After a semester of teaching an undergrad course on Scripture and Tradition, a number of things emerged in our discussions that might be worth reflecting on regarding the Bible and its interpretation. I’ll simply list them without much elaboration (i.e. as mini rants) and in no specific order.
- That Jesus Christ is the Word does not relativize or minimize Scripture being the Word of God. In fact, in Scripture, it is Scripture that’s spoken of as the Word far more frequently than Jesus.
- Historical-critical exegesis and grammatical-historical exegesis are not identical. Although they share some similar assumptions, the former is far more concerned about behind-the-text issues for their own sake or in order to establish/question the text itself; the latter is concerned with history insomuch as it illumines what the text itself might be conveying. Different postures, different purposes.
- Relativizing “objective” historical exegesis is not the same as throwing history out altogether. To say that history shouldn’t be given every seat at the hermeneutical table, or that theology (or some other discipline) should have a place at the table, is not the same as treating history as suspicious and incapable of helping one arrive at the meaning(s) of the biblical text.
- A desire to read in light of Scripture’s divine authorship can never escape the fact that one must go through human authorship (and all its historical, cultural, and grammatical particularities) to arrive at the divine. A strictly literary reading (if such a thing is possible) can denigrate the fact that God chose to reveal himself in historical particularity.
- Reading Scripture in light of the “rule of faith” is a far more tricky enterprise than some seem to suggest for at least two reasons. First, there is no clear view on what the “rule” is. Second, even if the rule is identified as one of the early creeds, the kind of help it offers is limited to providing broad boundaries and general guides for interpretation. Creeds are concerned primarily with presenting a non-exhaustive narrative and conceptual account of Christ and the gospel. As such they cannot guide interpretation much in areas not touched on in the creeds (over which much Christian division exists). They are not void of interpretative value, of course, but they are limited.
- Principlizing approaches (i.e. drawing out “abstract” propositions from biblical texts) to moving from Scripture to practice (e.g. Walter Kaiser) appear unavoidable, even if one reads in light of redemptive history or with the express purpose of enacting the Scriptures as players in a divine drama.
- I remain convinced that Warfield and Packer offer the most helpful accounts of the doctrine of Scripture, standing above even some very formidable modern restatements (e.g. John Webster’s Holy Scripture). They are clear, forceful, biblical, theological, and unapologetically evangelical.