The discipline of discovering and developing the biblical theology of a book is different from constructing a synthetic chart of the book's structure. It is also different from determining the author's argument of the book. But it builds upon these previous studies by locating, separating, and categorizing the significant topics included in a book.
The purpose, then, of a biblical theology is to assert what a particular book teaches about topics such as God, man, satan, life, death, heaven, hell.. These topics are not forced on the book. Instead, one must take note of what sort of topics the book contains to communicate its purpose.
How to discover Biblical Theology
1. COMB: In your synthetic and argument/purpose studies of a book, emphatic topics will surface either through repetition or unique importance. Comb out one topic at a time from the text. Gather all that you can find in the letter about each particular topic. State the reference and briefly summarize its relationship to the topic in question.
2. CATEGORIZE: Next, organize the information into categories that serve as sub-topics. For instance, in a biblical theology for Colossians "Jesus Christ" stands out as a major theme. Within the letter you will observe various details about His pre-existence, incarnation, earthly ministry, death, and resurrection. Each of these should constitute a separate category.
A single category will include references lifted from different parts of the letter. Give respect to their contexts. Yet do not worry about categorizing the different passages together because they relate to the same topic. The author may have arranged them separately to communicate his purpose to the readers.
3. CONCLUDE: Based on what the text teaches and the purpose emphasizes in the letter, draw conclusions within each category. The conclusion describes the author's theology as set forth in that particular biblical text.
4. CONVINCE: Following your conclusion, construct a paragraph that reflects what the author knew about the particular category. These paragraphs must draw attention to key passages in order to validate your conclusions.
EXTRA TIPS: Prayerfully ask: If this were the only book I had in my possession, Lord, what would I learn about the subjects in it and the relationships between them?
(i.e., God and Man).
As you read and watch for different topics to surface, utilize a separate sheet of paper for each topic. This will allow you to add freely to each list and to develop their nuances.Otherwise, they begin to crowd each other for space on one page.
When you begin to categorize the information into sub-topics, use colored markers to distinguish between the different sub-topics. This makes it easier to group the sub-topics for further study.
Note the literary structure of the book to see how it reflects on the theology (i.e. the role of "proportion" may indicate a certain topic's importance to writer & readers).
Keep the purpose of the book in view. This will allow you to see the material with the significance that the author intended.