Jim Hamilton’s Motivating Exhortation to Do Biblical Theology

Andy Naselli —  April 16, 2013 — 3 Comments

I’ve read the end of this chapter by Jim Hamilton several times because it motivates me to do biblical theology:

James M. Hamilton Jr. “Biblical Theology and Preaching.” Pages 193–218 in Text Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon. Edited by Daniel L. Akin, David L. Allen, and Ned L. Mathews. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2010.

For example:

HOW DO I DO BIBLICAL THEOLOGY?

The kind of biblical theology advocated here has been described as reflection upon the results of the exegesis of particular passages in light of the whole canon. Another way to say it is that biblical theology is exegesis of a particular passage in its canonical context. This means that, in order to do biblical theology, we must know the Bible and meditate on it. The only way to do biblical theology is to read the Bible, a lot, in the original languages. We must know the texts so well—words, phrases, sequences—that we notice when later authors reuse words, phrases, and sequences from earlier texts. There is no substitute for knowing the texts in the original languages, for only this will enable us to see the subtlest of allusions, parallels, echoes, and partial quotations.

. . . One must be able to read the texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek if one wants to do biblical theology.

So the prescription for doing biblical theology is really simple: know the Bible in the original languages backward and forward. Read it a lot. Ask God for insight. Memorize the Bible and meditate on it day and night. And read books that will help you put the whole Bible together. (pp. 213–14)

So Jim basically argues this: “BT is really simple. Just know the entire Bible in the original languages forwards and backwards, meditate on it day and night, and read libraries of books on BT. Piece of cake.” Oh, that’s all? I didn’t know it was so easy! I was shaking my head and bouncing in laughter when I first read this (I tried not to laugh out loud since a baby was sleeping next to me). But Jim is right: this is what good BT requires.

Here’s one other motivating section. I’ve meditated on this repeatedly:

CAN GOD’S PEOPLE HANDLE THIS?

Can God’s people operate those complicated remote controls that come with everything from their new flat-screen TVs to their new cars? Can God’s people use computers; navigate grocery stores; hold down jobs; and acquire homes, cars, toys, and all the stuff they jam into the garage?

Let me be frank: I have no patience for suggestions that preachers need to dumb it down. Preachers need to be clear, and they need to be able to explain things in understandable ways. But human beings do not need the Bible to be dumbed down. If you think that, what you really think is that God the Holy Spirit did not know what He was doing when He inspired the Bible to be the way it is. Not only does the suggestion that the Bible is more than God’s people can handle blaspheme God’s wisdom; it also blasphemes His image bearers. People are made in the image of God. Human beings are endowed with brains and sensibilities of astonishing capacity.

Do you want people to think that everything that is interesting or artistic or brilliant comes from the world? Dumb down the Bible.

Do you want them to see the complexity and simplicity of God? The sheer genius of the Spirit-inspired biblical authors? The beauty of a world-encompassing metanarrative of cosmic scope? Teach them biblical theology.

Do not discount the capacities of God’s people. They may be stupid and uninformed when their hearts are awakened, but do not punish them by leaving them there. Show them literary artistry. Show them the subtle power of carefully constructed narratives. Show them the force of truth in arguments that unfold with inexorable logic. If they are genuine believers, they will want to understand the Bible. Show them the shouts and songs, the clamor and the clarity, the book of books. Let their hearts sing with the psalmist, weep with Lamentations, and ponder Proverbs. Give them the messianic wisdom of the beautiful mind that wrote Ecclesiastes. Preach the word!

Unleash it in all its fullness and fury. Let it go. Tie it together. Show connections that are there in the texts from end to end. Tell them the whole story. Give them the whole picture. Paint the whole landscape for them, not just the blade of grass. (pp. 216–17)

Related:

  1. Jim Hamilton’s Whole-Bible Biblical Theology
  2. Exegesis, Biblical Theology, Historical Theology, Systematic Theology, and Practical Theology: What the Categories on My Blog Mean
  3. D. A. Carson’s Theological Method
  4. Master Scripture Index for New Studies in Biblical Theology

3 responses to Jim Hamilton’s Motivating Exhortation to Do Biblical Theology

  1. Amen! Thanks for posting this brother. It was a great chapter Hamilton wrote and its good to be reminded of those highlights.

  2. Amen! I hear often that my sermons are “deep” and I am always a bit surprised. I just think it’s important to say something when preaching, and somehow that is considered remarkable. Now if I only learn Aramaic.

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