Here’s a review by Dr. Randy Saultz, a former student of mine.
An Exciting Time for a Biblical Theology
Have you ever started reading a great novel and get swept into it in ways that don’t let you put it down? That is kind of like what happens when I read biblical theology. Yes, I know that not everyone finds this to be exciting reading but I am glad to have started reading Biblical Theology: The Convergence of the Canon. This is Ben Witherington III’s addition to the legacy started by Walter Eichrodt, Gerhard Von Rad, Rudolph Bultmann and others since the twentieth century.
I am glad he begins with a discussion about hermeneutics. Good hermeneutics start by asking the right questions. Unfortunately, too many of us are asking questions that guarantee we will find what we want to find and arrive at the place we want to go. This is a Fox News, CNN kind of hermeneutic that can take any bit of information and make it sound as if it supports the opinions of the listening audience. Just saying, we often find things in Scripture that would be shocking to the biblical writers.Ben Witherington III stresses the importance of reading the biblical text forwards and backwards. He warns against topical readings. (We can agree that topical readings will usually result in whatever the seeker is looking for). Poor hermeneutics often result in “some abstract grid of themes.” This does not treat the biblical text with integrity.
Another point of interest is his emphasis on a Trinitarian approach to biblical theology. He handles this in chapters titled “The God of the Burning Bush”, “The God of Golgotha”, and “The God of the Burning Heart.” Such a Trinitarian approach fits with the intent of Scripture. Witherington suggests “the further you go in the Bible, the more Trinitarian things become.”
I do not know why preachers do not spend more time with biblical theologies. Perhaps it is easier to spend time on slivers of systematic thoughts and topical speak than to work at including the church in the great, ongoing work of God revealed in the biblical storyline. But, in a world that lacks a meta-narrative that provides meaning, surely it is an exciting time to preach biblical theology. I suspect that some will see some things differently, but surely, the church has received a great gift in this book and we can all agree when he says “Thanks be to God for the whole canonical witness.”