Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel Part 4: The Theology of Samuel -- By: John A. Martin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 141:564 (Oct 1984)
Article: Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel Part 4: The Theology of Samuel
Author: John A. Martin


Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel
Part 4:
The Theology of Samuel

John A. Martin

[John A. Martin, Assistant Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary]

Most expositors are familiar with systematic theology as a discipline.1 Many interpreters, however, are less familiar with biblical theology which studies a book or books of the Bible to seek to understand the theology presented in the author’s own categories and terms. Though biblical interpreters must recognize the progressive nature of revelation culminating with the Living Word and the completion of the canon, they must also recognize that understanding theology as it appeared at any particular moment in the history of that progressive revelation can be extremely helpful. To interpret the books of 1 and 2 Samuel correctly, one should not read New Testament theology back into them. Rather he should seek to understand the theology presented by the author of those two books. That theology, of course, will not be in opposition to New Testament theology. In fact it will allow the interpreter to understand New Testament theology better.

Biblical Theology

The history of biblical theology can be traced to Johann Gabler’s 1787 lecture at Altdorf entitled “Oration on the Proper Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology.” In his lecture he contrasted dogmatic theology with biblical theology. It was his contention that the dogmatic theology prevalent in his

day was contradictory to much of the theology of the biblical writers. Being strongly influenced by rationalism and historicism, Gabler believed that biblical theology must be treated from a historical perspective. Prior to Gabler’s work biblical scholars had seldom if ever emphasized the theology of individual biblical authors or the theology of single Bible books. Theology as a discipline had been seen as a method of proof-texting systematized dogma.2 In recent times as well Bible students including some evangelicals have hesitated to embrace biblical theology and have placed far more emphasis on systematic theology. Ideally systematic theology should not be attempted until biblical theology has been completed on all the books of the Bible. Until an interpreter has mastered all the parts he is not completely in control of the whole. In doing biblical theology one must put aside, at least theoretically, all systematic biases and concentrate only on the biblical material before him. The words “concentrate on the biblical material” mean that the researcher should utilize all the historical and philological biblical data available so that he can b...

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