Sunday, 30 November 2008

Mishna as revelation

“When we say say a blessing before and after we read the Torah in the synagogue, we say ... נתֵן הַתּוֹרה—who gives the Torah—meaning here and now. By our presence we receive the Torah, here and now. This book [i.e. Neusner's] is meant to help you receive and accept, make use of, the Torah in the concrete and everyday world you know: It is not about the past and in no way concerns a book which came down to us from a particular place or time in history. It is about God's revelation which God gives day by day, and which, as I said, we receive day by day. If Mishnah is not that, if Mishnah merely is a work out of “Jewish history,” then Mishnah is not worth your time and attention. For what makes all the effort required to master this difficult book worthwhile is not that it is a monument to a dead past, but that it is an urgent challenge to the living present, to you and me” (Jacob Neusner, Learn Mishnah, Preface).

I find his belief in the ongoing, living dimension of torah as revelation interesting. I wonder how this relates to Barth's understanding of "the three times of the Word"?

This focus on the text as guide for the present, as a kind of pragmatic manual perhaps, carries a different nuance to the Christian approach to the text. Bob MacDonald summarizes it nicely:

Torah is not text but engagement with the one to who the text points. The medium is neither the messenger nor the source of the message.
Though see my qualification of this here.

Update: I've just noticed that Kevin Edgecomb of Biblicalia has been posting an incredibly detailed review of Neusner's theology of the oral torah. If I ever find the time to study Judaism in detail, I think I will simply get hold of all of Neusner's works and read them through. There's a lot to be said for choosing one scholar as an orientation point for grappling with a complex subject.

P.S. Neusner was Childs' roomate for a while in Yale, I believe, and had an impact on Childs' understanding of Judaism.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

My take on "verbal revelation"

I recently quoted James Smart, who claims that

revelation is in the text itself, in the words ... It is through these words and no others that God intends to speak to us, and, when he does, we know that there is no other kind of inspiration than verbal inspiration.
Criticisms were made in the comments. Particularly insightful were those of Bob Macdonald:

Torah is not text but engagement with the one to who the text points. The medium is neither the messenger nor the source of the message (emphasis mine).
I agree with both points of view. They don't contradict each other, rather, they are pointing to two different dimensions of the issue. Smart's comment refers to the place where revelation is accessed now, whereas Bob's comment refers to the revelation itself. Revelation itself is, as Barth put it, the reality of God-with-us (Immanuel), and this is hardly a text but a living reality.

Nevertheless, what does it mean to say that “God is with us”? What is the nature of this reality? Our dogmatic assumptions must shape our approach to the text.

In the Bible, God's self revelation is seen as progressive (Exodus 6:3). The “one to whom the text points” is a profound being (Andrew Louth puts it eloquently here), one that needs to be sought. He certainly reveals himself suddenly and without expectation—and still does!—but he also hides himself and wishes to be found. In the Old Testament he is to be sought at specific places: cultic centres and ultimately the temple. He also reveals himself through the laws of the universe (the burden of Wisdom literature), through his written Torah, through the example and teaching of elders, priests, and parents. Within this universe, text is at least one medium of revelation.

Within this unfolding story of the Bible, however, we see that texts take on more and more significance. Moses receives his revelation directly from God, but he writes it down and the text becomes the vehicle of ongoing revelation and guidance (see my post, God, Moses, and Scripture). According to Jer 36, Jeremiah has his prophecies written on a scroll which survives to speak to new generations. C. Seitz summarises the implications of this chapter as follows:

the chapter tells of the victory of the Word of God. The king can kill prophets who speak God's word (see Jer 25:23); he can debar God's spokesman from the temple (Jer 36:5); he can callously burn God's word in a brazier until the entire thing is consumed (Jer 36:23). But the prophet lives to speak the word anew, and the scroll is recomposed (Jer 36:32). And more to the point: the new scroll will outlive the divine spokesman and the evil generation headed by Jehoiakim. In the end, God's word cannot be thwarted (ZAW 101:1, 1989, p. 14).
Indeed, Seitz sees a parallel between Jeremiah's scribe Baruch and Moses's successor Joshua:

just as Joshua brough new tables of the tôrāh to a new generation in a new day, so too the scribe Baruch symbolizes the survival of a new scroll from the prophet Jeremiah which will address a new generation of faith “in all the places to which (it) may go” (Jer 45:5) (p. 18).
He concludes that in Jer 45

we see a foreshadowing of the movement of prophecy into a new mode, as clarified in a later rabbinic dictum: “Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from the prophets and given to the wise” (B. Bathra 12a).
We need to add to this our growing understanding of the nature of Biblical tradition itself, which went through a process of textualization or “inscripturation.” We see this in particular in the case of the “Book of the Twelve.” The “reality of revelation” within time and space to particular prophets is one thing, but within the context of God's economy of salvation it seems that the witness to this original Word has been enriched and expanded so that its true dimensions, understood with the advantage of hindsight (e.g. exilic redaction), find literary (“verbal”) expression in the final form of the text.

This is the conclusion of a scholar not known for his commitment to “synchronic” reading: Jörg Jeremias. See his comments on the literary (though not "historical" - in the narrow sense of the word) interrelation of Hosea and Amos:

The book of Amos very probably never existed without Am 7:10-17, and 7:10-17 very probably never existed without its hermeneutical key in Am 7:9. this verse urges the reader not to perceive Amos as an isolated prophet but to relate his message to the message of Hosea. They are to be seen as two messengers with one common message … .
The curiosity of the modern historian about the specific and singular elements in one prophet was quite alien to the traditionists. They did not want the words of either Hosea or Amos to be read with historical interest for a distant past but with a current interest in their words as a help for present problems. They were asking about the one message of God by two messengers (but without creating something like Tatian's harmony of the gospels). … (1996: 181, 182-183)
(I've posted a similar quote by Jermias in German, in Canon and the essence of prophecy)

This is simply a brilliant way to express the key concern of Childs' canonical approach. See also my thread on New Testament scholar Paul Minear, who holds that the Bible's view of “reality” should challenge that of the historian's - with hermeneutical implications.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Quote of the day: Verbal revelation

The revelation is in the text itself, in the words that confront us there in all their strangeness, and not in a history or a personal biography or an event that we reconstruct by means of the text. The event of revelation is available to us only through the text of Scripture interpreted in the context of the church. It is through these words and no others that God intends to speak to us, and, when he does, we know that there is no other kind of inspiration than verbal inspiration. Far from implying any divinizing of the words of Scripture, verbal inspiration understood in its Biblical sense takes the words of the text with full seriousness as the words of real men, spoken or written in a concrete human situation, and yet at the same time words in which God ever afresh reveals himself to me. [*]

What do people think of this? Is it justified? What are the alternatives?

[*]James Smart, Interpretation of Scripture, 195-196; cited in Stephen B. Chapman, "Reclaiming Inspiration for the Bible," 200.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Quote of the day: Some Rabbinic logic

I randomly opened Neusner's translation of the Mishna today, and came across the following quote. I don't want to make any kind of statement by posting it, I just wanted to record it as an interesting example of rabbinic logic. And as a reminder of how foreign that world is to me.

4:7 A. They asked sages in Rome, "If [God] is not in favor of idolatry, why does he not wipe it away?"

B. They said to them, "If people worshipped something of which the world had no need, he certainly would wipe it away.

C. "But lo, people worship the sun, moon, stars, and planets.

D. "Now do you think he is going to wipe out his world because of idiots?"

E. They said to them, "If so, let him destroy something of which the world has no need, and leave something which the world needs!"

F. They said to them, "Then we should strengthen the hands of those who worship these [which would not be destroyed], for then they would say, 'Now you know full well that they are gods, for lo, they were not wiped out!'"
Now I think about it, I have made an attempt to find parallels between Jewish and Christian thought in my post on The Talmud on "costly grace."

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Rambam on midrashic exegesis

David Guttmann of Believing is Knowing has posted an interesting discussion of the nature of midrash from the Rambam's perspective in his post: The Relationship Between Midrashic Exegesis and the Written Text. Here's an interesting quote by the Rambam:

As regards the four species [the branches of the palm tree, the citron, the myrtle, and the willows of the brook], our Sages gave a reason for their use by way of Midrashim, the method of which is well known to those who understand their discourse. They use the text of the Bible only as a kind of poetical language [for their own ideas], and do not intend thereby to give an interpretation of the text. Accordingly, with regard to the Midrashim, people are divided into two classes. For some think that, the Midrash contains the real explanation of the text, whilst others, finding that it cannot be reconciled with the words quoted, reject and ridicule it. The former struggle and fight to prove and to confirm such interpretations according to their opinion, and to keep them as the real meaning of the text; they consider them in the same light as traditional laws.
Check out the whole thing.

For a related post, see my attempt to distinguish between Christian and Jewish appropriations of the Law of Moses.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Barth's son wrote an Old Testament introduction/theology

How bizarre. This should be exquisitely interesting to me as a major thesis of mine is that Childs' canonical approach cannot be understood without a theology of something like Karl Barth's "three times of the word" (Das Wort Gottes in seiner dreifachen Gestalt).

Interestingly, the book was originally written in Indonesian, where Christoph Barth was working as a missionary. It is apparently still the standard work there and reflects the concerns of this struggling minority.

According to reviews, it bears many similarities to von Rad's Old Testament Theology. I wonder what his father would have thought? I'm reminded of one of Brevard Childs' anecdotes about visiting a lecture by von Rad where Karl Barth was sat near to him:

There was always a sort of tension, even in those years, between those studying the Bible and Barth. I remember one incident in 1952 when Gerhard von Rad gave a lecture in Basel on the "Typological Exegesis of the Old Testament". I happened to be sitting rather near to Barth, and I was interested in his reaction. For me von Rad's lecture was simply glorious, crystal clear and exciting. When he finished, Barth turned around in a half sleepy way to the person next to him and said: "I don't quite get it". This seemed to me an appalling response, and I felt like saying, "Herr Prof., let me explain it all to you". Fortunately, I restrained the impulse. Yet in the years that have passed, and the more I have studied von Rad's lecture, the more I began to understand why Barth found problems, and why it wasn't as clear as I once had thought" (lecture at Yale, 1969).
You can read large portions of the book on Google Books.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

F. Watson on reading and re-reading the Old Testament

The following is an eloquent quote by Francis Watson in response to Christopher Seitz's rather stinging critique of his Text and Truth: Redefining Biblical Theology (which I haven't read yet). I have to say, I find the exchange in the Scottish Journal of Theology rather odd, as Watson's response seems to simply affirm all of Seitz's points and claims that they were there all along. It seemed fairly Childsian to me, though Seitz's summary of Watson's take on Childs would have led me to think otherwise. Watson makes one comment on von Rad which I would critique, but that is for another post.

Here's a quote I like:
Despite its one-sidedness, the 'discrete witness' model is a serious attempt to articulate an important element in the phenomenon of the Christian canon. As the Lucan Emmaus Road story shows, the Christian reading of Jewish scripture as 'Old Testament' is a re-reading of a scripture that is already read and known, in the light of the completed event of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. (The story also shows that the risen Jesus cannot be recognized as such except on the basis of a scripture re-read as testimony to the suffering and vindication of the Christ; so there is no question of any one-way, undialectical movement from the New Testament to the Old.) In the light of Easter Day, the law and the prophets can be seen as preparing the way for what has now come to pass. But this only becomes apparent retrospectively: the prophets themselves had only the haziest knowledge of the future event to which, for Christian hindsight, they bore witness (1 Pet.1.10-12). Christian Old Testament interpretation is therefore a re-reading, a second reading that clarifies and re-orders the first reading. A re-read text (a novel, for example) is a text read in the light of a prior knowledge of the whole - a knowledge as yet unavailable to the first-time reader. The second reading does not simply repeat the first reading, but neither does it erase it; it preserves within itself the knowledge that, although the end or goal is now known, that was not the case at first. Old Testament texts should therefore initially be interpreted within a pruely Old Testament context, with distinctively Christian concerns temporarily bracketed out. The 'discrete witness' that emerges in this way is only a preliminary and provisional witness whose scope will be clarified and expanded by the second, explicitly Christian reading. But the initial preliminary and provisional witness remains an indispensable foundation for the re-reading. (220-230)
I couldn't agree more, and neither could Brevard Childs (the jab about the "discrete witness" of the Old Testament is aimed at Childs). This review was written in 1999, so perhaps Watson has changed his mind now, having read Childs' later work and articles. Though having said that, there is nothing here that isn't already in his Biblical Theology ...

Friday, 21 November 2008

Advent ist noch nicht Weihnachten!

The following was written by Margot Käßmann, Lutheran Bishop of Hannover. I fully agree (it seems to be a Dauerthema for her: see here).

Liebe Leserinnen und Leser,

freuen Sie sich auf dei Adventszeit? Oder fürchten Sie sich vor dem Rummel? Schon jetzt merken wir es - der Stress fängt an. Im Radio wird gefragt, ob wir die Geschenke schon haben, die Regale sind seit Anfang September voll mit Lebkuchenherzen und Weihnachtsmännern. Das ärgert mich alle Jahre wieder. Deshalb möchte ich Sie einladen: Lassen Sie uns gemeinsam Advent neu entdecken. In der christlichen Tradition ist der November die Zeit der Kunkelheit, da geht es um Volkstrauertag, Bußtag und Ewigkeitssonntag. Und danach freuen wir uns, wenn langsam aber sicher Licht in die Dunkelheit kommt. Ein Licht nach dem anderen läßt es hell werden. Das ist die Zeit des Wartens auf Jesus, der Licht in unsere Welt gebracht hat.
Ja, und wenn dann der Weihnachtsbaum leuchtet, dann ist es hell geworden, und wir hören die alten Worte: euch ist heute der Heiland geboren.
Ich bin kein Advents- und Weihnachtsmuffel, o nein. Ich kann mich jedes Jahr neu freuen, wenn Türchen geöffnet werden, Plätzchenduft durch's Haus zieht und die Fenster beleuchtet sind. Aber eben zur rechten Zeit! In der Bibel heißt es: Alles hat seine Zeit. Deshalb lassen Sie uns warten, Advent ist im Dezember. Lassen Sie uns Mut haben zum Warten, zur Frage nach Trauer, Buße und Tod im November - Ängste und Sorgen kännen wir nicht vorschnell überzuckern, das merken wir doch dieses Jahr ganz besonders. Und dann, im Dezember wünsche ich Ihnen eine gesegnete Adventszeit mit Backen, Geschenke kaufen und dem Anzünden der Lichter.
Dann hören wir wieder: Nun soll es werden Frieden auf Erden.

Margot Käßmann
evang.-luth. Landesbischöfin von Hannover

An ex-Orthodox Jew posts on Jesus

An ex-Orthodox Jew shares his thoughts over at Lubab No More. He obviously has a lot of respect for the guy, though given his reconstruction of the historical Jesus I'm not sure what his sources are. Here's an interesting comment:

Ironically, being raised an Orthodox Jew is quite possibly the best preparation in the world for understanding the Christian gospel. A Protestant Christian can read the New Testament and perhaps imagine to herself the religious philosophy Jesus sought to overthrow. An Orthodox Jew has lived it. (The other side of this irony, of course, is that you can't truly understand Rabbinic Judaism until you've read the gospels.)

I'll leave it to those more knowlegable in New Testament to respond, but do share your thoughts! Interestingly, here's the first comment by No One:

avraham abulfia [kabalist born in 1240] held he was a kind of proto type messiah called messiah son of joseph.this is scattered in his writtings.
The image above, taken from the post, is of Rabbi Hillel. The text he's expounding says: And you shall love your neighbour as yourself. This, of course, was part of what Jesus held to be the "golden rule" (Luke 10:27).

Update: This isn't directly relevant, but Freethinking Upstart has fascinating post on the distinction between (Jewish) orthodoxy and orthopraxy. This is of particular interest to me as a Christian, as in contrast to Jews, we don't ask: "he is a practising Christian," but "is he a believing Christian?" The former without the latter would be an oxymoron. On second thoughts, the latter without the former would also be an oxymoron (James 2:14).

Thursday, 20 November 2008

This is the right interpretative context!

I've stolen the first quote from Jason Goroncy of P e r ∙ C r u c e m ∙ a d ∙ L u c e m:

When I am faced by such a document as the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, I embark on its interpretation on the assumption that he is confronted with the same unmistakable and unmeasurable significance of that relation [with the figure of Jesus Christ] as I myself am confronted with, and that it is this situation which moulds his thought and its expression. [*]
This echoes Brevard Childs' approach to Biblical Theology:
A major thesis of this book is that much of this modern critical rejection of dogmatic theology has been misplaced and that only when one is able to relate the various biblical witnesses to their subject matter, or substance, can one begin to comprehend the nature of the Bible's coherence.[**]
[*]– Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans (trans. E.C. Hoskyns. 2 ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), 10.
[**] Brevard Childs, Biblical Theology, 551.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Zitate zum Bußtag

Ich glaube, daß ich deswegen Christ bin, weil ich durch einzelne Christen erfahren habe und noch immer erfahre, was Vergebung ist. In ihr ist mir die schöpferische Herausforderung Jesu konkret begegnet. Vergebung befreit und verändert: mich, den anderen und unsere Beziehung zueinander. Vergebung setzt frei, wo Gefangenschaft war. Sie schafft eine Solidarität, die auch unsere dunklen, gefährlichen Seiten mitträgt. Dadurch wird sie zu einer Quelle von Freundschaft und Liebe.


Da unser Herr und Meister Jesus Christus spricht: "Tut Buße", hat er gewollt, daß das ganze Leben der Gläubigen Buße sei.


Umkehr ist der schnellste Weg voran.


Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Form Criticism and the Canonical Approach

Here's an interesting question I was asked recently:

Should we take canonical criticism as a logical extension of the "traditional" methods like source and form criticism?

This question was made in response to my endorsement of a quote by Sweeney on the "canonical potential" of form criticism. Here's my brief answer:

I do indeed think that "canonical criticism [is] a subset of form criticism." I'm not sure if many have cottoned onto to this, but as far as I am concerned it is vital to an understanding of Childs that form criticism, with its focuss on proclamation, be seen as the methodological presuppostion of the canonical approach (see my post on a theological justification for form criticism). However, a canonical approach also attempts to go beyond the atomizing inherent in the form critical method. It seeks to do two things: 1) appreciate the text's genre ("form") as a kerygmatic witness; and 2) think about the true nature of the object of this witness (the text's "ultimate subject matter," its "substance," res or Sachverhalt). In short, if it is the case that the texts witness to a divine Word, a creative reality (Isa 55:11) which "overtakes generations" in new and profound ways (Zech 1:6), then it makes sense that the final form is both the telos of the text's tradition history and the site of the fullest form of divine revelation. This is the ground for an appreciation of the power and integrity of the final form of the text, and not an attempt to bracket out historical criticism with literary theories of textual unity or appeals to the creativity of reader response (as useful as the insights of both these approaches may be).

The unity of the text is in its referent, so that form criticism kind of "dissolves" as its fragmentary, partial witness to something outside of and bigger than itself is elided in the canonical process, which is the history of the relationship between God and His people.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

The Nicene Creed - some interpretations

In my book review of Brazos Presses' Nicene Christianity, I summarized those articles dealing with the nature of creeds as such and their role within the life of the Church. In this post, I outline the rest of the essays in the book, each of which deal with a different article of the Nicene Creed.

C. Seitz opens with the first article, focussing on the phrase maker of heaven and earth. His approach is strongly exegetical, attempting to show the Biblical roots of the phrase and the meaning the creed therefore assumes in its current elliptical form. The phrase “maker of heaven and earth” is often tied to the personal name of God, the LORD, which assumes a particular identity in Israel's unique history. Jesus is not related to “deity,” he is related to Yhwh. This holds for all the propositions in the first article: “Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, each in its own way bespeaks the divine and sacred name” (28). The implication is that it is not possible to talk of the Son without reference to the Father, who is the foundation for faith. In this light, attempts to recover a “historical” Jesus, measure his work according to an abstract standard of truth, or reduce the Father to the beneficia Chrisit are to be avoided.

C. Gunton struggles with the tension between exegesis and theology in his treatment of One Lord, ... Begotten, Not Made .... Both creedal and Biblical formulations of Jesus' “begottenness” are not clear enough to rebuke the threat of Arianism, which undermines Christ's salvific significance. The creedal formulation risks depersonalizing the Son and thus risks marring the image of God, who is “the one who is the love of Father and Son in the Spirit” (38; emphasis mine). An attempt to recapture Jesus' uniqueness by turning to Scripture, however, faces the challenge of his time-conditionality. How do we speak of one who is eternally begotten? The solution lies at a more abstract level of analysis. Though in terms of the economic Trinity the Son is subordinate to the Father, at the level of the immanent Trinity it is soteriologically necessary to hold that he is fully divine. The absolute distinction between Creator and creation requires us to believe that if someone is to restore a sinful creation back to its maker, he cannot partake of that creation's sinfulness. Gunton summarizes: “The paradox is twofold: first that by putting this man, and this man alone, on the side of the Creator we maintain the integrity of the creation; and we can do it while remaining true to a confession of his full humanity” (44). “Eternally begotten” maintains the necessary tension between the economic and immanent Trinities and enables us to maintain a sense of the monarchy of the Father without rendering the Son as less then fully divine.

A. Torrance deals with the question of Jesus' Being of one substance with the Father. This truth's affirmation is the ground and warrant of both our salvation and our ability to talk about God in the first place. Epistemologically, “Jesus mediates knowledge of God because he is Immanuel” (56). But epistemic access to the Godhead also has a Trinitarian structure: the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit, who is also “of one being with the Father,” creates the necessary subjective conditions for a recognition of the Incarnate Word. Soteriologically, only Jesus can save as sin is essentially against God, and thus only He Himself can deal with it. To this dimension belongs also his essential humanity: God Himself provides the requisite human response, and in doing so also makes it possible for us too to have the mind of Christ.

J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P., deals with the question of creation in terms of the science-theology relation. Whereas science and philosophy can analyse creation's physical and ontological structures, a theological account of the cosmos as the stage for a divine drama which seeks to share its life with humanity is required in order to “personalize” the universe. Creation is the decision of a free agent, and humanity as the imago dei is uniquely capable of entering into this relationship. God's presence amidst evolution is understood in terms of secondary causes, providentially guiding creation to its providential goal. The recently developed “anthropic principle,” which argues that creation itself is directed to the emergence of human life as such creates space for potential fruitful dialogue.

R. Jenson expands our categories to breaking point in his treatment of “He was made man” by attempting a form of “revisionary metaphysics.” How can Jesus' pre-existence be considered “incarnate,” a logical necessity if we do not wish to posit two separate identities for him? Jenson's answer has to do with the nature of the place he came from: heaven. Heaven is part of creation, yet not as another piece of space but as the future mode of the final kingdom. Jesus comes to us from this created eschatological future in the power of the Spirit, who is the agent and power of that future. The incarnation occurs in this agency, “in the absolute possibility that is the final reality of historical being” (82), so that the future comes from where Jesus is. “There is only one advent of the messiah.”

D. Yeago outlines the implications of the clause Crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. In short, the effect of the cross is to transform reality, as “divine love acts in a human way and human acts have divine force” (91). This global redemption took place as an episode in Israel's history in that Jesus accomplished the righteousness which was Israel's vocation: The cross was the “final test and unsurpassable realization of Jesus' distinctive way of being human” (97). The outcome is public: a renewed community with a divine calling and commandments. The “relational space” marred by sin is cleared by the cross, so that genuine communion with God is possible, as it takes place in Jesus alone, the new humanity and our hope.

C. Braaten reminds us the importance of physical Resurrection, which confirms Jesus' claims and continues his cause in history. Braaten outlines the various takes on the issue by key theologians (Pannenburg, Barth, Bultmann etc.) and concludes that it was an objective event, constituting a new mode of being in continuity with the old, applied by the Holy Spirit in preaching and the sacraments. The effect of such faith is motivation for mission, as the “resurrection is God's unique way of reclaiming the whole world for himself” (118).

D. Farrow confesses the significance of Christ's coming, which cannot be understood apart from Christ's ascension and heavenly session. Melchizedek provides the paradigm for understanding, as it combines the political dimension—Christ is the final authority as he currently rules through his church—and the priestly (Aaronic)--Christ's ascension to heaven completes the atonement, from where he now receives our sacramental thanksgiving. His return will be a public display in which he comes as judge. This return (parousia) will be the end of history as we know it, nevertheless it will break into our history. It will be an act of new creation, a fundamental act of reordering that impinges on creaturely reality.

T. Smail offers an overview of the Holy Spirit. His being is constituted by the Trinity, as he “furthers the purposes of the Father as revealed in the gospel of the incarnate Son” (151). In this movement he is a person, taking on a different role to Jesus as enabler of subjective response to Jesus and communicator of eschatological life. His relation to Father and Son has been a cause of division between East and West. After reviewing the pros and cons of each proposal, Smail offers his own suggestion: “from the Father there originate two converging movements of divine self-giving. On the one hand, the Son comes from the Father through the Spirit; on the other, the Spirit comes from the Father through the Son” (165).

K. Green-McCreight works out the implications of He spoke through the Prophets. Amongst other things, it testifies to the unity of Scripture as a whole. The Patristic term skopus signifies goal and boundary of Scripture, understood to be and objective reality, not entirely identifiable with the text but related to it and borne by it. Divine meaning, then, is not identifiable with pure lexical meaning, so that a rule of faith is necessary as part of our hermeneutic. By hearing the parts in relation to the whole, Scripture interprets itself. The rule also functions as a guide for evaluating different interpretations: they must account for the unity of the God of Israel and the new covenant.

W. J. Abraham talks of the siginficance of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. This clause is was not a definition but a witness to a living historical reality, a reality no longer fully evident. Given the tension between the fact that the most adequate referent of the creed is the Eastern church (they didn't introduce the filioque clause), yet the Holy Spirit, who is the true source of the church, as deigned to create multiple divided churches, we must pray for a new Pentecost and return to the church of the creed. This will involve 1) a return to the canonical heritage of the 1st millennium, 2) a relativising of our epistemological commitments, and 3) reckoning with the real possibility of divine judgement. Perhaps then the beautiful metaphors for the church in the New Testament will once again become more of a reality.

S.K. Wood negotiates the ecumenical challenge of one baptism for the forgiveness of sins from a catholic perspective. The prime distinction between believer's baptism and infant baptism is not the requirement of a mature profession of faith (both affirm that), but rather the location of that faith. For Catholics, there is a complex dynamic between the community, which proceeds the individual by nurturing him, and the individual himself, who must believe. Thus parents believe by proxy, until the child decides for itself in post-baptismal catechism. However it takes place, though, baptism is into the one Lord, who alone constitutes the unity of the churches. This raises the question of why baptised Protestants may not partake of the Eucharist. The answer is that Eucharist completes the unity the baptism only initiates, as it is here that “ecclesial and christological communion achieves repeatable sacramental visibility” (197). The Eucharist, however, separates the churches by identifying them in their particularity. This brings us to a bind: sacramental unity depends on ecclesial unity, yet the reverse is also true. However this is negotiated, the connection of baptism to Eucharist must be maintained as both constitute the church.

V. Guroian's contribution on the resurrection is unique in that it consists of an poetically evocative letter to his suffering mother, rather than abstract theology or biblical exegesis. It is theology in practice, as he weaves images from the Bible, nature, and poetry into a testimony to the need for faith in the resurrection of the flesh.

Friday, 14 November 2008

When do the fireworks begin?

Attention to canon is not the end but only the beginning of exegesis. It prepares the stage for the real performance by clearing away unnecessary distractions and directing the audience's attention to the main show which is about to be experienced.
B.S. Childs, "The Canonical Shape of the Prophetic Literature, " Interpretation 32 (1978), 46-55; here, 55.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The canonical approach - a quick response

The following questions, queries, and propositions are fairly typical of those encountering the canonical approach. They arose in the process of a dialogue on my last post, Is the canonical approach uncritical? I always appreciate this kind of intellegent interaction, so I've attached my own comments to each italicized statement.

I'm wondering how canonical criticism accounts for the fact that canonization follows composition

That "canonization" in the formal sense of deciding which books count of authoritative is a late phenomenon is clear to all. The issue as far as B.S. Childs is concerned turns on the nature of the relationship between the different stages of the development of the Bible. Childs claims that the final fixing of the canon was not an act external to the development of the text, or outside the history of revelation. Rather, throughout its history, Israel has related to its God in terms of a body of sacred tradition, the function of which was to guide this people in faith and practice. The function of sacred tradition was always dialectical: Israel did its “theology” in light of its tradition and it understood its tradition in the light of a growing understanding of God. There was thus a kind of “progressive revelation” which was constantly registered in the developmental history of the text so that later editorial layers (e.g. the Pentateuch) or collections (the Psalms) witnessed more fully and adequately to the reality of God only fragmentarily touched upon in earlier stages. The decision to make a five-book Torah or a 150 Psalm Psalter is part of this ongoing process. It stretches, indeed, to the establishment of the final scope of the Bible as a whole. That there is ambiguity at this level (which canon? Which text?) is not a problem for the canonical approach. This ambiguity belongs to the "canonical process."

It is important to point out that within Childs' conception there is diversity is this history, and this diversity ought to be registered in our exegesis. The juxtaposition of the minor prophets in a twelvefold book, for example, is an example of "canonical shaping" of a different order to the juxtaposition of the three major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel). The juxtaposition of the Gospels is similar yet different to the juxtaposition of the two Testaments (on which see my post Two Testaments, four Gospels). Thus, we need the subtlety that the historical critical methods give us, but at the same time we also need to read the parts in light of this broader movement, i.e. as part of the final form of Scripture. Childs' cypher for this process is “canonical” (because the tradition function as a κανων; cf. my post: Redaction and the rule of faith). Thus, on his terms, the formal “canonization” you are talking about is part of a process that indeed involves composition, and is not a hermeneutically insignificant afterthought.

Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox all have slightly different canons.

In terms of the scenario painted above, this ambiguity belongs to the canonical process itself. It matters, because it can affect theology, but it does not undermine the canonical approach per se because a canon is essentially a communal reality anyway. Catholics give theological arguments for their position and Protestants likewise. The solution is to weigh the arguments and contine what Childs calls “the search for the Christian Bible.” I've covered this in a thread called Scripture's two testaments). Although the outer boundaries are not too sharp, this doesn't detract too much from what we share.

A Jewish canon isn't going to include the New Testament or deuterocanonical books in its conception of the canonical whole

Therefore a Jewish canonical approach will read the Tanakh differently to a Christian reading the Old Testament. As with Christian canon, there are theological differences between the two communities involving the nature of the function of Scripture and the relation between text and tradition. Though I've not read Childs saying this in so many words, he does think that the Christian approach is more in line with the intentionality of the redaction of the OT (cf. his distinction between “allegory” and “midrash”). The important point is that, in Childs' view, the NT is not an external appendix added to something which is actually totally foreign to it. The same divine reality that called the OT into life also evoked the NT. This is a confessional stance, but seeing that it involves propositions about reality I don't see how a Christian can consistently bracket it out. As such, for a Christian it is imperative that the New Testament is related to the Old Testament somehow.

Any exegesis that is beholden to a particular theological perspective seems to me less critical.

Most contemporary philosophy will tell you that being beholden to an ideology (whether theological or not) is unavoidable. See my post on the “reality” of the Bible. Of course, being self-critical is, as you say, important, but one can be self-critical from within a position of faith. Humility, repentance, patience and hope are the preconditions for genuine self-criticism, and these are very theological terms replete with networks of “ideological” assumptions. In other words, theology/ideology can help us become more self-critical. If you have the right ideology, that is ...

A canonical approach where you're reading in light of the full message of the canon (whichever one you choose) allows you to both include interpretations you wouldn't reach otherwise and exclude interpretations that don't fit the overall message.

I'm afraid I don't get this. Why does allowing the formal structure of the canon to operate as an interpretative boundary allow you to “exclude interpretations that don't fit the overall message”? It is the function of the canon to achieve just the opposite: what is within its boundaries must be taken into account, because that is the “rule” (canon) we live by. It is historical criticism which tends to leave out bits that don't fit a particular theory of history by assigning it to either a “gloss,” or a more “primitive” stage of evolution.

If you're trying to understand the text in its historical context and figure out what the message was to the earliest readers/hearers, then a canonical approach isn't going to help. Childs would probably say that biblical criticism doesn't go far enough because it usually stops there.

Your right about Childs, and I guess you may be right about the relevance of canonical hermeneutics as regards the task of reconstructing a putative Israelite religion. Though I'm not sure ... I remember N.T. Wright's methodology, in which he points out that later developments can be a pointer for what was implicit all along ... And I still have the lingering doubt about our ability to understand an ancient religion from our present context. The advantage of the canonical approach is that is offers us the opportunity to hear the one God who speaks throughout the ages. Is that not relevant for the “archaeological” task of digging back to one particular stage in that history?

I'm wondering why we can't just agree that there are different levels of exegesis that bring different methodological and philosophical rules to their readings of the same texts.

I'm certainly up for that! Yet, I wonder if some are more appropriate to the material than others ... ? I think it's healthy to at least leave this question open ...

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Is this my blog's reading level?

blog readability test
I have to say, I was hoping for super-genius-incomprehensible-to-mortal-humans level. Does that exist? If they introduced it I would consider redoing the test. I'm sure I've slipped through a crack here!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The typologizing of prophetic oracles

I now come to the penultimate post on the different ways in which Israelite prophecy was rendered as Scripture for the community of faith. For the other six, go to my post Canonical shaping of the prophets. This is taken from Childs' article, "The Canonical Shape of the Prophetic Literature," 1995.

Oracles which originally functioned in a variety of historical settings have been arranged into set patterns which serve a new typological role in relation to the coming rule of God. The clearest examples of a patterning schema are the alternative blocks of oracles of judgment and salvation in the Books of Isaiah (compare 1:1-31; 2:6-22; 3:1-26, with 2:1-5; 4:2-6) and Micah (cf. chaps. 1, 2, 6 with 2:12f.; 4 and 5). The effect of this move is that a typological sequence subordinates the original historical one and refocuses the material on the dominant theological purposes undergirding all prophetic proclamation.

Monday, 10 November 2008

This is sickening

Watch the video - if you think you can stomach it.

When I was 18 I spent a year in Israel - travelling, working and generally having my life transformed. I come from a low-Anglican family with an odd mixture of traditional evangelicalism and charismatic elements. While in Israel I met people from all kinds of denominations who had an impact on me, in particular a travelling ex-gangster turned Pentecostal preacher and a conservative Brethren community in Haifa. One of my more negative experiences was visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Jesus' death and resurrection. What I sensed then is summarised neatly in a recent article from Times Online: Warring monks threaten destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I can hardly think of a greater tragedy. It's things like this that test my faith most of all.

Here are some key quotes:

Rival denominations often battle for access or space and the congregation at the annual Easter service sometimes resembles the terraces of a boisterous football match. The keys to the main entrance of the church have been held by a Muslim family since the 12th century because the Christians do not trust one another.
— In the 19th century a ladder was placed on a ledge above the main entrance to the church. A priest from another denomination accused the man of trespassing and a row began that has yet to be resolved. The ladder is still there
— In 1995 the church announced it had reached a decision on how to paint a part of the dome in the central part of the structure — but only after 17 years’ debate
— In 2004 during Greek Orthodox celebrations of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a door to the Franciscan chapel was left open. This was taken as a sign of disrespect by the Greek Orthodox faction and a fight broke out. There were several arrests.
— Another fight broke out on Palm Sunday this year when a Greek monk was ejected from the building by a rival faction. Police were attacked by the feuding monks and several people were taken to hospital
Probably the worst of all is the story of the Coptic bishop turning to the Israeli authorities ... but I'll let you read that.

I'm speechless. I honestly think the church would serve a far better function if it was torn down and turned into a public urinal.

[Hat tip: Bible and Interpretation]

Update: Sister Macrina, of A Vow of Conversation, and shared some interesting thoughts on this. Here's an encouraging anecdote:

In thinking about this I was reminded of a conversation I once had with the Melkite Patriarch Gregory III, when he was still bishop of Jerusalem. I was left to make small talk with him when the abbess I was accompanying was unexpectedly called to the telephone. Not knowing what to say I commented on the divisions of the Churches in Jerusalem and, in typical western liberal Christian fashion, lamented how terrible it was. I was quite taken aback by his sharp response, which basically reprimanded me for commenting on things that I knew little about, although he was too gracious to put it quite so bluntly. He proceeded to tell me how the Churches in Jerusalem were working together and how their leaders met regularly to discuss matters of common concern, accounts of which I later heard from other sources as well.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

We want more OT exegesis

Halden's poll has been narrowed down to just two options: theological exegesis and biblical theology and ... something else. It's not important as the aforementioned option is the only one worth voting for. So please go here and vote: what should Halden blog on next!

Here are the comments I posted on his blog:

I’m delighted that theological exegesis is the clear leader! A while back Ben Myers said in one of threads that the best biblical theologians were all in Old Testament. I think there are good reasons for that. Reading the OT as a Christian forces you to deal with issues that NT scholars do not always feel too constrained to deal with: the function of Scripture as witness, the nature of referentiality, the nature of the substance of the text, the relation between community and text, the canonical process as part of revelation, the relation between the literal and spiritual senses, the relation between narrative and ontology etc. etc. A Christian specialising in the NT faces the danger of thinking that the NT has got it figured out, that when we read it we’ve somehow already arrived, that its witness to Christ is sufficent as it stands and that the OT simply serves as a hermeneutical matrix for the NT’s interpretation rather than an independent witness in its own right with its own voice - perhaps even over against the NT.
So, in short, I hope you’ll be posting a lot on the OT!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Book Review: Nicene Christianity

Many thanks to Brazos Press for sending me a review copy of Nicene Christianity: The Future for a New Ecumenism, (ed. C. Seitz; Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2001).

On one level, Nicene Christianity is a collection of essays by some of the world's top theologians, each exploring one article of the Nicene Creed. The quality of their work, the diversity of their denominational backgrounds, and the significance of the Nicene Creed within the global church are reason enough to purchase and study this book. But what makes it truly special is the context out of which it grew: an ecumenical conference held with the goal of renewing the contemporary church by returning to its theological and pragmatic roots in the pre-schism church. As Philip Turner says in the “Introduction,” the authors are united by the conviction that “theology is a practice with a soteriological goal that is properly carried out within the life of the church” (9). As such, it must be carried out in deference to a complex of practices broader than just the “intellectual.” According to these authors, Nicene Christianity “anchors the church in those beliefs and practices without which the church can preserve neither its unity in Christ nor its identity as Christian” (10). It is this holistic vision, grounded in the historical reality of a common and commonly validated past, that enables this book to make its unique contribution to the church's ongoing vocation in the world.

For the sake of space, this review will be divided into two posts. In this post I summarize three essays that frame the collection, giving background to the the concept of Nicea and the creeds as such. In the following post, I will work systematically through each of the articles of the creed, highlighting in the barest form possible the main lines of contribution each author makes.

Philip Turner opens with an “Introduction,” in which he provides background information on the nature and function of creeds within the church of the first millennium. They were “tokens or badges of Christian identity,” adequate expressions of Christian belief, guides for reading Scripture, and standards of truth. He applauds the current volume for its exhaustive treatment of the whole creed, rather than a truncated form which highlights one aspect at the expense of the others. Yet, he claims, if one is to maintain the spirit of Nicea, one must also situate the creed in its appropriate context. A form of Christian practice is required, a certain way of life. The corollary is that the church, rather than the secular academy, becomes the most appropriate setting for theological practice. But again, in the spirit of Nicea, the church as it is now not a sufficient context. A particular kind of church is required, one characterized by discipline and order. Church governance is an area in which Nicea has a lesson to teach to the modern church, a lesson, Turner believes, which under-represented in this volume (though see Radner's contribution).

In the middle of the collection of essays, we come to John Webster's excellent article on the nature and function of creeds in the church. For Webster, the true context for their interpretation is theological, i.e. the triune economy of salvation. As such, they are a response to God's grace, representing an episode in the conflict between God and sin that is at the centre of the drama of salvation. Although public and binding, their purpose is not to codify the truth. They cannot do this because of the transcendence of their subject matter. Rather, their function is to herald or testify God, who as “free transcendent presence” is communicated most fully and authoritatively in Scripture—God's elected means of grace. The Creed, then, is subordinate to Scripture as norm. It also gathers the Church around this subject matter in fear, trembling, consolation, and joy. It binds because the Gospel binds, making the act of confession the place to encounter truth. Again, due to the nature of the subject matter, this encounter is never automatic. Truth occurs only to the degree that the gospel is present as a coercive reality, creating an echo of elective grace.

The collection closes with an innovative and powerful challenge from E. Radner to the authors to reorder their theological vision according to the spirit of the Nicene Creed, which is integrally tied up with the legal issue of church order. If truth and community are intimately connected (Lindbeck), what would it look like if the Church's “canon of truth” were seen as implicating Church “canon law”? Nicea's fundamental conviction is that truthful speech requires truthful discipleship, and in Nicea this manifested itself in a political form of “self-mortification” designed to limit moral pride amongst bishops and laity. In short, the divine truth of the Creed is mirrored in common discipline. The evangelical significance of this self-ordering is that it represents God's character in the world. Ecclesial self-mortification makes space for the divine assertion of Christ's own gracious form upon his body. Yet disunity is not only an obstacle to evangelism. Our yearning as theologians for truth has been “disordered into incompetence.” Disunity is “a fundamental obstacle to our grasp of the truth ... creedal Christianity is unable to hold the object of its desire” (227). The solution is to follow James 4:2-3 and learn to “desire rightly, for such right desire—the desire of personal and institutional mortifying order—is the opening of grace by which the way forward in unity can be discovered” (228).

These brief summaries can only be a hint of the richness of the content of each essay, which alone make the book worth buying. They “carry” the treatments of the individual articles of faith by giving them a broader context in the life of the church, challenging them to make sense of our current disordered context. Stay tuned for the rest of this review.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Vote now!

Forget Obama! I have just discovered that the most important poll this year has been set up by Halden of the marvelous blog inhabitatio dei concerning the most pressing issue of all, namely:

If you look at the options available, the answer is clear: theological exegesis and biblical theology. Seriously, if you want to read a blog which is intelligent and direct, inhabitatio dei is the place to be. And if Halden starts blogging on this topic ... I think I would cancel all my other RSS subscriptions in order savour each word and lodge my limited opinions (OK, maybe not all of my RSS subscriptions).

So, don't leave it to chance: vote now!

(but note Halden's disclaimer in the body of the post)

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Is the canonical approach uncritical?

If one were to approach the canonical approach exclusively through the secondary literature, then the answer would be "yes" (unless one read Seitz, Thiselton, McConville, etc.). If one were to read Childs himself (and I'm referring here to a specifically "Childsian" canonical approach), then the answer would so obviously be "no" that one would wonder how the secondary literature came to its position in the first place.

Sounds a bit overconfident? Then read Childs! Or at least have a look at some of the examples of canonical exegesis I have posted over the last year (in particular no.# 3 on the Pentateuch and this thread on the prophets). As far as I can see, the major source for the claim that Childs' is uncritical is the theoretical foundation he provides for his approach (invariably misunderstood). If you take a look at his actual exegesis, it is clear that he is anything but uncritical (see also my posts: The significance of the diachronic dimension and source criticism and the final form).

A blog post recently summarised this position. I respond to each sentence below, printed in italics as a proposition:

Canonical exegesis imposes unity on the text and searches for a theological point.

I'm not sure how the second part of the statement is related to the first. Is the imposition of unity a result of the theological interest of the interpreter? If so, how? Although it can certainly happen that the Bible gets reduced to a single scheme, this is a danger we all face, whether theological or not. We all have a broader theory of reality within which we try and comprehend the text. I don't see how a non-theological approach would be more accurate. Especially given that the texts themselves are intrinsically theological. They claim to be inspired by God, a response to God, to witness to God. I'm not sure how factoring him out of the equation guarantees objectivity in a way in which confessing him doesn't.

Canonical exegesis imposes unity ...

Canonical exegesis in the sense in which Childs understands it claims that the unity of the text lies in its theological referent. That means that there can be diversity, but that it is at some point resolved at a “higher level” outside of the text. The diversity is a result of the kerygmatic nature of the text, i.e. its genre is human proclamation of the divine, with all the historical and cultural particularity that that entails. It doesn't follow that their common subject matter, the God of Israel, also consists in conflicting identities. Admittedly this is a theological assertion, but the question of whether the theological (and not literary) unity claimed for the Bible is an imposition or not should be adjudicated on the basis of concrete proposals, and not used to reject the approach per se. To honest, I'm not sure how a confessing Christian or Jew could read the Bible with any other assumption.

Added to this is an important element of the redactional history of the Bible: it consists in a Sachkritik (critique according to content). According to Childs, ancient traditions were critically judged according to a standard of truth which the editors claimed represented the true theological content of those traditions. Isaiah's oracles concerning Assyria, for example, were sifted and ordered and collected with other oracles concerning Babylon according to a theological account of time. The two empires became types of one reality: sinful human hubris. Here, then, you have both particularity and unity. Again, in the inner-canonical reception history of the Exodus traditions, only certain elements were highlighted. The vicious domination of the Egyptians is not thematized, but the graciousness of God is. Here, too, we have a diversity of possibilities being brought under the aegis of a single theological trajectory.

... searches for a theological point

Given that the Bible is theological, I'm not sure why this is a criticism. Is one doing the book of Kings more justice by looking for archaeological evidence or by assessing its description of God?

It's not critical biblical scholarship because it requires the presupposition that Old and New Testaments are equally divine revelation and the words themselves point to some coherent higher reality.

I'm afraid I don't get this. Does that mean that to be a critical scholar one must be either an atheist or a non-Jew/Christian? How can a Christian be asked to stop believing that the Bible witnesses to God it order to be more critical? Isn't that to reify methodological atheism? Some of the greatest OT scholars believed that “ Old and New Testaments are equally divine revelation and the words themselves point to some coherent higher reality”: von Rad, Noth, Eichrodt, Zimmerli, W.H.Schmidt, Wolff, Childs, Seitz, Kaufmann, etc. Are they not critical?

This is subordinating both texts to a theological agenda.

Again, one cannot simply assume that the texts do not point to a single divine reality, as if this is self-evident. The idea that God has nothing to do with the Bible is relatively new, a result of recent secularist developments in the late 20th century. The names given above would reject this from the outset, and they are some of the fathers of Old Testament criticism.

Now if one is approaching the text from a Christian theological perspective, then there's nothing really wrong with that.

If everything you've said up to this point is true, then to continue asserting it in the name of “Christian theology” would make the enterprise a sham. Theology based on an imposed, external, theological agenda is not true theology. It is fideism and not worthy of belief and obedience.

Jesus gave them a new way of understanding their Scripture, and the NT is primarily a witness to their transformed way of understanding the revelation of the OT.

I'm in full agreement here. And so is Childs. It's part of his argument for a dialectical reading of the two testaments, rather than subordinating the Old Testament to its reception in the New. That is a fundamental presupposition of the canonical approach. It takes the two-testamental nature of Scripture seriously. The New is simply juxtaposed with the Old, so that means we too must look at both in their own integrity rather than subordinate one to the other (as I wrote in my post, Two testaments and four gospels).

Monday, 3 November 2008


Du bist gekommen, Gottlose zu retten -
also rettest Du mich?


Saturday, 1 November 2008

What is the "reality" of the Bible?

In response to my post on the need for ontological categories in biblical exegesis, Douglas Dobbins of en christo has asked an important question: how does one know when one has identified the reality to which the Bible points?

My aim today isn't to answer this question, only to sharpen its point. If exegesis is to wrestle with the the reality to which Scripture points (according to its genre as kerygmatic witness), then how does one access it and then verify whether one has identified it? This is an issue that is often simply ignored by those who like to imagine themselves as doing "objective" research. As Childs says,

“Seldom has the issue of the substance of the witness, that is, its reality, been dealt with above board and clearly, but rather some sort of assumed hermeneutic has been silently approved" (Biblical Theology, 80ff.).
Here are the examples he provides us to help make his point:

(1) G. von Rad's form of Heilsgeschichte as a history of continual actualization of tradition assumes that there is a reality lying behind the various witnesses which emerges in ever greater clarity at the end of the process, but which can also at times be anticipated through typological adumbration. Yet the reader is given only vague hints of what is theologically involved. In his final chapter (Old Testament Theology, II, 319ff.) von Rad is forced to fall back to several traditional, but often conflicting, schemata (Law/Gospel, prophecy/fulfilment, letter/spirit) in order to relate the Old Testament's substance to his christological model (cf. Oeming, Gesamtbiblische Theologien, 58ff).

(2) R. Bultmann's search for the reality behind the New Testament's witness assumes it to be a mode of authentic existence which is described by means of modern existentialist categories. Only those New Testament writers who appear compatible to this move provide vehicles for an authentic voice (Paul, John) while many other New Testament authors are rendered largely mute by means of critical deconstruction (Luke, Pastorals, II Peter, Revelation).

(3) P. Tillich speaks freely of the reality of the New Being which conquers existential estrangement and makes faith possible. Jesus as the Christ is the symbolic expression of this New Being, and the biblical portrait of this symbol mediates a knowledge of God. Participation, not historical argument, guarantees the event on which faith is grounded as a sign of the continuing transforming power of this reality once encountered by Jesus' disciples. That the Old Testament plays a minor role here is apparently taken for granted.

(4)Again, many modern 'narrative theologies' seek to avoid all dogmatic issues in the study of the Bible and seek 'to render reality' only by means of retelling the story. (Hence the agreement of both liberals and conservatives regarding the centrality of narrative, but who disagree concerning the nature of the 'old, old story'.) The move has recently become popular of inviting the reader to enter the fictive world of the biblical text, a realm of symbolic language, which evokes new imagery for its hearers. Clearly an assumption is being made regarding the nature and function of the Bible which privileges the genre of story over against those other biblical forms of psalmody, law and wisdom.

(5)Finally, many modern biblical scholars have been attracted by a hermeneutical theory such as that proposed by David Kelsey (JAAR, 585ff.) who defends the position that the Bible's authority does not rest on any specific content or property of the text, but lies in the function to which biblical patterns have been assigned by the 'imaginative construals' of a community of faith. One cannot rightly attack the consistency of the theory, but the theological issue turns on whether one can do justice to the function of scripture when it is so loosely related to its subject matter, that is, to its reality.

I hope to give my own thoughts soon.

I also hope this begins to highlight the naivety of the outdated categories of liberal/conservative recently employed by N.T. Wrong in his attempt to "figure out" his colleagues. For more on this, see Paul Minear's work.