Saturday, 17 November 2007

The Writing of Scripture

After a rather long excursus dealing with C. Seitz's article "In Accordance with Scripture" (the last of which, see here), I now return to my overarching project, which is to outline what a Christian heremeneutic might look like. The manifesto is here and the last post is here.

As I have tried to say so far, the Christian confession of faith postulates history as the arena within which God is unfolding his plans for the world. This plan involves God's creation of the world, his establishing within it a covenant people to be his instrument and witness, who then themselves, through Word and Spirit, are active within the world to bring about God's redemptive purposes (for a more classic formulation, check out Irenaeus' rule of faith).

The writing of Scripture, then, is an episode within this divine economy. Its function is to witness to this reality which is the life and sustenance of the church. Its authority for the covenant people of God lies in its ability to witness to this truth and to guide this people in terms of it. According to the Scripture itself, this relationship between God and his people is not static.
This very real, ongoing relationship 'outside' the text encompasses the process whereby the texts themselves are produced (from independent traditions to canonical Scripture). As such, 'authority' from a Christian perspective entails a diachronic dimension.

The result of this peculiar relationship between God and his people via Scripture is that the text has acquired its own theological dynamic. The process of collecting, interpreting and shaping the sacred traditions was primarily a theological one, in which the sacred heritage was shaped in such a way that it would be able to function as authoritative scripture for those who had not participated in the original events of revelation. It was a profoundly hermeneutic activity. An interpretive structure was given, contouring relationships between texts and setting the boundaries for later generations within which God's voice was to be heard. A “redactioned” or “ruled” reading of the texts, often characterised as “kerygmatic,” “confessional” or “canonical,” was thus required by later generations in order to hear God's word for a new day.

The closing of the canon fixed the shape of the text, focusing attention on the final form. After this point commentary became the accepted means of interpreting Scripture for changing needs.

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