Dr. Zuber’s Bestselling Book, The Essential Scripture, Connects Systematic Theology and Exegesis
August 19, 2021
There are hardly any books on the market like Dr. Kevin Zuber’s The Essential Scriptures: A Handbook of the Biblical Texts for Key Doctrines. When it was released last month by Moody Publishers, it spent several weeks at the top of the Christian Bible Handbook category at Amazon. But it could also have fit into the theology or biblical interpretation categories, even though, historically, those have not mixed.
“When I was taught theology, I was given a bunch of definitions. That was the starting point for theology. You learn the definition, then you go find biblical texts to support the definition,” explained Dr. Zuber. “I wanted to go the other direction. Start with the text. Exegete it. And if that’s done faithfully, then a lot of theology will come out of the study of the text.”
Zuber’s book does exactly that. It’s organized by the primary classifications of systematic theology, including the doctrine of God, man, salvation, ecclesiology, and eschatology, to name a few. It looks at texts which—when interpreted properly—produce a clear meaning of each doctrine.
“The idea here is simple,” Zuber said. “You do exposition of the text and from that exposition you come to a theological conclusion.”
Of course, the challenge for Zuber was deciding which biblical texts to put in the book. For some doctrines, Zuber could have used hundreds of passages. Instead of attempting to provide an exhaustive account of all the texts that teach a particular doctrine, he picked the ones necessary to give a careful overview.
For Zuber, “the exciting thing about this project is it allows any Christian—particularly those teaching God’s Word—to ground their understanding of theology in particular texts of Scripture. It’s a discipleship tool. Anyone who wants to teach on justification, for example, can use this book to teach from a particular text, instead of from a definition.”
Dr. Zuber wrote this book to be especially useful for pastors in three main ways. First, if a pastor is teaching his people a doctrine, The Essential Scriptures can help him teach that doctrine from the verse-by-verse study of God’s Word. It keeps all theological instruction grounded in Scripture. Second, it helps pastors see God’s Word as the foundation of all theology. It reframes their understanding of theology as primarily a work of exegesis. Zuber calls this mindset one of an “expository theologian.” Third, it’s a tool pastors can use to disciple men in their church. In his words, the book is “meant to help pastors who want to help their people connect biblical interpretation with right theology.”
Training men to be good theologians is not only what motivated Zuber to write this book, but also what brought him to The Master’s Seminary three years ago. “We all know what we are doing here at TMS. The mission is clear. We are training for ministry,” Zuber emphasized. “That kind of focused direction is great. It creates a lot of unity theologically and in terms of ministry.”
“The other thing that is unique about teaching at TMS is the fact that the seminary is on the campus of Grace Community Church. I’m a churchman before I’m a professor,” declared Zuber. Before coming to TMS Zuber served in several pastoral positions throughout the Midwest and in his many decades of teaching, he always prioritized discipleship, investing in the future leaders of churches.
Dr. Zuber loves the mentorship that is built into the program at TMS. When asked about his students he said, “The first group of guys who were here when I started have now graduated and are out in ministry. They will call me, and we’ll talk about their ministry. Those relationships are more vital to me than anything.”