One of the most important doctrines of the Christian Faith is the doctrine of the Scripture. In theology, it is called Bibliology. The Covenant Reformed Seminary of Asia is blessed by God to start new module on this topic.
Bibliology comes from two Greek words Biblos (βίβλος) and logos (λόγος) which means ‘relating to a book or books and ‘the study of’respectively. It is the study about the Word of God.‘ βίβλος ’ is the Greek word used for ‘papyrus’. The papyrus was the “paper” where the autographs (it refers to the original manuscript) were written.
Before we discuss the detail of this subject, let us first have a general overview concerning this lesson.
Here is the scope of our lesson:
- The nature of divine revelation
- The character and content of the Bible
- Its own vindication of its inspiration and authority
- The inerrancy and sufficiency of the Scriptures
- Basic principles of hermeneutics
- Practical implications of evangelical bibliology
In our study of any theological discipline, we should always remind ourselves that theology is not an end in itself. The goal of studying theology is God. Theology should lead to doxology. Recently, I read a post that goes along these lines: Undevotional theology and untheological devotion should not characterize our study of the divine truths.
It should lead us to greater knowledge of God, greater praise of God, and more fervent worship of God.
THEOLOGY FOR GOD’S GLORY
It’s not our goal just to simply put information typical of a classroom setting. We are not only to fill our heads with divine truths but also to warmth our hearts with these truths so that we may love and honor the Truth Himself.
If we are to glorify God in doing menial tasks (1 Cor. 10:31), how much more in doing a heavy and dangerous task such as understanding the things of God? It is dangerous since knowledge puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1).
So what is our goal? Goal: To glorify God by knowing Him better. RC Sproul writes, “One mark of truly orthodox theologians is that their writings always include expressions of doxology. Knowledge of the Lord’s character and His work should inspire heartfelt praise, for why learn about God if we are not moved to fulfill the purpose for which we are created — to worship and glorify the Creator (Isa. 43:7)? When studying theology does not prompt us to adoration, we must question whether we are more concerned to puff ourselves up with knowledge than to glorify God.”1
Learning theology leads us to be better worshippers and more obedient followers of the Lord Jesus Christ!
So what is Systematic Theology? It is any study that answers the question, “What does the Bible teach us about ___________? You can put anything in the blank and you’ll have that topic’s Systematic Theology. Here is the list:
- Bibliology – study about the Scriptures.
- Theology proper – study about God, His existence and attributes.
- Christology – study about Christ.
- Pneumatology – study about the Holy Spirit.
- Anthropology – study about man.
- Hamartiology – study about sin.
- Soteriology – study about salvation.
- Ecclesiology – study about the church, the body of Christ.
- Eschatology – study about the last things. Primarily, the movement of history towards the culmination of age.
- Angelology – study about angels, demons, and other spiritual beings. Others also call it demonology.
THEOLOGY BRANCHED OUT
Now, let’s see the Major Theological Disciplines
- Exegetical Theology.
- HERMENEUTICS. Greek: hermeneuo, which means to interpret. It is the Arts and science of biblical interpretation.
- When you come to the Bible, there is an art and science to understanding the Bible. This is the first step of the theological process.
- You use hermeneutics every single day of your life any time you read and listen to something. You are engaged in both the science and arts of interpretation. You are either allegorizing or spiritualizing what I am talking about as if there is hidden meaning in every word that I say. You’re listening through an interpretive grid.
- Why is it art? The Bible is 100% God; 100% human save any errors.
- Why is it a science? There are rules and canons that govern interpretation. You violate those rules and there are significant repercussions. For example, the famous allegorization of Rahab’s scarlet cord (Joshua 2:21) by A.W. Pink refers to the blood of Christ. This is clearly an allegory since the Scripture never used it to mean that way.
- EXEGESIS. It is the application of interpretive principles to the original text – Hebrew and Greek. This is the actual work of interpretation, an explanation, or exposition.
- Exegesis means “to lead out.” You go to individual texts to lead out the meaning of the text. It is used in John 1:18, where the Son is said to reveal “exegete” the Father. We must open the biblical text to ourselves and to our hearers. In doing this, we are avoiding the error of eisegesis, that is reading into the text one’s own ideas.
- BIBLICAL THEOLOGY. It is an interpretation of the biblical data from the standpoint of history and progression. It traces the lines of development within redemptive history. God did not give us a systematic theological textbook.
- Geerhardus Vos (1862 –1949), who is considered the Father of biblical theology defined it as the divine self-disclosure in the active sense, i.e., in the act of God’s revealing himself. This means that revelation is considered historically and progressively. 2
- The Scriptures come to us through the course of history in which God reveals himself. To interpret the Bible accurately, we need to understand the way that the Bible unfolds historically.
- SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY. It draws a circle. How does the epic of Moses relate to the epic of the Davidic kingdom? How does it relate to the divided kingdom?
- Systematic theology takes what you’ve accumulated and gives a theological synthesis. Does the book of Isaiah teach us about the person of God?
- Compared to Dogmatics theology, some say that it is similar to Systematics and it is just a term used by the continentals (Continental Reformed churches are those who came from the Protestant Reformation in some European countries. Their theology is significantly taken from the Swiss Reformation). Others say that Dogmatics theology is endorsed by a certain religious body, ecclesiastical body or denomination on what they assert concerning a topic from the Scriptures, whereas Systematic theology is general and not connected to any particular religious body. Dogmatics has its own distinction (e.g. W.G.T Shedd and Herman Bavinck), while Systematics has not (e.g. Berkhof and Erickson).
- HISTORICAL THEOLOGY. The study of historical formulations (creeds, confessions, etc.). Arian controversy, Pelagian controversy, etc. “Begotten, not created.” [Nicene Creed]. They have something to teach us in systematic theology!
- PASTORAL THEOLOGY & ETHICS. This is the final stage of the theological process – preaching, counseling, the application of theology to practical life applications, including ethics.
- Systematic theology gets applied in such things as divorce, stem cell research, etc.
What about Proof-texting?
Proof-texting is not inherently evil, but it is generally evil. Taking a verse out of context. You can make it say almost anything that you want. This is different from proving a truth from the text when we do expository sermons. We state, place, and prove the point or truth from a certain passage while considering the context.
Who’s guilty of this all the time? The Cults!
How the Scripture came to us
Scriptures come to us through grammar and history. God chose grammar to communicate to us. We should understand the Bible historically and linguistically!
Our main concern: CONTEXT. Context is king in understanding the Scripture! 1. First rule: context 2. Second rule: context 3.Third rule: context
A text taken out of context is a pretext. But no text is written in a vacuum. You need to understand it in its theological, historical, grammatical, and literary context.
- Immediate context: Sentence, paragraph, larger unit, authorship, testament, the scope of redemptive history
- Genre: The kind of literature. Can you learn any theology from the book of Proverbs? Do you interpret Proverbs in the same way that you interpret the book of Deuteronomy? We need to have an understanding of what literature a particular book is all about. Otherwise, you’ll misinterpret the text.
- Analogy of Scripture (Analogia Scripturae) – Scripture interprets Scripture. Richard A. Muller defined Analogia Scripturae as “the interpretation of unclear, difficult, or ambiguous passages of Scripture by comparison with clear and unambiguous passages that refer to the same teaching or event.”3 How does the NT interpret the Old? Augustine once said, the Old is in the New revealed. The New is in the Old concealed. The NT sheds light on our understanding of the OT.
Does Jesus interpret the OT?
Do the apostles interpret the OT? We have to pay close attention to their interpretations.
Presuppositions of Systematic Theology
- Christian, Trinitarian theism – The revelation of that Triune God took place in the incarnation. It is in Jesus Christ. If you come to the Bible as a committed Unitarian, you will end up missing the glory of Christ and the message of the Bible.
- The truthfulness and sufficiency of Scriptures. This is the presupposition of the gospel and all disciplines of theology. Failure to uphold this will open us to deny the material and formal sufficiency of the Scripture. Our interpretation of the Scripture has presuppositions. We do not empty our minds when we approach the text but we submit to it. This is what we call Hermeneutical Spiral which is the upward movement between text and reader. 4
- Our inadequacies and limitations due to sin – Can we figure it out perfectly? Are we adequate in and of ourselves to understand it completely? We need God’s help! We need to be utterly dependent upon God’s Spirit and grace if we are to understand anything. Paul asks, “who are sufficient in all these things? Our sufficiency is in God!” (2 Corinthians 2:16, 3:5)
God’s truth is counter-intuitive, so we need God’s grace to humble our pride. As we start this lesson, we must humbly admit our finiteness and recognize that we are approaching a task so great since the One who revealed Himself through His Word is majestic and infinite.
We need to realize that Christ is the Lord of our knowledge. We shouldn’t come to the Bible as autonomous, independent free thinkers! We need the Holy Spirit that He may open up our eyes to behold the beauty of Christ in the gospel contained in the revealed Word of God.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
*This blog post is based on our notes on Bibliology provided by our pastor. You can download a PDF copy of this lesson here.
1 RC Sproul, Doxology: The Goal of Theology
2 James T. Dennison, Jr., What is Biblical Theology? Reflections on the Inaugural Address of Geerhardus Vos
3 Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, 33
4 Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation
4 thoughts on “CRSA Bibliology: Introduction”
Great overview brother. Love this: “We need the Holy Spirit that He may open up our eyes to behold the beauty of Christ in the gospel contained in the revealed Word of God.”
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Amen. Praises be unto the Triune Jehovah!
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I agree with every factor that you have pointed out. Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts on this.
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To God be the glory!