Tuesday, 9 October 2007

A Trinitarian Approach to the Bible

Christopher Seitz (2001) cites the following words of wisdom, spoken at a point in American history when attempts to utilize historical-criticism theologically were in full swing (1964). Can you guess who said them?

"All Christian use of the Old Testament seems to depend on the belief that the One God who is the God of Israel is also the God and Father of Jesus Christ."
"All our use of the Old Testament goes back to this belief. What is said there that relates to "God" relates to our God. Consequently, that which can be known of our God is known only when we consider the Old Testament as a place in which he is known."

"It is an illusory position to think of ourselves as in a position where the New Testament is clear, is known, and is accepted, and where therefore from this secure position we start out to explore the much more doubtful and dangerous territory of the Old Testament ... [This] is not possible, for quite theological reasons. ... Insofar as a position is Christian, it is related to the Old Testament from the beginning."

"In this sense, if one wishes to express the argument in terms of classic theology, our approach to the Old Testament is Trinitarian rather than Christological. The direction of thought is from God to Christ, from Father to Son, and not from Christ to God."

"It should also be noted that, where we have a Trinitarian structure, we can proceed to a Christological one".

10 comments:

Phil Sumpter said...

Dear John,

sorry for moving your post and the late response. Sorry too for being confusing about Childs. I think part of it's his fault, as his approach is so comprehensive that it's hard to present his position on an issue without out having to instantly qualify it. I'll try again.

For Childs and Seitz, the original meaning doesn't change in the sense that X now means Y. Its deepened, or perhaps broadened, it's scope of reference is enlarged. Seitz talks of the literature maturing, being seasoned, so that the later forms have a 'special character', in continuity with but also, in a sense, different from the original sense. The meaning is expanded to be able to speak to later generations. Childs illustrates this in relation to Ps 102, in his article 'Analysis of a Canonical Formula: “It shall be recorded for a future generation”'(1990). After illustrating the importance of the concept of continuity in Israel's passing on of its tradition (Pss. 78:5 – 7; 22:31 etc.; i.e. your main concern), he discusses the question of the manner in which the tradition is construed. Ps. 102 offers an example of rendering the tradition in such a way as to assure its authoritative role for the future generation. From a redaction critical perspective, an exilic writer has taken up an ancient individual complaint Psalm (vv. 2 – 12, 24 – 25) and added a new word of promise (13 – 23; 26 – 29). The message of hope is that Israel's time of deliverance has come, and God will shortly appear in glory to restore Zion. V. 19 provides the key to the Psalm: “Let this (promise) be recorded for a generation to come so that a people unborn may praise Yahweh”. The divine word of promise, which was first given to a generation in exile, was to be written down for the sake of the coming generation. Although the promise was addressed originally to the exilic community, the dimension of the promise had already transcended that generation. To quote:

“The focus of the promise was not toward resolving a crisis caused by the political disaster of the exile, but of assuring God's faithfulness to Israel in the future. The word was given not primarily to assure the continuity of past tradition, but rather to insure the certainty of the future promise. This promise was a new word about a fresh redemptive intervention to a newly constituted people of God. It was not directed just to the suffering exiles, but also to “a generation yet to come”, to a “people yet unborn”.”(361, 2).

By committing the promise to writing the continuity of Israel's hope was established once-and-for-all. “The word was written not just to maintain contact with the past, but to point to Israel's true future”. The aforementioned redactional layering has the hermeneutical affect that the response from God to Israel's complaint is now addressed to every suffering generation, regardless of whether early or later in the nation's experience.

The point here is that there is both an original meaning (God's promise of restoration to exiles) and a 'broadened' meaning (made possible by the canonical shape of the Psalm: i.e. God will answer the prayers of his suffering people). The broader meaning in this case is not an imposition from outside the Psalm, i.e. a New Testament interpretation, nor is it a conclusion based on analogy with a different situation, but is rather part of the structure of the Psalm itself. God's future acts of salvation (eschatological?) stand in direct continuity with his acts of old, and in a sense fulfil them. This movement is present in the mulit-layered Psalm which leaves its affect on the final form (I think, in the case of the Genesis 1 example I gave, it is the function of the chapter within the literary presentation of Gen – Kings that creates space for christological interpretation).

Does that help on the question of 'changing meanings'?

This presentation of both the dynamic of the text as well as the text's own understanding of the nature of 'truth telling' should also help on the question the the options we have when talking about Christian truth. You still present the issue as an either-or between historical referentiality or a semiotic function of language. In light of what I've said, there is a referentiality which is more then the original historical situation without at the same time negating it. There is an ontological continuity in God's ways which transcends the specificity of the individual moments. Check out this quote from Childs made in 1961, before he even developed the 'canonical approach':

“Israel's memory ... serve[d] a far more important role than merely providing illustrations from the past. It serves in making Israel noetically aware of a history which is ontologically a unity. There is only one redemptive history.” (p. 51)

The question is the object of the Bible's referentiality, and it's ultimate object (i.e. God saving exilic Israel, God saving Israel, God saving the world ...). This is where my post on the theological nature of biblical criticism comes in. Jesus claimed that he fulfilled the Old Testament, that it all spoke of him. The kerygma of 1 Corinthians 15 was all “according to scripture” in some way. If Jesus is the starting point of our faith and if he is the truth, then we need to grapple with this dimension of his reality. The comments on this post (made by J. Barr, by the way!) show that Jesus is always understood 'in relation': in relation to the Father, the prophets, the apostles and the history of Israel (to name a few). John 1.1, for example, goes beyond talk of Jesus arriving “in the fullness of time” and moves on to the ontological plane. Christian exegesis (the basis of theology) must wrestle with this ontological question, how do the two testaments, in their own ways, witness to Christ?

(This understanding of 'referentiality', it's true object, and the relationship between a historical situation and a broader horizon, beyond the ken of the original author, of which it is a part, is Childs' response to Barr's (and your) claim that “Childs has two theories in that he has “a non-referential one for historical matters and a strongly referential one for theological matters”.” )

In light of all this, can you still see why I struggle with your statement that “*truth*, for the Christian belief system, is a matter of obtaining spacetime actuality.”? I would still like to hear a constructive proposal, in which you explain what the kerygma is and why that means that Christian truth is just based on a set of key events in the life of the historical Jesus, especially in contrast to what I have said above (which, by the way, will be repeated with varying degrees of clarity throughout my thread).

You said: “Receiving the truth of a proposition is not the same thing as constructing the truth of a proposition by reading oneself into it.” Is it clear now that neither Childs, Seitz nor myself is actually claiming this, both in theory or in practice (more exegetical examples will follow)?

I also did not say that the kerygma is true “by dint of its inclusion within the scriptural narrative”. It said its meaning was constituted by it. Truth is, as you say, a separate issue to meaning. The question is: what is the nature of truth? My comments above should show that Christian truth (or perhaps theological truth) is a matter more complex (given the claims made by Jesus, the church, and the nature of the biblical text itself) than 'pointing to' isolated events which only have one meaning. From a Christian perspective, it is 'true' that the rock which Moses struck was Jesus. This is a genuine ontological claim and not just word play or rhetoric. The relation between the literal sense of a text and its sprititual, eschatological, ulitmate (or whatever term is fitting) is open to debate, but that there must be a relation and that Christian truth claims are of this nature seems to me to be undeniable.

You say that you are “allowing the centrality of the kerygma ... to determine the proper definition of “truth””. I can't square that with your previous statement: “I don’t care at all whether my approach is “theologically desirable”. I only care whether it is true. If I find myself worrying about the former, I try, with a sense of urgency, to correct myself for the sake of the truth of the Gospel.” In light of what I've said above, can you imagine a third way of understanding 'truth'?

You said: “The Christ event is the starting point of Christian theology—not the Old Testament. The Old Testament was merely used (prooftextually) as a support for the kerygma, to witness to it. As important as that witness was, it was secondary to the apostles’ witness.” How do you relate that to Barr's statements in this post?

Phil Sumpter said...

I should probably link to John's previous comments. so that others can follow them: they are here.

John C. Poirier said...

Phil,

You certainly have put more into this ongoing discussion than just about any other biblioblogger would do, and for that I thank you. Hopefully, we are getting somewhere.

Childs’s theory of meaning, on your review, appears to be formalist. I can certainly appreciate the sense in which a formalist view of meaning is not susceptible to the same charge of indeterminacy that a readerly view of meaning is. Yet the defense that that meaning is “deepened” or “broadened” isn’t one that I find very convincing. When certain things are deepened or broadened, they are in fact changed, and I can’t see how that doesn’t happen in the case of meaning. To say that a meaning is “deepened” or “broadened” is really to say that some sort of chronological development is taking place--i.e., it isn’t that the meaning was always deeper or broader than earlier readers took it, and this deeper and broader aspect was only discovered later. If your language is truly representative of what is going on with Childs’s view of meaning, then it is hardly possible, as far as I can see, to deny that a real change is taking place.

But let’s suppose that your way of putting it isn’t representiative of Childs (or that I am misunderstanding you), and that he really thinks of all these deep and broad aspects of meaning are always lying there in the text, unharvested, so-to-speak, in the early goings at it. This scheme might be more easily defensible against the charge of a changing meaning, but I’m still not all that sure. But then we at least would be stuck with some form of ecclesial indefectibility, because Childs seems to assume that the succeeding ways in which Scripture has been read throughout Church history provides a reliable roadmap of those valid dimensions of meaning. If that’s the case, the question naturally arises: Does Childs anywhere offer a defense of ecclesial indefectibilty? The traditional medieval prooftexts for that idea are really too weak to take seriously, and the pneumatology that that idea is often based on is utterly foreign to the New Testament.

There are also questions about the cause of the change from an originally intentionalist locus of meaning for the biblical writings in their pre-canonical state (when Paul’s letter to the Galatians meant what Paul meant by it), and the formalist meaning that they suddenly took on (according to Childs) when the Canon was formed. Does Childs provide a warrant for this sudden defection from one semiology to another? Certainly, the observation that the writings are collected into an authoritative collection does not imply any sort of warrant for this defection--attributing authority to a writing does not imply any sort of design on its semiology. (That was the point of my earlier charge that Childs *et al* are using a history-of-religions definition of “scripture” in place of one deriving from the New Testament’s function as the continuator of the apostolic witness.) And I can think of nothing within Scripture itself that would imply such a change. So what is it? Isn’t it really that something of the sort has to be assumed in order for Childs’s theories to work?

It also seems to me that Childs is reading a lot into Psalm 78. Why take “Let this (promise) be recorded for a generation to come so that a people unborn may praise Yahweh” as anything other than a call to archive this Psalm (in a general sense) so that a future generation may know the feats of its God? In other words, the more natural interpretation of this verse is to give this Psalm the same archival function of providing windows onto God’s character and faithfulness as that which underlies Paul’s understanding of Scripture’s function in 1 Cor 10:6: these things are “examples” for us. I don’t see any hint of open-endedness in what the Psalmist (or his redactor) calls for. So if this is a “canonical formula”, as Childs claims, I would suggest that it is a formula more in line with a Pauline conception of canon than with a Childsian conception. So is “the response from God to Israel’s complaint” applicable to succeeding generations? Yes, absolutely, but only because God’s nature, as revealed in the Psalm, is constant, and *not* because the Psalm’s meaning is referentially updated (or “deepened” or “broadened”) throughout the history of interpretation.

I think your remarks on Childs’s words from 1961, and the sense in which he might be able to wiggle free of Barr’s charge about having “two theories”, are dependent on whether Childs can get away with his formalist theory of meaning, which I think (as I explained above) is riddled with problems. But even if Childs’s formalist theory of meaning is correct, it would not obviate my claim that truth “is a matter of obtaining spacetime actuality”, as Childs’s theory, on your review, is about spacetime referents--it’s just that the referents somehow get updated (or something like that), or that they are valid at the level of some general ontological unity of Israel’s history. As for my “constructive proposal” of “what the kerygma is and why that means that Christian truth is just based on a set of key events in the life of the historical Jesus”, here it is: To be a Christian means to accept as true the kerygmatic narrative that Christ died, was buried, rose again, ascended to the right hand, and sent the Holy Spirit. Accepting these things as true means affirming their historicity, as the equation of truth with spacetime actuality is implicitly made by Paul in the arguments that he derives from the kerygma. To say that the philosophical shape of “truth” is based on the alethiological demands of the kerygma is certainly not to say that the kerygma represents the whole of what is true, or of what Christians *should* affirm. It certainly does not mean that the kerygma has some sort of higher truth value than other historically true things related in the Bible, as if there are degrees of truth. It’s just that the kerygmatic events are those that *must* be true for Christianity as a whole to be true, so that the question of what their truth means must be accepted as determinative for the alethiology of the Christian belief system.

As for how I relate my statement regarding the Christ event as the “starting point of Christian theology” to Barr’s statements, I don’t see any conflict at all. Barr is pointing out why the Old Testament is in the Christian canon--it is assumed (rightly, in my view) that the God of the Old Testament is the same God that sent Jesus Christ for our redemption. That it is the same God, and that those OT writings are basically true, does not mean that they are logically prior to the Christ event. What the canon is, and how it relates to Christian theology, is secondary to the truth of the kerygma. (By the way, this is just as true for the New Testament as for the Old: the kerygma is logically prior to the New Testament as well. That’s why I say that Christianity is not, in the strong sense, a scriptural religion. Its doctrine of Scripture is secondary to its doctrine of redemption.)

I hope this clarifies things a bit.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Hmm … I seem to be dropping in part way through a conversation, and I'm not sure what the above comments mean. Anyway …

The direction of thought is from God to Christ, from Father to Son, and not from Christ to God.

I disagree. For Christians, YHWH is "the God and father of our Lord, Jesus Christ". The phrase is definitional: God is disclosed to us, first and foremost, through the person and work of Christ. We do not begin with the OT and work forward; we begin with the Gospels and work outward in either direction.

Of course, there is some reciprocity at work here. I like your way of putting it, Phil, when you say that the OT scriptures provide the background necessary for us to make sense of the saving events of Christ's life. (Except you said it better than that.) But —

Brueggemann maintains, rightly in my view, that as soon as the Decalogue was delivered to Israel, rival schools of interpretation sprang up. In particular, there is a justice school and a purity school, represented even within the Penteteuch itself.

The battle continued to rage over the centuries, certainly leaving its mark on the prophetic texts. Into that theological turmoil came Jesus, who offered his own, unique perspective on God.

In the sermon on the mount, in particular, Jesus is so bold as to set his personal authority over against certain OT texts (e.g., with respect to divorce). Partly for this reason, Jesus was recognized as possessing a unique authority.

Jesus came down firmly on the side of justice (an inclusionary principle); against the Pharisees' preoccupation with purity (an exclusionary principle). In so doing, Jesus offered a particular vantage point on the OT texts; a lens through which those texts must be viewed. Moreover, the new covenant broadens God's concern to bring the Gentile nations into covenant relationship with God. That salvation-historical development, too, functions as a control on OT interpretation.

Thus Christians must begin with Jesus — his person and work; his disclosure of YHWH — when we set out to interpret and obey the OT texts.

Phil Sumpter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen (aka Q) said...

Once we're in [to the covenant], we start doing theology. And that means what I quoted Seitz saying above: think about our lives, Jesus, etc. on the horizon of God's plan for the world. Jesus cannot be comprehended outside of this horizon. His self-understanding and the interpretation of him by the apostles took place as an act of exegesis of the OT.

As I said above, I am largely in agreement with this approach. But I do think the idea of reciprocity is also extremely important.

I would like to know what you make of the pauline texts that refer to "the God and father of our Lord, Jesus Christ". I claim that expression is intended to offer a Christian definition of God. I would like to know your view.

Second, you are surely aware of the kinds of liberties the NT authors took in interpreting the OT. No one who read the OT story of Hagar and Sarah would come out where Paul did, except for the disorienting and reorienting experience of an encounter with Jesus Christ.

You needn't respond in this thread, if you don't want. But you would have to respond adequately to the above two points to make your case, in my mind.

Phil Sumpter said...

Stephen,

I do think the idea of reciprocity is also extremely important..

Indeed. The death and resurrection of the messiah was unexpected in the 1st century. His particular life provided a lens for reading the OT, as a means of opening it up (as Seitz says, the OT was recalibrated in the light of Jesus' work). The key will be to see how the two relate to each other (Jewish Scripture + kerygma about Jesus of Nazareth) and what the word 'fulfilled' mean. I look forward to your further contributions :)

"the God and father of our Lord, Jesus Christ"

I'm not sure if this says anything about 'direction', i.e. we go from Jesus to the Father. I'll have to take some time to look at. I'm sure reciprocity is an important concept here. I did a brief concordance search for Jesus' use of the term Father in Matthew. Here are the results:

"Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”
The disciples on their mission shouldn't fear, “for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
“So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven”
“All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother."
“For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father
"My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt."
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”
(You can get an online concordance of the RSV, by the way, here).

Second, you are surely aware of the kinds of liberties the NT authors took in interpreting the OT.
This is a complex issue that I would like to handle in more detail whenever I get to the issue of the literal and spiritual sense of scripture (point no# 2 of this thread). Important for now is to note that Paul was struggling with the text within the context of his broader understanding of the message of the Scripture as a whole, and not fine exegesis of individual passages, i.e. he was interested in the substance of the text. Childs talks of interpretation needing two stages (which he gets from the general hermeneutics of W. Dilthey): erklären (explanation) and verstehen (understanding). Paul's interpretation does not measure up to the first, but it arguably fulfils the second phase. They key is that his exegesis was not an arbitrary whim, nor a personal interpretation of the 'Christ event' detached from Scripture, but an interpretation of Scripture in its full canonical context in order to explain both Christ and the contemporary challenges of the church (i.e. the OT is necessary for further ecclesial guidance post Ascension).
Does that make sense? Feel free to push me to clarify myself better.

Daniel Driver said...

Man, I got to finish my dissertation before you cover all the ground I need to first, on your blog!

Phil Sumpter said...

That's why I'm achingly waiting for more comments from you! Your whole doctorate is so relevant for what I'm doing; your diss will be recommended reading! By the way, you should consider getting a RSS feed on your blog so I can display your updates on my new blogroll side bar thingy.

Phil Sumpter said...

Oops! I should add that my second to last post above was a mistake! I copied and pasted the entire text, including my own notes, into my post in addition to my own thoughts! How embarrassing. I'll repost the response here so that the whole thing is less confusing (at the cost of breaking the flow of the conversations):


John,

Although I don't know what a “formalist theory of meaning” is, you have misunderstood what I'm trying to get at. Childs does not believe that there are 'hidden' meanings, to be uncovered later by the church, and thus there is not need to a theology of 'ecclesial indefectability'. It's not a matter of a 'deeper aspect' being discovered later. It has to do with the nature of God's word itself, which is spoken to a people at a point in time but which is history-creating. It is a word of promise that brings about what God purposes, so that later generations can stand under its authority and testify to the way in which God's purposes are being continually worked out. I see no problem in 'changing' meaning if there is also an essential continuity with the 'original' meaning. This is illustrated in Ps. 102 (not 78) in that an original promise of redemption from Babylonian exile is in a sense understood against a broader backdrop of redemption from ultimate exile. This understanding is not an external interpretation of a finished Psalm, but built into the structure of the Psalm itself, so that those reading the finished product are constrained to read it according to its new shape. The redacted shape adjusts the semantic content of the Psalm in that it now points beyond the original historical moment to a broader horizon. This is why the Psalms could be used in the first temple period and continuing promises, fuelling messianic expectation. The expectation was not a random hope, but based exegetically on the final of an edited text, a form which now speaks of a reality which is more then that which the original recipients had expected but which stands in continuity with it. The fuller form is not true because an infallible ecclesial body redacted it, it's true because God's creative word is living and constrained those who heard it faithfully to respond editorially the way they did (this is obviously a theological interpretation of a historical fact). I should point out that the process I'm referring to here is inner-biblical, i.e. to do with the shaping of the text. After the closing of the canon (whenever that took place), God's word was understood to function differently. Today we speak of the Holy Spirit operating in terms of the finished product to lead us to God. We are in a different season. The redactional process just described belonged to a stage in the history of God's people which no longer pertains. Today, a fixed text provides us with the boundaries of right belief, outside of which heresy threatens. The continuity between us and ancient Israel is the continual speaking of God, even if the mode has changed. Ps. 102 may not be able to bear all this out in detail, but I hope to give more exegetical examples in time (Isaiah is particularly good, if complex. Seitz even considers the book a 'type' of the two-testamental Christian Scripture [i.e. “former things, latter things”]). I think that it is in terms of concrete examples that the debate should continue, as abstract discussions like this can quickly hit a stalemate. I'm going to start a series of posts going through Seitz's essay, ““In Accordance with the Scriptures”: Creed, Scripture, and “Historical Jesus”” (1998: 51 – 60) in order to help us in this. He's heavily based on the work of von Campenhausen, The Formation of the Christian Bible (1972). Have you come across it?

I also think that more precision is needed when talking about the Apostolic Witness. The outline of events which you have given are too reductive, leaving out the key phrase “according to the Scriptures”. Irenaeus' rule also talks of creation and the role of prophets. Do they belong to the kerygma? Seitz's essay goes into 1 Corinthians 15 a lot (if my memory serves me well).

You talk of the word “examples” in 1 Cor. 10:6. This still begs the question of what dimension of the text is to be taken as an example and how it functions. Something can function as an example without having to conform to the author's original intent. The hermeneutics of the early church needs to be looked at here, as their acceptance of the events were grounded in a meaningful way in the Old Testament witness. From what I hear from NT scholars, they weren't just about “proof texting”. Rather, the broader narrative was often taken into account, in which various texts were compared with each other. This enable new, more eschatological horizons to open up for interpreting contemporary events (not just Jesus). The shape of the Psalter, for example, goes a long way to explaining the davidic eschatological expectations, even while this 'eschatologising' shaping was beyond the purview of the 'author' of, say, Ps. 2.

You said: Accepting these things as true means affirming their historicity, as the equation of truth with spacetime actuality is implicitly made by Paul in the arguments that he derives from the kerygma.. I think that there has to be more then mere cognitive assent. Even the devil does that.

You wrote: it’s just that the kerygmatic events are those that *must* be true for Christianity as a whole to be true, so that the question of what their truth means must be accepted as determinative for the alethiology of the Christian belief system. . I agree with the first half of the sentence, but the second is a logical jump too far. Again, wait for my review of Seitz's essay.

I close with a quote from another of Seitz's books that I am reading at the moment:

“Christian theology grounded in the mind of Jesus or our reconstruction of what he thought he was doing is surely a truncating of the larger theological task: a description of how God was in Christ and how God is in Christ and how God will be in Christ” (2001: 111).

Stephen,

thanks for your contributions Stephen. You are right about Jesus being our only access point. Seitz also talks about this, though I think we need to make a distinction between 'conversion' and 'doing theology'. When I accept Jesus into my life, I am adopted into the covenant with Israel and Abraham becomes my father. There's been an 'ingrafting', and the oracles of God entrusted to the Jews can now, by virture of Jesus, be for me too. Jesus is my library card, so to speak, to the library of the Old Testament. Without him I would never be able to read the Old Testament and claim to be addressed by it's word, as the Old Testament is an exclusive relationship between God and his people. If I want in, it's either via Jesus or Torah. In this sense, for a gentile at least, Christian faith does start with Jesus. Not only does it start with him, he opens up the real meaning of the Old Testament, what's it's really all about. But once we're in, we start doing theology. And that means what I quoted Seitz saying above: think about our lives, Jesus, etc. on the horizon of God's plan for the world. Jesus cannot be comprehended outside of this horizon. His self-understanding and the interpretation of him by the apostles took place as an act of exegesis of the OT. The OT was not just a convenient source of aphorisms that could be surgically decontextualised and attached to a Jesus who was otherwise without precedent. The OT was the 'womb' from which he was born and in terms of which he makes sense, and can only make sense. This iswhat I mean by, ultimately, needing to God from the Father to the Son. Jesus' entire mission was to point to the Father, not to himself, and Jesus brought to fulfilment what the Father had promised long ago. His was not just one view among many, but rather a response to the theocentric force of the Old Testmaent (contra Brueggemann). There is a genuine sense in which he fulfilled the scriptures, and not only put his individual spin on things. He rejects divorce, not as a new authority who can override Moses, but by reference to Genesis! His mission is part of the story that started there, in terms of which even the Mosaic law makes sense (and brokered to us by the canonical shape, contra Brueggemann). The broadening of the covenant to include gentiles was not Jesus' personal interpretive slant (or 'imaginative construal'), it is already part of the Old Testament witness, e.g. Isaiah! The Suffering Servant's mission in that book makes sense as part of the overall plan of salvation for the world, he takes on Israel's mission as light to the nations and his “seed” benefit from what he achieved. It was not without reason that Ambrose sent Augustine to Isaiah to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I hope all this is clear. I understand that I am not always so articulate, espectially on the more philosophical issues to do with meaning and truth. A major advantage of conversations like these is that they show me what I need to work on!

P.S. What do you think of my Bonhoeffer quote? I feel it contributes to the question of Christian truth and the Old Testament (i.e. a naked kerygma, interpreted as five or so naked events, as insufficient for salvation or 'alethiology').