Friday, 29 August 2008

Questions for Biblical Theology

Nick Norelli posts the following two questions posed by Richard Bauckham in his article “Biblical Theology and the Problems of Monotheism”:

Has New Testament theology any need to take an interest in the historical reconstruction of Jesus attempted in the quest of the historical Jesus, or are the canonical renderings of Jesus in the four Gospels the only proper and sufficient concern of New Testament theology? Similarly, is a history-of-religions account of the origins and development of ancient Israel’s exclusive Yahwism relevant to the understanding of faith in YHWH that must be central to an Old Testament theology, not to mention a pan-biblical theology?
Out of Egypt: Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation, 197.

Here's the answer I wrote in response:

I think your answer to this depends on your dogmatic presuppositions concerning the nature of the Gospel. Brevard Childs would obviously take the canonical option, but theologically he was a Barthian. I think Childs' canonical approach can be greatly elucidated if you take into account Barth's concept of the "three times of the word," the nature of the texts as "witness" to revelation, and his understanding of the gospel as something which arises out of the dialectical interplay of the two testaments. Childs was also a fan of Hermann Diem, who wrote concerning the kerygmatic nature of the text that Jesus is both the subject and the object of the proclamation, during his earthly ministry but also afterwards in the preaching of the apostles. I think he extends this to the OT, thus giving theological legitimacy to tradition-criticism. Childs' canonical approach (which Baukham is inevitably referencing here) grew out of a tradtion-critical approach, arguing that if one is consistent then one must take the final form as authoritative given its critical nature in relation to earlier levels.

Sometimes, when I read the stuff I write, I wonder if it makes any sense to those outside the speciliased circle of an initiated few.

[HT Vox Stefani]


psalterium said...

I would agree that for biblical theology the final form is what should be dealt with. My interest though, lies with the story behind the final form particularly the Sitz im Leben.

Phil Sumpter said...

I think we need both, it's just a matter of how we relate them. The diachronic is necessary to help us understand "in what the final form consists" (Childs, for example, spoke of "different levels of consciousness" in the final form). Nevertheless, our knowledge of the historical context/development should function to help us interpret the final form. In this I disagree with those who think that the final form is a hermeneutically self-enclosed world.