"what we ordinarily take to be "real" is in fact a distorted picture of the world, and it is only the revelatory power of God's word that casts a true light on the landscape of human experience and, at the same time, heals our capacity to see" (p.6).
This is a non-foundationalist approach in that it recognises the central role of community in forming us as interpreters and thus seeks to locate interpretation of the Bible within the broader context of church tradition. I'll limit my review to what Hays considers 12 identifying marks of "biblical interpretation oriented to the knowledge of God":
- Theological exegesis is a practice of and for the church. These texts have been passed onto us by the church's tradition as the distinctive and irreplaceable testimony to events in which God has acted for our salvation. As such the are to be regarded at the outset as Scripture, not merely as a collection of ancient writings whose content is of historical interest. These texts are to be normative for the community.
- Theological exegesis is self-involving discourse. Interpreters themselves are addressed and claimed by the word of God that is spoken in the text, and we are answerable to that word. As a result theological exegesis will frequently contain pronouns in the first and second person. Such readings are closely interwoven with worship.
- At the same time, historical study is internal to the practice of theological exegesis. The reasons for this are theological: God has created the material world, and God has acted for the redemption of that world through the incarnation of the Son in the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth.
- Theological exegesis attends to the literary wholeness of the individual scriptural witnesses. The Bible must be read neither as an anthology of disconnected theological sound bites nor, on the other hand, as a single undifferentiated story. Rather, the Bible contains a chorus of different voices, and the distinctive integrity of each part in the chorus is essential to its polyphonic performance (cf. the fourfold Gospels).
- The fifth point is the dialectical converse of the previous one: theological exegesis can never be content only to describe the theological perspectives of the individual biblical authors; instead, it always presses forward to the synthetic question of canonical coherence. We must seek the big picture, asking how any particular text fits into the larger biblical story of God's gracious action.
- Theological exegesis does not focus chiefly on the hypothetical history behind the biblical texts, nor does it attend primarily to the meaning of texts as self-contained works of literature; rather, it focuses on these texts as testimony. This means we need to learn to stand where these witnesses stand and look where they point in order to learn to see as they see. In this way we will find our vision trained anew.
- The language of theological exegesis is intratextual in character, i.e we should remain close to the primary language of the witnesses rather than moving away from the particularity of the biblical testimony to a language of second-order abstraction that seeks to "translate" the biblical imagery into some other conceptual register.
- Theological exegesis, insofar as it stays close to the language and conceptions of the NT witnesses, will find itself drawn into the Bible's complex web of intertextuality. This includes citations, allusions as well as typological correspondences between the testaments.
- Theological exegesis thereby is committed to the discovery and exposition of multiple senses in biblical texts. OT texts, when read in relation to Jesus, take on new resonances.
- Learning to read the texts with the eyes of faith is a skill for which we are trained by the Christian tradition. Consequently, we can never approach the Bible as if we were the first ones to read it - or the first to read it appropriately. Theological exegesis will find hermeneutical aid, not hindrance, in the church's doctrinal traditions.
- Theological exegesis, however, goes beyond repeating traditional interpretations; rather, instructed by the example of traditional readings, theological interpreters will produce fresh readings that encounter the texts anew with eyes of faith and see the ways that the Holy Spirit continues to speak to the churches through the same ancient texts that the tradition has handed on to us.
- Finally, we must always remember that we are not speaking about our own clever readings and constructions of the text but, rather, of the way that God, working through the text, is reshaping us (cf. Hebrews 4:12). This means that theological exegesis must always be done from a posture of prayer and humility before the word.
Despite the many points of commonality with Childs' approach, there is still room for qualification (especially the overly NT emphasis of point 8!). Hays goes on to give a case study in relation to the Christology of Luke 7:18-23. I have to say, I find it hard to see the difference between his exegesis and that of a more talented historical-critic in tune of intertextual issues and the implications of the text for the bigger picture. For an example of theological exegesis which more seriously works with the two testamental nature of the Bible, I recommend Seitz's essay "Isaiah in New Testament, Lectionary, Pulpit" (1998:213-228).
Nevertheless, this is promising stuff and will definitely be a reference point for work to come.