Archaeology And OT Theology: Their Interface And Reciprocal Usefulness -- By: Eugene H. Merrill

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 58:4 (Dec 2015)
Article: Archaeology And OT Theology: Their Interface And Reciprocal Usefulness
Author: Eugene H. Merrill


Archaeology And OT Theology:
Their Interface And Reciprocal Usefulness

Eugene H. Merrill*

* Eugene Merrill is Distinguished Professor of OT Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280.

I. Introduction

This essay originated as a lecture delivered at Southern Adventist University in 2014 for the annual Gerhard F. Hasel Lectureship. This was to me an unusual honor and privilege since I have long known and admired the respected scholar and churchman for whom the series is named. I began teaching OT theology at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1977 and recognized very early on that if I were to have any grounding at all in the discipline as it evolved and found expression at that time there was a sine qua non without which I could not proceed. That, of course, was Gerhard Hasel’s OT Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate, at that time in its second edition. From 1977 until my retirement from the Seminary in the spring of 2013 I leaned so heavily on that edition and the two that followed that I nearly wore them out. When I received the sad news of his untimely decease over ten years ago, one of my first thoughts was: Who will pick up the mantle of the great prophet and keep us informed concerning the field of study we both loved so much?

Professor Hasel had a great interest in both biblical archaeology and biblical theology, especially the latter, and thus it was not difficult for me to pick a topic by which the two disciplines could be reexamined, particularly in their relationship the one to the other. A further impetus to my choice of topic was my awareness that his gifted son Michael is on the faculty of this fine institution and in his own right is gaining wide recognition for excellence as a scholar in the area of archaeology, recently at Khirbet Qeiyafa and now at Tell es-Safi (Gath?). Between them they bridge the disciplines about which I am writing here, namely archaeology and biblical theology. The following offering pays tribute to Hasel the elder, a man beloved, admired, and sorely missed by his colleagues near and far for the example he set in life and ministry.

II. Foundational Methodological Principles

I wish first to deal with biblical theology, which is made distinctive by the adjective “biblical.” Hasel astutely observed with regard to biblical theology’s relationship to systematic theology, in particular, that “the Biblical theologian draws his categories, themes, motifs, and concepts from the Biblical text itself,” as compared

to the systematic theologian who “endeavors to use current philosophies as the basis for h...

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