Jeremy M. Kimble and Ched Spellman. Invitation to Biblical Theology: Exploring the Shape, Storyline, and Themes of Scripture. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2020. 528 pages. $44.99 (hardback).
Biblical theology as a discipline has seen a tremendous resurgence within the past few decades. However, with this increase of resources also comes an increase in confusion over what exactly biblical theology is and how it should be practiced. In Invitation to Biblical Theology, authors Jeremy Kimble (Associate Professor of Theology at Cedarville University in Cedarville, OH) and Ched Spellman (Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Cedarville University) seek to provide an accessible but comprehensive introduction that clarifies elements of the discussion and equips readers to do the work of biblical theology themselves.
The book is divided up into four sections. In the first, the authors tackle foundational issues and offer their own “working definition” of biblical theology: “the study of the whole Bible on its own terms” (16). They further elaborate on this definition, explaining that the subject matter of biblical theology can be summed up as “the canon, the covenants, and the Christ” as well as their “interrelationship” with one another (53–54). Throughout this section, the authors unpack topics such as the history of biblical theology, the various approaches to biblical theology, the extent and organization of the biblical canon, and the nature of the biblical text. In the second section, the authors provide an overview of each major portion of the biblical canon, unpacking the big-picture narrative of Scripture. The third section aims to walk readers through the process of doing biblical theology by tracing a plethora of major themes across redemptive history and the biblical canon, including “kingdom,” “covenant,” and “mission.” Finally, the fourth section gives several examples of the impact of biblical theology on the church and the academy.
The authors strike an excellent balance between readability and rigorous scholarship. The main text is written at a level generally accessible to laypeople, while more thorough or technical discussions are included in the footnotes. The sheer breadth of topics covered is impressive, and each topic is unpacked with both care and depth. Their treatments of the storyline of Scripture and major biblical themes prevent the reader from being left in the abstract, providing concrete examples of what biblical theology looks like in practice. The authors also provide a nuanced discussion of the relationship between exegesis, biblical theology, and systematic theology (18–20) and demonstrate the need for the latter in defining the theological nature of the biblical text (ch. 4).
Kimble and Spellman have provided a much-needed resource in current biblical studies. Designed primarily as a textbook for the college or seminary classroom, the book can also be utilized by anyone who wants to better understand and practice sound biblical theology and to be brought up to speed on current discussions within the discipline. While not everyone will agree with the way the authors define biblical theology (which may be open to the criticism of being too broad), even those who differ from them can still greatly benefit from their insightful survey of this promising field.
CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. CBS book notices are not full academic book reviews. The present book notice was written by Drake Isabell, an M.Div. student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Content Manager for Book Notices for the Center for Biblical Studies.