In the preface to his Romans commentary, John Calvin offered two criteria by which to judge excellence in biblical interpretation, namely, lucid brevity. Perhaps it would be helpful after 400 years to expand his list in the form of a series of questions.
- Does the commentator do justice to the coercion of the biblical text, or does the author's private agenda overshadow the text itself?
- Does the creative imagination of the commentator lead the reader back to the biblical text or away from it?
- Does the interpretation reflect the needed patience and empathy to wrestle with the elements of the Bible that at first seem strange, distant, and even offensive to modern sensibilities?
- Has the commentator learned enough from the history of interpretation to retain a sense of modesty regarding his or her efforts and a critical respect for those who have illuminated the way in the past?
This is my own formulation, but I got the general idea from reading a lot of Childs. I wonder why it wasn’t included this quote? It was published in ‘97. Perhaps his move towards allegory wasn’t in full gear yet.
I’ve yet to listen to the Jenson lecutures to see what he would say on this.