Biblical Theology: A Canonical, Thematic, and Ethical Approach

by | May 4, 2023 | Book Review

A Book Review

Andreas J. Köstenberger and Gregory Goswell have given us a massive theological work called Biblical Theology: A Canonical, Thematic, and Ethical Approach. In addition to a meaty introduction to the discipline of biblical theology and section overviews, the bulk of the book deals with the 66 individual books of the Bible, concluding with a lengthy high-level overview of the Bible’s theology.

The subtitle of this book reveals how Köstenberger and Goswell treat each book of the Bible. After a short introduction, they consistently address three main topics: themes, ethical content, and how each book fits into the overall storyline of the Bible. I recently read and positively reviewed Greg Goswell’s Text and Paratext, so I knew I would appreciate the careful attention to canonical structure and book titles in Biblical Theology

I will use their treatment of Ecclesiastes as an example. In their introduction, they discuss the book’s title, structure, and overall thesis. For themes, they identify the main themes as “the impermanence of all things, the inescapability of death, the injustice of life, and the value of work” (302). I have read quite a bit on Ecclesiastes over the last two years and was pleasantly surprised that the authors engage monographs and journal articles that were new to me in their discussions of whether or not the “Solomonic guise” is discarded after 2:26 and the meaning of hebel. The section on ethics deals with the practical application of the book’s teaching. From Ecclesiastes, we read of God’s sovereignty and human inability to always act appropriately. Furthermore, people can find true enjoyment while trusting and obeying God. Finally, how does Ecclesiastes fit into the overall storyline of Scripture? Ecclesiastes follows Proverbs, perhaps indicating that perhaps “some ancient readers believers that these two books were to be read in concert” (306). In other words, their respective messages do not conflict. Both books offer their readers needed wisdom.   

This is my new favorite biblical theology that attempts to cover the entire Bible. My only complaint is that I wish they could devote more space to each book of the Bible, but I don’t think I would want this book to be much larger than it already is (according to Amazon, it weighs 4.65 pounds). The brave will read this large book from cover to cover, but it will make an excellent theological reference for almost anyone. The introduction helpfully orients readers to biblical theology, and the conclusion ties everything together by highlighting overall Bible themes, ethics, and storyline.

Biblical Theology offers an excellent starting point to better grasp the theological content of each book of the Bible and the Bible as a whole. Because the authors handle each book of Scripture, the overviews are somewhat brief. But they do offer plenty of footnotes pointing readers to sources that provide deeper engagement.


Special thanks to Crossway for a review copy of this book. This did not affect my thoughts in any way so far as I know. 

Brent Niedergall

Pastor, Grammarian, Runner

Brent Niedergall, MDiv, is Chief Editor at Positive Action for Christ in Whitakers, North Carolina. He’s gone to war in Afghanistan, felled towering trees, and parsed Greek verbs.


Brent Niedergall