Graeme Goldsworthy, Australian Anglican and Old Testament scholar is well known for his passion for biblical Theology. Goldsworthy was formerly the lecturer in Old Testament, biblical theology and hermeneutics at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. Speaking for the Gheens Lectures, delivered on March 18-20, 2008, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Goldsworthy spoke first on the necessity and viability of biblical Theology. Goldsworthy’s lecture has four points – 1. Biblical Theology and the doctrine of Scripture, 2. The role of the gospel in biblical theology, 3. Challenges to biblical theology and 4. Summary conclusion: The necessity of biblical theology.
Goldsworthy defines the discipline of biblical theology as follows : “Biblical theology is the study of how every text in the Bible relates to every other text in the Bible. It is the study of the matrix of divine revelation. At the heart of the gospel is the person of Jesus Christ; he is the word of God come in the flesh. The nature of the gospel is such that it demands that it be at the centre of the biblical message. Biblical theology is, then, the study of how every text in the Bible relates to Jesus and his gospel. Thus we start with Christ so that we may end with Christ. Biblical theology is Christological, for its subject matter is the Scriptures as God's testimony to Christ. It is therefore, from start to finish, a study of Christ. Biblical theology is much more than simply relating the events of the story in chronological order, even if accompanied by theological comment in the process. It needs to be analytical of the theological dynamics within the big story. What is the nature of the progressiveness of revelation? Is it a gradual dawning of the light, or is it a series of discreet steps? What is the relationship between the two Testaments? In biblical theology there needs to be the kind of theological reflection that would help us to see the great recurring themes, both in their unity and their diversity. We observe the way in which the prophets deliberately recapitulate the earlier history of redemption in their eschatological projections. We seek to analyze the dynamics of prophetic fulfilment and typology. biblical theology involves first of all the close reading or exegesis of the parts in order to understand the theological perspectives contained. These must then be synthesized into an understanding of the unity of the theology of the whole canon. The wider synthesis will then affect our understanding of the significance of the parts. But, why should we have any confidence that such a task can be realized? Such confidence can only come from the gospel itself. The writers of the four Gospels point the way by their handling of distinct aspects of the relationship of the person and ministry of Jesus to the Old Testament Scriptures..”
This gospel-centered approach to biblical theology is what makes listening to Goldsworthy so profitable. Gaining insights from him would lead any pastor or even a lay Christian to see the “the coherence of the canon, its inner unity”, making our doctrine of scripture robust and mature. When one learns how everything in scripture is centered on the gospel and tastes the integrity of the canon in declaring the one good news of God, one cannot help but bow in rich adoration of the One Mind behind this wondrous Book. A high view of the Scriptures thus depend on one’s appreciation of the coherence of the canon. Goldsworthy notes, “our doctrine of Scripture, to be robust and maturing, needs to involve more than an abstract concept of authority and inspiration. It needs shape, and it is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that gives it that shape. In this regard hermeneutics intersects with dogmatics, and both intersect with biblical theology. We cannot really have any useful concept of the authority of the Bible unless we have some notion of what the authoritative word is telling us. The doctrine of Scripture as the written word of God must focus on both authority and structure. The doctrine of the authority of the Bible demands the task of biblical theology, which is to seek to understand the structure of Scripture. “
This is a very excellent introduction to and vindication of this very vital theological discipline of biblical theology. Properly done, it would help Evangelicals regain an understanding of the gospel-centered structure of the Scriptures.