Bruce Waltke on Ideology and Methodology in Biblical Theology

(see HERE for my post describing Waltke’s critique of Brueggemann’s theology)

I am extremely interested in the question of how one constructs an OT theology.  What method(s) should be used?  Is it a history of religions approach a la Eichrodt?  A history of traditions similar to von Rad?  A canonical approach akin to Childs?  A metaphorical/rhetorical theology such as Brueggemann?  Because of this interest, I was eager to crack open my new copy of Bruce Waltke’s An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan, 2007) and look at his method a bit.  Here’s what I found . . .

Waltke sees three doctrines as vital and operative for biblical theology (39):
1) Revelation
2) Inspiration
3) Illumination of the Scriptures by the Spirit of God

These three doctrines lead to “four ideological and methodological stances”:
1) Biblical theology is a branch of theology, not of history
2) The Bible is authoritative and infallible for faith
3 The locus of revelation for theological reflection is text, not event
4) The Bible is a unity

Concerning this second set of four, I am in total agreement with Waltke on #1 (see HERE for an earlier post on the topic).  On #2 I would press a bit, namely because of his opening two sentences in that section: “The Bible is from God, and God does not lie or mislead.  Therefore, the Bible is a revelation that is authoritative and infallible for our faith and practice” (41).  If this is the case, I don’t see how he can glean a portrait of God that is consistent, let alone one that sees God as consistent.  Those familiar with my own scholarship will also know I would equivocate on the concept of God being beyond using deception.  I am, however, in good company; J.J.M. Roberts, for instance, has a formative article entitled “Does God Lie?” . . . and I have surveyed a host of literature on the topic in the opening chapter of my dissertation.  Again, I do not see how Waltke can hold the entire biblical text is authoritative but not be aware of places, such as in the Deuteronomistic History, or Jeremiah, or many other places, where God is involved in some way with duplicity.  Perhaps that is why he has to fault Brueggemann for his exegesis!  On #3 I am also largely in agreement.  See the post linked to in #1 for clarification.  And I also agree with Waltke on #4.

What are your thoughts on Waltke’s systematization of the task of biblical/OT theology?  And how would you construct an OT theology?


2 thoughts on “Bruce Waltke on Ideology and Methodology in Biblical Theology

  1. Joseph Kelly says:

    I feel like Waltke is trying to bridge the fields of Systematic and Biblical/Old Testament Theology. Frankly, I don’t like it.

    John, you may remember a post of mine in the past that spoke of “The Paradigmatic Activity of Biblical Theology.” You were, if you recall, my practical example. It can be found here:

    I think Barr is right. The paradigmatic activity of Biblical Theology happens in series like the Overtures to Biblical Theology series, not in big massive OTTs or NTTs. This doesn’t mean that one couldn’t or shouldn’t write an OTT, but this is not the paradigmatic activity of biblical theology. For that reason, I am not really inclined to spend a great amount of energy on the question of how one might go about doing it.

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