Wednesday, 17 October 2007

"In Accordance with the Scriptures" #3: Jesus and the Plan of God


Though you can read this post independently, it's part three of a sub-thread starting here and then here.
So what does it mean when Paul asserts that what he received of first importance was that Christ had died and been raised in accordance with the scriptures 1 Corinthians 15? Seitz claims that we need to get the sense of direction right:

"It was not so much that a straight line pushed forward from the Old Testament to Jesus' death and resurrection and could compel faith on those terms - which it failed to do in the instance of Judaism. ... Rather, in the light of Jesus' death and resurrection, the inherited scriptures were seen from a different angle. They did not predict his death and resurrection in some straightforward manner - the creed does not say that. Rather, his death and resurrection accord with, are congruent with, scripture. This accordance is not about scattered proof texts, but about a much broader skein of convictions. In a word, these involve God: the agency of God, the relationship of God to Jesus, and the present life of Jesus in relationship to the Father until the Second Coming. ... To speak of God raising Jesus is to ask how such raising fits into a larger scriptural depiction of God's plans with the world" (pp. 52, 55).

This becomes clear when one follows Paul's larger argument in 1 Corinthians 15. But more on that next time ...
(sorry, time's short: I've just discovered that I'm to be the tutorial assistant for Hebrew, which means more work [aaagh] and more money [mmmmm]!).

16 comments:

Bob MacDonald said...

This certainly accords with the direction I find myself going in unifying both the old and the new. "The entire gospel is contained in the psalms" - (I must look that up again - I think it was Calvin who said it). The long and short of it is in the invitation to engage by God, in God, for God's pleasure. The gift offered and received becomes a conscious and permenant feedback loop 'creating' in the receiver a clean heart and making the receiver an offering of righteousness.

John C. Poirier said...

I'm definitely going to have to get a copy of Seitz's article, because I find the claim he makes here (according to your rehearsal of it) frankly bizarre. What does he do with all those supporting prooftexts in the missionary speeches in Acts? Does he not think that they constitute what Paul means by "in accordance with the Scriptures"?

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks for your thoughts Bob! As for Calvin, here are some quotes on the Psalms I fished up:

The Psalter serves "to teach us the true method of praying aright"; "there is no other book in which we are more perfectly taught in the right manner of praising God"; "although the Psalms are replete with all the precepts which serve to frame our life to every part of holiness, piety, and righteousness, yet they will principally teach and train us to bear the cross".

I especially love the last one! Here, the intertextual connections with the David narratives in the superscriptions come in handy. Luther also said something cool, but unfortunately I can't find the reference.

John,

I'll try and get a reading list of NT scholars who have written on NT hermeneutics. I don't know whether they constitute a majority of not, but from what I understand it is highly defensable to argue that isolated quotes were always made with the broader Jewish metanarrative held in the background. This has been done extremely well by N.T. Wright, in his mammoth "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series. Have you come across that yet? I would consider it required reading, not only for its exegesis and historical analysis, but also for his epistemological insights on the role of 'story' in an integrated 'world-view'.

Tomorrow will come the more detailed exegetical arguments. I highly recommend you get Seitz's book! He's an author that literally makes my heart burn within me. Is that a criteria of truth?

John C. Poirier said...

Yes, I'm familiar with those scholars who argue for metaleptic contacts between the NT quotations of the Old Testament, and who think that this means that NT is seeking some sort of contact with a unified narrative of the Old Testament. (In fact, when I was at Duke, I took Hays's class on the "Old Testament in the New Testament", which was all about that.) I'm not convinced by their arguments: certainly if there is such a metaleptic contact in a given instance (which isn't as clear as often as they seem to think), that would not imply that the OT narrative as a whole is invoked through that metalepsis. It's a huge leap from saying that Romans invokes the discourse in Habakkuk, to saying that Romans invokes the whole metanarrative of God's dealings with Israel.

The rabbinic writings show full well what I'm talking about: the Rabbis often evoke the wider context of a passage, but they do not thereby invoke some sort of overarching narrative when they do that. It makes me wonder why NT scholars make that leap.

Phil Sumpter said...

'Metaleptic' is another new word for me!

For Seitz's purposes here, it is not necessary to assume that the whole metanarrative is alluded to, just the fact that the Old Testament is being respected in its final form as a medium for understanding Christ and the mission of the Church, i.e. context is respected.

I wrote to a friend far more knowledgeable on such matters for book recommendations and here's what he comes up with:

"Well, the big work you would need to take account of is Francis Watson’s Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith. His introduction, which is directly relevant to the question you raise, is online somewhere free. He says the scripture and its narrative shaped Christology, as well as the other way around. Richard Hays’s work on hermeneutics should be consulted. He was the leading voice in showing how the narrative context of scripture was crucial for Paul, not merely arbitrarily proof-texting with loose citations here and there from the OT (cf. e.g. his work on Gal 3). This line of reasoning is exemplified powerfully in Hafemann’s work, Paul, Moses and the History of Israel, who argues – though perhaps over doing it a bit – that the narrative of Ex texts in 2 Cor 3 were relatively untouched by Christology. He was exegeting the narrative of the text in Ex. I hope this helps."

I should add that both Watson and Hays are critiqued by Seitz, partly on this issue, though their commonalities out way what you are proposing, which is an ad hoc twisting of the OT to fit an alien, external ideology, something new in the history of religion needing to find an anchor in something old, regardless of whether such a move is justified or not (or do I misunderstand you?).

After this essay, by the way, I will do another review of an essay on the theological-exegetical dimesnions of the phrase "maker of heaven and earth" in the Nicene Creed.

John C. Poirier said...

Thanks for this. I have read Watson's and Hays's works, but have not yet read Hafemann's.

Deane said...

Phil quoted:
"in the light of Jesus' death and resurrection, the inherited scriptures were seen from a different angle"
...
"his death and resurrection accord with, are congruent with, scripture"


So, Seitz seems to be saying ... once you (re)interpret the Old Testament as referring to the New Testament's story of Christ's death and resurrection, then ... the New Testament's story of Christ's death and resurrection starts to sound like it's right in line with the Old Testament.

Well, I never - whoever would have guessed that circular logic would have worked this way ...

Here's another couple for you, from the inexhaustible stock of sensius plenior [substitute other trendy names, such as metalepsis, etc]:

1. In the light of the Teacher of Righteousness, Habakkuk can be seen from a different angle. So the Teacher of Righteousness accords with, is congruent with, Habakkuk.

2. In the light of UFO cults, the first two chapters of Ezekiel can be seen from a different angle. So the teachings of UFO cults accord with, are congruent with, the Book of Ezekiel.

But this is too easy. The real challenge, I feel, is to find a way of reinterpreting the Old Testament that is "congruent with" the story of Jesus, the Teacher of Righteousness and UFO cults - all at the same time. Now that would be a noteworthy feat.

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks for pointing out a potential misunderstanding Deane,

it's important to point out that Seitz is not proposing a fideistic hermeneutic which cannot be contradicted. He emphasises elsewhere (such in my most recent post) the public nature of the Jewish scriptures, such that Christian claims could be disputed on the basis of them. Seitz believes that there is a genuine correspondance which can be demonstrated and can be convincing.

His statement about the meaning of the text being 'recalibrated' in the light of a new experience is a recognition that our angle of vision affects what we see. This is a general hermeneutical point that applies across the board, regardless of who is reading what. We can ponder a problem for ages, for example, until suddenly we get positioned right (however that happens - conversion? Paradigm shift?) and have an “Ah ha!” moment. Positioning, or angle of vision, can open up something so that we can see what is really going on,something that was always there though we were approaching the problem wrong (though positioning can obviously have the opposite affect and blind us too).

The point with Jesus and the OT is that Christians claim that, in the light of their experience and understanding, they can now see what the Jewish scriptures were really about all along. They've had their “Ah ha” moment. That's not to say they are reading him into the text. That conclusion depends on the quality of their arguments, but also the ability of their dialogue partners to see from their angle. It could be the case that one must first get to know Jesus before one can see how he has been there all along. That, however, is a matter of getting the right angle of vision. It's not a matter of his actual fulfilment of scripture.

Deane said...

Thanks, Phil. I have a couple of replies:

Phil said:
Seitz is not proposing a fideistic hermeneutic which cannot be contradicted. He emphasises ... the public nature of the Jewish scriptures, such that Christian claims could be disputed on the basis of them. Seitz believes that there is a genuine correspondance which can be demonstrated and can be convincing.

For there to be a "correspondence" in hermeneutics, there must be two different horizons that correspond. But if the Old Testament is always already interpreted in light of Jesus Christ, the two horizons have simply been fused together. I have no idea how anything in the Christian (re)interpretation of the Old Testament could be "convincingly demonstrated" in a "public" forum. The only people who could possibly be convinced by a Christian Christocentric hermeneutic of the Old Testament are Christians. St Paul admits as much in 1 Cor 2. You cannot both interpret the Old Testament through a spiritualising lens, and claim that this interpretation is "public". By its very nature it is sectarian, esoteric, private.


Your reply appears to end up saying as much:

It could be the case that one must first get to know Jesus before one can see how he has been there all along. That, however, is a matter of getting the right angle of vision. It's not a matter of his actual fulfilment of scripture.

I think I agree with this, rather than your earlier comments that the Christian interpretation of the OT is "publicly" defensible.

The apparent "congruence" of Jesus' death and resurrection with the Old Testament (scripture) is nothing more than the Christian (re)interpretation of that same Old Testament scripture. Just as a UFO cult's (re)interpretation of Ezekiel 1-2 is only defensible to those within the UFO-cult fold, so too is a Christocentric (re)interpretation of the Old Testament only defensible to those within the Christian fold. You shouldn't expect anything more.

Phil Sumpter said...

Deane,

I can see how I can seem to contradict myself: 1) Jesus in the OT is a publicly demonstrable fact, 2) You can probably only see this if you are already converted.

I'll try and clarify. I'm drawing on Kuhn's idea of “paradigm shift” (in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). Increased knowledge, of the world in general or of Jesus in the text, does not occur by the slow accumulation of data. Rather, progress in understanding involves perceiving known facts, which were previously rendered coherent by a particular system, in terms of a new system. The result is an “ah ha!” experience, where suddenly something is grasped which was previously inexplicable. The metaphor of 'scales falling from one's eyes' is often used. This was the nature of the Copernican, Newtonian and Einsteinian revolutions. The new vision doesn't change the facts, but they take on new meaning within a different framework.

The same goes for Christological interpretation. As a Christian, one must believe that the text really does speak of Christ. However, the faith dimension is necessary, as it provides the 'perspective' within which this can begin to be comprehended. It's not a matter of esoteric knowledge being available only to those with the right spiritual experience, an experience which bypasses our reason. It's a matter of having a 'meeting', being confronted with God in Christ, and then suddenly seeing what was really there all along. Hence the urgency for Christians to never give up trying to show that this is the case.

Becoming a believer also does not mean that one can suddenly prove that Christ is in the OT. That is a matter of study and understanding. All kinds of issues need to be clarified: what is the nature of biblical “accordance”? How does prophecy-fulfilment actually work? What is the difference between Christ's historical and ontological presence within the history of Israel? These are all difficult, and many (most) Chrstians haven't grappled with them yet. But at least conversion creates the conditions within which this discernment can properly be done. I'm sure most would intuitively understand it, even if they couldn't explain it.

I should point out that an added dimension of the christological reading is the need to maintain the literal sense of the OT, so that it's horizon isn't actually fused with the NT. This no doubt happens amongst all bad interpreters, not just Christian ones. Nevertheless, Chrsitians are obliged to respect the plain sense of the OT and not drown it out in the light of the New, and they must do this out of theological reasons, and not just a commitment to satisfy the canons of academic exegesis.

Does that make sense?

Deane said...

Phil wrote:
It's not a matter of esoteric knowledge being available only to those with the right spiritual experience, an experience which bypasses our reason. It's a matter of having a 'meeting', being confronted with God in Christ, and then suddenly seeing what was really there all along.

This 'meeting' with God in Christ is an esoteric experience, as I would define it. Let's look it up:

Esoteric:
1 Intended for or understood by only a particular group ...
2 Of or relating to that which is known by a restricted number of people.
(American Heritage Dictionary)

Yep, fits 1 Cor 2 down to the ground.

So, while I can see that one could interpret the OT in light of Christ, I cannot at all see how it would be possible to make a "public" defence of the same - which would be a defence both to those who had 'met' Christ and to those who had not 'met' Christ alike. You can't have your sectarian cake and let the public eat it too.
;-)

Phil Sumpter said...

Deane,

I think I need to clarify what I'm claiming here. I'm making a statement about the inner logic of Christian faith, not a statement about whether it is true or not or whether the OT really does “accord with” Christ. As such, statements such as, “ I cannot at all see how it would be possible ...” are not to the point. Those kinds of statement belong in a discussion of whether the Christian claim is true or not. Before we evaluate the Christian claim, however, we need to know what the Christian claim is. That's what I'm trying to do.

Concerning esoterism, only the second definition would work. The first includes the phrase “intended for ...”, which would seem to contradict the idea of mission. Paul went every where and preached to all. Whether all believed or not is a separate issue. The gospel is for open for all, not a select few.

I can see how 1 Corinthian 2 can look like esoterism. Two points:

Paul is talking about our ability to receive what is there. Have you not argued with someone, referring to a common reality, yet felt that you can't convince them because their pressupositions are to entrenched, or their commitment to a prior agenda is too powerful? The fact that they are 'blinding' themselves, not seeing what is there, does not affect the truth of whether it is there or not. Thus, when Paul says: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned”, he's making a statement about epistemology, not about fact of whether the Old Testament witnesses to Christ in any substantive way or not. I think philosophers would refer to this as something like 'virtue epistemology'. Seeing is often a matter of the heart, and not just a commitment to 'objectivity'.
You have to read this text as part of a larger context. How do you explain Paul's missionary activity, in which he went into the synagogues, opened the scripture, and tried to 'prove' to them that Jesus was the Christ? If all that is needed is an esoteric experience, one which bypasses a common point of reference (the text), then there isn't much need, let alone point, to open that text in the first place in order to try to prove something.

You can't have your sectarian cake and let the public eat it too.

Do you see now why this misses the point?

Deane said...

Phil wrote:
statements such as, “ I cannot at all see how it would be possible ...” are not to the point. Those kinds of statement belong in a discussion of whether the Christian claim is true or not.

Hi Phil,

As I see it, the question of whether you can have your sectarian cake and eat it too is the point. This is not a question about whether the Christian claim is "true" or not, which is a misunderstanding of the point. Just to keep things clear, what I see the as the 'point' of the current conversation is an epistemological one, not one about the 'truth' of Christian interpretation of the Old Testament. That is - 'how can you see Jesus in the Old Testament' is the point, not 'is Jesus in the Old Testament?'. The "impossibility" I referred to was itself an epistemological impossibility, that is, the impossibility of 'seeing' Jesus from both inside a Christological hermeneutical framework, and also from outside the very framework which makes such sight possible.

The Christian claim that Jesus is in the Old Testament requires a specific, Christian lens of interpretation. It is a lens that is either accepted by people, or it is not. If it it accepted, Jesus is seen to be there, in the Old Testament. But if it is not accepted, Jesus may well not be seen to be there. This is not to say that the esoteric group of Jesus-seers can't get new members. To the contrary, people can be converted from not seeing Jesus in the Old Testament, to seeing Jesus. Like all sectarian hermeneutics, the ability to see Jesus in the Old Testament depends on accepting the esoteric, sectarian, non-public Christian lens of interpretation. Likewise, if you want to see UFOs in the Old Testament, you will accept the esoteric, sectarian, non-public UFO-cult lens of interpretation. And likewise again, if you want to see The Teacher of Righteousness in the Old Testament, you will accept the esoteric, sectarian, non-public Qumran pesher lens of interpretation.

Whether the adherants believe that the truth is available to be seen by all is hardly the issue. Whether available there in fact or not (a question of truth), it is only seen by the adherants themselves (a question of hermeneutics/epistemology).

In this endeavour, Paul is not referring to the text-in-itself, but only the text that he creates by his particular lens. So, the same given text that is used alike by believing and non-believing Jews (the Hebrew scriptures) can be appealed to by Paul to counter the Jewish interpretations. That is because it is not the given text which matters, but only the esoteric, sectarian, non-public Christian interpretation of that text. And that is why Paul can engage in missionary activity in the synagogues, open the common given scriptures, yet try to 'prove' to them that Jesus was the Christ from his own esoteric, sectarian non-public (re)interpretation of that text. The given text, which is authoritative in the first century AD, becomes a cypher for whatever esoteric, sectarian non-public interpretations Paul wishes to fill it with. So Paul does not really open a public set of scriptures, but only 'opens' his interpretation of them. Yet the shared authoritative nature of the Hebrew scriptures provides Paul's need to refer to them to bolster his own interpretation of them.

Epistemologically, Paul's approach is mutually exclusive of any public approach to the text. You can't have your sectarian cake and let the public eat it too. And this, the central point, demonstrates the circularity of Seitz's position, when he tries to say that, once you (re)interpret the Old Testament as referring to the New Testament's story of Christ's death and resurrection, then ... the New Testament's story of Christ's death and resurrection starts to sound like it's right in line with the Old Testament.

Phil Sumpter said...

Dean,

I think you've understood what I was trying to do, i.e. to make a sharp distinction between epistemology/hermeneutics and truth claims. As such, I can agree with large parts of what you have to say about the way Paul reads the Old Testament. However, I do think you are being inconsistent in your approach by not sticking to the epistemology/truth-claim distinction you yourself wish to establish. This can be seen, for example, in the fact that at the end of your piece, if one were to fully agree with you, one would be forced to make a truth claim: Jesus really isn't in the Old Testament in any substantial way, it's nothing more then the mental projection of someone violating a naked text. This is a truth claim that goes beyond the terms you have set out (in agreement with me). Let me illustrate this in more detail:

First, you insist on the sectarian/public dichotomy, which is in itself an epistemological assumption. I.e., it assumes that there is a non-sectarian way of knowing, one which presumably can be used to judge sectarian ways of knowing. I have not made this claim and in my reference to 'paradigm shift' I've actually rejected it. All our reading is 'sectarian' in that it is irreducibly ideological, including yours and those who naively claim to be 'objective'. As you recognize, there is a distinction between the public availability of a common text and 'public' interpretation (whatever that may be). I have only argued for the first, and have argued that it is necessary for Christians to interpret their own faith in terms of this text, as a matter of theological method.

As such, I am in agreement with you when you say, “The "impossibility" I referred to was itself an epistemological impossibility, that is, the impossibility of 'seeing' Jesus from both inside a Christological hermeneutical framework, and also from outside the very framework which makes such sight possible.” I never claimed otherwise. I hope you see this epistemological reality as being equally true for you. I also agree with the following statement: Whether available there in fact or not (a question of truth), it is only seen by the adherants themselves (a question of hermeneutics/epistemology). Likewise, if you are committed to not seeing him there, then you won't. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

You don't however, stick to your own distinctions, moving beyond epistemological analysis into the realm of 'truth', which you present as self-evident fact. Thus, you say:

In this endeavour, Paul is not referring to the text-in-itself, but only the text that he creates by his particular lens. So, the same given text that is used alike by believing and non-believing Jews (the Hebrew scriptures) can be appealed to by Paul to counter the Jewish interpretations. That is because it is not the given text which matters, but only the esoteric, sectarian, non-public Christian interpretation of that text.

It is one thing to say that we inevitably read a text through an ideological lense, it is another to claim that that text has no impact on the way we read it. To say it is all constructed out of Paul's head, to the point that he is not actually reading the text but his own ideological construct, is to go beyond epistemology into the realm of ontology, a realm where you are making faith claims about the nature of texts, the way they work, and this this case even the content of the text (i.e. it doesn't refer to Jesus after all). How do you know whether Paul's hermeneutical grid is helpful or not? Perhaps it is capable of illuminating the text and showing us what was there all along.

The given text, which is authoritative in the first century AD, becomes a cypher for whatever esoteric, sectarian non-public interpretations Paul wishes to fill it with.

Again, this is a blatant faith claim, going well beyond the epistemological distinctions you seek to be making. Labelling the text a mere cypher is already to pass judgement on Paul's suggestion that it really does witness to Christ. That you don't agree with him is one thing, but that doesn't make your argument automatically more objective and neutral, such that Paul is by definition wrong before he even starts reading. To negotiate that claim involves more than pointing out that we all use interpretive grids to read.

So Paul does not really open a public set of scriptures, but only 'opens' his interpretation of them.

This is the same as the above. It sounds like postmodernism going beyond itself. When postmodernists talk of reality as socially constructed, they are not at the same time saying what reality is, just describing how we go about relating to it (though many postmodernists do get carried away with themselves and think that deconstruction is able to serve as a theory of what is really there after all). Unless you can prove that Pauls interpretation is wrong, you can't say that the text is a figment of his imagination. Given what you've said about interpretation, I think you would agree that you too can't stand outside the box and tell us what's really going on.

Epistemologically, Paul's approach is mutually exclusive of any public approach to the text

Again, I do not claim that there is a 'public' interpretation, just a public text. And there is also a public approach in that Paul publicly challenged people to interpret the text differently. They responded, and some were convinced. I should also point out (again) that on the terms that you have set out, your approach is no more public than Paul's.

And this, the central point, demonstrates the circularity of Seitz's position, when he tries to say that, once you (re)interpret the Old Testament as referring to the New Testament's story of Christ's death and resurrection, then ... the New Testament's story of Christ's death and resurrection starts to sound like it's right in line with the Old Testament.

Given everything I've now said, is it clear that Seitz really is not saying that. He actually believes that Jesus is witnessed to by the Old Testament and that the Gospel is a correct response to the actual meaning of the Old Testament. There is absolutely no circularity in his logic.

Deane said...

I don't think I have been at all "inconsistent" in separating out the question of whether the Old Testament text itself in fact refers to Jesus from the rather different question of the particular interpretation of that by any person. To the contrary, I have tried to separate out these questions.

The fact is, the "public" is made up both of those who believe Jesus is in fact in the Old Testament text, and those who do not believe this. This truth-belief is inevitably based on a hermeneutical stance, which is always necessary, no matter whether the given text has such a meaning-in-fact or not. As for your comments on "post-modernism", I do not at all understand meaning to be merely 'made' by a reader, as you seem to have thought. To the contrary, I believe it is quite possible for a hermeneutical stance to correspond with the meaning of the text-in-itself.

But, the fact remains that, even if Jesus were in the Old Testament in fact, and if (some) Christians adopted a hermeneutical stance which corresponded with this meaning, others in the public still do not interpret the Old Testament as though it referred to Jesus. And--furthermore--according to 1 Cor 2, they cannot do so until they receive a sectarian, esoteric, personal transformation.

I don't assume that there is a non-situated way of knowing, but there are certainly non-Christian situated ways of knowing amongst the "public"--which refers only to the total of all actual views on the text. All our interpretations are 'situated' in the sense of being formed according to certain ideological biases. But still, only one reading in fact corresponds to the text-in-itself. And it is this interpretation--whether actually arrived at by anybody or not--which makes other views wrong (as being imposed on the text) and one reading right. I don't pretend to know this for certain, being as situated as I am. But I do claim to know, fallibly, that the claim that Jesus is in the Old Testament does not correspond with the given text (the truth question). That is, I know--although not for certain--it is wrong. I know this based on my interpretations of the Old Testament text, which are in line with the mainstream modern historical-critical approaches to the Old Testament, and hardly need reciting here. My judgment of the particular Christian view that you are espousing is that it misrepresents the Old Testament, because Jesus is absent from it. I know of nothing in the Old Testament that refers to Jesus, and would be interested if you could show me how even one text does.

While such an approach requires holding to certain assumptions, it holds that this is the meaning of the text itself. By contrast, your view requires not only these factual assumptions concerning the subject matter, but a 'sectarian' transformation of the individual hermeneut according to some esoteric means (such as Paul explains in 1 Cor 2). That is what makes your view sectarian, esoteric and private, not the mere fact of situatedness.

So, the conclusion remains: you can't have your sectarian cake and let the public eat it too.

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks for your clear argument Dean,

I agree with just about everything you've said, so there's no need to respond in detail, except for an assumption on you part at the end:

By contrast, your view requires not only these factual assumptions concerning the subject matter, but a 'sectarian' transformation of the individual hermeneut according to some esoteric means.

In what way is your ideologically loaded viewpoit which opens up the text in certain ways (as you yourself admit) not “sectarian, esoteric and private”? It is sectarian in that it is particular, it is the product of a community with cultural assumptions about the nature of truth, meaning and communication (historical critical manuals talk of the 'canon' of working methods that have been developed and accepted as good. This is matter of communal praxis, not objective apprehension of what is self-evidently there). It is private in the sense that you needed to go on a personal journey to come to these conclusions, a journey which involved meeting people and ideas and having eye opening encounters. Without this personal experience you wouldn't believe what you believe today. This is an experience of the same type which I have described about Jesus and the church, though obviously the content of that experience is different. As for esoteric, I have dealt with that word above. I have rejected version no# 1, and version no# 2 applies as much to you as to anyone else.

So, the conclusion is that you are just as sectarian as I.

This is where my response to another point you made comes in:

I know of nothing in the Old Testament that refers to Jesus, and would be interested if you could show me how even one text does

As you made clear in the paragraph, you conclusions are based on the historical critical method, a method which has been exposed as ideologically loaded, 'interested' and operative according to a set of metaphysical and anthropological (etc.) assumptions about the way the world actually is. These assumptions precede the method and determine what one sees. This is important. The claim that Jesus is actually in the Old Testament does not at the same time define how Jesus is in the Old Testament. There is a distinction to be made, for example, between ontological and historical presence. The New Testament is complex on this issue. It never claims the OT refers to Jesus in a historically referential sense. Therefore, when you operate on the assumptions of historical criticism, reducing meaning and truth to those terms, you have cut yourself off from ever being able to see him there. This is a complex area, one in which we need to look at the nature of Christian truth, the identity of Jesus who was far more then just the man who walked for 33 years on earch, the nature of figuration in the creation of meaning, and issues of the function of scripture in the unfolding plan of God's redemption. The point is, regardless how difficult these ideas are, to simply reject the presence of Jesus on the basis of historical-critical conclusions is to completely miss the point of what the New Testament is actually saying. You are talking past the New Testament to either an imagined 'Christian' who operates with similar Enlightenment assumptions, or, more tragically (and more likely), with actual Christians you've known who are unaware of the nature of their own Bible and have themselves bought into the (a)theological assumptions of the Enlightenment.

Does this make sense? I'm not asking you to believe, I'm just asking you to see what it is that Christian theology actually claims. It is only then that you can make an informed decision as to whether you should reject it or not.

As I said, I'll continue posting on such matters and would appreciate your input (e.g. my up-and-coming thread on “Scripture and the Economy of God”). I like being challenged like this: my experience with God and the world has made me weary of over easy theology which never lives up to the demands of our experience and the scripture we use to interpret it.