What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns
For those looking to embark on a journey to deepen their understanding of the Bible, this is like going to AAA (or Google, for the millennial generation) to get your map, roadside assistance and recommendations for stops along the way. James M. Hamilton provides the first steps towards developing a clear over-arching theology of the Bible and a unified story of Christ as displayed throughout its pages.
This book is first and foremost for those who are not theology students, professors or well-learned pastors. I heartily recommend this for Sunday School teachers, first-time theology readers, pew-warmers looking to step up their game, or aspiring Monday morning theologians. This book is for us: those who know that there is a limitless amount of scholarship available, but unsure as to the heady subjects contained, obscure words (outside of a seminary), and the intimidation of knowing where to start.
Hamilton provides a clear guide to plan your path in knowing the Almighty God; how He reveals himself and the Biblical story of Christ as shown throughout scripture. Presented book in three parts, Hamilton deftly simplifies the approach to Scripture without intimidation.
Part 1: The Bible’s Big Story
Part 2: The Bible’s Symbolic Universe
Part 3: The Bible’s Love Story
Hamilton breaks down Scripture to show how the end is developed by the beginning. How Genesis sets the stage, and begin the display of God’s redeeming work. The Psalms and prophets show Christ’s coming kingdom, and how those themes and narratives provide further insight to the coming Messiah, and then on to the coming King.
Part 1 sets the stage with glimpses and themes, and there are some gold nuggets of information to keep you enthralled by the simple narrative of Scripture. In part 2, Hamilton hits the accelerator by showing recurring, connected symbols.
“Consider these parallels between the creation and flood narratives: God parted the waters to make dry land appear in Genesis 1:9-10, and the Spirit hovering over creation in 1:2; after the flood, God sent the wind/spirit to cause the waters to recede and the dry ground again appeared in genesis 8:2-3. God commanded Adam to be fruitful and multiply in Genesis 1:28; and he gives the same command to Noah in 9:1 and 9:7. As Adam sinned by eating of the tree in Genesis 3, Noah also sinned by abusing the fruit of the vine in Genesis 9. In both cases, nakedness was exposed then covered. God’s judgement was visited in the waters of the flood, but the flood did not wash away human sin.”
and then this gem, only a few paragraphs later:
“Jesus spoke of His death as a baptism (e.g., Mark 10:38-39), which means that Jesus described his death as an immersion in the waters of God’s judgement. Jesus dies under the full weight of God’s wrath against sin…. This is why Peter says that the flood corresponds to baptism, which now saves us (1 Peter 3:20-21).”
The sequential section on typology should keep your interest, and keep you up all night, if you started this in the evening, like I did. It’s that good.
You may have heard some of the typology concepts before, but these are elaborated, connected and developed beautifully. Again, Hamilton ties everything into the single story of the Bible. If you want to sound like a Bibical scholar, this guide shows you how to pull apart referenced scriptures and compare them to the passage – which should illuminate amazing connections in your personal study.
“The Roman soldier pierced Jesus’s side (John 19:36). John insists that he saw it himself and is telling the truth (19:35), and then writes, “For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.” On reading that most of us probably assume that the Old Testament predicted that none of the bones of the Messiah would be broken.
If we go look up the cross reference, however, we find that Exodus 12:46 is not predicting what will happen to the Messiah but giving instructions about the Passover lamb.”
Hamilton then goes on to bring in David’s Psalms – connect a wonderful pattern of dots, which shows that “John is claiming that Jesus is the typological fulfillment, or antitype, of the Passover lamb.” Which carries amazing implications beyond that statement.
The final section develops the Church, the Bride of Christ as the love story told throughout Scripture. Again, a great journey to see how God has created His Church for Christ, and the patterns that point to both the example and fulfillment. It is a wonderful way to finish the book, and a great start to anyone wanting to get an initial taste of Biblical Theology.
If this small book gets you excited to know more, I believe that it has done it’s job. This is just a small taste of what Biblical Theology holds, and Hamilton does a wonderful job presenting it to the believer and providing glimpses of more roads that can be traveled.