Theological Education - An Introduction

Various disciplines within Theology

The word theology has many shades of meaning. Broadly speaking, it may represent the entire field of study related to religious beliefs. Or, in a question like, “What’s your theology of just war?” it may refer to a person’s persuasion on a given subject. In its narrowest sense, theology refers to the study of God and His attributes. In systematic theology, this is called Theology proper. As you read about the various disciplines within the wider field of theological studies, you will come across several ways in which the word theology is used.

1. Biblical Studies

This discipline focuses on the study of biblical languages (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Ugaritic, etc.) and the proper interpretation of each book/passage of the Bible in its context. The science of interpretation is called hermeneutics. The discipline is further divided into Old Testament Studies and New Testament Studies. Bibilical studies is the foundation on which all other disciplines rest.

Main Questions: What are the most authentic manuscripts? How do we translate these texts in the best way? What does the text say? What DID it mean to the author or the initial recipients?

2. Biblical Theology

Biblical Theology builds on the foundation of biblical studies.

Main concern: What DID each author of the biblical books believe or understand about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, etc.?

All the books written by a particular author are taken into consideration. For instance, in order to understand what Paul understood about God, we have to examine all his epistles. Thus, we have Pauline theology. Similarly, the study of John’s writings lead us to Johannine theology.

When we consider the theology of an entire Testament, we get the subsidiary disciplines of Old Testament theology and New Testament theology.

3. Theology

Main Questions: What DOES the Bible mean for us today? What are the implications of Biblical teachings in our personal and family life, in business, politics, etc. Issues that are not directly dealt with in the Bible are thought through. For example, euthanasia, suicide, bio-ethics, AI, etc., so that we understand God’s mind in those issues. That’s how we do theology today.

The discipline of Theology within the larger body of theological studies includes the study of the writings of Church leaders: the ‘Church Fathers’, important bishops such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and modern theologians.

It also includes the study of Contextual Theology—ways in which Christian doctrines have been adapted to various cultural settings and political contexts.

Similarly, Systematic Theology and Historical Theology may be considered as important areas within Theology.

Systematic Theology

The main concern of systematic theology is to systematize biblical doctrines. That is: What does the whole Bible teach us about a certain topic?

The topics include the study of: God (Theology Proper), Jesus (Christology), the Spirit (Pneumatology), Man (Anthropology), Sin (Hamartiology), Salvation (Soteriology), Angels (Angelology), Demons (Demonology), “End Time” Events (Eschatology), Church (Ecclesiology), Mission (Missiology), etc.


Historical Theology

Main Questions: What is the history of each doctrine or belief? How did, for example, the Church’s understanding of the Trinity or salvation or mission evolve over time?

Historical theologians must be aware of the History of Christianity and the views held by various theologians (bishops, pastors, included) over time.

4. Practical Theology

Main Areas:

The Use of Commentaries

A Word of Caution

  1. Each commentary reflects the persuasions of its author. We need to understand each author’s context in order to full appreciate their views. Some commentators toe the line of their denominations or that of the general editor of the series they are contributing to.
  2. Each scholar’s views get evaluated and critiqued by commentators who come later. Therefore, we need to be aware of the timeline of publication of the commentaries on a biblical book. Sometimes, an author might revise his views at a later date. That may not get reflected in his older works unless revised editions are published.
  3. We must consult a wide range of authors before forming an opinion on a particular Bible verse or passage.
  4. Some commentators are so well versed in all the available literature on a particular biblical book. Yet, they may be unfamiliar with the biblical book itself! We need to read the Bible and be familiar with its contents in order to notice where a commentator might have erred.
  5. Sometimes, when we ourselves have a good reason to do so, we may have to set aside all the views we come across in commentaries. It will take a while to acquire such skills.

Commentaries on John’s Gospel

Biblical Studies Approach

Commentaries on John’s Gospel that are part of a series

Independent Commentaries

Biblical Theology Approach (Johannine Theology)



About the author

Philip Eapen, an environmental scientist by training, devoted his life to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ ever since he realized that the world needs Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else. Apart from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Philip teaches Christians in order to equip them for service. He is supported by donations from readers. Philip is married to Dr. Jessimol and they are blessed with three sons and a daughter.

Date: May 26, 2024




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