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What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns Paperback – November 30, 2013
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“What Is Biblical Theology? confirms Jim Hamilton’s reputation as a top-shelf thinker and a wickedly good writer. This slim volume builds on the presupposition that the capacious biblical narrative—sixty-six books written by numerous authors and including stories, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses—possesses a deep inner unity. Its unity arises from its divine inspiration, and it is in fact the true story of the whole world. Hamilton teaches his readers to engage in biblical theology, allowing the biblical story to shape us and conform us to God’s will.”
—Bruce Riley Ashford, Provost and Associate Professor of Theology and Culture, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Theology is a word that comes with baggage. Most people, like me, find their brains shutting down a little at its mention, mainly because it stirs up the same sort of feelings as words like calculus and dentist appointment. But from the outset of this book James Hamilton assures us he’s not performing mental acrobatics (though I'm sure he could if he wanted to). Rather, he’s showing us that if the Bible is a story, and God is a storyteller, then biblical theology is less like math and more like literature; it’s less like a cold study of the chemical properties of paint and more like gazing at a Van Gogh. This is a book I wish I could have read a long time ago.”
—Andrew Peterson, singer/songwriter; author, The Wingfeather Saga series
“This short, accessible book shows how we can move away from making the Bible all about us, reducing it to just another self-help book. Anyone who reads What Is Biblical Theology? will begin to discover what the Bible is really about and will have more ‘Now I get it!’ experiences as it equips readers to trace the thematic threads and story-line resolutions of the Bible from beginning to end.”
—Nancy Guthrie, author, Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series
“Disoriented Bible reading leads to disoriented living. Too often the Bible reader parachutes into a passage without understanding the immediate context or the overarching context of the entire Bible. Getting oriented to the whole story of the Bible is the only way to right interpretation and right living. Gaining this whole-Bible interpretive perspective is the burden of biblical theology, and Jim Hamilton has given us an outstanding introduction to this import yet neglected discipline. If the interpretive approach of Hamilton’s book is applied, the reader will be able to better understand God’s Word, know the mind of Christ, and glorify God.”
—Erik Thoennes, Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, Chair, Biblical and Theological Studies Theology Department, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University; Pastor, Grace Evangelical Free Church, La Mirada, California
“It is always a delight to read a book written by someone saturated in Scripture. This is one of those books.”
—Douglas Wilson, Senior Fellow of Theology, New St. Andrews College; Pastor, Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho
“It is an exciting privilege to watch and benefit from ‘the coming of age’ of the discipline of biblical theology in our generation. But in the explosion of literature we have needed a simple, brief, popular-level introduction—someone to provide us with an aerial view of the forest before we begin making our way among all the trees. This is what Jim Hamilton has done for us here. What Is Biblical Theology? provides a very helpful jump start for beginning students, and students of all levels will be blessed in the reminder of the marvelous patterns and themes that make Scripture such a glorious book.”
—Fred G. Zaspel, Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church, Franconia, Pennsylvania; author, The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary and Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel
“I am truly amazed at all that Jim Hamilton has packed into this little volume. What Is Biblical Theology? is an engagingly written distillation of years of both scholarly and devotional study of the Bible. The reader will find a succinct, clear, and compelling guide to the overarching story of Scripture. It will be at the top of my list of books to recommend for any who want to better understand the Bible, the world, and their place in God’s story. This is a gift for which I am exceedingly thankful.”
—Rob Lister, Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, Talbot School of Theology
“Want to know your Bible better? Of course you do! Jim Hamilton can help. What Is Biblical Theology? is a manual for seeing how the many books of the Bible tell the one story about Jesus Christ: who he is and what he has done. Dr. Hamilton will help you love Jesus more by understanding your Bible better.”
—C.J. Mahaney, Senior Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville
About the Author
James M. Hamilton Jr. (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and preaching pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church. He is the author of God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment and the Revelation volume in the Preaching the Word commentary series.
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Hamiton's book is like a map or tour of the Bible. He helps you not to miss the most important stories, symbols, and patterns that are featured in the Scriptures. All of the biblical authors do "biblical theology." They have a framework or world-view through which they interpret and describe the events, stories, and principles through this lens. All of the authors interpret Scripture in three ways (1) They interpret the words or accounts of God's words and deeds that have been passed down to him; (2) They interpret world history from its creation to its final consummation; and (3) They interpret events and statements that they describe. According to Hamilton biblical theology in essence "means the interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors have presented their understanding of earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing in narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses."
By taking into account the different genres of Scripture and their various themes, Hamilton helps the reader appreciate the biblical "lay of the land" in it's varied history, and its consummation centered around the gospel and the glory of God in Christ. I think the thesis of this book is wonderfully expressed by Hamilton in the second chapter: "Our aim is to trace out the contours of the network of assumptions reflected in the writings of the biblical authors. If we can see what the biblical authors assumed about story, symbol, and church, we will glimpse the world as they saw it. To catch a glimpse of the world as they saw it is to see the real world."
I believe this book is indeed a fantastic guide in helping all Bible students to understand, appreciate, and enjoy the biblical message intended by the author of the word - the Word - Jesus himself. We learn how to read, understand, and interpret the Bible from the perspective of the biblical authors, which is to learn a divinely inspired perspective. I believe that Hamilton achieves his hope and desired purpose for everyone who reads this book: "My hope is that you cross the bridge into their [the biblical authors] thought-world and never come back. I hope you will breathe the air of the Bible's world, recognize it as the real Narnia, and never want to leave."
spoiledmilks [.] wordpress [.] com/2013/10/28/review-of-what-is-biblical-theology-by-james-hamilton-jr/
James Hamilton, Jr. does a wonderful job on simplifying the Bible's grand, overarching story in his new book. I often hear about how the Bible is a continuous story, but I often forget just how much of it really is a unified story. I forget to picture it with story qualities: episodes, themes, conflicts, victories, mystery, symbols, a protagonist, an antagonist, and many other mini-characters in other mini-settings. Typology
Hamilton explains the extra step of Typology over Symbolism. Typology doesn't have to be difficult or weird to understand. It's just what God typically does (p. 44). We have the initial occurrence of an event (the archetype), then we have the uphill climb (the installations) until the type finds fulfillment in its ultimate expression.
***The Chocolate Milk (what I liked) ***
+This book clears up a number of the issues people have with biblical prophecy. How can Jesus say in John 13:18 that the one who eats His food will turn against Him according to the Scriptures (in Ps 41:9)? When you read Ps 41:9 it just says that the one who shared the author's food, who he trusted completely, has turned against him (my paraphrase).
Why was this scripture prophetic?
There's a recurring theme through the Bible to have your closest ally turn against you (Noah with Ham, Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban, Moses and Aaron, David and Saul, Jesus and Judas). Jesus is just fulfilling one of the messages of the grand story: someone very close to you is going to turn against you.
+ His chapter on Typology was great. His definition of it was super-easy to understand. Typology = what God typically does. As you can tell from the section above, I don't have much more to say about it here: I did appreciate it. I remember hearing about typology in high school and thinking it was a neat idea. As I got older I wondered what the base of it was. How can you tell what the typology is? Are we just making it up as we go or is there a clearer road to understanding the process? This section lays it out in layman's terms, which is just what I need.
+ The application of Chapter 13 "The Church's Plot Tension and It's Resolution" was highly favored. Why does the Church suffer? Because Christ suffered. He was hated for who He was, and we will be hated for the One we know and are united with. Satan is pursuing the same strategy with the church as He did Jesus. He thought he had the upper hand in the death of Jesus, but God accomplished victory with what looked like defeat. And He will do the same for us (Dan 7:23-27).
***The Spoiled Milk (what I didn't like)***
As great as I think this book is, there are some shortcomings in my view.
- Patterns: Hamilton reuses the Israel's Feasts and the Righteous Sufferer examples. These are good examples, but I would like to have seen more (I know they're in there). Otherwise it makes me wonder why there even had to be a "Patterns" chapter. Even in the beginning of the chapter he says patterns are almost the same as typology.
- I was disappointed in how short Chapter 12 (The Church's Setting in the Story) was (3 pages long). The temple is a symbol of the cosmos, and the church being the temple of the Spirit means that the church is a preview of what the world is going to become. It was a wonderful section on the place of the church in the Big Setting.
Thankfully, this was one of 4 chapters of Part 3 that makes up roughly 21 pages (in my version). Despite Part 3 itself not being very long, it still provided an adequate explanation of the purpose and place of the church in the setting of the Scriptures.
This was a great book that introduces the overall themes of the Bible to it's reader. It's important to go book by book when studying the Bible, finding out what each passage really says as well as the book as a whole. But also important is how the entire Bible flows together. If it's important to know how we went from verse 1 to verse 10, it's equally important to know how we went from Genesis to Revelation. Hamilton doesn't give detail to every connection in this book, but he gives you a framework on which to start viewing the Bible.
[A big "thank you" to NetGalley and Crossway for allowing me to read and review this book before it came out. I was not obligated to give a positive review in return for reviewing my copy.]