June 18, 2010
Theological Hermeneutics and the Sea
Last summer and fall I was reading a lot about the theological interpretation of Scripture. And one of my recurring thoughts was that biblical scholars and theologians are of such different perspectives that it is difficult to see how we might bring them together. My own training is in biblical scholarship, so I think I have a good understanding of how my colleagues think and regard theologians. But in recent years I have been trying to read more in theology and come to a better understanding of how (systematic or doctrinal or dogmatic) theologians work.
Gazing out over my adopted home of Puget Sound, an analogy came to mind. And it was resurrected by a recent crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I hardly think its original, though I don’t recall coming across it. And it has its limitations. Here it is.Continue reading "Theological Hermeneutics and the Sea"
December 11, 2009
They Asked for a Publisher's Perspective (Continued)
In the past decade or more the need for theological commentaries has become increasingly apparent. Nevertheless, as I have tried to follow the literature and debate surrounding theological interpretation of Scripture, one thing has become apparent: there seems to be a lack of consensus regarding what theological interpretation should optimally look like. Witness, for example, the opening words of Walter Moberly’s recent article in the Journal of Theological Interpretation entitled “What Is Theological Interpretation of Scripture”:
Continue reading "They Asked for a Publisher's Perspective (Continued)"
December 9, 2009
They Asked for a Publisher's Perspective on Theological Commentaries (Part One)
A few weeks ago I was on an IBR panel focused on theological commentary on Scripture. I was asked to give a publisher’s perspective on how theological concerns inform, or should inform, biblical commentary. Here is my contribution, in two parts.
Last night my friend Tremper Longman in his IBR lecture seemed to express reservations about David Clines’s notion that “Just as a tailor cuts the cloth to make a suit according to the specifications of a client, so the biblical scholar exegetes the text according to the expectations of those who pay for the service.” And I was thinking, “Tremper, you have a problem with that?” (I’m kidding, of course. Tremper’s point was that commentators shouldn’t be saying one thing for one audience and another, possibly contradictory thing, for another.)Continue reading "They Asked for a Publisher's Perspective on Theological Commentaries (Part One)"
April 14, 2009
The Enigma of George Eldon Ladd
Last year I read John A. D’Elia’s A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America (Oxford University Press, 2008). I was a student of Ladd’s at Fuller Theological Seminary in the 1970s, and as a matter of fact, I even started out as his student in the Ph.D. program there. (That didn’t last long, and Ralph Martin rescued me from the situation.) I’ve long thought someone needed to write this biography. However, I also recall mentioning this thought to another Fuller faculty person of that era, who expressed the opinion that no good would come of it. He no doubt had in mind some of the personal tragedies that marred Ladd’s life and are disclosed in D’Elia’s biography.Continue reading "The Enigma of George Eldon Ladd"
March 17, 2009
The Pauline Strip, Metaphorically Speaking
I told myself I wasn’t going to do this. But after spending much time lately memorizing the Greek text of Colossians, I’ve got an itch to make an exegetical point. I spent a good deal of time and some ink on this in my dissertation (“The Christus Victor Motif in Paul’s Theology”) some twenty-seven (yikes!) years ago. And since then commentator after contemporary commentator has disappointed me here. The nub of the issue is the interpretation of apekdyomai in Colossians 2:15, where it appears in the form apekdysamenos (aorist middle participle, masculine singular nominative) in reference to an action performed (I will argue) by Christ on the cross.
Time after time you will find interpreters saying this speaks of God’s “disarming” the powers. In other words, they are reading it as a verb that is middle in form but active in meaning (which is legitimate—this happens in Greek). Now admittedly, part of their problem is that they perceive (from preceding verses) the subject to be God rather than Christ. There is an admirable consistency, if inflexibility, in this judgment.Continue reading "The Pauline Strip, Metaphorically Speaking"
March 3, 2009
Interpreting Paul with Ambrosiaster
Several years ago I gave a paper on 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. I argued that a favored modern (and evangelical) reading of 1:9, “separation from the presence of God,” was faulty and we should understand the text to be saying that “eternal destruction” will proceed from the presence of God. In other words, our modern translations have filled a perceived gap in the Greek that, in my reading of the text, isn’t there. (The Greek is hoitines dikēn tisousin olethron aiōnion apo prosōpou tou kyriou kai apo tēs doxēs tēs ischyos autou; literally, “they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction from [the] face/presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength”)
Well, we will soon begin to release volumes in our Ancient Christian Texts (ACT), a series of translations of full patristic commentaries either that have not previously been published in English or whose English translations are seriously inadequate. The ACT is an outgrowth of our Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture project (now almost complete!). My colleague Jim Hoover is working on getting the first two volumes prepared for release: Ambrosiaster’s commentaries on Romans and 1-2 Corinthians and on Galatians-Philemon. Ambrosiaster, by the way, is the name assigned to a commentator of the late fourth century whose identity has been forgotten.Continue reading "Interpreting Paul with Ambrosiaster"
Posted by Dan Reid at 4:45 PM
August 4, 2008
A Barthian Hermeneutic of Modesty
In Church Dogmatics IV.4, p. 110-11, Barth is in the midst of wrestling with the doctrine of baptism, and particularly the question of whether the NT texts adduced for its being a sacrament do indeed warrant that claim. Then he has a section that is worth considering with regard to biblical interpretation and theological hermeneutics in general:Continue reading "A Barthian Hermeneutic of Modesty"
May 16, 2008
You Don’t Take the Bible Literally, Do You?
“You don’t take the Bible literally, do you?”
You’ve probably been asked something like this. How do you respond?
If you say Yes, you’re likely to be lumped with fundamentalists of the deepest dye. If you say No, you probably are trying to evade being lumped with fundamentalists of the deepest dye. Or there is the option of saying that you don’t take the Bible “hyper-literally” or “with extreme literalism,” which is another way of distancing yourself from those on the “far right” (and speaking a sort of nonsense at the same time).Continue reading "You Don’t Take the Bible Literally, Do You?"
February 5, 2008
A Nose for Theological Interpretation?
Several times a week I run the trail up to Poo Poo Point on nearby Tiger Mountain. (To clear the air, the Point’s name alludes to the steam whistle that used to sound from there in the days when it was the scene of a thriving logging operation.) Our dog Remo (I did not name him!) always accompanies me. He has run this trail with me hundreds of times, and he has closely examined and marked every rock, root, fern and tree as his own. The entire run he is thoroughly engaged, and I can only imagine the sensory feast he enjoys with his sharply tuned nose and ears. The trail is his text, and he is a close exegete of its signs, grammar and textures. And then there is wildlife to flush out and chase, from squirrels to black bear (who gladly turned the game about). He is a master of his world, and he revels in it.
But there is one thing I’m convinced Remo does not see, or at least he does not see it truly.Continue reading "A Nose for Theological Interpretation?"
Posted by Dan Reid at 9:20 AM