Biblical Theology is the name given, especially in Germany, to a branch of scientific theology, which has for its object to set forth the theology of the Bible without reference to ecclesiastical or dogmatical formulas or creeds. (We make large use in this article of Nitzsch's article in Herzog's Real-Encyclopedia, vol. i.)
The name Biblical theology can be taken (as is the term theology in general) in a narrower and a wider sense, the narrower including only the sum of religious doctrine contained in the Old and New Testament Scriptures; the wider comprehending the science of the Bible in all the respects in which it may be made the object of investigation. Usually it is taken in the narrower sense, and some writers prefer, therefore, the name Biblical dogmatics.
As may be seen from the definition, Biblical theology has a very clearly defined relation to exegetical and historical theology no less than to systematic theology. It is the flower and quintessence of all exegetical investigations, for the very object of exegesis is to find out, with entire clearness, the true teaching of the word of God with regard to His own nature and the relations of man to Him. Its relation to historical theology is that of the foundation to the superstructure, for both the History of Doctrines and the History of the Church must set out with a fixed view of the teaching of the Scriptures as to the fundamental questions of religion. So, too, Systematic Theology, while it includes the statements of doctrine made in the creeds and formulas of the Church, must yet rest ultimately upon the authority of the Scriptures.
The beginning of Biblical theology may be said to be coeval with theology itself, for Scripture proofs were always needed and made use of against heathens, heretics, and Jews. But when tradition came to be recognised as a rule of faith, equally important as the Scripture, and the Church claimed for her doctrinal decisions and her interpretations of the Bible the same infallibility as for the authority of the Bible itself, the cultivation of strictly Biblical theology fell into discredit. The Reformation of the 16th century undertook to purify the Church by the restoration of the Christianity of the Bible, and the catechisms and confessions of the Reformed churches may therefore be regarded as attempts to arrange the doctrines of the Bible into a system. The early Protestant works on systematic theology sought to prove the doctrines of the several churches by Biblical texts; at the head of each article of doctrine a Biblical text was placed and thoroughly explained. Zacharise (t 1777), professor of theology in the University of Kiel, wrote Biblische Theologie, oder Untersuchung des biblischen Grundes der vornehnzsten theologischen Lehren (Gott. u. Kiel, 1771-75; last part edited by Vollborth, 1786). Zacharie understood by Biblical Theology, " not that theology the substance of which is taken from Scripture, for in this sense every theological system must be biblical, but more generally a precise definition of all the doctrines treated of in systematic theology, the correct meaning which, in accordance with Scripture, should be applied to them, and the best arguments in their defence." His was accordingly the first attempt to treat Biblical theology as a separate branch of theological science, independently of systematic theology. He was followed by Huffnagel (Bibl. Theologie, Erlang. 178589), Ammnon (Bibl. Theol. Erlang. 1792), and Baumgarten-Crusius, among the Rationalists; and by Storr and Flatt (1803), translated by Schmucker (Andover, 1836, 2d edition, 8vo), Supranaturalist. The position which Biblical theology now generally occupies in German theology was first defined by Gabler (Dejusto discrinaine Theol. bibl. et dogmaticce, Altdorf, 1787, 4to). Tholuck (,MS. Lectures, translated by Park, Bibliotheca Sacra, 1844, 552) remarks as follows on the state of Biblical theology up to that time: "In this department we have no satisfactory treatise for students. The older writers, as Zachariae, are prolix and devoid of taste. Storr and Knapp have given us, on the whole, the best text-books of Biblical theology in the proper sense of the phrase. Since the beginning of the 19th century, the name Biblical Dogmatic Theology has been applied to the science which is more properly called Dogmatic History. Certain theologians, who take a Rationalistic view of Christian doctrine, have considered the various teachings of the Bible, from the time of Abraham to that of Jesus and the apostles, as the product of human reason in its course of gradual improvement; and, in this view, Biblical theology has for its object to exhibit the gradual development of reason in its application to religion, as it kept pace with the advance of the times in which the writers of the Bible lived. The Biblical Dogmatics of Von Ammon, De Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, and Von Colln are written in this Rationalistic spirit" (see De Wette, Biblische Dogmatik d. Alten vu. Neuen Testaments (Berlin, 1813, and often); Baumgarten-Crusius, Grundziige der Bibl. Theologie (Jena, 1828); and Colln, Bibl. Theolkgie (Leips. 1836, 2 vols. 8vo)).
Nitzsch, in his Christliche Lehre (6th ed. 1851; translated (badly), Edinburgh, Clark's Library), develops his own view of the doctrines of the Bible in systematic form, apart from all dogmatical creeds. But he distinguishes (§ 4) " Christian doctrine" from "Biblical theology" in this, that the former seeks to interpret " the period of completed revelation, and of Christian faith and life in its finished form, as set forth by the apostles, finally and for all time; while the latter ought to take note- of the development of revelation, in its various stages, from the time of Abraham to that of the apostles." He therefore makes Biblical theology bear the same relation to the " system of Christian doctrine" that the History of Dogmas bears to dogmatics. The work of S. Lutz (Bibl. Dogmatik, 1847)
is valuable for systematic method no less than for a thorough understanding of the contents of the Bible.
Biblical theology, in the narrower sense, has been again subdivided into the theology of the Old and the theology of the New Testament. Works on the former have been published by Vatke (Die Religion des A. T. 1st vol. Berl. 1835) and Bruno Bauer (Die Religion des A. T. 2 vols. 1838). Both are strongly influenced by Hegel's Philosophy of Religion. A better work is Havernick, Vorlesungen uber d. Theologie des Alten Bundes (posthumous; Frankf. 1863). From the Roman Catholic side we have Scholz, Handbuch d. Theolngie des Alten Bundes (Regensb. 1862, 2 vols. 8vo). On the theology of the New Testament we have works from C. F. Schmidt (Bibl. Theol. des N.T. Erlang. 1853; 2d edit. publ. by Weizsacker, 1859), G. L. Hahn (Die Theologie des N.T. Leipz. 1854, 1st vol.), and a posthumous work by F. C. Baur (Vorlesungen iiber neutestanentliche Theologie, Leipzig, 1864). The teachings of the different writers of the N.T. have been made the subjects of special works. The Pauline system has been treated of by Usteri (Entwickelung des paulinischenLehrbegrffts, Ziurich, 1824, 1829,1831,1832) and Diahne (Entwickelung des paul. Lehrbegriffs, Leipz. 1835); the Johannean by Kostlin (Lehrbegriffund iBqefe Johannis, Berl. 1843) and Frommann (Joh. Lehrb(grij; Halle, 1839).-Hagenbach, Encyclopddie (7th edition, Leipz. 1865); Mercersburg Review, 1862; Knapp, Theology (Translator's Preface); Herzog, Real-Encyk. i, 222. SEE THEOLOGY.