264816982I did a review of Roy Harrisville’s book Pandora’s Box Opened: An Examination and Defense of Historical-Critical Method and Its Master Practitioners over at Books at a Glance. Here is my conclusion.

Harrisville concludes that the historical-critical method introduced many evils, yet it also has been a force for good (at the very same time). The Bible is historically conditioned and requires the use of the human mind for exposition. Because the Christian proclamation involves witness in writing, the receiver must acknowledge the claim made by the biblical text. And the text must be allowed to have its say. In other words, the interpreter sits under the text, not over it.

Therefore the historical-critical method need not be outright rejected; yet its arrogance needs to be stripped away. Alternatives have arisen, according to Harrisville, alternatives such as rhetorical criticism, structuralism, and deconstruction. Yet I think Harrisville could have expanded this list to literary criticism, biblical theology, and canonical criticism. The later three criticisms are united by their rejection of the piecemeal view of the text, and an embracing of the unity. Added to these lists could be philosophical reflections on the role of the community, the nature of truth, and the role of subjectivity. Despite the opening of Pandora’s Box, the critical method is still able to be harnessed in the service of gospel proclamation. As Adolf Schlatter said:

For me, faith and criticism never divided into opposites, so that at one time I would have thought in a Bible-believing way, and at another critically. Rather I thought in a critical fashion because I believed in the Bible, and believed in it because I read it critically.

Notable 2014 ETS Sessions

November 7, 2014 — 3 Comments

bigcrowdI am looking forward to being in San Diego for both ETS and SBL this year. I try to spend much of my time meeting with people, but I also make a point of attending a few sessions of interest to me.

Below I will highlight a few that I think are worth checking out. This excludes the main plenary talks.

Wednesday

Of course I would love to see you all at my session first thing Wednesday morning. I will be presenting on “The Spatial Kingdom in Matthew” which is a general overview to what I have argued in my dissertation. Someone needs to report to me about Fred Sanders presentation at the same time. Also of interest to me is this one from Daniel Strange. It looks like there are lots of good things to go to at 8:30am!

Patrick Schreiner | Royal Palm Salon Two | 8:30-9:10 | The Spatial Kingdom in Matthew

Fred Sanders | Stratford | 8:30-9:10  | What the Icons Say and Do for the Gospels: The Place of the Ancient Christian Iconographic Tradition in Evangelical Churches

Daniel Strange | Eaton | 8:30-9:10 | Rooted or Grounded? The Legitimacy of Abraham Kuyper’s Distinction Between the Church as an Institute and the Church as an Organism

In the afternoon the discussion that most caught my attention was the discussion of Mike Bird’s Systematic Theology. The discussion on sexuality should be a good one, although they are all bloggers so we know where they stand on the issue. The panel discussion may be the most interesting part.

Book Review of Evangelical Theology | Pacific Salon One | 2:00-5:10 with Marc Cortez, Kelly Kapic, Amy Peeler, Mike Horton

Issues in Homosexuality and Gender | Hampton | 4:30-5:10 Panel Discussion with Burk, Sprinkle, and Hill.

D. Brent Sandy | Pacific Salon Five | 2:00-2:40 | Media Criticism and Orality: Current Research and Implications for Hermeneutics

Thursday

Thursday morning contains a session reviewing my supervisor’s book which I will be at.

Book Review of Reading the Gospels Wisely | 8:30-11:40 | Jonathan Pennington, Mark Strauss, Michael Licona, Nick Perrin, Daniel Treier

Thursday afternoon contains a discussion on defining biblical theology. Again, I think I know where everyone stands on the issue, but it could be a clarifying conversation. There is also a session on the hermeneutics and history of Adam

Defining Biblical Theology | Pacific Salon Two | 3:00-6:10 | Dempster, Hamilton, Beale, Klink, Lockett

Hermeneutics and the Historicity of Adam | Garden Salon One | 3:00-6:10

Friday

On Friday afternoon there is a discussion of Brian Rosner’s book on Paul and the Law. I am also interested in the discussion on the economics of theological vocation that afternoon.

Book Review of Paul and the Law | Pacific Salon Three | 1:00-4:10 | Rosner, Thielman, Schreiner etc

The Economics of the Theological Vocation | Pacific Salon Seven | 1:00-4:10 | Dalrymple, Hiestand, Cortez, Thornbury

I am sure there are many more, but that is initially what caught my eye.

See you in San Diego.

time

Charles Taylor, in his book, A Secular Age, draws a distinction between “secular time” and “higher time.”1)The following is adapted from Hans Boersma and Matthew Levering, “Spiritual Interpretation and Realigned Temporality,” Modern Theology 28, no. 4 (2012): 587–96.

Secular time is another way of referring to “ordinary time.” “People who are in the secular,” explains Taylor, “are embedded in ordinary time, they are living the life of ordinary time; as against those who have turned away from this order to live closer to eternity.

The word is thus used for ordinary as against higher time. Secular or ordinary time, refers to the basic chronological progression of temporal events, whereas higher time has to do with the eternal, unchanging realm of eternity.

Taylor then makes the crucial move of insisting that the notion of “higher time” enabled various chronological moments in “secular time” to be linked to each other. Taylor mentions the example of the sacrifice of Isaac and the crucifixion of Christ as two moments in secular time that are somehow linked together or, we could almost say, become contemporaneous:

Now higher times gather and re-order secular time. They introduce “warps” and seeming inconsistencies in profane time-ordering. Events which were far apart in profane time could nevertheless be closely linked. Benedict Anderson in a penetrating discussion of…some of the same issues I am trying to describe here, quotes Auerbach on the relation prefiguring-fulfilling in which events of the Old Testament were held to stand to those in the New, for instance the sacrifice of Isaac and the crucifixion of Christ. These two events were linked through their immediate contiguous places in the divine plan. They are drawn close to identity in eternity, even though they are centuries (that is, “aeons” or “saecula”) apart.

In God’s time there is a sort of simultaneity of sacrifice and crucifixion.

Footnotes

1. The following is adapted from Hans Boersma and Matthew Levering, “Spiritual Interpretation and Realigned Temporality,” Modern Theology 28, no. 4 (2012): 587–96.

Rudolf Bultmann described Karl Barth’s sermons as difficult to endure. He wrote:

With you the text is interrogated according to a dogmatic formula and does not speak with its own voice. After a few sentences we already known everything you are going to say, and only on occasion ask, now, how is going to extract all that from the following words in the text? . . . . I am not engaged by this exegesis; the text does not speak to me. Instead, the cover of dogmatics is thrown over it.1)Quoted in Konrad Hammann, Rudolf Bultmann: Eine Biographie, p. 320.

 

Footnotes

1. Quoted in Konrad Hammann, Rudolf Bultmann: Eine Biographie, p. 320.

Bultmann on Barth’s Sermons

edwards-is-my-homeboyIt seems that every year another book comes out about Jonathan Edwards. But very few of them, to my knowledge, discuss his hermeneutical strategy.

Stephen J. Stein is one who has dealt with Edwards’s hermeneutical strategy in great detail.1)A sampling of Stein’s work on Edwards and the Bible includes “Jonathan Edwards and the Rainbow: Biblical Exegesis and Poetic Imagination,” New England Quarterly 47 (1974) 440–56; “Editor’s Introduction,” in Jonathan Edwards, Apocalyptic Writings (ed. Stephen J. Stein; vol. 5 of WJE; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977) 1–93; “The Quest for the Spiritual Sense: The Biblical Hermeneutics of Jonathan Edwards,” HTR 70 (1977) 99–113; “ ‘Like Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver’: The Portrait of Wisdom in Jonathan Edwards’s Commentary on the Book of Proverbs,” CH 54 (1985) 324–37; “The Spirit and the Word: Jonathan Edwards and Scriptural Exegesis,” in Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience (ed. Nathan O. Hatch and Harry S. Stout; New York: Oxford University Press, 1988) 118–30; “Editor’s Introduction,” in Jonathan Edwards, Notes on Scripture (ed. Stephen J. Stein; vol. 15 of WJE; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998) 1–46; “Editor’s Introduction,” in Jonathan Edwards, The “Blank Bible” (ed. Stephen J. Stein; vol. 24 of WJE; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006) 1–117; and “Edwards as Biblical Exegete,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards (ed. Stephen J. Stein; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007) 181–95. David P. Barshinger in a newly released book is also examining Edwards on Scripture. He asserts Edwards’s love and view of the Scripture is neglected. He writes:

But for all the ink devoted to Edwards over the past three centuries, this [Edwards’s love and view of Scripture] is not the Edwards that has been preserved. Instead, a distorted portrait of Edwards remains the reigning image in scholarship today. While Edwards as an eclectic was interested in fields ranging from theology and philosophy to science and nature, he was at his core devoted to the glorious God of Scripture and to mining that Scripture for truth–an aspect left out of Edwards by examining his lifelong devotion to the Bible particularly through his engagement with the book of Psalms, exploring his theological engagement with the Psalms in the context of his interpretation, worship, and preaching. (3)

Stein begins his 1977 article in the Harvard Theological Review in a similar way.

It is an irony and something of an enigma that the Bible, one of the shaping forces in the theological development of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), has largely been ignored in the assessments of this colonial divine. Edwards himself acknowledged its influence, especially during his youthful years. “I had then,” he wrote, “and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy Scriptures, of any book whatsoever.”

Despite Edwards’s love of the Scripture, Stein says few have taken seriously the place of the Bible in Edwards’s thought. He argues that in contrast to the Reformation’s accent upon the sufficiency of the singular literal sense of the Bible, Edwards himself underscored the multiplicity of levels of meaning in the text and the primacy of the spiritual. Although Edwards shared certain assumptions with the Reformation tradition, he also departed from them in significant ways.

Brandon Withrow, in his analysis of Edwards, agrees and claims that Edwards explored Scripture on many levels. “The spiritual reading of Scripture found in the writing of ancient Christians…clearly have a kindred spirit in the ideas of Edwards.”2)Brandon G. Winthrow, Becoming Divine: Jonathan Edwards’s Incarnational Spirituality within the Christian Tradition (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2011) 174, 204. In Withrow’s view, Edwards’s interest in the spiritual sense connects him with early church exegetes. Withrow says, “Edwards was interested in reading between the lines and looking for a christological message intended by the Spirit.”3)Winthrow, Becoming Divine, 177, 185 Withrow even says he embraced the medieval tradition of seeing multiple senses.

Jonathan_EdwardsSo although Edwards embraced the literal sense, he also had some misgivings. Stein says:

The literal meaning Edwards pursued was not singular in appearance. Rather it embraced a variety of aspects, manifesting itself in numerous ways. The sensus literalis was a mixed interpretive category for him, united only in its basic communicative function. The various dimensions Edwards ascribed to the literal must be derived from examples of his exegesis. He wrote no systematic treatise on hermeneutics, although he commented at length on hermeneutical issues in his commentaries and notebooks, his sermons and published works. (107)

Unlike many, he did not glory in the literal meaning of Scripture. For him investigation of the grammatical and syntactical intricacies of a text, exploration of historical and cultural contexts, and examination of prophetic dimensions produced at best a “speculative knowledge” of divinity. The fullest application of the mind to the biblical text results only in a “rational knowledge of the things of religion.” Speculative knowledge of the text has no redemptive value and is obtainable by all. According to him, such knowledge alone merely results in greater condemnation for those who have access to God’s Word but reject it. Edwards described the Bible as “a sweet, excellent, life-giving word,” but efficacious use of it requires a second step beyond the mastery of the literal sense of the text.

That something extra Edwards called spiritual understanding or knowledge.

But Edwards also spoke about the spiritual sense of Scripture in a different way. He used the concept of the spiritual sense to denoted a fuller understanding of the Bible which is one result of the sense of the heart implanted by God. This second usage, according to Stein, more properly constitutes a hermeneutical category than the first.

This spiritual sense Edwards also distinguished from the literal, contrasting the restricted, confined character of the literal meaning of the text with the sweeping breadth and possibility of the spiritual interpretation. Spiritual understanding in this second sense was the goal and the focus of Edwards’s exegetical efforts.

This seems to be different than the modern portrayal of a “literate hermeneutic”, closer to a “thick” meaning, but more subjective than both of those.

So what are the practical implications of this?

He seldom rested content with an explanation of the literal meaning of a passage. Grammar, history, and prophecy were not enough. At best the literal sense provided the materials for reflection and meditation. Edwards described his own method of study in the following words: “Often-times in reading it [i.e., the Bible], every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt an harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seem’d often to see so much light, exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing ravishing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading. Used oftentimes to dwell long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained in it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.” The wonders on which he reflected were the deeper insights into the text he ascribed to the spiritual sense.

Jonthan Edwards is the homeboy of many people, and for good reason. But it may come as a surprise to some that he followed the Church Fathers in his hermeneutics more than the Reformers. One does not necessarily have to agree with him, but it is interesting that one of the best thinkers in history took this position.

 
 

 

 

Footnotes

1. A sampling of Stein’s work on Edwards and the Bible includes “Jonathan Edwards and the Rainbow: Biblical Exegesis and Poetic Imagination,” New England Quarterly 47 (1974) 440–56; “Editor’s Introduction,” in Jonathan Edwards, Apocalyptic Writings (ed. Stephen J. Stein; vol. 5 of WJE; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977) 1–93; “The Quest for the Spiritual Sense: The Biblical Hermeneutics of Jonathan Edwards,” HTR 70 (1977) 99–113; “ ‘Like Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver’: The Portrait of Wisdom in Jonathan Edwards’s Commentary on the Book of Proverbs,” CH 54 (1985) 324–37; “The Spirit and the Word: Jonathan Edwards and Scriptural Exegesis,” in Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience (ed. Nathan O. Hatch and Harry S. Stout; New York: Oxford University Press, 1988) 118–30; “Editor’s Introduction,” in Jonathan Edwards, Notes on Scripture (ed. Stephen J. Stein; vol. 15 of WJE; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998) 1–46; “Editor’s Introduction,” in Jonathan Edwards, The “Blank Bible” (ed. Stephen J. Stein; vol. 24 of WJE; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006) 1–117; and “Edwards as Biblical Exegete,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards (ed. Stephen J. Stein; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007) 181–95.
2. Brandon G. Winthrow, Becoming Divine: Jonathan Edwards’s Incarnational Spirituality within the Christian Tradition (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2011) 174, 204.
3. Winthrow, Becoming Divine, 177, 185

In relation to demonic oppression, conquest;

in relation to misrepresentation of God’s rule, sharp rebuke;

in relation to self complacency, warning;

in relation to sin and failure, forgiveness and assurance of love;

in relation to sickness, healing;

in relation to material need, provision of daily bread;

in relation to exclusion, welcoming inclusion;

in relation to desire for power, an example of humble and loving service;

in relation to death, life;

in relation to false peace, painful division,

but in relation to enmity, reconciliation.

– Richard Bauckham, The Bible in Politics (2011), 143.

Jesus’ Kingdom Redemptive Actions