Friday, 12 October 2007

The Last Word After the Last but One

Due to my long response to comments below, a quote:

From prison, in Advent 1943, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the following lines, in which he expresses the growing relevance of the Old Testament to his faith in this moment of crisis:

"My thoughts and feelings seem to be getting more and more like those of the Old Testament, and in recent months I have been reading the Old Testament much more than the New. It is only when one knows the unutterability of the name of God that one can utter the name of Jesus Christ; it is only when one loves life and the earth so much that without them everything seems to be over that one may believe in the resurrection and a new world; it is only when one submits to God's law that one may speak of grace; it is only when God's wrath and vengeance are hanging as grim realities over the heads of one's enemies that something of what it means to love and forgive them can touch our hearts. In my opinion it is not Christian to want to take our thoughts and feelings too quickly and too directly from the New Testament. [...] One cannot and must not speak the last word before the last but one. We live in the last but one and believe the last, don't we?" (Letters and Papers from Prison, NY 1972: 156f.)

I should add that this post constitutes a continuation of my Authority of Scripture thread which has its roots here. In the course of discussions questions have arisen on the nature of Christian truth and the implications of this for how one reads the Bible. I believe that central to the answer to this question is the question of the authoritative role of the Old Testament as an adequate witness to Jesus Christ on its own terms. The witness is certainly recalibrated in the light of the 'Christ event', but that does not change the substance of what was there all along nor its ability to illuminate for the church today the nature and mission of its Lord. As such, my next few posts will outline the essay by Christopher Seitz: ""In Accordance with the Scriptures": Creed, Scripture, and "Historical Jesus"" (1998: 51 - 50).


Stephen (aka Q) said...

I like your Bonhoeffer quote. I, too, am recognizing my need to immerse myself in the Hebrew scriptures to an extent that I have failed to do before now.

However, I think the two testaments shed light on each other. We will never read the Hebrew scriptures adequately (Christianly) except if we read them in light of the NT. Nor will we read the NT scriptures adequately if we don't carry the OT context of meaning across and utilize it as the essential interpretative framework for the life and work of Christ.

But I have made a more specific argument to that effect in an earlier thread.

Phil Sumpter said...

I, too, am recognizing my need to immerse myself in the Hebrew scriptures

Have you read much NT Wright? He is highly recommended for a historical analysis of Jesus and the early church which illustrates the centrality of the “Jewish metanarrative” for Jesus' self-identity and sense of mission as well and Paul's interpretation of him.

I think the two testaments shed light on each other

What you've said here sounds like Childs' and Seitz's contribution to the task of biblical theology/theological exegesis: reading the old in the new and the new in the old. I may give an exegetical example of that at some point, where Seitz reads Jesus' vineyard parable in conjuction with Isaiah' 'Song of the Vineyard'. The movement is not from New to Old, nor just from Old to New, but both seen as balancing each other out and pointing to one reality.