I read an article this morning from the Crossway blog that contained very concise, very helpful definitions of three important, yet largely undefined terms: exegesis, biblical theology, and systematic theology. Let these definitions lead you to consider whether your personal study or your church is lacking any of these crucial elements. Here are the definitions:
Exegesis is the careful analysis of the meaning of a particular passage. Good exegesis depends on having a text that accurately presents what the author actually wrote and facility with the language the author used to compose the text. Exegetes use the whole context of the book in which the passage is found, combined with comparison of other texts the author wrote, in the attempt to arrive at what the author intended to communicate in the text.
Biblical theology is canonical exegesis. That is, biblical theology seeks to correlate the meaning of relevant texts from across the pages of Scripture. Comparing the results of the exegesis of one passage with the results of the exegesis of another passage, biblical theologians seek to understand how later biblical authors understood and interacted with earlier biblical texts that they quote, allude to, or are informed by. The goal is to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective modeled by the biblical authors, tracing connections between themes and developments across the salvation historical storyline.
Systematic theology then seeks to bring everything together for a full statement of what the whole Bible teaches on particular topics. Systematic theology combines the results of exegesis, canonical reflection and correlation of those results, and an awareness of trends in the history of philosophy and interpretation. This historical and philosophical aspect of systematic theology is necessary for understanding the extra-biblical factors that have influenced both the history of interpretation and the spirit of our own age. Awareness of the history of interpretation and the temper of our times will produce humility and keep us from being conformed to the world. Done in the church and for the church, systematic theology joins with exegesis and biblical theology in the task of discipleship for the formation of a biblical worldview as the Scripture is read, prayed, preached, sung, and seen enacted.