How May We Speak Of God? A Reconsideration Of The Nature Of Biblical Theology -- By: R.W.L. Moberly

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 53:2 (NA 2002)
Article: How May We Speak Of God? A Reconsideration Of The Nature Of Biblical Theology
Author: R.W.L. Moberly

How May We Speak Of God?
A Reconsideration Of The Nature
Of Biblical Theology1

R.W.L. Moberly


If theological interpretation of Scripture is to be renewed, it is necessary initially to acknowledge the strength of objections to theological interpretation in the 19th century when the modern paradigm of historical criticism was established; Pusey’s messianic interpretation of Haggai 2:7 serves as a case study. Late 20th century work in hermeneutics changes the frame of reference within which the task should be conceived, though its potential has not yet been fully utilized by biblical scholars; Preuss’s discussion of revelation in his Old Testament Theology serves as a case study. Finally, the divine self-revelation in Exodus 34:6–7 is seen to provide rules for, and constraints upon, truthful speech about God; and if the biblical text itself is to be understood as revelatory then the work of the interpreter needs ultimately to be understood as an act of prayer.


Those of us who pursue biblical theology (by whatever name we call it)2 usually do so out of a conviction of the importance of the discipline

for the life and health of the Christian Church. For if Scripture is not only the primary source but also the fundamental norm of Christian faith (however much we may continue to debate what these do, and do not, entail), then the ability to clarify, communicate and appropriate what Scripture says about God and humanity is an enduring need, constantly to be renewed as the broader contexts of human life and thought develop and change. Biblical theology is thus, in some form or other, the endeavour to speak and/or write truthfully about God via the interpretation of Scripture where God’s self-revelation to Israel and in Christ is to be found.

Yet a good number of our colleagues in biblical studies not only do not envisage their own work in these terms, for they celebrate the plurality of purposes with which the biblical text may validly be approached, but they also express doubts as to the feasibility of the task even for those who would undertake it. As Brevard Childs’ successor at Yale, John J. Collins, puts it:

Biblical theology is a subject in decline ... The cutting edges of contemporary biblical scholarship are in literary criticism on the one hand and sociological criticism on the other. Not only is theology no longer queen of the sciences in general, its place even among the biblical sciences is in...

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