Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology

I have no shame in admitting my ignorance regarding the distinction between systematic and biblical theology. Obviously I could deduce that biblical theology had more emphasis on the bible, but that was the extent of my division. Nonetheless, Enns’ first chapter was quick and simple, supplying easy drawing lines between the two. For me, the best route to understanding came from:

  1. Enns’ recurring use of the word “narrower” (Enns 2008, 22)
  2. The exegetical foundation of biblical theology (Enns 2008, 23)
  3. Biblical theology’s preliminary respect to systematic theology (Enns 2008, 24)

Utilizing these key distinctions, biblical theology can generally be described as the study of God by way of biblical exegesis, narrowed by a restricted analysis of the bible’s text, authors, and their historical placement and context. This naturally leads to a systematization, where systematic theology then takes biblical theology and incorporates it into a holistic view, utilizing extrabiblical sources. Enns’ chart noting exegesis flowing to biblical theology and biblical theology flowing to systematic theology provided the clearest picture for me (Enns 2008, 24).

Now, as this progression is illustrated, one can identify biblical theology’s relationship to other disciplines – e.g. introductory studies, hermeneutics, apologetics, dogmatic theology, etc. Firstly, it must be noted that none of these disciplines are in contrast to one another. Some disciplines simply build on the others, while others are narrower. Therefore, as to determine the extent of biblical theology’s relationship to these disciplines, one must conclude whether the discipline is essential in establishing a correct exegesis. For example, NT introductory studies – identification of the author and the addressee, historical context, date of the work, etc. – are directly related to establishing correct exegesis. This discipline, therefore, would be placed under or within (whichever way your mind views it best) biblical theology; that is the discipline’s relationship to biblical theology. Apologetics, by contrast, must work from a correct exegesis, and it by no means is essential to establish interpretive solutions for scripture. Thus, apologetics utilizes biblical theology, where biblical theology is placed under or within apologetics; and this is the discipline’s relationship to biblical theology. ‘Incorporation’ appears to be the keyword regarding the relationships between the disciplines and biblical theology.


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