The Practice and Promise of Biblical Theology: A Response to Hamilton and Goldsworthy -- By: Robert W. Yarbrough

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 12:4 (Winter 2008)
Article: The Practice and Promise of Biblical Theology: A Response to Hamilton and Goldsworthy
Author: Robert W. Yarbrough


The Practice and Promise of Biblical Theology:
A Response to Hamilton and Goldsworthy

Robert W. Yarbrough

Robert W. Yarbrough is Chair of the New Testament Department and Associate Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He also serves as the Editor of Trinity Journal and as Chair of the theological and exegetical department at the Institutul Biblic Emanuel in Oradea, Romania. Dr. Yarbrough has written numerous scholarly articles and is the author of The Salvation-Historical Fallacy? Reassessing the History of New Testament Theology (Deo, 2004), Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey (Baker, 2005), and 1, 2, and 3 John in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker, 2008).

Athletic coaches sometimes remind frustrated players, “If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.” Anyone responsible for interpreting the Bible, and then communicating their interpretation, needs to remember that adage. Everybody does not hit home runs, throw touchdown passes, dunk over opponents, or shoot below par. And everybody who interprets the Bible does not achieve notable success.

Of course, the goal in interpreting God’s word, the Bible, is not success in the normal sense; it is to glorify God and engage in a use of his word with which he will be pleased—perhaps to evangelize or edify, perhaps to correct or condemn. This is where the studies of Graeme Goldsworthy and James Hamilton elsewhere in this journal are of value.1 The approaches they set forth are not guaranteed to make hermeneutical or homiletical superstars out of anyone. But I believe that carefully heeded and discerningly appropriated, they shed valuable light on the interpretive labors of everybody who reads, lives, and seeks to share Scripture.

Below I will comment rather briefly on James Hamilton’s study, before interacting more extensively with the lengthier remarks of Graeme Goldsworthy. Both have much to offer in commending the practice and promoting the promise of a neglected approach to Scripture: biblical theology.

The Hamilton Hypothesis: Perceiving Patterns

The great strength of Hamilton’s study is to have restated the case for a tried-and-true means of making connections between Scripture passages that might otherwise seem disjointed. “Typology,” in one form or another, is as ancient as biblical writers themselves, who pioneered this mode of understanding God’s word once it had come to the prophets, was written down, and as time passed came to be interpreted by subsequent generations. Thanks in part to their God who was so emphatic that his ...

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