"... it is an important caricature of the relationship between exegesis and theological reflection to suggest that the former is an independent historical and philological exercise which seeks objectively to discover what the text actually says, whereas the latter is a subsequent and subjectively reflective activity, largely of a speculative nature. This misleading mischief goes back at least to the time of Gabler. ... Rather, I would argue that the relationship between exegesis and theology is a far more complex and subtle one which is basically dialectical in nature. One comes to exegesis already with certain theological assumptions and the task of good exegesis is to penetrate so deeply into the biblical text that even these assumptions are called into question, are tested and revised by the subject matter itself. The implication is also that proper exegesis does not confine itself to registering only the verbal sense of the text, but presses forward through the text to the subject matter (res) to which it points. Thus erklären and verstehen belong integrally together in the one activity and cannot be long separated. ... In itself the presence of a dogmatic decision accompanying the exegetical task is of little consequence; rather, the crucial issue turns on the quality of both the exegetical analysis and the theological reflection in relation both to the text and the subject matter. Recent critical work[*] on the problem of determining a text's sensus literalis has made it abundantly clear that the literal sense was never confined to a verbal, philological exercise alone, but functioned for both Jews and Christians as a "ruled reading" in which a balance was obtained between a grammatical reading and the structure of communal practice or a rule-of-faith (regula fidei)."[*] R. Lowe, "The Plain Meaning of Scripture in Ealry Jewish Exegesis" (1964); B.S. Childs, "The Sensus Literalis of Scripture: An Ancient and Modern Problem" (1976); K. Greene-McCreight, Ad Litteram: Understanding the Plain Sense of Scripture in the Exegesis of Augustine, Calvin and Barth of Genesis 1 - 3 (1994, Yale University dissertation).
Monday, 21 January 2008
The Relationship between Exegesis and Dogma: Childs' View
There's a bit of discussion going on at the moment in the blogosphere concerning the relationship between exegesis and dogma. I've already mentioned Christ Tilling's posts here. Mike Bird has made an independent contribution to the discussion here which is rightly corrected by Ben Myer's brilliant post here (though Mike responds in the long comment thread) with Doug's spot on reflections here. My tiny contribution to this discussion shall consist in quoting from that master of theological interpretation, who spent his career wrestling with the relationship between dogmatics and exegesis, Brevard Childs. This comes from his article, "Does the Old Testament Witness to Jesus Christ," in Evangelium, Schriftauslegung, Kirche (1997), 60: