Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Tentative Proposal for Evangelical Hermeneutics...Or, The Use and Abuse of History in Reading Scripture

For the last few years, I've been intensely engaged in the practice of interpreting Scripture. The more involved I've become in studying theology, the more I've come to realize that the topic of how we interpret Scripture is a central issue. In short, hermeneutics has become one of the most important issues in theology. My theological upbringing made use of the historical-grammatical hermeneutic. I'm sure yours did too.

Here is a general definition of this hermeneutical method, taken from Wikipedia:

The historical-grammatical method, also referred to as grammatico-historical or grammatical-critical, is a component of Biblical hermeneutics that strives to find the intended original meaning in the text. This original intended meaning of the text is drawn out through examination of the passage in light of the grammatical and syntactical aspects, the historical background, the literary genre as well as theological (canonical) considerations. The historical-grammatical method distinguishes between the one original meaning and the significance of the text. The significance of the text includes the ensuing use of the text or application.

As I review that definition I see a lot of good things. However, there are also some major problems as far as I'm concerned. The biggest problem is the role that history and historical reconstructions typically play in the interpretive process. More specifically, I'm concerned with the role that extra-biblical literature and information play in ensuring a correct interpretation. Too often these things are treated as the hermeneutical keys, which serve to unlock the meaning of the passage for us.

This is standard fare in our churches and Christian writings, from evangelical to emergent. It usually plays out this way:

  • We are reading a particular passage; say, John 2:1-11.
  • We then make some effort to locate the passage within its historical context.
    • If we’re less sophisticated, we’ll look for all kinds of historical background information about Cana in Galilee, or about Jewish weddings, or about ancient wine. Armed with this material, we’ll see the real significance of what Jesus was doing. This is the most innocuous way to go about historical interpretation.
    • If we’re a little more sophisticated (and educated) we’ll go this route: we will dig deep into history and try to find out who wrote John (John, right?) and then we’ll look in commentaries at all the high-falutin’ information on the audience John wrote the book to. Then, armed with all this information about the original author and the original audience, we’ll find that the meaning of the passage is related to some dispute or issue in the early church.
  • Now, armed with our interpretation that has been based on our historical reconstruction, we must, as Bible-believing Christians, move to some sort of doctrinal teaching, application, etc. So, we do one or more of the following:
    • We develop principles from the story that are “timeless” and we teach these as doctrinal points.
    • We find in our own context parallel situations to our own lives and then we make application based on the commonalities we have with the original participants or the original audience.
    • We determine that there is no parallel situation in our own lives and so we either a) allegorize to find meaning or b) let the text lie dormant.

Now, admittedly, none of this sounds too bad. And not all of it is bad. But my problem is this: the more one anchors meaning to an original context constructed through historical information, the more one will run into some serious hermeneutical, theological, and pastoral problems. Those who adhere to this method often take Scripture very, very, very seriously and are trying to be faithful servants of the Word. Ironically, however, they encroach upon some very important doctrines as they do so! Namely, they violate the doctrines of the inspiration and perspicuity of Scripture.

  • Inspiration:Adherents don’t deny the inspiration of Scripture; far from it! However, the focus in a historical method of interpretation is almost entirely on the human author and his intent. Then we smuggle the inspiration through the back door, after we’ve interpreted the text. Inspiration, then, basically comes to be a doctrine which tells us that we must appropriate this human text. I believe, rather, that we should be aware of the doctrine of inspiration from the beginning of the interpretive process. We can’t take the human author out of the picture, but we have to remember that we are dealing here with the verbi divini. Both the human author and the original audience are dead and gone, the divine author is eternally self-existent
  • Perspicuity: This doctrine broadly states that Scripture is clear and intelligible. That is, with the twin-aid of Scripture and the Spirit, we interpret and appropriate Scripture. What can happen with a historical approach is that we find it necessary to have a plethora of sources to simply interpret Scripture. For example, N.T. Wright needs the Mishnah, the Talmud, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and a myriad of other writings to interpret Jesus. And everyone (except John Piper maybe) loves N.T. Wright precisely because his interpretations are fresh and insightful. However, we should beware of what we are saying when we endorse Wright’s interpretation of Scripture. He is essentially telling us that without these extra-biblical documents we cannot have a full-orbed understanding of Jesus or his significance. DID YOU HEAR THAT?! It is necessary to have certain non-scriptural information to interpret or understand Scripture? This is troubling: we are saying that historical documents are necessary to illuminate Scripture. Umm, last time I checked, Scripture and the Spirit are those things that are to illuminate all else! … This also presents the problem that we have once again taken the Scriptures out of the hands of the common person, so that now, to understand Scripture, you’ve got to head to the library of ancient documents, or at least buy Wright’s latest book.

So, if the historical-grammatical method is in need of being re-worked, what am I proposing? I have for some time been under the conviction that we’ve got to come to a much more theological reading of Scripture, one less dependent on general hermeneutical theory and definitely less dependent on extra-biblical historical information. In this method of interpretation, we would adhere to the following stringencies:

  • Extra-biblical sources should not be used to develop an interpretation that cannot be ascertained solely by use of the canon.
  • Historical reconstructions (for say, an epistle) should only be used when these reconstructions are drawn from the text itself or from the larger canonical context.
  • We should dispel the notion that exegesis precedes theology; theology will always influence and undergird our exegesis. Exegesis can explode our theology at points where the tension becomes too much to bear, but exegesis of a text cannot go on without theology.
  • Our emphasis in our doctrine of Scripture and in our hermeneutical approach should be on the fact that we are dealing with God’s Word. Mediated through man, yes, but ultimately God’s. This will help us remember that we are not simply hearing what God said to those in the past, but that God is, through the Word-Spirit interplay, addressing us today.

If you’re still reading, I’d love to hear your feedback on this.

What dangers do you see in what I’m proposing? What implications would this proposal entail? I know, for instance, that all this talk of the “New Pauline Perspective” and even the debate over gender roles in the church would have to be reframed….Thanks for weighing in.

***Just a Note: I'm not at all saying that Scripture isn't historical (in the vein of, say, Bultmann). I'm aiming at the use of extra-biblical historical information in interpretation.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

You may already know of the ministry "Reclamming the Mind" but if not here is a post that might offer something:
http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/04/01/the-exegetical-process-what-does-it-mean-to-you/

Sorry, I don't know how to make a link.

I am a new reader to your blog and you strike me as a person who is fully engaged in the Word. I admire that. However, in my experience, you are in the minority as the average Joe is not nearly as deeply invested in Scripture. For most Christians, just a few verses gets them all the theology they need; that, and a romantic view of the Bible helps too. Here is where the danger lies and a faulty hermeneutic resides.

Where do you think people got the idea that "God's not gonna give me more than I can take"?
A total misreading of 1 Cor 10 because of the above mentioned failures in sound hermeneutics.

I'm not saying that your suggested (new) approach is wrong. Its just that you bring more intelect and study to the table in order to make it work.

Context (historical/critical)is so important, but most people do not want to, nor do they know how to apply it.

In my experience, I still encounter life long Christians (30 plus years)who have NO clue as to what is being discussed here.

Maybe it is because ministers and teachers thought it was unimportant/could not be understood/was not relevent.

What we are left with is average Adult Sunday School clases that do not even scratch the surface of sound Biblical study. In short they are still learning the Noah story with little more depth than what they learned as a child.

(I'm not throwing stones at my brothers and sisters who I love. I am speaking from the experience of teaching and leading several churches)

My suggestion is that pastors and teachers become more dilligent in teaching from a historical critical perspective. Once we have that...we can try it another way.

PAX
Mike

Daniel Doleys said...

Hi, I just started reading your blog the other day as I found it through another blog (can't remember which one, i check out about 10-15 on regular basis) so heres my response to this post.

"Extra-biblical sources should not be used to develop an interpretation that cannot be ascertained solely by use of the canon."

I think you have a major problem here. Because without extra-biblical sources you cannot do any translation or exegesis. Our understanding of the Greek and Hebrew languages would not be complete enough to do proper translation or exegesis because we would not be able to see how certain words were used in different contexts or grammatical situations. Even our understanding of how the grammar of these languages work would be incomplete.

Also, we are using extra-biblical sources when you interpret at anytime because we part of a culture and tradition that has kept much "historical background" alive through our culture. I will give 2 examples.

1st Jesus statement in Matt 5.41 to go a second mile. If we read this without knowledge of historical background (knowledge that we do not get directly from the Bible, but from extra-biblical sources and even our own tradition) we would have no idea what he was talking about? Why is someone forcing you to go a mile? If so what does a second mile do? But because we know the history of 1st century Palestine (through extra biblical sources and tradition, which was informed by extra biblical sources) we know Jesus is talking about the fact that Roman soldiers could force people to carry their pack for them 1 mile. We are then able to see that Jesus is saying not just to obey this oppressive law of the Romans but also to go farther than required by those who rule over you.

(This example is taken from D.A. Carson's the Gagging of God) 2nd is we were to take the Bible and give it to a Buddhist in Tibet who has no previous knowledge of Western culture or the Bibe, when they read "Jesus is Lord" (an absolute truth claim the NT makes several times) he will understand it to mean that Jesus is a lesser God than Buddha. There is no way to explain this to them using only the BIble. Even appealing to the Genesis account of Creation to show who God is would not work, because of the inherent understanding of creation in Buddhism.

"Historical reconstructions (for say, an epistle) should only be used when these reconstructions are drawn from the text itself or from the larger canonical context."

Here by canonical context for epistles I assume you mean Acts. But again there is so much shared information between Luke and Theophilus that was assumed and that we do not share it is impossible to understand Acts completely without the historical context.

"We should dispel the notion that exegesis precedes theology"

I have a hard time understanding what you mean by this. How can we have any theology if we do not first have exegesis? Where is the theology coming from? Tradition, or experience? If so then they become the primary authority and not the Bible. Theology is what we believe about God, how can we believe something about God before read what it is He has revealed to us?

"Our emphasis in our doctrine of Scripture and in our hermeneutical approach should be on the fact that we are dealing with God’s Word. Mediated through man, yes, but ultimately God’s. This will help us remember that we are not simply hearing what God said to those in the past, but that God is, through the Word-Spirit interplay, addressing us today."

Again I have a hard time understanding you here. The Bible is both 100% from God and 100% from man. It is not possible to understand the God part or the man part. This much atone to the incarnation. What part of Jesus was God and what part human? Well, there was not to parts but one being. The same is true with the Bible. There is no way for God to communicate to us outside of human communication. Even direct speech with the Father in OT is in human language. Again this is most prevalently seen in the incarnation. Jesus the ultimate revelation of God was made human to reveal God to us. The Bible is not "ultimately God's" as thought it is more from Him than from the authors. We cannot get at the "God part" of the text because there is no "God part" or "human part" it is all God and all man.

Also, you say that requiring an understanding of historical context takes away from the perspicuity of the Bible. Where does the Bible ever claim this for itself? I only know of Peter claiming that sometimes Paul is hard to understand.

Finally, you say that the need for historical context takes the Bible away from the common man. I think this is a bit off. Any common man who has the desire to correctly understand the Bible can take the time to learn a little more and read some extra books so he can best understand God and His Word. I would say that this would take the Bible away from the lazy man, the one who does not care enough about the Bible to do what is He must to understand His Saviour.

I hope I have been fair to what you meant. If not please let me know so we can discuss these thoughts some more.

Tanner & Emily said...

Although I do not feel "qualified" to answer this question to the level of the other commenter's as I am a mere "Common Man". I must admit I was a bit taken aback by this comment: "Any common man who has the desire to correctly understand the Bible can take the time to learn a little more and read some extra books so he can best understand God and His Word. I would say that this would take the Bible away from the lazy man, the one who does not care enough about the Bible to do what is He must to understand His Saviour".

As a "Comman Man" I do not have a degree in Biblical Studies or claim to have studied extra biblical material, but I must disagree to the nth' degree that we must posses these extracurricular tools to possess an understanding of Theology. Making such claims disorients unbelievers, and can raise legalistic pride doing exactly what Matt states as taking the Bible out of the hands of me, the "Comman Man". I don't believe God intended the Bible to be only deciphered by Western Culture or those that possess these extra biblical tools. And to call million's of Christians "lazy" for taking God at His word alone is a bit offensive.

I don't disagree with Paul in writing to Timothy to "study and show thyself approved unto God", but let's not forget his next statement "But shun profane, vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness."

I will make a bold statement to say these comments are babblings to Ungodliness.

And my final thought:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Heb 4:12

No other extra biblical tool can claim this. To God be Glory for giving the "Comman Man" the ability to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Daniel Doleys said...

tanner & emily

i am sorry that you seem so offended by my comment but i think you might have misunderstood what i said. I do not think that you need any sort of formal theological training to understand the Bible at all. if that what it seemed like i was saying i certainly am sorry and ask for your forgiveness. i was not trying to draw a line between the those with higher education and those without at all. i do not think there is a such a thing as the "common man" what i am saying is that anyone can study the Bible and its context to come to a true understanding of the text.

However when you say "but I must disagree to the nth' degree that we must posses these extracurricular tools to possess an understanding of Theology." I am not sure whether you realize you are already using extracurricular tools because you are reading the text with your understanding of history which you have been taught throughout your life. I was trying to say that everybody already uses extracurricular tools whether they know it or not. This is what I was trying to say in my response to the first suggestion by the blogger.

Also my comment that you quoted was not out of pride, i have no desire to take the Bible away from anybody, i only want to also give the context of the Bible to those who don't have it.

Again, however, when I said that not being willing to do some extra reading and work to understand the Bible is lazy, i did not mean that any other text gives us God's revelation or has the truth which is contained in the Bible, only that those other books help us understand what the words of Bible mean.

Again when you quote 1 Tim as saying "But shun profane, vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness." please do not think i was saying that these other texts show us who God is or that we should derive our theology from them, but they do offer us more understanding about the culture and people by and to who the Bible was written. KNowing about these people and cultures is how we must understand the Bible.

I appreciate your response as it gave a chance to better clarify what I was trying to say. And again if the way I said some things were unclear and that led to your offense I do apologize and look forward to hearing more of your comments.

Norman Jeune III said...

I have a number of thoughts and questions that come to mind off the top of my head as I think about this issue.

First, I think we may need to be clear on what constitutes an extra-biblical source. What I think Matt is saying, and correct me if I'm wrong Matt, but the use of extra-biblical sources to improve our knowledge and use of Greek and Hebrew is not what Matt is referring to. Here, extra-biblical sources would be archaeological materials, along with primary written sources (inscriptions, and other non-christian documents)as a cultural basis for informing our recreation of historical events recorded in the biblical text. In other words, a knowledge of general cultural characteristics arms us with the knowledge we need to understand the events that the text itself records. What I would say is that we need to read the text itself and ask what it says, not use it as a gateway to events that we do not have direct access, and try to recreate them. The meaning for the Christian is found in the text itself. History can be used, but not as a way of moving away from the text back to the original events because we cannot know what happened firsthand in the event. We can only what God communicates to us via the text directly.

The writers of the Biblical text ordered them in a certain way, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to communicate God's revelation. Our task, as Christian readers of the Bible is to discern what the text is communicating, not use it to "teleport" back in time to the event in order to find the true meaning.

This has to be maintained in order to ensure that the Bible remains accessible to all people.

I think the challenge for Matt lies in this; how does one use history in a way that does not reduce the value of the text itself. What is an intepretive methodology that incorporates historical background information while doing so in a way that does not take the reader away from the text of the Bible?

I also think it would be valuable to distinguish between the Historical-Grammatical appropriation of historical informartion and historical criticism.

I think Karl Barth, and perhaps John Webster's criticisms of the use of history have been more directly aimed at the work of historical criticism. This is not say that Matt's points are unfounded, but is merely to say that additional precision in defining the terms of the discussion may be needed.

Benjamin Camp said...

matt,

sorry to everyone else, but i was too lazy to read your long and robust comments on matt's post, so forgive me if i repeat something. a central question that came to mind as i was reading your post. I am wondering what the telos of your hermeneutic is? By this I am curious if you are shooting for a meaning or a reading? And let me just add a couple comments on my posture toward the question of a Christian hermeneutic. I think a robust and faithful hermeneutic will be admittedly ad hoc, necessarily contextual, and primarily theological. I think the modern process of going back to mine meaning from texts through some form of demythologization, which evangelicals generally name as the historical-critical method, is a complete and utter waste of time. We do not go to the Bible in search of all the timeless truths and principles embedded in the text. Instead, we let the Word demythologize our world. We do not take the text to people but take people to the strange new world of the bible, which is truer than any other world. The Word exposes and deconstructs all ideology.

-bp

p.s. lets hang out. i have been reading about barth's theological politics. good stuff, but he puts me in tension with my more post-liberal hauerwasian leanings.

Daniel Doleys said...

Norman,
Thanks for the reply. Your ideas are thought provoking. Heres my response:

You say that we are not talking about the understanding the original languages but the historical context for the use extra biblical sources. I am not sure if you can separate the two. Language is a part of historical context and culture. Language is cannot be understood outside the culture it which it resides and a culture is fundamentally shaped by its language.

This comes up in NT studies when we consider the words gospel and apostle. WEe know gospel means 'good news' but to leave it at that face value is not to justice to the word. This word was not used for just any good news, like a new job or something else like that. In the 1st century a gospel 'good news' was a pronouncement from the Emperor that he was going to 'save' a city or province by bringing them into the Roman Empire's 'peace' When we understand this we see the polemic Paul is making against Rome when he claims his gospel is one that proclaims Jesus the Jewish Messiah as Lord and not the Roman Emperor.

Secondly, we know apostle means 'one who is sent' but studying the use of apostle in other we know that apostle was used mostly for imperial messenger who were bringing 'gospels' or other news from the Emperor. These apostles by their status as one sent by the Emperor carried the full authority of the one who sent them, ie the Emperor. Again when we see this we see the polemic Paul is making against Rome and that he, as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, has all the authority to speak for the one who sent him. We can then understand why when Paul writes to churches experiencing problems he s clear to mention that he is an Apostle of Jesus Christ, so the people understand that he what he says is as good as if it came from Jesus.

These lexical understandings are extremely important to understanding the NT and would not be known without studying historical background through extra-biblical texts.

I completely agree with you when you say
"In other words, a knowledge of general cultural characteristics arms us with the knowledge we need to understand the events that the text itself records."

This general knowledge however only comes through historical background and extra-biblical texts. We take much of the historical background we know for granted and call it common sense, only because it is common sense in our culture, a culture that has been drastically shaped by the Greek, Roman, Jewish and Christian worlds. This is what I was trying to show with my example about the monks in Nepal. We all use historical background and extra-biblical texts without even knowing it, we just call it common sense.

Again, I completely agree when you say "What I would say is that we need to read the text itself and ask what it says, not use it as a gateway to events that we do not have direct access, and try to recreate them. "
The Bible was not written to inform us of events or the culture in which is was written, but to reveal who God is and what He has doe to humans. However, this revelation did take place within a culture, amongst a population of people who shared a tremendous amount of information and assumed that their readers knew what they were speaking about. So to correctly understand the texts there are things from historical background that we must know as the author and recipients did.

Once more I completely agree with the statement "The meaning for the Christian
is found in the text itself. History can be used, but not as a way of moving away from the text back to the original events because we cannot know what happened firsthand in the event. We can only what God communicates to us via the text directly."
But we must also realize no text at all has meaning outside of the context within which it was written.

I think you misunderstand me when you say "Our task,as Christian readers of the Bible is to discern what the text is communicating, not use it to "teleport" back in time to the event in
order to find the true meaning."
I do not think we need to use the Bible as a way to get at what actually happened and that is what is true or real. The words of the text are the revelation and what was communicated by God. We do not have to figure out what the 'actually' happened during any of the events described in the Bible to get the revelation. The revelation is the text. The words are the revelation not the experience that led to the words. However, to correctly understand what the words of the text mean we must know what context the texts were given. We do not live in 1st century Palestine nor 14-5th century Israel as the writers and receivers of the text did. We must understand that the Bible was written for us and for our benefit, but not to us. None of the Bible was written to 21st century culture. It still has authority and is still true but we must understand it in the context which it was written in. If we do not recognize the situatedness and mediacy of the text we should be trying to bring parchments to Paul as he commanded Timothy and we should kiss each other every-time we see a fellow Christian.

Also you say "This has to be maintained in order to ensure that the Bible remains accessible to all people." I do not know why this must be true if we need to know historical background. Why do not all people have access to this ability. Certainly when missionaries give Bibles to other cultures and those cultures interpret the text in light of their own culture the missionary informs them of the culture and historical background that allows the people to best know the texts true meaning.

Finally I would like to offer an example from the text. In Gen 15.9-21 God makes a covenant with Abram. If we use only the historical context of the rest of the canon we have no way of understanding what v. 17, where the flaming torching representing God passes through the two pieces of the heifer means. If we only use the historical context of the canon this verse is not understandable. But because we know historical context we know that the parts who passed through the heifer cut in two were the party's responsible for keeping their part of the covenant. Since only God did here we can then understand what Moses was telling the Israelites when he originally wrote Genesis, that God's covenant with Abraham was unconditional. No matter what Abraham or the Israelites did God would keep His promise. We could never understand that without understanding Suzerain-vassal covenants of the Ancient near east, which we know from extra-biblical sources.

I hope this clarifies what I have been trying to say. This is a really fun conversation and I hope we can continue it. Since this blog post is now 2 days old I would not mind if anyone who wanted to continue the discussion emailed me at danieljdoleys@cedarville.edu. I will also be looking back here for more responses though. Thanks again for the ideas and the opportunity to think through my own thoughts

Norman Jeune III said...

Thanks for your comments Daniel! Here are a few of my thoughts in response.

First, and I say this with utmost respect, I think you misunderstood what I meant. What I am saying is to affirm the use of languages. I am also saying that I think Matt affirms the use of languages. What I mean is that, in the context of New Testament scholarship, and the historical methods employed by historical-critical scholars, both liberal and conservative, the languages are not technically defined as an extra-biblical source in the way that you define it. To use the original languages is to look more closely at the text, which lines up with what both Matt and I suggest about affirming the primacy of the text.

I am also not saying that history is not valuable. The point is, for me anyway, is that historical critical intepretations based on historical reoconstructions derived from primary source data (i.e. archaelogy, inscriptions, etc.) often lead the interpeter away from the meaning of the biblical text. That is the issue. I would be the last to renounce completely the value of history. In fact, if you examine my academic credentials in my profile, my M.A. in New Testament specializes in 1st century Jewish and Greco-Roman history, and the program was specifically tailored to refine one's use of history in exegesis.

So, again, the task is to find a nuanced method of appropriating history in a way that does not truncate the meaning of the text itself.

Daniel Doleys said...

This post should be much shorter as I believe we are making progress toward seeing we are much closer in agreement as we better define our thoughts.

When it comes to languages I do understand that it is not technically defined as the use of extra-biblical sources however I am saying that if you understand the languages you must understand the historical background to even give the words meaning. You say " To use the original languages is to look more closely at the text, which lines up with what both Matt and I suggest about affirming the primacy of the text." I absolutely agree that the text is the revelation and must be given primacy. Yet, it is impossible to do linguistical research without doing historical research due to the mutually inclusive relationship of history and language. So i am saying just looking up a word in a lexicon is already using extra-biblical sources. I do not mean that the lexicon is the extra-biblical source but the definition of the word and how it is used in certain contexts or within certain grammatical structures can only be defined by looking at the entirety of the language from a certain period. This would require researching all the relevant literature from a time period.

You also say "I am also not saying that history is not valuable. The point is, for me anyway, is that historical critical intepretations based on historical reoconstructions derived from primary source data (i.e. archaelogy, inscriptions, etc.) often lead the interpeter away from the meaning of the biblical text." I again agree. However when this happens it either bad history being done, or the interpreter has gone away from the primacy of understanding the text in its inculturated status to ignoring the text and what it would say in that culture to saying that the text says what the culture said.

Finally, you say "So, again, the task is to find a nuanced method of appropriating history in a way that does not truncate the meaning of the text itself." I agree again. History does not truncate the meaning of the text, but the cultural situation within which the text was given gives the text its meaning.

However, is a long from the original text that said

"Extra-biblical sources should not be used to develop an interpretation that cannot be ascertained solely by use of the canon."

"Historical reconstructions (for say, an epistle) should only be used when these reconstructions are drawn from the text itself or from the larger canonical context."

"Our emphasis in our doctrine of Scripture and in our hermeneutical approach should be on the fact that we are dealing with God’s Word."

These assertions take the Bible out of the context it was given in. A text without the cultural historical context it is given in is rendered open to any possible interpretation or actually meaningless.

Matthew Wilcoxen said...

Hey all, I apologize for not being more engaged in this discussion. For some odd reason I stopped receiving notification emails for this post. I happened upon the post today and saw that there were 9 comments, and some quite lengthy ones at that. Hopefully sometime this week I'll be able to read all of your comments and respond just a little bit. I am sure that there were some good corrections offered for my initial proposal, which was perhaps a little too ahistorical. We'll see though. In the mean time, seek Jesus through the Scriptures!

brainout said...

I tentatively disagree with your third bullet at the end of your post claiming that we should discard "exegesis precedes theology". I think exegesis DRIVES theology. Think of theology as a car, and if some part of it needs fixing, you can tell as you drive through the exegesis. After all, a theology is a construct based on one's view of the Bible as a whole. How many theolgies in Christendom are self-contradictory? All of them! So then every 'car' needs fixing, and exegesis helps you FIND (pun intended) the part needing repair. :)