How Important Is Biblical Theology?

Credo MagazineHow important is the discipline of biblical theology to healthy local church ministry?

JMH: What could be more important to followers of Jesus than learning to read the Bible the way that he did, learning to read the Bible the way that he taught his Apostles to read it, the way they taught the earliest churches to read it? Being a disciple of Jesus means learning to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. That’s what Biblical Theology is.

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  1. I agree, though not all agree. Robert Thomas sees two types of uses of the OT in the New. He says:

    …one finds two kinds of uses of the OT by the NT writers: one in which the NT writer abides by and applies the grammatical-historical sense of the OT passage and another use in which the NT writer goes beyond the grammatical-historical sense of the OT passage to assign the passage an additional meaning in connection with its NT context. In the former instance, a NT writer uses the OT in its literal sense. The latter instance is a nonliteral use of the OT. We may call this an “inspired sensus plenior application” (hereafter usually ISPA) of the OT passage to a new situation. It is “inspired,” because along with all Scripture, the NT passage is inspired by God. It is “sensus plenior” in that it gives an additional or fuller sense than the passage had in its OT setting. It is an “application” because it does not eradicate the literal meaning of the OT passage, but simply applies the OT wording to a new setting. (Robert L. Thomas, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” The Master’s Seminary Journal (TMSJ) Volume 13, No. 1 (Spring 2002): 80.)

    Thomas mentions “a new situation” and “a new setting.” What does he mean by this? He asks this important question: “Why did the NT writers attach these sensus plenior meanings to OT passages?” (Thomas, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” 87.) Here’s his answer:

    In almost if not every instance, the new meaning given an OT passage related to Israel’s rejection of her Messiah at His first advent and the consequent opening of the door to a new people consisted of both Jews and Gentiles as fellow members of the body of Christ. That such a new union would exist was unrevealed in the OT, as Paul points out in Eph. 3:1-7. New meanings through special divine revelation were necessary to give this new program a connection with what God had been doing throughout the OT period. (Thomas, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” 87-88.)

    A suggested reason for the inspired sensus plenior applications of OT passages in the NT is Israel’s rejection of her Messiah at His first advent. One of the ramifications of that rejection was new revelation regarding OT passages related to a body called the church, revelation that was not foreseen in or a part of the OT. (Thomas, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” 96.)

    In a more recent article, Thomas says:

    That obvious change in Jesus’ ministry illustrates the way that His ministry in response to His negative reception by His own people changed in other respects. He never withdrew the promises of the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants, but He did provide for an interim movement to come between His ascension and His second advent, a movement that was unforeseen in the OT. The interim period was of such a nature that OT prophecies had to take on additional meanings to supply biblical support for God’s dealings during this interim period. (Robert L. Thomas, “The Great Commission: What to Teach,” TMSJ Volume 21, No. 1 (Spring 2010): 7.)

    According to Thomas, many of the instances of the NT’s use of the OT are not grammatical-historical interpretations but inspired sensus plenior applications (ISPA). These ISPAs are brought on by new circumstances not foreseen by the OT. His whole theory is predicated upon the Jewish rejection of the Messiah resulting in a new, unforeseen situation which demands a new reading and application of the OT to this new, unforeseen era.

    Sorry for the length.

  2. I really think most scholars go overboard on this….Jesus wrote to little children who under the guidance of inspired (breathed out by the LORD) by over 1000 references in the Bible, spoke God’s Word….I am afraid that all this stuff about being like Jesus in His interpretation is a lot of fluff that never got to the main interpreters, the apostles, the Puritans, the Reformed tradition….The meaning of what God intended can be understood by little children, saved Christians, moved by the power of the Spirit of God….This issue is understanding that Scripture always supports itself. Frankly friends, you are not going to argue with the Bible that has thousands of notes clarifying Scripture…You are unable to confront the application of Scripture to languages all over the world, now, even to North Korea..Friends, God never intended for us to argue over stuff that Jesus never intended and the reformers and the puritans never fought over…They fought plenty, even to death for very very important issues as the deity of Christ, and today we who are spiritual fight mightily for the offfenses done in God’s name against the Holy Spirit. But, lest we think we are supersaints which we ain’t, let us stop pitting
    Robert Thomas, scholar that he is, and just say that the main interpretations of Scripture that we follow have been established from the apostles, and the Puritans and the Reformers…If we go against that, we are playing against the mighty severity and judgment of God, the Spirit.

    Amen, and Amen,
    David Perlmutter
    760 532-9062

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