Systematic Theology

Dictionary.com

Systematic

adjective
  1. having, showing, or involving a system, method, or plan: a systematic course of reading; systematic efforts.
  2. given to or using a system or method; methodical: a systematic person.
  3. arranged in or comprising an ordered system: systematic theology.
  4. concerned with classification: systematic botany.
  5. pertaining to, based on, or in accordance with a system of classification: the systematic names of plants.

Theology

See the following: Theology Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


Etymonline.com

1670s, “pertaining to a system,” from French systématique or directly from Late Latin systematicus, from Greek systematikos “combined in a whole,” from systema (genitive systematos); see system. From 1789 as “methodical,” often in a bad sense, “ruthlessly methodical.” Related: Systematical (1660s); systematically.


Discussion/Explanation

From Google’s dictionary:

“noun: systematic theology – a form of theology in which the aim is to arrange religious truths in a self-consistent whole.”

This fairly well gets at the gist of this area of study. The point is not to represent the theology of the Bible as a redemptive whole (which is more the realm of Biblical Theology) but to connect things together from the various books of the Bible.

This area of study is much more preoccupied with organizing the information of the Bible into various categories. It is through such efforts that you get subareas like angelology, demonology, pneumatology (study of the Holy Spirit), eschatology (study of the end times, and so on. It addresses individual topics one by one.

It is considered systematic in that it links the various pieces of information found throughout the Scriptures on the particular topic together.

Systematic theology is also one of the main four branches of theology which include exegetical theology, practical theology, and historical theology.


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Biblical Theology

Biblical Theology is a discipline of exegetical theology, one of the 4 that are part of what is called the “Encyclopedia of Theology” – Exegetical, Historical, Systematic, and Practical Theologies (Hagenbach).


Etymonline.com

biblical

1734, “pertaining to the Bible,” from Bible + -ical. Related: Biblically. Earlier adjective was Biblic (1680s). Related: Biblicality.


Discussion/Explanation

Biblical theology is considered by some to be the capstone of exegetical theology. However, it is not exegetical theology itself.

The reason for calling it the capstone is because it presupposes everything else within exegetical theology. To be clear, this means it is keeping in mind the Hebrew and Greek behind our modern translation, historical context, textual criticism, translation approach, the history and canonicity of the Bible, and hermeneutics. Everything done within exegetical theology is taken into account when engaging in biblical theology studies.

Biblical theology is, therefore, the area of theology of the entire Bible. It looks at the Bible as a whole and does not subdivide based upon Old Testament and New Testament. As a result, it naturally traces the entire story of the Scriptures in which you can see God’s progressive revelation.

Now, I do want to point out that biblical theology is not practiced in every corner of Christianity today. There are many who would do everything else found within the exegetical branch and then ignore the capstone and/or use the term biblical theology in an entirely different way – usually to state whether or not a particular theology or theological approach is biblical. With this in mind, the use of the term “biblical theology” can often seem unclear.


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Hermeneutics

Dictionary.com

noun (used with a singular verb)
  1. the science of interpretation, especially of the Scriptures.
  2. the branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis.

Etymonline.com

“art of interpretation, the study of exegesis,” 1737, from hermeneutic; also see -ics.

“interpretive,” 1670s, from Latinized form of Greek hermeneutikos “of or for interpreting,” from hermeneutes “interpreter,” from hermeneuein “to interpret (foreign languages); interpret into words, give utterance to,” a word of unknown origin (formerly considered ultimately a derivative of Hermes, as the tutelary divinity of speech, writing, and eloquence).


Discussion/Explanation

From the above, we can see that hermeneutics is a key area of study within exegetical theology.

Differing hermeneutical approaches are clearly seen when dealing with topics such as the end times. One interpreter may take a more literal interpretation whereas another a more figurative approach.

Other key components of interpretation include interpreting texts in their historical setting, considering the grammar used, and in the surrounding context of the text.

Failing to consider such things has lead various people over the years into all sorts of conflicting beliefs and even heresy. This is not to say there cannot be legitimate conflicting views on how to interpret a particular text (as seen above) but such differences still end up having more in common because of applying an overall consistent hermeneutic. Those who fall into heresy tend to insist on their own view rather than what makes sense &/or flat out ignore other areas of Scripture that they should have considered before standing on their chosen view.


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Exegetical Theology

Dictionary.com & Etymonline.com

— see Exegesis —     also    — see Theology


Discussion/Explanation

It is all that explains and interprets the Holy Scriptures in the study of theology.

This area of study involves the study of ancient languages like Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic in order to study the Scriptures from primary sources – the original/early manuscripts of the Bible.

This also includes archeology and study of the canon of Scripture. Archeology in the study of ancient cultures and people surround the original writings. Canon in the study of the process involved in bringing the various books of the Bible together into the Bible as we know it today which was also against a historical background.

Exegetical theology therefore also includes criticism of the Scriptures and, by relation, the interpretation. This probably becomes obvious to you as you stop to think about what would be logically involved in the above-mentioned elements.

In the end, this is a very important branch of theology as it directly connects to historical theology in its studies and therefore directly impacts practical theology. Biblical theology becomes closely tied with the work carried out in exegesis such that it isn’t uncommon for people to argue biblical theology to be little more than part of exegetical theology (more on this later).


Source/Link for Additional Reading:

http://www.biblicalcyclopedia.com/E/exegetical-theology.html


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Exegesis

Dictionary.com

noun, plural exegeses [ek-si-jee-seez] (Show IPA)
1. critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible.


Etymonline.com

1610s, “explanatory note,” from Greek exegesis “explanation, interpretation,” from exegeisthai “explain, interpret,” from ex “out” (see ex-) + hegeisthai “to lead, guide,” from PIE root *sag- “to track down, seek out” (see seek (v.)). Meaning “exposition (of Scripture)” is from 1823. Related: Exegetic; exegetical; exegetically.


Discussion/Explanation

This week’s term, exegesis, is straight-forward and the above definition hits its meaning clearly. Even so, there are a few things I’d like to point out about its use.

Exegesis is at the center of exegetical theology as it deals with the text thoroughly. Because of this, it is closely related to what is called biblical theology. All of this includes particular attention to the original languages that the biblical texts were written in (namely Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic). We also pay close attention to the historical context of the texts and the writers. I don’t want to dive too deep here as this term (exegesis) will be addressed again when I post on exegetical theology. With that in mind, I’ll leave things here for now.

Remember past posts can be easily found under the Series Links which is also where you will find the other series I have created.


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Theology – part 3

Theology can be said to have 4 broad categories or areas of focus within it. These would include:

  1. Exegetical Theology
  2. Historical Theology
  3. Systematic Theology
  4. Practical Theology

Exegetical Theology. It is looking at the Bible as such; it “…includes all that belongs to the explanation and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures (1).” This is the area of theology focused on things such as Greek text, Hebrew text, textual criticism, hermeneutics, exegesis, biblical theology, and more. This area always begins with looking at the text of Scripture itself and the interpretation of its content.

Historical Theology. This traces the history of Church doctrines and their development. This area of theology naturally traces doctrinal differences, the Church’s understanding of the Scriptures, and the Church’s response to heresy. As this area closely follows the Church through history, you also see the rise & fall of territorial and denominational differences.

Systematic Theology. This theology can be described as the “child” of the previous two. From dictionary.com, it is “…a form of theology in which the aim is to arrange religious truths in a self-consistent whole (2).” It includes apologetics, dogmatics, ethics, and polemics. This is where various studies of the faith come together into a greater, cohesive framework. Dispensationalism and Covenantalism are theologies of the systematic sort as they seek to tie various scriptures together, albeit, with different approaches (giving implications of differences in other areas of theology as well).

Practical Theology. If systematic theology is the “child”, practical theology is the “grandchild” of the first two areas. As the name implies, you get to see Scripture lived out. This includes areas of study within homiletics, liturgy, poimenics, catechetics, church order, and missions. All of these involve the methodologies employed as the gospel is shared in preaching, worship, outreach, and more.

With each of these broad areas, there are sub-areas as you have now seen. Some of these have already been addressed in previous posts as part of this series, and I have therefore linked them for your convenience. Expect to see some of these other terms in future posts for your reading convenience.


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Sources:

  1. http://www.biblicalcyclopedia.com/E/exegetical-theology.html
  2. dictionary.com