Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Gabler on Biblical Theology

In the history of Biblical Theology considerable influence has been exerted by J.P. Gabler's in his seminal essay: 'De iusto discrimine theologiae biblicae et dogmaticae regundisque recte utriusque finibus’, in T.A. Gabler and J.G. Gabler (eds.), Kleinere theologische Schriften, II (Ulm, Germany: Verlag der Stettinischen Buchhandlung, 1831): 179-98.

For those that don't know, an accessible English translation is available from the follow journal article:

John Sandys-Wunsch and Laurence Eldredge. "J. P. Gabler and the Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology: Translation, Commentary, and Discussion of His Originality." Scottish Journal of Theology 33 (1980): 133-58.

Is Gabler really the boogey-man who exiled theology away from exegesis, or is he a hero who emancipated exegesis from theological agendas? D.A. Carson's evaluation of Gabler in "New Testament Theology", DLNTD, 796-97 is quite positive and supportive. Alternatively, Guy Waters (Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul, 202) is quite scathing when he writes: "J.P. Gabler had decimated systematic theology, both as an ordering principle of biblical data and as a force within the church."

I think I'll side with Carson on this one!


Celucien joseph said...


Gabler brought new ideas into the discipline of theology (as a whole )and has helped us to reconsider how we do theology for its own sake. Gabler saw a relationship, yet a distinction between these two : Biblical Theology vs Systematic (dogmatic) theology. Although, the apparent distinction should not be construed as if; one is totally independent from the other. In fact, they complement each other. Young says of Gabler:

Many credit J. P. Gabler, German biblical scholar, with beginning the field of biblical theology. In his inaugural address in a professorship in 1787, Gabler called for a sharp distinction between dogmatic (systematic or doctrinal) theology and biblical theology. For Gabler, biblical theology must be strictly a historical study of what was believed in the various periods of biblical history, independent of any modern denominational, doctrinal, philosophical, or cultural considerations.

In general, the principles that Gabler called for were right, and he influenced the development of biblical theology for many years to come. However, it should be noted, that there is no such thing as “a study of the Bible alone with complete objectivity.” Every interpreter brings certain presuppositions to the task. These have considerable influence upon the process of interpreting the Scriptures. As a result, the field of biblical theology is a checkered field with every imaginable variation in what is held to be the theology taught by the Bible ("Bible, Theology of," Holman Bible Dictionary)

Mrs.Raja said...
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TheBlueRaja said...

I think I'll go with Kevin Vanhoozer in the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology:

"Contra Gabler, one does not first do one’s historical homework and only then begin to do theology. On the contrary, one’s exegesis is already affected by one’s dogmatic beliefs. The relationship between exegesis and theology is more a dialogical conversation than it is a linear or unidirectional process. Hermeneutics, in calling attention to the assumptions readers bring to the text, reminds us that theology is involved in the task of exegesis from the outset."