By Max Strange
Exegetical theology and Biblical theology work side-by-side and are at the same level, not as a twin tool, but partners that constantly interact and are in persistent engagement. And yet, Biblical Theology arises first in importance. Biblical theology makes use of the results of exegesis. It maps out the divine form of patterns and themes that run across the whole Biblical landscape. It traces and then describes. Exegesis finds the particulars and Biblical theology charts the results. Yet, after all the specifics are discovered, Biblical theology emerges and takes its preeminent place. It must for it covers the ages and the whole span of Scripture. It takes its supreme role because it is a science that wraps its efforts around the whole counsel of God and embraces it dearly. It hunts for divinely arranged sequences, patterns, prototypes, developments, progressions, stages, and repetition. Biblical theology hounds for greater disclosures of God and thematic truths that grow one out from another. It isn’t afraid of fuller fulfillments and delights to see the transcendent nature of God’s meaning embedded in the human author’s meaning. Like the woman who finds the lost pearl in her own home is like the one who, after doing Biblical theology, sweeps aside old presuppositions and finds Jesus in the Old Testament all along.
As we looked for the treasure in Scripture, we find that we do travel along a chronological timeline, but are not enslaved to that timeline. Jesus Christ and the Apostles saw the Scripture as an expansive whole and in a kind of hermeneutical time machine, went back in time and then back to the future, drawing and pulling further meaning from New to Old and from Old to New. In this way, they show us how not to be enslaved. They never wanted us to view the Bible as mere history, but revelatory theologizings of God’s spokesmen. We can pendulum back and forth across the timeline and see patterns across the whole chronology and inspect divine words and acts being communicated over the long haul of history.
Mr. Walter Kaiser brings a diachronic timeline approach to the Scriptures, also called Antecedent Theology, which in some ways is good. This view adds up the data found and begins to see the development of the whole. He wants the context to speak and this is good for the Word of God always has an immediate meaning in the immediate situation in which it was written. This definitely protects the Word of God from false interpretation. Kaiser is our faithful ally in this regard. He tells us to never obscure the immediate context. Nonetheless, Christ and His Apostles saw embedded truths in the Old Testament. They quoted the Old Testament and saw a fuller meaning to the original, yet never changed the context. They went to the closet, pulled out the old jacket, turned it inside out and found a brand new inner lining, ready to be revealed and better than the shell. And they wore it all over the place. Respectfully, Mr. Kaiser still wears the Old Jacket. His understanding of hermeneutics misses the theologizing of God’s authors, their developing eschatological perspectives, and their typology. If we merely see the accumulation of historical data points, Jesus will go missing from the Old Testament and like the woman at the tomb of Jesus we will sadly say, “Where have they placed my LORD?” The Bible, I say is not so much a monochrome and flat dead-letter, but full of color and contour and life.
Therefore, we must consider that it is necessary for the New Testament to have priority over the Old Testament. The New Testament is dependent upon the Old because over and over again the authors draw from its wells. And yet, the N.T. authors give a unique meaning. They draw out key passages that sum up entire Old Testament sections. They say that this O.T. passage has been fulfilled and this is what was spoken and now has come to pass. Jesus gives us the pattern to interpret Scripture this way. He is the compliant listener and perfect interpreter of all the Father had ever said. He taught His disciples that the dominant current of the Old Testament has always been about Him (John 5:39, 40; Luke 24:27). Thus, in Biblical Theology, we go back from New to the Old and find Jesus where He is and lift Him out where He has always been and piece together all the patterns to behold the face of God in the person of Jesus Christ.