Noteworthy Book: What is Biblical Theology? by James Hamilton

Given that this blog is “a forum for all things pertaining to biblical theology” it is only fitting that this week’s Noteworthy Book is What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns by James Hamilton. He is an associate professor of Biblical Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and in my estimation one of the sharpest young biblical theologians in the evangelical world today. And in the interest of full disclosure, Jim is a friend.

In this short book, Hamilton defines biblical theology as:

the interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors have presented their understanding or earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing in narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses. (p. 16)

Thus, when studying the Bible

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. (p. 19)

These three (story, symbol, church) form the basic structure of the rest of the book. Each of these sections contains several short chapters covering key subjects such as the plot of the Bible, imagery, typology, patterns, and the church’s setting in the story.

The greatest strengths of this book are its size and readability. Hamilton writes for those who are new to the area of biblical theology, making this an ideal book to give anyone in the church who wants to read and understand the Bible. Students in Bible colleges and seminaries will also find this book useful as an entry point into the field of biblical theology, though they will need other texts to orient them to the range of approaches to biblical theology as an academic discipline.

Those who want to see Jim’s attempt at writing a whole-Bible biblical theology are encouraged to see his excellent book God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. He maintains an excellent blog, and you can listen to his sermons here.


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