Many times when reading the Bible it can seem disconnected and confusing. We wonder how the thirty-nine book of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament fit together. For a new believer, this feeling can be magnified. However, the Bible is remarkably interconnected from Genesis to Revelation. Each book unfolds more of God’s story of redemption. This is what James Hamilton Jr. discusses in his new book What is Biblical Theology: A Guide to the Bibe’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns published by Crossway.
Hamilton defines Biblical Theology as “an attempt to get out of this world and into another.” He reminds the reader that the Bible is a book that tells the big story of God’s redeeming a people for himself. Throughout the Bible runs a metanarrative that connects all of the stories to one central theme. The plot of the Bible is creation, fall, redemption and new creation. Every story in the Bible points the reader to this plot. It is for this reason that good hymns and worship songs follow this story line. If you think about it most old hymns speak to the goodness of God, the sin of man, Jesus’ work on the cross and Jesus’ return. These hymn writers understood the narrative of scripture and the importance of reminding people thereof.
So how does the Bible connect each individual story to the big story? It does so by using symbols, imagery, types and patterns. Hamilton gives examples of these such as the temple, the exodus and the church. The temple served as the place of God’s presence among His people. In reality, God’s presence fills the earth. He cannot be contained in a temple or tabernacle. The temple served as a symbol that God’s presence was with them. For the believer God’s presence dwells inside them through the Holy Spirit. Exodus tells the story of God delivering his people from Egyptian bondage. The exodus story serves as a type pointing to a greater exodus through Jesus who delievers people from the bondage of sin. Imagery used in Scripture include the church being the bride of Christ. This image allows the biblical reader to see how deeply God loves his people as a husband loves his bride.
There are two applications from What is Biblical Theology? First, understanding the big story of the Bible will allow the reader to experience the unfolding of God’s revelation, which enriches study and one’s personal relationship with God. Second, it allows the reader to fit themselves into the big story. We are not the point of the story, God is. There are millions of books on the shelves of the Christian Living section that will tell us we are the main character of the story. Yet, this could not be further from the truth. We are the ones who were in desperate need of rescue. God is is the hero who rescued his people from the bondage of sin.
I recommend What is Biblical Theology? to anyone seeking deeper study of the Bible’s metanarrative. This book whets the appitite for deeper study of God’s Word. What is Biblical Theology? serves as a great jumping off point to further study of biblical theology. This resource is perfect for individual or classroom study. It is amazing to take a step back and see the storyline of the Bible from beginning to end.
Zach is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He blogs at zachkendrick.wordpress.com, and is a contributor for Servants of Grace. He has written book reviews for Cross-Focused Reviews, Crossway, New Growth Press, Tyndale House Publishers and Fortress Press. He resides in Birmingham with his wife, Courtney.