"Theology must depend on exegesis, and not the other way around, exegesis on theology."
"The truth itself is eternal and unchangeable; but the form of the truth, like fashion, is subject to continual change and variation."
~~Johann Philipp Gabler (1753-1826)
Cited in Baird's History of New Testament Research (1:185; 186)
I really enjoy the clear place that Gabler gives the Bible in the theological enterprise -- it is a (if not the) source and norm. However, Gabler was no fundamentalist; he qualifies the application of the Bible to theology by indicating that the truths of the Bible were told in the forms of the time. Thus, in order for the Bible to truly influence Christian theology, scholars must do the hard work of understanding the forms used in the Bible to reveal truths.
I like this idea. It not only helps me further appreciate the biblical scholar's role in the development of theology, it also reminds me that there is truth to be found through thorough historical investigation of the Bible. The postmodernist would urge caution when using the word "truth" and I agree, as did Gabler. Often it is hard to tell the difference between the form of the truth and the truth itself but this difficulty should not scare us away from the task of seeking truth in the Bible! On the contrary, through the difficulties inherent in the search for truth, humility, faith, and perseverance can be learned.
So don't give up the search!