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Biblical Theology is a phrase which has been understood in different manner throughout
the centuries. Brveard S. Child (1993) mentioned that it could denote a theology contained
within the Bible or a theology which accords with the Bible (22). In history it has been
understood in contrasted manner: descriptive task concerned with what the texts meant or a
theological task concerned with what it means. However, current scholarship shifts the argument
to balancing the two extremes. This paper describes what biblical theology means. The focus of
the discussion will be on one of the most important question in the field, the question of center.
The aim is to advance Walter C. Kaisers proposal, the promise plan of God as a better alternative.
Describe what is meant by a biblical theology of missions

Biblical theology is a discipline which has be primary the job of the systematic
theologian. This approach deals with the question of center topically than thematically, based on
dogmatic theology and its divisions, God-man-salvation. For systematic theology an organizing
principle or a center for scripture Theology is not an issue. Kaiser (2008) rightly criticize that its
descriptive nature and the use of outside interest and presupposition makes this approach not
natural to scripture. The dogmatic approach borrows external assumptions and tools such as
philosophy to do biblical theology.
Kaiser also criticizes the diachronic approach.

The diachronic method for doing OT

theology depends on the traditio-historical critical method. Accordingly, post- Gabler diachronic
approach is called Biblical theology; however, it studies Formation of Tradition. Hence,
biblical theology is built up on tradition-building process because tradition history goes beyond

historical facts and religious phenomena and describes the living process in forming tradition. If,
however, the diachronic method is a study of tradition, source of oral tradition, form of the
written tradition, and a criticism of the redactors interest, how can that be theology?
Moreover, historically for Jews these documents have been understood and read as unity.
Such a fragmentary approach may satisfy the historical quest of the western reader, but it has
never been the way it is understood among the recipients. Therefore, Kaiser insists that there
must be unity, not just because the recipients of the text understood it that way, but because there
is an internal fabric that could be seen throughout scripture.
The question of center is of great importance to Biblical theology. Is there a thematic
unity through of scriptures? Walter C. Kaiser (2008) is one of the Old Testament scholar among
others who believe in center in scripture. He states I believe that a biblical center and its
accompanying unity were strongly attested ( 17). He discovery comes from the New
Testament authors who taught that the doctrine of the Messiah, the anointed one of God was
preserved as a record of the promise (or promise plan) made by God(17). However, for him that
theme is everywhere in the Old Testament even though it is expressed in different ways (Kaiser
2008 17).
For Kaiser insists that the promise plan of God is the unifying principle, a theological
center of the whole bible.
His definition of the promise plan of God is as follows:
The promise plan is Gods word of declaration, beginning with Eve and continuing on
through history, especially in the patriarchs and the Davidic line, that God would
continually be in His person and do in his deeds an works (in and through Israel and later
the Church) his redemptive plan as his means of keeping that promised word alive for
Israel, and thereby for all who subsequently believed. All in that promised seed were
called to act as a light for all the nations so that all the families of the earth might come to
faith and to new life in the Messiah (Kaiser 2008, 18).

Kaiser is not the first person to seen a center in the Biblical documents. As to the question
of organizing principle or center, Gerhard E. Hasel (1972) summarizes the whole discussion:
some propose single center (Eichrod, covenant; E. Sellin, the holiness of God; Kohler, God as
the Lord; Hans Wildberger, election; Horest Seebas, the ruleship of God; God, G. Hasle ) others
dual center (Fohrer, the rule of God and the communion between God and man), multi-valent
(Bruce Birch and Rolf Knierim) still others no center (R. N. Whybary and C. Westermann).
Kaiser should be commended for several things. First, a stated above his criticism of
alternative methodology is accurate. Both systematic theology form the synchronic camp and the
tradition historical critical method from the diachronic camp are not the right tool to Biblical
theology. Second, his affirmation of the unity of the bible is important and proper. He also
maintains unity between the two testaments. Third, his proposal of promise plan of God as the
theological center inclusive of other alternatives such as covenant, the rule of God, God and so
on. The promise plan of God includes the establishment of the rule of God and it is appropriated
through the covenant and its ultimately guaranteed by Gods faithfulness. Therefore, other
alternate themes could be seen as part of this broader one.
The problem is whether or not any single concept should or can be employed for bringing
a structural unity of the scripture? It seems unlikely. Hasel (1972) rightly sees the problem for all
is the attempt to rely on single center always leads to selectivity and downgrading parts of
scripture such as wisdom writing. Contemporary scholarship on Biblical theology appreciates
Von Rad for made a positive development when he suggest a concept of center which is
theological than organizational. He proposed the theology of history of the deuteronomistic
historian as a center. However, the deuteronomistic theology is a theology of covenant which is
ultimately connected with the promise plan of God.

Blessing promised to Abraham: Foundational of Biblical Theology

This section argues following Kaiser that the blessing promised to Abraham is foundation
to Biblical theology, and what has happened in the messiah is the fulfillment of this promise.
The question following is what was the promise? How it has been embraced by the prophetic
tradition? And most importantly how its fulfillment has been understood in the coming of the
messiah, Jesus?
God first promised Abraham to give him seed. The story tells us that Abraham and his
wife was old enough not to be able to have a child, heir to Abrahams estate, but when all hope is
gone, Elshadia promised to bless them with a miraculous son. Beyond its immediate social and
literal context, however, we see the theme of seed appears even from the begging of the
document (Gen. 3:15). In fact, Kaiser (2008) observes that in the patriarchal narrative the theme
appear twenty eight times(56). It might be very difficult to show the connection between the
Gen. 3:15 to the theme of the Patriarch. It is also very difficult to justify the connection between
this theme with later messianic expectation. However, arguably it can be demonstrated.
It could be said that Genesis 4-11 is the story of how God preserved the line of the seed
promised in Gen 3:15. Following the two crises, one in Eden and the other out of Eden the text
tells us that And Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and
named him Seth, for, she said, "God has appointed me another offspring (seed) in place of Abel;
for Cain killed him." (Gen 4:25 NAS). Obviously the seed has been understood both as
descendants of a particular line of family and as an individual but also as a corporate personality.
Kaiser states that the seed was always collective singular noun; few time did it have the
meaning of plural noun (as in descendants) Thereby, the seed was marked as unity, yet with

flexibility of reference; now referring to one person now to the many descendants of the family
(20008, 56).
While the connection of the idea of the messiah and the seed is not explicitly shown in
Genesis, the second promise, the promise of Nation or kingdom necessary demands it. The Lord
said to Abraham And I will make you a great nation, (Gen 12:2 NAS). The development of
the theme of the seed and its relation it to the Messiah in the Old Testament is also hinted in
Jacob Blessings of Judah. "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from
between his feet, (Gen 49:10 NAS). Moreover, the in Torah the prophecy of Moses 'I will raise
up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and
he shall speak to them all that I command him (Deu 18:18 NAS), may have been understood as
part of the Patriarchal Blessings.
In the Old Testament prophetic tradition, however, it can be substantially argued that
messianic expectation arouse or resumed only during the post exilic period. This makes it very
difficult to see the connection of the Messianic expectation with the promise of see to the
partiarches. According to Robin Routledge (2008) Old Testament picture of Messiah is
ambiguous; but it could be said the Messiah is a descendant of David who will preside over the
coming era of salvation.
Routledge presents a good summary of the disruption in his Old Testament Theology.
Accordingly, the term messiah is not found in Old Testament the messianic passages, and those
passages are not agreeable by all. As a result of these the subject is subjective. The Anointed one
in Dan. 9:25-26 is close to its technical sense. Even here it is not used to refer to an
eschatological figure associated with the kingdom of God (but that could be argued). For

Mowinckel messiah is eschatological figure and messianic passages must be those whose
original outlook and intentions are eschatological. Those texts are post exilic.
The broader definition of Messianic passages would say texts pointing forward to Jesus,
but that is too open and misleading. For Bright the beginning of messianic hope is 8th C.
prophecy of Isaiah. According to Routledge, for Motyer even before David people were aware
of the short coming of the Monarchy and were hoping for something better (an idea also shared
by Mowinckel). However, Motyers argument is difficult to justify.
In favor of Kaiser, however, it could be said that the theme of promised Messiah, even if
a later development, have become gradually essential, if not central, to the New Testament
authors. So, Kaiser is correct to say this theme was regarded as the development of a single
promise, repeated and unfolded through the centuries with numerous specifications and in
multiple forms but always with the same essential core (20). From the New Testament
perspective the promise traces its root in the Abrahamic covenant. This promise for Kaiser is
single and yet multi-faceted and it has been fulfilled in different phases of salvation history.
Kaiser goes on explaining the characteristics of the promise plan of God. First, he says,
the doctrine of the promised Messiah is found throughout all the scriptures and not just in
isolated or selected passages (Kaiser 2008, 19). His main argument comes from the statement of
Jesus in Luke 24:44. It may be difficult to reject this claim of Jesus, but one can ask questions
such as what does it mean by all scripture in this particular usage. Certainly, in this context all
means selective Messianic texts. If that is not the case, how can we understand Ecclesiastics as
Messianic book? Otherwise Jesus must have a different reading of the texts than ours? The
second criticism can also be made on the rest of points he mentions. Kaisers reading of New
Testament messianic theology on the Old Testament texts would not do justice to the latter.

Obviously, in the apostolic understanding, the promise of the seed in Abrahamic covenant
is connected with the Messiah. Paul in Galatia explicitly affirms that Now the promises were
spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but
rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ (Gal 3:16 NAS). Whenever Paul argues with
Jews promise of blessing, he stretches the argument to the Abrahamic covenant. Hence, the
promise of nation is also a realization of this covenant. Paul understood that the new movement
he is taking part is the new Israel which had its root in the blessing to the Patriarch. He says In
hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according
to that which had been spoken, "So shall your descendants be." (Rom 4:18 NAS) The idea of
many nations in these verses comes from the covenant to be a blessing to all nation in Gen

In conclusion it may be very difficult see how the theme of the patriarchal promise
develop in each text. It is certainly challenging to read the patriarchal promise in individual
books such as Ecclesiastics or songs of Solomon. However, reading the whole scripture from the
perspective of the New Testament people, we can clearly see that the promise has been the
theme of scripture. Hence, based on this apostolic reading we may conclude that the center of
Biblical theology is the fulfillment of the long awaited Patriarchal promise.


Childs B. 1992. Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the
Christian Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press
Hasel, Gerhard. 1991. Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate. 4th ed.
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Kaiser, Walter C. 2008. Toward Old Testament Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Routledge, Robin. 2009. Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach. Downers Grove: IVP