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What Is Biblical Theology ? Paperback – 30 Nov 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway Books (30 Nov. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433537710
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433537714
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 0.9 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 777,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This is an unusually well-written introduction to biblical theology. The author has that rare gift of being a theologian who can communicate effectively. A great deal of learning has gone into what Hamilton writes. Often scholars seem to be wanting to impress other scholars in their verbosity without ever really getting to the point. But this book can be read in one or two sittings - yet, by the same token, there is much to chew and meditate on if the reader is willing to pay close attention to the richness of what Hamilton is presenting.

For the 'big picture' of the Bible and its recurring themes and images, this book is superb. My only qualm was the author's emphasis on the state of the lost, to the glory of God. I'm not sure that this brand of Calvinism fits as naturally into biblical theology as a more UNIVERSALIST theme of God's grand purpose to redeem the entire creation in Christ; where there will be a New Jerusalem whose gates shall never be shut, and a river flowing with the tree of life on either side, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. See Bradley Jersak: "Her Gates Shall Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem"; and Gregory MacDonald: "The Evangelical Universalist" for further details.
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Format: Kindle Edition
You can read my full review here: [...]

James Hamilton, Jr. does a wonderful job on simplifying the Bible's grand, overarching story in his new book. I often hear about how the Bible is a continuous story, but I often forget just how much of it really is a unified story. Hamilton explains the extra step of Typology over Symbolism. Typology doesn't have to be difficult or weird to understand. It's just what God typically does (p. 44). We have the initial occurrence of an event (the archetype), then we have the uphill climb (the installations) until the type finds fulfillment in its ultimate expression.


The Chocolate Milk (what I liked)


+ This book clears up a number of the issues people have with biblical prophecy. How can Jesus say in John 13:18 that the one who eats His food will turn against Him according to the Scriptures (in Ps 41:9)? When you read Ps 41:9 it just says that the one who shared the author's food, who he trusted completely, has turned against him (my paraphrase).

Why was this scripture prophetic?

There's a recurring theme through the Bible to have your closest ally turn against you (Noah with Ham, Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban, Moses and Aaron, David and Saul, Jesus and Judas). Jesus is just fulfilling one of the messages of the grand story: someone very close to you is going to turn against you.

+ His chapter on Typology was great. His definition of it was super-easy to understand. Typology = what God typically does. How can you tell what the typology is? Are we just making it up as we go or is there a clearer road to understanding the process? This section lays it out in layman's terms, which is just what I need.
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Format: Paperback
The greatest stories don't just take us to faraway places, they tell us about ourselves and world. Often this is far more effective than a direct approach. Look to the example of Nathan's story in 2 Samuel 12; his story cut to David's heart and revealed his hypocrisy. Likewise, in What is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns, James Hamilton wants to help us see the storyline of the Bible - the true story of our world - and thereby make sense of what God is doing in history and see our own place within it.

Biblical theology has become a bit of a buzz-word today, and yet it has a multitude of definitions depending on who one talks with. To Hamilton, the heartbeat of biblical theology "is to think about the whole story of the Bible" (p12) and to properly understand the Bible we must enter the worldview of the Biblical authors, to see the world the way that they do. To guide us in this adventure of biblical theology, Hamilton approaches the topic in three broad sections: discerning the Bible's story (ch 3-5), understanding its symbolism (6-9), and then applying these to the role of the church (ch 10-13).

What is Biblical Theology? serves as a great introduction for those interested in the topic of biblical theology, but it also has so much more to offer. Ultimately, Hamilton here wants to create better readers of the Bible. This is no small ambition but neither is it an obscure or unimportant one. All Christians should know their Bibles better because life is in His Word. As such, What is Biblical Theology? is a book for every Christian and one that I would wholeheartedly recommend. Get this book!

[This is an excerpt of the full review on my blog. Many thanks to Crossway for providing a copy of this book to review via Netgalley. All opinions are my own].
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8d268714) out of 5 stars 70 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d1d82ac) out of 5 stars A GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE'S BIG PICTURE 19 Nov. 2013
By Dr. David P. Craig - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My wife and I have a tradition that we have practiced over our 21 years of marriage. Once every two to three years we plan a trip somewhere in the United States we've never been to before. We have gone to Boston, Washington D.C., New York, Seattle, Honolulu, Minneapolis, Orlando, Austin, San Diego, and several others. Before we go to the city we buy a really good map that gives us the lay of the land. Once we are there the first thing we do is go on a city-wide bus tour. In doing these two things it helps us to appreciate the history of the city, landmarks, and highlights we don't want to miss during our stay. We get an overview and the big picture of the city before we enjoy its constituent parts.

Hamiton's book is like a map or tour of the Bible. He helps you not to miss the most important stories, symbols, and patterns that are featured in the Scriptures. All of the biblical authors do "biblical theology." They have a framework or world-view through which they interpret and describe the events, stories, and principles through this lens. All of the authors interpret Scripture in three ways (1) They interpret the words or accounts of God's words and deeds that have been passed down to him; (2) They interpret world history from its creation to its final consummation; and (3) They interpret events and statements that they describe. According to Hamilton biblical theology in essence "means the interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors have presented their understanding of earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing in narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses."

By taking into account the different genres of Scripture and their various themes, Hamilton helps the reader appreciate the biblical "lay of the land" in it's varied history, and its consummation centered around the gospel and the glory of God in Christ. I think the thesis of this book is wonderfully expressed by Hamilton in the second chapter: "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."

I believe this book is indeed a fantastic guide in helping all Bible students to understand, appreciate, and enjoy the biblical message intended by the author of the word - the Word - Jesus himself. We learn how to read, understand, and interpret the Bible from the perspective of the biblical authors, which is to learn a divinely inspired perspective. I believe that Hamilton achieves his hope and desired purpose for everyone who reads this book: "My hope is that you cross the bridge into their [the biblical authors] thought-world and never come back. I hope you will breathe the air of the Bible's world, recognize it as the real Narnia, and never want to leave."
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d8fa0a8) out of 5 stars A Review of "What is Biblical Theology?" From www.Entrustedwiththegospel.com 17 Dec. 2013
By Jared Jenkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love Biblical Theology. I love it because Jim Hamilton inspired me to love it. I love it because it makes me love my Bible and the God that it reveals. I am privileged to have studied with Dr. Jim Hamilton at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim was not only my professor, but pastor, and friend. I could not have been more happy to see this little manual (128 pgs), What is Biblical Theology?, published because it gives me one more staring point in sharing the passion I learned from Jim for God’s Word with my friends.

Biblical Theology, in my opinion, is the must important, foundational way of learning to read our Bible. As Jim says, “To do biblical theology is to think about the whole story of the Bible…[it is] understand[ing] the organic development of the Bible’s teaching so that we are interpreting particular parts of the story in light of the whole” (12). The Bible does this through the use of symbols, imagery, typology, and patterns. The result is one big narrative that encapsulates all of what God is doing in our world through the person of Christ. When rightly seen, the developing story of the Bible is far from being just a disjointed, multi-part fiction series; it is the framework for life and the worldview that God has given to His people. When we begin to take on the mind of the Biblical authors we begin to enter into the only story that matters.

In What is Biblical Theology? Jim communicates an intense passion for the Word (and I would expect nothing less). It is in the Bible that we experience God. We come to know Him by learning to read well his revelation of Himself (20). And that is what Biblical Theology is, “learning to read the Bible from the Bible itself” (20). Jim’s main Hope is that after reading his work “you want more – more of the Bible” since it is the seat of God’s self-revelation (21).

What is Biblical Theology? is broken up into three parts: part 1 recounts the Bible’s big story; creation, fall, redemption, restoration, part 2 explains the parlance of Biblical Theologians; what do they mean by symbols, imagery, typology, and patterns, and part 3 puts what the reader has learned to use as the Bible’s love story is laid out. What is really great about the whole book is that it is teaching you Biblical Theology by doing it throughout. Jim cannot describe Biblical typology without showing you amazing types in the Bible! Not only does he show you amazing connections in the Bible, but He applies their significance to life. This is Biblical Theology done well. I guarantee the reader will find something new about the word of God through Jim’s explanation of Biblical Theology. As an example, my mind was blown on page 51, where Jim describes the way Isaiah’s reflections on David influenced the writing of his prophecy of the suffering servant.

The mystery and surprise to Jim’s work is its radical focus on the church! This is a really refreshing breath of air in the midst of an evangelical culture that regularly tears down the bride of Christ. Through good Biblical Theology modeled, Jim tackles the question, “If the church is so special in God’s program, why does it seems so unimpressive?” (97). I will leave the answer to this question for the reader to discover. Jesus will marry His righteous, redeemed bride.

My only critique of What is Biblical Theology? is that those looking for a didactic cut and dry guide to Biblical theology may find themselves lost in the sea of imagery that is throughout the book. Jim loves the imagery of the Bible and cannot speak about the Bible or life but by talking in the Bible’s imagery about its imagery. This is the mark of a true Biblical Theologian! By nature of my relationship to Jim, I knew exactly what he was saying, but someone fresh to the discipline of Biblical Theology may find himself or herself grasping for an anchor. My advice for that reader is to take the ride. Relax in the imagery of the Bible and let it wash over your soul again and again until the Holy Spirit sets his anchor by giving you eyes to see and ears to hear.

Hearing the big story of the Bible for the first time was my biggest take away from Seminary. I am saddened that I had to what so long for something so critical to the way I read my Bible. But you don’t have to go to seminary to get the story of the Bible. I highly encourage you to pick up What is Biblical Theology?. Biblical Theology helps Christians understand that the classic literature narrative of hope, salvation, and the defeat of evil is true! And God is the original author of this grand story line that we love! As Jim says, “Biblical Theology… [is] a way of getting out of a false world into the real one, a transporter enabling us to inhabit the story of the Scriptures” (97).
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d8f8f90) out of 5 stars Grand Slam! 19 April 2014
By Dr. David Steele - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Biblical Theology is "interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors have presented their understanding of earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing in narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses." So says, James Hamilton in his latest work, What is Biblical Theology?

Hamilton is no stranger to the world of biblical theology. In 2010, he wrote God's Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, a book that I devoured and greatly benefitted from. In many ways, What is Biblical Theology? could serve as a sort of introduction to the earlier work as it summarizes the important discipline of Biblical Theology.

The sub-title accurately reflects the essential nature of the book: "A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns." One important question that Hamilton addresses is, "How is God going to bless Gentiles in Abraham's seed?" Ultimately we learn that "all families of the earth will be blessed in the seed of Abraham, Jesus the Messiah" (Gal. 3:14-16). But Hamilton leaves no room for ambiguity here: "Gentile Christians enjoy all the blessings given to Israel in the Old Testament" (Eph. 1:3-14).

The emphasis on continuity is a breath of fresh air, especially to one like myself who was trained with the presuppositions of classical dispensationalism. The remainder of the book explores these and related themes. In the final sense, the author seeks to draw readers into the drama of the biblical plot line. Of course, he should receive high marks for writing a book that mines out the deep truths of Scripture in clear and winsome ways.

Readers who are interested in other works of biblical theology should turn to The King in His Beauty by Tom Schreiner and Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical Understanding of the Covenants by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8dc383c0) out of 5 stars Very helpful 30 Jan. 2014
By Dave Jenkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The past five to ten years have seen the resurgence of a great many doctrinal and theological topics. Among those topics is biblical theology—the discipline of understanding how the Bible recounts a single story- one that began at creation, encompasses people’s lives today and will continue under Christ’s return and beyond. Recently biblical scholar Dr. James M. Hamilton wrote What is Biblical Theology? A Guide To The Bible’s Story Symbolism, and Patterns. While Dr. Hamilton is an Associate Professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary he is also a Pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville Kentucky.

What is Biblical Theology? is divided into three parts. In part one Hamilton explores the Bible’s big story through the narrative, plot: and mystery. Part two covers the Bible’s symbolic universe through discussing the use of symbols, imagery, typology and patterns. The book concludes with the Bible’s love story, the Bride of Christ, the church’s identity and setting, plot tension and its resolution.

The one aspect of this book that stood out the most to me (and trust me the whole book is excellent) but in particular I found it very interesting and helpful how Dr. Hamilton invites his readers into the biblical world. He says:

“I hope you will breathe the air of the Bible’s world, recognize it as the real Narnia and never want to leave. If this happens, you will come to inhabit the Bible’s story. My prayer is that its symbols and patterns will shape the way you view the world and that your understanding of the church’s place in story and symbol will make you know the richest of god’s inheritance in the saints (Eph. 1:18, the great power “he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (:120), and the glory he displays in the church and in Christ Jesus forever (Eph. 3:21). In brief, I hope you will adopt the perspective of the biblical authors and that you will read the world from the Bible’s perspective, rather than reading the Bible from the world’s” (22-23).

Dr. Hamilton’s other ­­book God’s Salvation Through Judgment was extremely helpful to me. What is Biblical Theology was helpful in another way. While I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years thinking about the doctrine of Scripture and trying to think through this doctrine in the way Dr. Hamilton describes—what stood out the most was the way in which Dr. Hamilton invites his readers into the biblical world. While I often try to compare and contrast what the world thinks with what the Bible says—what Dr. Hamilton does is to show the superiority of what the Bible’s story is in order to show why the Bible’s perspective is greater than the world. While my approach and Dr. Hamilton’s are different, I agree with Dr. Hamilton and am persuaded that the way he describes the Bible’s world is greater than just comparing and contrasting what the world believes and thinks. As Christians we have a Word from God that is far greater than the world’s teaching. The Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant, authoritative and sufficient Word to His people. The invitation to come and read the “Word from the biblical perspective rather than reading the Bible from the world’s” is paradigm altering for several reasons.

First, many people come to the Bible to answer their questions; rather than coming to the Bible to hear, heed and obey what God has said. The difference here is huge and to be fair there is not enough space in this review to get into it all—other than to say when we truly go into and are captivated by the world of the Bible—we truly will never go back because we have fallen in love with the God of the Word who has given His people a Word about Himself. Ultimately that should be the goal of Bible study—to not just read information but to gain heart knowledge. After all to the Jews knowledge was not just in the head but also in the heart so a life that has been affected by the Bible is one that loves God with all of one’s heart, mind and strength. This is precisely why we need books like What is Biblical Theology by Dr. James Hamilton. Dr. Hamilton writes not only as a world class biblical theologian but as a pastor-theologian to help the people of God understand what the issue is and why it is so important.

Writers seek to persuade their audience they are right about what they write about as well as to strength their readers understanding of the topic. Dr. Hamilton not only accomplishes those two goals—he marvelously exceeds them. While God’s Salvation in Judgment is a much longer book—What is Biblical Theology is a very short book at 118 pages that sets forth to explain what biblical theology is taking as its source the Bible itself—tracing its story from beginning to end in an engaging, thoughtful and pastoral way that will help lay people and any student of the Bible to grasp what the author is teaching. In other words, What is Biblical Theology will help you to love Jesus more by helping you understanding your Bible better. While there are many books that you could read I hope and pray you will pick up What is Biblical Theology because there is nothing more important than understanding the storyline of Scripture and why it matters to you. This book will help you to understand that the Bible has one story—one that began at creation, encompasses our lives today and will continue until Christ’s return and beyond. Pick up What is Biblical Theology and learn to understand the worldview of the biblical writers so you can read the Old and New Testaments as those authors intended. This book will help you not just understand the Bible better but to find your place within the grand story of redemption.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d1d8894) out of 5 stars "What is Biblical Theology?" by James Hamilton 20 Dec. 2013
By Kyle E. Mcdanell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"In the mystery of his wisdom, God chooses mostly weak and insignificant people as his own. He wants no humans boasting (1 Cor. 1:29), and he wants us relying on him, not ourselves (2 Cor. 1:9). When God sets out to make a great nation of one man's descendants, he starts with a man whose wife is barren. When he wants to choose a king, he picks a young boy whose own father didn't think he would be kind, and so when the prophet comes to anoint one of his sons, Jesus doesn't summon David until Samuel has passed over David's older brothers (1 Sam. 16:10-11). When God wants to save the world, he sends his Son to become a baby, born to a peasant girl in questionable circumstances, and he sends him not to a great world capital but to a small town n Galilee. It's almost as though God repeatedly gives a head start to the opponent who will never outrun him.

Satan always seems to have the upper hand. The seed of the serpent are always impressive by worldly standards, and they don't shrink from draconian tactics: Cain kills Abel; wicked Israelites reject Moses; Saul persecutes David; the Jewish leadership crucifies Jesus; and the world has treated Christians the way it responded to Jesus.

But God raises the dead, and if something is impossible with man, all things are possible with God. So in the face of what appears to be the triumph of the wicked, all the weakness and folly of love and humility and joy and hope show the power and wisdom of the true and living God, against whom no foe can prevail.

This happens over and over again, as can be seen when we look at the plot's episodes." (35-36)

Every pastor should be a biblical theologian. It is important for the preacher to be able to articulate the context and meaning of an author's writings, book, theology, and how it all fits within the biblical storyline. I have been blessed in recent years by studying the metanarrative of Scripture and perhaps no better concise resource has helped me see the how the Bible all fits together than Dr. James Hamilton's short book What is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns.

Though there has been an increase in biblical theology books, this work of Hamilton is perhaps the best place for those new to biblical theology and the biblical storyline to begin. The book is broken down into three helpful parts. The first looks at the story of Scripture - Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. The second part highlights the many symbols, types, motifs, and images prevalent throughout the Bible that connect the story of Scripture. Hamilton shows how many of these symbols and images all point us to Christ. For example on the image of a tree, he writes;

"We Christians have good news; the shoot from the stump of Jesse is bearing fruit. The root out of dry ground bore our sins, and he perfectly fulfilled the Torah. His leaf will not wither and his fruit will not fail (cf. Isaiah 11, 53; Psalm 1). We can trust Jesus." (69)

One connection that is helpful for me, and something I have been thinking about a lot recently, regards the image of the temple. Hamilton shows how the Temple image runs through the whole of Scripture - from Creation to Recreation. The world, he writes, is a "cosmic temple" (72) and leads to a new creation where the redeemed will forever stand in his presence - in his Temple.

The final section regards the church. Again, Hamilton highlights how the storyline of Scripture fits together. Though each chapter is brief, Hamilton offers a great introduction to what the church has to do with everything. This would be a great place for one to begin in formulating a biblical ecclesiology.

Overall, I strongly encourage every pastor to invest in a book like this. Hamilton's work here is the best I have come across and will make me want to invest in some of his longer biblical theology books. Believers wanting to have a greater understanding of Scripture will benefit greatly from this book. It is short (I read it in one setting) and is fairly easy to follow even for those new to some of the concepts.

This book was provided for the purpose of this review by its publisher, Crossway Books.
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