the influence of the Old Testament on the individual shaping of the Gospels belongs to the level of the New Testament’s compositional history and cannot be directly related to the formation of the Christian Bible qua collection. This means that the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, either by direct citation or allusion, cannot provide a central category for Biblical Theology because this cross-referencing operates on a different level. There is no literary or theological warrant for assuming that the forces which shaped the New Testament can be simply extended to the level of Biblical Theology involving theological reflection on both testaments (Biblical Theology, 76).
Friday, 22 August 2008
Two testaments, four gospels: the hermeneutical significance of juxtaposition
I indicated in my post on the relation of the New Testament to the Old that a primary characteristic of the Christian two-testamental Bible is that these two testaments are simply juxtaposed to each other. There are no attempts to redactionally link them together, as we find in individual books such as Isaiah, or attempts to update the text of the Old Testament so that it speaks of Jesus more unambiguously (by inserting Jesus' name in Isaiah 53, for example).
In short, this juxtaposition of the two testaments is of a different order than the canonical shaping that gave us the individual books in the first place. According to Childs, this type of "canonical shaping" is comparable to the composition of the fourfold Gospel collection. Just like the two testaments, the Gospels were also simply juxtaposed without an attempt to make the individual books conform to a single redactional pattern. This has hermeneutical significance in that it is the resulting effect of the juxtaposition, rather than in a single editorial intentionality, that should guide theological interpretation. (This also demonstrates, I should point out, that canonical exegesis is commited to reckoning with various types of intentionality when dealing with the totality of Scripture.)
In contrast to the two-testamental canon, however, there is no cross-referencing within the fourfold Gospel collection amongst the individual Gospels. Each of the individual Gospels, however, makes constant and explicit reference to the Old Testament – albeit in different ways. Indeed, the use of the Old Testament plays a major role in the canonical shaping of each of the Gospels and many of the New Testament letters as well. Childs draws the following implication from this observation: