mosaic era whether written by Moses or by others under his direction. [24]

In support of the composite character of the Hexateuch, Simpson. [25] draws attention to parallel narratives and laws, inconsistencies within narratives and laws, and chronological difficulties. Following the documentary hypothesis developed by Graff and Wellhausen, he holds that the J1 document appeared about 1000 B.C., produced by a writer whose interest was in Hebron. This was revised by J2 about 950 in the interest of making an appeal to the people of the north after their rebellion against the House of David. The E document is much the same as J2. It was written about 700 and represents an attempted rapprochement between the north and the south. After the fall of Jerusalem in 586, another rapprochement was attempted through the conflating of J and E in which effort was made to preserve the salient features of each. The Deuteronomic Code was designed to provide authoritative guidance for the people of the north after the catastrophe of 722. It was accepted by the south after 586 and later combined with JE. The Priestly Code was drawn up by those who wished to make Jerusalem the religious center of Israel after the return from captivity. It was combined with JED forming the present Hexateuch (The Pentateuch plus Joshua), J.E.D.P.

The documentary theory is obviously the result of a painstaking application of literary criteria. But external evidence for this process is entirely lacking. Nowhere in the Pentateuch are we made aware of a compilation of J. E. D. P. with all the attending revisions, recensions, or editings. Neither is there any evidence in the remaining books of the Old Testament or in Jewish tradition or in the New Testament of any such growth of the Pentateuch. Not that such a growth is impossible but rather that it is a grand case of accounting for the present form and content of these books on the sole basis of stylistic criteria.

Our concern in this study is with the bearing of all this upon biblical theology. Were Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Jacob historical persons? Does the Pentateuch give authentic history? Did God reveal Himself in word and deed as recorded in the Pentateuch? Is the civil and ceremonial legislation of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers Mosaic? Was the tabernacle as described in Exodus actually erected as stated in Exodus 40:17-33?

Did Moses give the several addresses to Israel as recorded in Deuteronomy? These questions are crucial for the study of biblical theology. In general whoever had anything to do in producing the Pentateuch in its present form and content sought to give the impression that all of the above questions are to he answered in the affirmative. Negative answers would seem to attack the honesty of all who shared in the composition of these books. If internal claims of these books to historical validity are to be rejected, we have no scientific basis for accepting anything as genuine or authentic from these books.

Further, as to the amount or extent of oral tradition relating to earliest history, say from Adam to Noah, or from Abraham to Jacob, or the era of Moses, we have no information. We do know that there were ancient written documents such as the code of Hammurabi. But there is no record of any contemporary historical writings dealing with the materials of the Pentateuch. There are no data in the Pentateuch referring to oral tradition as the source of its contents.

A positive approach to the Pentateuchal problem may be made as follows: First, the external evidence based on the canon of the Old Testament speaks something to this question. The forming of the Hebrew canon of the Old Testament at about 250 B.C. expressed a concept of the special character of this body of writings. This can be maintained in spite of problems which have to do with the forming of the Old Testament canon. The attitude of Judaism, of Christ and the early church is expressed most compactly by Paul in the names "holy scriptures" (Rom. 1:2) and "sacred writings" (2 Tim. 3:15). These books are the only body of writings which in the language of New Testament writers or speakers can be properly labeled as coming into being through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or as God speaking, or to which reference may be made in the words, "It is written." No external evidence exists as to how these books came into being. Our sole source of information is to be found in the books themselves.

Other external evidences for the origin of the Pentateuch are found in references to its contents in other books of the Bible. Beginning with Joshua and continuing through the books of the Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Paul's Epistles, and Hebrews there are no less than forty references to the Pentateuch with the titles, "The Law of Moses," "The Book of the Law of Moses," "Book of Moses," and "Book of the Law of the Lord Given through Moses. [26] A number of these references do not give precisely the extent of the body of writings referred to. The nearest to the definitive idea of the content of these books is found in Luke 24:44, where Jesus referred to the threefold division of the Old Testament. Since the Old Testament canon was then completed, the law of Moses evidently referred to the present Pentateuch. In most of the Old Testament quotations from the law of Moses, reference is specifically made to a statement from Deuteronomy. The frequency and character of the references to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would certainly indicate that Bible writers outside of the Pentateuch thought of these men as historical characters.

The testimony of archaeology is also very significant. Melvin Grove Kyle, who wrote more than thirty years ago, emphasized these functions of archaeology in criticism. [27] First, archaeology furnishes the true historical setting of Scripture. Second, it gives guidance to the methods of criticism; and third, it supplies facts wherewith to test theories. On the last point he added that there can be no real antagonism between the facts of archaeology and a correct literary criticism of trustworthy documents. The continuing studies of Albright, Wright, Thompson, Free, and others confirm the testimony of Kyle. The almost limitless evidence from archaeology completely confirms the historicity of the Pentateuchal contents. The value of this for biblical theology becomes apparent. Since the Pentateuch gives authentic history, we may believe that God revealed Himself in this era. Israel's God is "God who acts.' [28]

By way of conclusion, external evidence with regard to the origin and nature of the Pentateuch gives solid support to the internal evidences which we shall presently note. There are no disturbing factors from such areas as the canon and text of the Old Testament, literary criticism, biblical references to the Pentateuch outside of this body of writing, nor from archaeology. We are in position to survey the internal evidence and with confidence believe this testimony or witness. The historical character of the Pentateuch becomes evident in every narrative. These marvelous stories are presented in true historical fashion. There is complete absence of myth or folklore pattern, allegorical or parabolic style. The narratives deeply root themselves in temporal, historical, geographical, economic, and cultural data. For instance, the details of the patriarchs and of the wilderness wanderings are told in the language of an eyewitness. The historical events and the law constitute so many marks and tokens of Israel's life and journey in the wilderness. They dwelt in tents. They built a tabernacle and instituted a mode of worship. All along the way the entrance to Canaan was in prospect. The addresses of Moses in Deuteronomy appropriately came at the close of his life and anticipated Israel's early entrance into the land of promise.

With respect to the indications of authorship in the Pentateuch, we must note to begin with the complete absence of any claim to authorship covering the entire Pentateuch. The viewpoint of the writer or writers is one of anticipation and preparation for entrance to Canaan. The writer does not identify himself. He refers to Moses speaking and writing the definite portions ascribed to Moses. [29] The writer represents Moses as speaking seven-eighths of Exodus and on through Deuteronomy. Moses was certainly fitted to write. In the language of Stephen, "[He] was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds" (Acts 7:22). The most natural explanation of authorship is that one closely associated with Moses wrote under his direction and guidance. The nature of the entire narrative is that of a fellow wanderer through the wilderness. Evidence of embedded documents need not affect this view of authorship. It would seem that any view of the origin of these embedded documents which would reject their being written by competent and trustworthy recorders of oral tradition or by eyewitnesses of the events must be ruled out. It is evident that post-Mosaic materials are found in the Pentateuch. With the overwhelming evidence both external and internal for the historicity of these narratives, we can leave such matters as revisions or recensions of the original writings to further study and exploration. It does not lie beyond the possibility that manuscripts may yet be discovered which far antedate our present oldest copies of the Pentateuch. I therefore feel free to study the form and content, the nature and mode of God's revelation without dealing further with the question of embedded documents.


5. Relation of Biblical Theology to Other Theological Disciplines

Another step in orientation takes into consideration the relation of biblical theology to other closely related disciplines. It is common practice to think of four major classes of theological disciplines: first, biblical studies, often called exegetical theology; second, theological studies, including systematic theology, history of Christian thought, philosophy of religion, and sociology of religion; third, historical studies, including courses in church history; and fourth, practical studies, usually including courses in Christian education, practical theology, missions, and church music.

Biblical theology is the crowning work of the first main division, biblical studies. The subject matter of biblical studies naturally falls into four main classes. The first main class embraces foundation studies which support the historicity of the Bible. It includes courses in Bible geography, history of contemporary nations which affected Israel's history, biblical archaeology, and studies of the religion of peoples among whom Israel lived.

The second subdivision of biblical studies comprises biblical languages and biblical criticism including also biblical hermeneutics. In the area of biblical criticism we have studies of the canon of the Scripture, which relates to the books which make up the body of Scripture; the text, which seeks to determine the correct text of Scriptures; and literary criticism, which involves matters of authorship, date, and literary character of the books of the Bible. Biblical hermeneutics has to do with the science of interpretation. It includes all that must be considered when we reproduce in our own minds the thoughts of the writer as he recorded his thoughts in written language.

Biblical history may very properly mark off a third division of biblical study. Biblical history according to John D. Davis "is the record of that series of events which form the basis of the religion of the Bible." [30] This concept of biblical history is the natural stepping-stone to the proper concept of biblical theology. Among that "series of events which form the basis for the religion of the Bible" are the revealed words and acts of God. Biblical theology studies God's revelation in the setting of biblical history. It is concerned with the form, mode, content, and historical setting of this divine revelation.

It is essential to make clear the relation of biblical theology and systematic theology. A bit of confusion exists in the use of these two expressions. The use of the term "biblical theology" might imply that systematic theology is not biblical. Systematic theology by its very nature is biblical, but the approach to this discipline is different from that of biblical theology. Both of the disciplines deal with the same biblical materials. Biblical theology examines the process of the unfolding of God's Word to man. It is concerned with the mode, the process, the progress, and content of divine revelation. Systematic theology, on the other hand, looks at the total revelation of God, seeks to systematize these teachings, and to give a logical presentation of them in doctrinal form.

Thus by way of example, biblical theology studies the unfolding of divine revelation concerning the covenants recorded in the Bible. In this approach the covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and by Christ will be studied in their respective historical settings. The nature, content, and distinctive features of each are noted. On the other hand, systematic theology presents the total idea of God's covenant relation with man as it culminated in Christ. The strands of thought found in all the covenants are bound together in one grand teaching concerning God's covenant relation with man. The involvement of this doctrinal content with other great theological teachings such as the atonement, Christ's kingship, and the Lord's Supper adds breadth and depth to the meaning of this doctrine.

It is necessary to add, however, that systematic theology is broader than that outlined above. It includes a careful analysis and criticism of the great systems of Christian doctrine which commonly have the labels of Lutheranism, Calvinism, Arminianism, Anabaptism, Liberalism, Fundamentalism, Neoorthodoxy, and the like.


6. Method of Biblical Theology

The final step by way of orientation is that of giving brief consideration to the method of biblical theology. Drawing from Vos's presentation, [31] the method of biblical theology is determined in the main by the principle of historic progression. Periods or eras of divine revelation are determined in strict agreement with the lines of cleavage drawn by revelation itself. It may be very properly stated that the Bible is, as it were, conscious of its own organic being. It is aware of its own anatomy. By this approach we discover that the most fundamental line of cleavage in divine revelation centers in the several covenants which God made with man. It is this principle that Walther Eichrodt laid hold of in his great work, Theology of the Old Testament. Volume I, Chapter II of this work has to do with "The Covenant Relationship." This lays the foundation for his entire work.

It will be my plan after giving attention to God's revelation in the Creation to consider individually and in order the covenants made by God with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and through Christ." [32] All the teaching centering in these covenants will be considered in relation to these several covenants.

Oehler also gave some instructive insights as to the method of biblical theology. [33] He stated that the method of biblical theology is historical-genetic. As a historical science, it rests on the results of grammaticohistorical exegesis. This task, of course, must be pursued with proper attention to the principles of hermeneutics. We need to recognize the various forms in which revelation expresses its content and comprehend these forms as parts of an organic process of development. As noted earlier, Oehler also stressed the point that biblical theology must view the Old Testament in the light of the completed revelation of God in Christ for which it forms a preparation. It must show how God's saving purpose fulfilled in Christ moved through the preliminary stages of this history of revelation. He stressed that the genetic method seeks to reproduce the living process of the growth of the thing itself. This method refuses to find ripe fruit where only the bud exists. It aims to show how the fruit grew from the bud; it sketches the earlier stages in a way that makes it clear how the higher stages could, and necessarily did, spring from the former. [34]

For Additional Reading and References:

Baab, Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 7-22.
Buber, The Revelation and the Covenant, pp. 13-19.
Davidson, The Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 1-30.
Eichrodt, The Theology of the Old Testament, Vol. I, pp. 25-35, 5 12-20.
Elliott, The Message of Genesis, pp. 1-16.
Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 11-35.
Knudson, The Religious Teaching of the Old Testament. pp. 17-45.
Mowinckel, The Old Testament as the Word of God, pp. 9-41.
Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 5-47.
Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament, pp. 15-43.
von Rad, "Genesis," p p. 13-42.
Old Testament Theology,
Vol. I, p p. 105-28.
Raven, The History of the Religion of Israel, pp. 5-9.
Richardson, "Genesis," I-XI, pp. 11-40.
Ringgren, Israelite Religion, pp. 1-8.
Rowley, The Old Testament and Modern Study, pp. 1-83.
Schultz, Old Testament Theology, Vol. I, pp. 1-85.
Smart, The Interpretation of Scripture, pp. 232-304.
Vischer, The Witness of the Old Testament to Christ, Vol. I, pp. 7-36.
Vos, Biblical Theology - Old and New Testaments, pp. 11-36.
Vriezen, An Outline of Old Testament Theology, pp. 2-126.
Weidner, Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 17-34.
Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 109-53.
_____________ The Study of Old Testament Theology Today.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
    Volume I
    "Archaeology and Criticism," by M. G. Kyle.
    "The Bible," by James Orr, Sec. IV. "Biblical Theology," by James Lindsay, Sec. II.
    Volume II
    "Criticism of the Bible," by James Orr, Sec. II.
    "Criticism" (The Graff-Wellhausen Hypothesis), by Burton Scott Easton.
    "Genesis," by Wilhelm Moller, Secs. II, IV, V.
    "Exodus, The Book of," by Wilhelm Moller, Secs. I, II.
    "Deuteronomy," by George L. Robinson, Secs. 6, 8, 9.
    Volume III
    "Leviticus," by Wilhelm Moller, Secs. II, III.
    Volume IV.
    "Pentateuch," by Harold M. Wiener, Secs. II, IV.
    "Pentateuch, Problem of," by M. G. Kyle.
Allis, The Five Books of Moses.
The Interpreter's Bible,
Vol. I: "The Literature of the Old Testament," by William A. Irwin, pp. 175-84.
"The Growth of the Hexateuch," by Cuthbert A. Simpson, pp. 185-200.
Davis-Gehman, The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, "Pentateuch," pp. 465-70.
Douglas, The New Bible Dictionary, "Pentateuch," pp. 957-64. Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (A-D.), pp. 418-37.

End Notes:

1. Of such importance are these definitive ideas relating to the nature of God's revelation that I am appending a list of additional references which support and add to their significance: Gen. 12:1-3; 17:1-8; Ex. 3:2-6; 6:2-4; Josh. 1:1-8; 8:30-35; Ps. 119; Is. 1:1; 6:1-5; Jer. 1:4-10; 31:31-34; 36:1-8; Mt. 5:17-20; 26:54; Mk. 7:6. 10; 12:36, 37; Lk. 2:55; 16:16, 17; 18:31-33; 22:37; Jn. 1:1-18; 5:39; 12:37-50; Acts 3:17-26; 4:25; 28:23-25; Rom. 1:16, 17; 3:2, 4; 15:1-6; 16:25-27; 1 Cor. 10:1-11; 2 Cor. 3:4-18; Heb. 3:7; 4:1-13; 8:5-13; 10:15-18; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Rev. 1:1-3.
2. Rev. J. H. Titcomnb. Revelation In Progress from Adam to Malachi, A Series in Bible Studies (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1871). p. 10.
3. Pr. Gustav Friedrich Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, revised by George E. Day (New York: Funk and wagnalls Co., 1870). p. 5.
4. Old Testament Theology (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1892). vol. I, pp. 1, 2.
5. Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: win. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1948), p. 13.
6. Ibid., pp. 14-17.
7. J. Barton Payne. The Theology of the Older Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962), p. 17.
8. A. B. Pavidson, The Theology of the Old Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. 1904), p. 1.
9. Ibid., pp. 2. 10.
10. Edmond Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, translated by Arthur Heathcote and Phillip Allcock (New York: Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1958). p. 11.
11. Ibid., p. 12.
12. ibid., pp. 12, 13.
13. George E. F. Knight, A Christian Theology of the Old Testament (Richmond: John Knox Press,
1959), p. 7.
14. Ibid., p. 10.
15. For the distinctive viewpoints of other scholars in this class see: Baab, The Theology of the Old Testament. pp. 7-9. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, Vol. 1. pp. 13- 16. Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 27-33. Vriezen, An Outline of Old Testament Theology, pp. 9, 10, 12-29.
16. For other presentations of the history of biblical theology as a theological discipline see: Ochler, Old Testament Theology, pp. 22-41. Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 11-26. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament. Vol. I, pp. 28-35. Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament, pp. 25-43. Betz. Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. A-D." History of Biblical Theology. pp. 432-37.
17. Ibid., p. 17.
18. Oehler. ibid., p. 33.
19. Ibid.. p. 18.
20. Oehler, ibid., p. 37.
21. Quotation by J. L. Neve, A History of Christian Thought (Philadelphia: The Muhlenberg Press,
1946), vol. II. p. 133.
22. Theology of the Old Testament (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1961, translated by J. A. Baker). Vol. I, p. 31.
23. Op. cit.. p. 175.
24. Able presentations of the traditional viewpoint are found in the I.S.B.E. See articles on the Pentateuch by Harold M. Wiener and Melvin Grove Kyle. Dr. Oswald T. Allis. representing the old Princeton Seminary viewpoint, has written an able volume, The Five Books of Moses. After studying again the viewpoints expressed by these works and comparing them with those of modern scholars such as Pfeiffer and the authors of articles in the Interpreter's Bible I feel that there is still a great deal to he said in favor of the traditional viewpoint. I shall enlarge on what appears to be the abiding truth in the traditional viewpoint in a later paragraph.
25. The modern viewpoint is expressed by Pr. Cuthhert A. Simpson in "The Growth of the Hexateuch," in volume I of the Interpreter's Bible.
26. See Josh. 1:7; 8:31; 1 Kings 2:3; 8:33; 2 Kings 14:6; 21:8; 23:25; 1 Chron. 6:49; 22:13; 2 Chron.
8:13; 23:18; 25:4; 50:16; 33:8; 34:14; 33:12; Ezra 6:18; 7:6; Neh. 1:7,8; 3:1, 14; 9:13, 14; 10:29; 13:1;
Pan. 9:11. 13; Mal. 4:4; Mk. 12:19, 26; Lk. 20:28; 24:27, 44; Jn. 1:45; 5:46; 7:19, 22, 23; 8:5; Acts 3:22;
28:23; 1 Cor. 9:9; 2 Cor. 3:15; Heb. 9:19; 10:28.
27. See "Archaeology and Criticism" in ISBE., vol. I, pp. 226 ff.
28. This is the title of Studies in Biblical Theology No. 8 by G. Ernest Wright.
29. See Ex. 17 14. 24:4; 34:27; Num. 33:2; Deut. 31:9, 22.
30. The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, "History" (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press), p 248
31. Op cit. p 23
32. The covenant made through Christ will be treated in my Theology of the New Testament.
33. Op. cit., pp. 41, 42.
34. Other works which to a certain extent follow this pattern are those of Schultz. Heinisch Heidt, Ludwig Kobler, Knight, Eichrodt, and von Rad.

This is chapter 1 of Chester K. Lehman's Biblical Theology: Old Testament. Published by Leland M. Haines by arrangement with Herald Press, Scottdale, Pa. 15683 . Copyright © 1971 by Herald Press. All rights reserved.

IBSN 1-890133-12-4. Third printing, 1997. Available from Biblical Viewpoints Publications


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June 22, 2000