The Sacred Text: Excavating the Texts, Exploring the Interpretations, and Engaging the Theologies of the Christian Scriptures 9781463216481

The Sacred Text presents an introduction to historical, interpretive, and theological issues relating to the Christian S

195 9 15MB

English Pages 280 [278] Year 2010

Report DMCA / Copyright


Recommend Papers

The Sacred Text: Excavating the Texts, Exploring the Interpretations, and Engaging the Theologies of the Christian Scriptures

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

The Sacred Text

•"Ns. Mil dXV JN A?

Gorgias Précis Portfolios


Gorgias Précis Portfolios gather the collected essays of established scholars into an easily accessible and durable format. Also included in this series are collections of essays in conference or Festschrift format from different scholars but united around a common theme.

The Sacred Text

Excavating the Texts, Exploring the Interpretations, and Engaging the Theologies of the Christian Scriptures

Edited by

Michael Bird Michael Pähl

1 gorgias press 2010

Gorgias Press LLC, 180 Centennial Ave., Piscataway, NJ, 08854, USA Copyright © 2010 by Gorgias Press LLC

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise without the prior written permission of Gorgias Press LLC.

ISBN 978-1-60724-741-8

ISSN 1935-3871

L i b r a r y of Congress Data


Library of Congress


Data The sacred text : excavating the texts, exploring the interpretations, and engaging the theologies of the Christian scriptures / edited by Michael Bird and Michael Pahl. p. cm. Includes index. 1.

Bible--Criticism, interpretation, etc.

Bird, Michael F. II. Pahl, Michael W. BS511.3.S23 2010 220.601--dc22 2010003082 Printed in the United States of America



Contributors Preface Abbreviations

vii xi xiii

Introduction: From Manuscript to MP3 Michael F. Bird The History of the Texts 1 The Septuagint as Scripture in the Early Church Karen H. Jobes 2 Scripture in the Second Century Tomas Bokedal 3 Scripture and Tradition: Seeking a Middle Path Michael W. Pahl 4 Scripture and Canon John C. Poirier The Interpretation of the Texts 5 Scripture and Biblical Criticism Jamie A. Grant


21 43 63 83


6 Scripture and Theological Exegesis Thorsten Morit^


7 Scripture and Postmodern Epistemology Robert Shillaker


8 Scripture and New Interpretive Approaches: Feminist & PostColonial Jennifer G. Bird v




The Theological Status of the Texts as Scripture 9 Catholic Doctrine on Scripture: Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Interpretation Brant Vitre 10 Scripture in Eastern Orthodoxy: Canon, Tradition, and Interpretation George Kalant^is 11 Still Sola Scriptura: An Evangelical Perspective on Scripture James M. Hamilton Jr.


199 215

12 The Word as Event: Barth and Bultmann on Scripture David Congdon




CONTRIBUTORS Michael F. Bird (Ph.D., Queensland) is Lecturer in Systematic Theology at the Bible College of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. His interests include Christian origins and the theological interpretation of Scripture. He is the author of several books including The Saving Righteousness of God (Paternoster, 2007) and Are You the One Who is to Come? (Baker, 2009). Jennifer G. Bird (Ph.D., Vanderbilt) is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Greensboro College in Greensboro, North Carolina, U.S.A. Her research addresses the effects of empire and gender on the early Christian movement and its writings. Her first monograph is Abuse, Power and Tearful Obedience: Reconsidering 1 Peter's Commands to Wives (T. & T. Clark, forthcoming). Tomas Bokedal (Th.D., Lund) is lecturer in New Testament at King's College, University of Aberdeen, U.K. His research interests include Christian origins and the relation of Scripture and theology. He is the author of The Scriptures and the Tord: Tormation and Significance of the Christian Biblical Canon (Lund University Press, 2005). David W. Congdon is a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ. His research focuses on the issues of Christology, theological ontology, and hermeneutics, especially as they intersect in the work of Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann. Jamie A. Grant (Ph.D., Gloucestershire) is Vice-Principal and Tutor in Biblical Studies at the Highland Theological College in Dingwall, U.K. His main research interests revolve around the Psalms, OT wisdom literature, and hermeneutics. Jamie has written or edited several books, including Transforming the World? The Gospel and Social Responsibility (Apollos, 2009). James M. Hamilton Jr. (Ph.D., Southern Seminary) serves as Associate Professor of Biblical Theology at Southern Seminary and as vii



Preaching Pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A. He previously taught at Southwestern Seminary's campus in Houston, Texas, U.S.A. He is the author God's Indwelling Presence (B&H Publishing, 2006). Karen H. Jobes (Ph.D., Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia) is the Gerald F. Hawthorne Professor of New Testament Greek and Exegesis at Wheaton College and Graduate School in Wheaton, Illinois, U.S.A. Author of several books and numerous journal articles, she held a tenured faculty position at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, before coming to Wheaton in 2005. George Kalant^is (Ph.D., Northwestern) teaches theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, U.S.A., where he also directs The Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies. His most recent books include the co-edited The Sovereignty of God Debate (Cascade, 2008) and Studies on Patristic Texts and Archaeology (Mellen, 2009). Thorsten Morit^ (Ph.D., King's College London) is Professor of Hermeneutics and New Testament at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A., and a Ph.D. Advisor for the London School of Theology. He is the author of A Profound Mystery (Brill, 1996), and he is currently writing the Two Horizons Commentary volume on Mark (Eerdmans). Michael W. Pahl (Ph.D., Birmingham) is Pastor at Lendrum Mennonite Brethren Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He has taught biblical studies and theology for several years in college and seminary settings in Canada and the U.K., and he is the author of Discerning the 'Word of the Lord' (T. & T. Clark, 2009). Brant Pitre (Ph.D., Notre Dame) is Professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans. His research interests focus on the historical Jesus, eschatology, and Second Temple Judaism, as well as the theological interpretation of Scripture. Pitre is the author of Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile (Mohr Siebeck; Baker Academic, 2005). John C. Poirier (D.H.L., Jewish Theological Seminary) is Chair of Biblical Studies at Kingswell Theological Seminary in Middletown, Ohio. He has published extensively in the areas of biblical studies, ancient Judaism, early church history, biblical theology, and hermeneutics. Most recently, he is the author of '"Theological Interpretation' and its Contradistinctions" (Tyndale Bulletin, forthcoming)-



Robert Shillaker (Ph.D., Open University) is Lecturer in Systematic Theology at the Highland Theological College in Dingwall, U.K. His research interests include pneumatology and the doctrine of God.


It's the Bible. It's a big book, but it's a crackin' read. - Father Winstead in The Body (Avalanche Films, 2001) The Christian Bible has been perhaps the most powerful influence on Western religion, culture, and politics for the better part of 1200 years (assuming that "Christendom" began at Charlemagne's coronation in 800 C.E.). Indeed, cultures in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America have also felt and still feel its enduring influence. The Bible is a book that matters to so many people because for them it is Scripture, Canon, Revelation—or in other words, it is a sacred text. This sacred text, however, has a particular history to it. Different Christian traditions diverge markedly over what even makes up the contents of this sacred text known as the Christian Bible. It has been interpreted differently over the centuries, and even now its pages lead to a plethora of meanings about words and phrases discerned by scholarly and lay readers. The function and authority of Scripture have been debated by many pious persons as well. These are the sorts of areas we intend to explore in this volume. The sacred text that faith communities and even interested secular persons read is a historical artifact to be excavated beneath layers of ecclesial tradition and manuscript evidence, a piece of literature to be interpreted and applied, and has a particular place and function in Christian dogmatics. We hope that this volume will effectively introduce how the Christian Bible came into being, survey some of the different approaches to its interpretation, and identify how different traditions approach the Christian Scriptures in their respective theologies. Like all good books there are many people to thank for seeing this one come to fruition. The editors would like to display their gratitude to Katie Stott for her editorial encouragement and support in this project (especially during the birth of her first child). We are grateful to the contributors for their efforts, patience, and xi



generosity in investing their time and energies into this book. Finally, our families, parishioners, and students are also to be thanked as they have often endured our ranting about the origin and meaning of Scripture when we were forced to think about what Scripture is and how it should be applied in our own faith communities. We the editors would like to dedicate this volume to Andrew McGowan, former colleague of Michael Bird. Andrew is one of the many who have, through their teaching and preaching of Scripture, devoted their lives to the edification of God's people, and one of the few who have, through their writings about Scripture, stimulated Christians to think and dialogue in truly fresh ways about the nature, purpose, and function of Scripture. May his tribe increase. Michael F. Bird Michael W. Pahl Advent Sunday 2009




Anchor Bible Ante-Nicene Fathers Bulletin of Biblical Research Bauer, W., F. W. Danker, W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Uterature. 3d ed. Chicago, 2000. Brown, F., S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs. Hebrew and English lexicon of the Old Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1907. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft Catholic Biblical Quarterly Churchman Compendia rerum iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum Evangelical Quarterly Expository Times Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments Greek Orthodox Theological Review Handbuch zum Neuen Testament Harvard Theological Review International Journal of Systematic Theology Journal of Biblical Uterature Journal of Ecumenical Studies Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism Journal of the History of Medicine Journal of Ventecostal Theology Journal for the Study of the New Testament







Journal for the Study of the Old Testament: Supplement Series Journal of Theological Studies Loeb Classical Library The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies Library of New Testament Studies Septuagint Masoretic Text New American Commentary New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Edited by C. Brown. 4 vols. Grand Rapids, 19751985. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2 New Studies in Biblical Theology New Testament The New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers. Oxford, 1905. New Testament Studies Nova et Vetera Overtures to Biblical Theology Old Greek Old Testament Old Testament Library Pro ecclesia Pittsburgh Theological Monograph Series The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Society of Biblical Literature Sources for Biblical Study Sources for Biblical and Theological Study Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series Studies in Reformed Theology Studia theologica Vetus Testamentum Supplements St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly Themelios Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by G. Kittel and G. Friedrich. Translated by G. W. Bromiley. 10 vols. Grand Rapids, 1964-1976. Trinity Journal Toronto Studies in Theology




Tyndale Bulletin Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament


MP3 Michael F. Bird

If anyone ponders over [the Scriptures] with all the attention and reverence they deserve, it is certain that in the very act of reading and diligently studying them his mind and feelings will be touched by a divine breath and he will recognize that the words he is reading are not utterances of man but the language of God. — Origen, First Principles 4.1.6

It is hard to imagine that a Christian presbyter and scribe living in Rome in the early second century (let us say ca. 110 C.E.) was busy working away at his desk copying Paul's epistle to the Romans for his church or benefactor; and now in 2010 C.E., nearly two thousand years later, a person living in the city of Rome can download that same letter onto their MP3 or iPod in any one of dozens of languages from the internet. The medium of Scripture has undergone a significant transformation from papyri and codices to audio files and "Teen Study Bibles." We can be sure that the process that takes us from 110 to 2010 is a long and complicated history. The complications belong not only to the evolution of the medium of Scripture, but to the entire process by which Scripture was collected, interpreted, and understood in the course of Christian history. The task of the present volume is to provide brief introductions to these many complex issues including: (1) the formation of the Christian canon in the context of the ancient church; (2) hermeneutical strategies for interpreting the Christian Scriptures; and (3) the theological status and function of Scripture in various Christian traditions. This, we hope, will lead to a greater appreciation of 1



what Christians (ancient and modern) have found to be "sacred" about their Sacred Text. Part One is entitled "The History of the Texts" and is focused on the historical circumstances surrounding the origins, formation, and reception of the writings that were deemed to be Scripture and finally canonical by Christian churches of antiquity. This section examines the diverse array of critical issues that relate to the gradual process of the collection, dissemination, and canonization of the church's sacred writings. There are several questions that could be pursued here such as the stability of the New Testament (NT) texts in the second century, Christian usage of the codex, development of the nomina sacra, when precisely did the canon take shape and gain widespread recognition, the dating of certain materials (e.g. the Muratorian fragment), and the relationship between the "rule of faith" and the "canon of faith." It is impossible to cover all of these subjects in a depth that would do justice to their complexity. Thus, it has been decided instead to focus on several specific areas that pertain to the origins of the Christian Scriptures. In "The Septuagint as Scripture in the Early Church" Karen Jobes describes the ancient origins of the document known to us as the Septuagint (LXX) as well as the differences between the Hebrew Bible and various Greek versions of the Old Testament (OT). She points out that the LXX was frequently cited by the NT authors and was the OT of the early church. She discusses the disagreement between Augustine and Jerome about the inspiration of the Greek version. The chapter examines the top three most influential OT books—Isaiah, Psalms, and Genesis—and the influence of their Greek versions in the NT and the Fathers. Jobes also argues that books associated with the LXX are not necessarily canonical by virtue of that association. Finally, she calls for a greater appreciation of the role of the LXX in the ancient church and its part in early theological formation Tomas Bokedal examines "Scripture in the Second Century" and pays particular attention to the properties of usage, interpretation, text, and canon among Christian authors of this period. Among his observations, he notes the emergence of a specifically Christian notion of Scripture containing the writings of the old (the Hebrew Bible) side by side with a new body of regulatory writings from the apostolic and sub-apostolic age (the NT). After surveying several authors Bokedal surmises that many Christian authors en-



gaged in a piece of creative hermeneutics that saw a unity between the Jewish law and the Christian gospel, they identified Jesus Christ as the center of the Jewish Scriptures, and they expanded the idea of Scripture to include new Christian writings. In addition, he notes the emergence of the Christian nomina sacra ("sacred names" often written in abbreviated form) as found in Barnabas 9.7—9, and the reading the Christian Scriptures in light of the "rule of faith" epitomized by Irenaeus. According to Bokedal, the Jewish Scriptures were materially Christianized, that is, given their own unique Christian formatting and textual-tradition, by virtue of widespread use of the codex format, employing a distinctive nomina sacra, showing a preference for the Septuagint text, and employing a different ordering of the OT books resulting in a Christian OT that was recognizably distinct from the Hebrew Bible. Given that these changes occurred within the second century, Bokedal allows for an early and widespread recognition of the scriptural status and unified body of books that make up the "Old" and "New" Testaments within the second century. The subject of "Scripture and Tradition" is tackled with verve by Michael Pahl. Instead of reinforcing the incommensurability of the Protestant mantra of Sola Scriptura and the Catholic dogma of "Sacred Tradition," Pahl attempts to find a "middle path" through a study of primitive Christian testimony and orality. Since the early churches were largely oral communities, they embedded their traditions about Jesus in story-form and their theological interpretations also took on a narrative character in the exposition of Scripture. In his view, it was a Scripture-attested "Apostolic-Kerygmatic Tradition" that provided the basis of Christian belief and practice. In the end, Pahl embraces a "Protestant-leaning middle path" that recognizes the normativity of Scripture without its independence from apostolic tradition, and the value of an authentic apostolic tradition without the needless trappings of a Magisterium and Apostolic Succession. On "Scripture and Canon," John Poirier examines the rationale for the authority of Scripture and the unity of the Canon. He is careful to note that "Scripture" and "Canon" are not synonymous terms. Following Armin Lange he also notes the diverse views of what constitutes "Scripture" in the intertestamental period. In a striking move, Poirier grounds the authority of Scripture not in inspiration, but in apostolic testimony to Jesus. Poirier construes



the authority of the Bible by reference to the apostolic kerygma rather than by reference to divine inspiration of sacred texts. That is to say that biblical authority is derived from the apostle's kerygma about Jesus Christ and not from divine speech operating through a specially conceived operation of human agency. Based on his reading of Eph 2:19—20, he contends that the authority of Scripture derives from the message of the apostles and prophets which are the foundation of the church. Pushing the kerygma to the center also dislocates the value and utility of canonical, narrative, and theological interpretations for constituting the authority of the Christian Scriptures. Part Two is about "The Interpretation of the Texts," and this relates to the hermeneutical issues concerning the use, application, and function of the Christian scriptures in faith communities and in scholarship. Texts ultimately mean something to people, but the pressing issue is how do texts mean and how is meaning related to the entities of author, text, and reader. There are various interpretive strategies for reading the Christian Scriptures and in this section there is a presentation of these various approaches to the science of biblical interpretation. That includes ancient, modern, and postmodern perspectives on the task of interpreting the sacred texts for people of faith. Jamie Grant offers an engagement with the topic of "Scripture and Biblical Criticism" where he notes the germinal roots of both the historical-critical method and literary criticism in the 18th century. Focusing on the OT, Grant proceeds to describe the development of the Documentary Hypothesis (including its "rise and fall") as well as the assortment of literary criticisms that have been spawned in the last century (form criticism, canonical criticism, and the literary turn). He concludes that while none of these approaches is inviolable they are necessary for wrestling with the human dimension of Scripture. Coming to the role of theology in biblical interpretation, Thorsten Moritz proposes a form of hermeneutical renewal that will serve the interpretation of theological texts in his chapter on "Scripture and Theological Exegesis." He makes some sobering remarks regarding a gap between how the interpretive sciences are taught in the theological academies and the needs of interpretive communities in their own locations. Thus, hermeneutics should be recalibrated for its primary users. Moritz proceeds to discuss the



value and limitations of speech-act theory, hermeneutical geography (i.e., the world in front of, in, behind, above, and below the text), implied versus empirical reading perspectives, storied hermeneutics, the role of imagination, open versus closed texts, and community context. Next Moritz provides three examples of hermeneutical integration that show the interconnectedness of these approaches in providing action and transformation rather than just new cerebral content. He concludes with a call to theological exegesis that recognizes: the equally "storied" nature of the theological text and interpreter; that interpretation occurs on the level of narrative engagement and with a historically informed imagination; a recapturing of the art of theological storytelling; a commitment to mutual and mimetic interpretation; and a reconnecting of intuitive hermeneutics with the transformative needs of ecclesial communities. Anyone involved in literary studies and epistemological theory will know the challenges that postmodern philosophers have laid down to modern readers who attempt to excavate a single "meaning" from a text. These issues are duly described and responded to by Robert Shillaker in his study on "Scripture and Postmodern Epistemology." Shillaker traces the origins of postmodernism in the twentieth century from structuralism to reader-response criticism and notes its significance for biblical studies. He goes on to show that the relationship between postmodernity and modernity is far more dynamic and debated than often realized. Postmodernity, in the end, is really the completion and intensification of modernist methods. Shillaker proceeds to identify several trains of thought in hermeneutics that take the postmodernist objections seriously but still maintain the possibility of (imperfect) knowledge of authorial intent and also the enduring possibility of theological truth that is at once propositional and personal. More recently, the last fifty years have spawned an industry of diverse readings of Scripture and these are briefly described and set out by Jennifer Bird (no relation to the editor!) in her fine essay on "Scripture and New Interpretive Approaches: Feminist and PostColonial." Bird outlines the political and cultural landscape of the twentieth century that led to the rise of different literary approaches to the Bible (e.g. liberationist, queer, etc.). She then proceeds to describe and explain more specifically the feminist and post-colonial approaches to Scripture. Bird shows how these



methods can be applied to a text and she uses 1 Pet 2:18—3:7 as an example. She concludes that, "responsible biblical scholars would do well to face head on the life-stealing aspects of the Bible in order to have the life-giving words speak unencumbered for themselves." Part Three focuses on "The Theological Status of the Texts as Scripture," examining the function of Scripture in different theological traditions. There is specific treatment of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelicals approaches to Scripture. There is, of course, a real diversity within these traditions themselves, but in each case there does seem to be a general approach to the doctrine of Scripture in these traditions which ultimately affects the use of Scripture in particular ecclesial contexts. Brant Pitre provides a Roman Catholic perspective on the doctrine of Scripture. His presentation focuses on the teaching of Catholic councils and papal encyclicals about the inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation of Scripture. Pitre shows how inspiration is linked specifically to divine authorship and the Incarnation provides an analogy for the mystery of the divine-human authorship of Scripture. Pitre notes the debate among Catholic scholars about whether inerrancy in Catholic teaching is restricted to the things necessary for salvation or extends to the whole of Scripture. Pitre himself prefers the latter and marshals several arguments that this is the proper interpretation of the Vatican II document Dei Verbum. He maintains that plenary inspiration entails absolute inerrancy. Finally, Pitre typifies Catholic interpretation as involving an incarnational and ecclesial hermeneutic whereby correct interpretation stems from recognition of the unity of all of Scripture, the living Tradition of the whole church, and in light of the analogy of faith (i.e., the doctrines of the Church). George Kalantzis, a native Greek, sets forth a synopsized account of Scripture within Eastern Orthodoxy. Along the way he notes the synergism between Scripture and Tradition inherent within this tradition as it teaches a diachronic relation between the Scripture and Tradition rather than an antithesis as in the Protestant tradition. Kalantzis also notes the diversity of "canons" among the Orthodox churches and the preference for the Septuagint over the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. He identifies three major periods in Orthodox interpretation of Scripture as that of patristic, traditionalist, and modern and shows how in each period use of the



Bible has been shaped by exterior circumstances. Kalantzis concludes that Orthodox theology formally teaches a high view of Scripture, but Orthodox praxis manifests a perfunctory low use of Scripture. Yet many within the Orthodox tradition call for spiritual and liturgical reforms that will provide an Orthodox hermeneutic that is distinct, holistic, and reflects the proper patristic concern for Scripture and Tradition. Jim Hamilton, a Southern Baptist from the United States, provides a Protestant evangelical perspective with a view to setting forth the coherence of a view of Scripture that focuses on inspiration and inerrancy. Hamilton looks at the OT canon including its witness to itself, early Jewish views on holy books, and the NT authors' perspective on the extent and nature of the OT canon. He similarly tracks the development of the NT canon and likewise advocates a relatively early date for its fixation of the twenty-seven books as canonical. Finally, Hamilton provides a summary of Scripture's teaching about itself that leads him to regard it as "pure, perfect, inspired, and true." For Hamilton the objections raised against this position do not prove decisive, and he maintains that Scripture teaches its own inerrancy. In the final essay, David Congdon examines "Barth and Bultmann on Scripture." He offers an examination of the similarities and differences between the two theologians who perhaps most shaped the interpretation of Scripture and the theological configuration of Scripture in the twentieth century. Congdon shows how Barth and Bultmann were both dialectic and kerygmatic theologians who shared a common conception of Scripture as a divine speech-act that has its being in becoming. The two shared an actualistic doctrine of the Word and a similar understanding of exegesis as a participatory engagement with the christological Sache of the texts before them. In Congdon's view the differences between Barth and Bultmann were largely theological and focused on the relationship of Jesus Christ to humanity with Barth driven by his particular view of election and Bultmann by his specific view of faith. In his conclusion, Congdon sees in Barth and Bultmann a "third way" of engaging historical-critical research without sacrificing an evangelical emphasis on Scripture's authority. Ultimately, the aim of this project is to stimulate students, teachers, and ministers to think and reflect on questions such as: "What is the Bible?" "How does one interpret the Bible?" "How



do we develop a bibliology?" It will be evident that there is a very real diversity of answers to these questions among the contributors to this volume, and no single party line is employed. But I offer here my own experience of being stimulated to ponder (or pontificate) about the Christian Scriptures. I am aware that my musings here may not necessarily reflect all of the contributor's own view points, convictions, and nuances regarding the Christian Scriptures in history, interpretation, and theological formulation. But this is essentially how I see the story of Scripture being played out for a contemporary audience (and the first port of call for this "contemporary audience" is admittedly my own pan-evangelical constituency), as a preface to the essays that follow. First, a doctrine of Scripture must take into account the phenomenon of Scripture. The Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge wrote: "Our views of inspiration must be determined by the phenomena of the Bible as well as from its didactic statements." 1 In other words, answers to critical questions pertaining to the historical origins of Scripture must be answered by reference to the material evidence before us and not settled exclusively by appeals to theological prolegomena. 2 If one allows theological presuppositions to completely determine one's analysis of text-critical and source-critical matters, it could result in entertaining theories which seem flat out of sync with the contours of the texts before us. For example, it could mean that some religious leaders and faith communities adopt a textus receptus approach to the NT manuscript tradition or deny an literary relationship between the Synoptic Gospels for no other reason than the fact that the alternative options represent a challenge to their cultural way of reading the Bible or because it would require a significant revision of their doctrine of Scripture. At the same time, that does not justify a whole scale embrace of everything set forth in critical scholarship. One should read critical scho1 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Peabody, Mass.: Hendtickson, 1999 [1883]), 1:169 2 This is arguably the central concern of Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005); Craig D. Allert, A High View of Scripture: The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007); Kenton L. Sparks, God's Words in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008).



larship critically simply because theories ebb in and out of favor depending on scholarly trends. Regardless of what one thinks about Pentateuchal sources, the J E D P theory is no longer tenable in its classic form. 3 Likewise, the assured results of scholarship about the existence, redaction, and community relating to the hypothetical document Q is not really assured any more with the resurgence of the Farrer-Goulder(-Goodacre) hypothesis that effectively eliminates Q from the Synoptic Problem. 4 But as long as Scripture reflects a genuine human dimension in its authorial composition, its textual transmission, and in its reception, then we are pressed into studying its textual phenomena or else retreating into a doctrine of Scripture that is essentially abstracted from the material before our eyes.5 Second, there is a closer relationship between ecclesiology and bibliology than is normally underappreciated in Vrotestant dogmatics. It is clear that the church is a creatura verbi, that is, a creation of the divine word. The word of God created the church and the church did not create the word. Nonetheless, the church did create the biblical canon in the sense of being charged with the task of putting the inscripturated word of God into its canonical location. The canonical process was itself a long and complex affair effected by matters internal and external to the life of the church. The Christian Scriptures exist only because Christians first wrote it, preserved it, transmitted it, preached from it, argued about it, and interpreted it within the context of their own faith and communities. Furthermore, the Apostle's Creed precedes the existence of a biblical canon. Thus, in historical sequence, the "canon of Scripture" is a written expression of the "canon of faith." Unless we posit the canons and councils as 3 Cf. Rolf Rendtorff, The Problem of the Process of Transmission in the Pentateuch (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990); Gordon Wenham, Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2003), 159-85. 4 Cf. Mark Goodacre, The Case AgainstQj Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem (Harrisburg: Trinity Press, 2002); Mark Goodacre and Nick Perrin, eds., Questioning Q: A Multidimensional Critique (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2005). 5 Cf. I. Howard Marshall, "Historical Criticism," in New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Principles and Methods (ed. I. Howard Marshall; 2d ed.; Exeter: Paternoster, 1979), 126-38.



being inspired or at least providentially ordered, then the canonization of inspired Scripture becomes simply an accidental matter of post-NT consensus building politics in the ancient church. More likely, God inspires authors to write Scripture and inspires the church to make a canon. If this is so, Scripture and church then have a symbiotic existence as the written word is based on the professed word of the church's faith in Jesus Christ. The written word in turn now dominates the teaching and preaching of the church as the guarantee of the apostolicity of its message and ecclesial order. The reading and teaching of Scripture in the church is what guides it back to its apostolic foundation and keeps it genuinely catholic. Ultimately, what binds Christian canon and Christian community together is the testimony to Jesus Christ emitted in their discourse and the creative work of the Holy Spirit in binding both together. While Scripture remains the church's book, Christians are students and custodians of the sacred word, not its master. At the heart of the Reformation were not appeals to overthrow the church per se, but the claim that the revelation of God's word and the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit were needed to lead the church back to its apostolic foundation. As Richard Hays writes: "The Reformers were not naive or credulous readers: they were acutely suspicious of the ecclesiastical institutions that controlled interpretations in their time; however, it was their conviction that only a fresh reading of Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit gave them critical leverage against these institutions." 6 Third, interpretation of tradition is an inseparable part of biblical interpretation. Later patristic authors read their Bible through the lens of the regula fidei as well as in light of the Nicaeno-Constantipolitan and Chalcedonian clarifications of Christian doctrine. The maxim "no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible" fed the intellectual proclivities of both fundamentalism and liberalism in the modernist era, albeit in different ways and for different ends. The claim of unmediated access to divine revelation, coupled with a rejection of the variegated horizons of the Christian tradition, together with a monolithic understanding of doctrine, became the seedbed of sec-

Richard B. Hays, "A Hermeneutic of Trust," in The Conversion of the Imagination: Taul as Interpreter of Israel's Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 192 n. 4. 6



tarian ecclesiologies that respected not its grandparents in the faith and castigated them as either obscure, heretical, or passé. Following Bloesch, when the Reformers spoke of sola Scriptura, they meant the Bible illuminated by the Spirit in the matrix of the church. Sola Scriptura is not nuda Scripture (the bare Scripture). The Protestant creeds and confessions are indebted to the ecumenical councils and confessions in every respect. Thus the Reformers' use of Scripture is more tantamount to suprema Scriptura. This means that the Bible is our primary authority, but not our only authority. 7 We all read Scripture in the context of a "tradition" of some form. Even the pulpit-pounding fundamentalist may preach the authority of the text, but in fact he himself appeals to the consensus of a community and its history of reading Scripture in a certain way as the basis of his claims to apprehend biblical truth. We must also keep in mind that tradition is a tool for reading Scripture. We should happily read Scripture in light of our tradition, but in reflex, we should also read tradition in light of Scripture. Happy then are we for the recent re-discovery of theological exegesis—something hard to define, and more people seem to talk about it than actually perform it—understood as the interpretation of Christian Scripture in light of the whole Christian tradition, in and for the edification of the church. Fourth, any attempt at reading Scripture in search for an authorial voice implies a set of epistemological assumptions about the author, text, and reader that must be recognised so as to determine the limitation and fallibility of one's quest for authorial meaning.8 Postmodern literary theorists pose a chal-

7 Donald Bloesch, A Theology of Word and Spirit: Authority and Method in Theolog (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992), 193. 8 What follows is built heavily upon my readings of N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (London: SPCK, 1992), 31—80; Nicholas Wolterstorff, Divine Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 183—201; Francis Watson, Text and Truth: Redefining Biblical Theology (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1997), 95-126; Stephen Fowl, "The Role of Authorial Intention in the Theological Interpretation of Scripture," in Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology (ed. Joel B. Green and Max Turner; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 71— 87; Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text? The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality ofUteraty Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998);



lenge to reading for "authorial intent" because the readers of texts violently disagree about the methods and results of interpretation, the texts themselves are often multivalent, and ancient authors are inaccessible and culturally distant from us. Claims to know, then, the intent of a human author like Paul or Isaiah, let alone that of God behind them, are practically impossible. This death of the author and the exile of textual determinacy have led biblical metacritics to rigorously pursue the ideological deconstruction of the meta-narratives embedded within the biblical texts and promulgated by their readers which are eschewed as "totalizing constructions" designed to disempower and exclude. Yet this deconstructive project fails to be self-critical and there is little or no acknowledgment of its own ideological ambitions to destroy and control competing view points. In the case of radical protagonists, the scorched earth policy towards texts and interpreters reflects a desire to create an ideological vacuum that will allow their own ideologues to flourish. The nihilistic Utopia emerges after they destroy and dismantle the permanent structures of human existence (i.e., religion, politics, economics) and replace them with an alternative meta-narrative that is immediately immune from criticism as all criticisms of its enterprise are bound up with re-establishing the totalizing power that it seeks to dethrone. 9 In other words, radical postmodern literary theorists have beheaded the hydra of modernity with its pretentious claims to absolute and objective truth, and yet they have allowed several more vicious creatures to be spawned where the head fell. A college of mutually critical readers is a most welcomed apparatus in society, politics, the academy, and in the church. No one has a God's eye-view of authors and texts and no one has the exclusive franchise on truth. But what are readers reading and what are they reading for? At the end of the day, a text is not simply a mirror and what we find in the text is not simply what Philip F. Esler, New Testament Theology: Communion and Community (London: SPCK, 2005), 88-118. 9 Simon Walker, "Challenging Deconstruction: A Look at Persons, Texts, and Hermeneutics," Chm 111 (1997): 239-48; Craig G. Bartholomew, "Babel and Dertida: Postmodernism, Language and Biblical Interpretations," TjnBuI 49 (1998): 305-28; Ernst Breisach, On the Future of History: The Postmodernist Challenge and Its Aftermath (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 198.



we bring with us—this denies the transformative power of reading and the "otherness" of text—an author, though dead, may still speak to us.10 An author is not a disembodied mind lurking beneath a text, but a communicative agent who enmeshes his communicative act in his or her composition. That means our starting point should be the observation that an author is a communicative agent and a text is the enacted intentionality of the author that disseminates his purpose(s) to readers by a shared system of linguistic signs, social consciousness, cultural experience, and a human ability to adjust to the behavioral patterns of others. That is not a return to a naive realist account of literary knowledge because there is no knowledge of texts without knowledge of self and all readers imprint something of themselves in the act of reading. But literary knowledge remains a possibility in the creative fusion of the horizons of author, text, and reader where a feast of meanings is set before us. But the feast is not a BYO; it is constrained by the menu of the chef (author) and what can fit on the plate (the text), and then it allows us to dine with a measure of culinary freedom in adding sauces (feminist, theological, post-colonial, liberationist readings) that may either compliment or overwhelm the flavors in the dish. To say that tomato sauce does not go well with gourmet icecream is not necessarily an interpretive imposition of patriarchal or western structures upon someone's dining experience, but might well accord quite fittingly with the chef s intent. We can safely say, then, that hermeneutical absolutism and interpretive anarchy are not the only two shows playing in town. In the end, in a critical realist fashion, we can assert that authorial meanings can genuinely be known, but never independently of the knower. Now for those within the church, that means reading a sacred text in a search, not only for the voice of Isaiah, Matthew, or Paul, but for the voice of God. Yet that task is exactly what goes against our rational faculties in thinking that a human book can be a mouthpiece for a divine being. Yet Elizabeth Achtemeier wrote: No one believes that God speaks through his Word until they hear it. And no argument can convince the unbeliever apart Cf. John C. Poitier, "Some Detracting Considerations for ReaderResponse Theory," CBQ 62 (2000): 250-63; John Barton, "Thinking about Reader-Response Criticism," ExpTim 12 (2002): 147-51. 10


THE SACRED TEXT from the work of the Spirit. "Faith comes by what is heard," writes Paul, "and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Rom. 10:17, RSV). And it is the preaching of Christ— the testimony of faith that is there beyond our human words a transcendent word—it is that alone which can awaken and renew the church.11

To certain audiences that might appear utterly absurd; the Bible is a human book—but with Tertullian perhaps we just have to say, credo absurdum. Fifth, discussions over how to express the truthfulness of Scripture might be better served bj dfining Scripture's veracity as opposed to the means of its incapacity for error. Over the course of church history Christian authors have constantly spoken of the truthfulness of the Scriptures and its freedom from error.12 Since the Reformation there has been a number of particular ways of articulating the reliability of Scripture including its "sufficiency" (Anglican 39 Articles) and "infallibility" (Westminster Confession of Faith). More recently, that is, in the last hundred years or so, amidst the fundamentalist versus liberal debates in the U.S.A., the term "inerrancy" has gained currency with special reference to the inerrancy of the autographayj The concept of inerrancy is a thoroughly ancient idea, though the precise wording is relatively new, as J. I. Packer writes: Evangelicals are accustomed to speak of the Word of God as infallible and inerrant. The former has a long pedigree; among the Reformers, Cranmer and Jewel spoke of God's Word as infallible, and the Westminster Confession of the 'infallible truth' of Holy Scripture. The latter, however, seems not to have been

11 Elizabeth Achtemeier, "The Canon as the Voice of the Living God," in Reclaiming the Bible for the Church (ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1995), 122-23. 12 Cf. esp. John Woodbridge, Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/ McKim Proposal (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982); Ronald F. Satta, The Sacred Text: Biblical Authority in Nineteenth-Century America (PTMS; Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick, 2007). 13 For an overview of modern debates, see Jason S. Sexton, "How Far Beyond Chicago? Assessing Recent Attempts to Reframe the Inerrancy Debate," Them 34 (2009): 26-49.



regularly used in this connection before the nineteenth century. 14

Let me make a few remarks here with respect to inerrancy: (1) It is often unclear as to how infallibility and inerrancy materially differ. It appears to me that inerrancy can be understood to mean freedom from error in all that is taught in Scripture regardless of whether it pertains to historical, scientific, or theological claims, while infallibility may be more limited in scope and pertain only to matters of faith and doctrine. Still, Peter Jensen identifies the common ground between both positions as being: (a) a focus on the autographs rather than on copies or translations; (b) the importance of interpreting Scripture in light of its literary genre; (c) recognition that writers used hyperbole, approximation, and metaphor; (d) the selectivity of narrations in historical narratives; and (e) affirmation of our limited abilities at harmonizing all apparent discrepancies.15 These two perspectives appear more complimentary than conflicting depending on their precise definition and application. (2) Even within American evangelical circles there are debates as to whether or not inerrancy is an implicate of inspiration or whether it is something actually taught in Scripture.16 (3) Appeals to 14 J. I. Packer, "Fundamentalism" and the Word of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), 94-95; cf. David F. Wright, "Soundings in the doctrine of scripture in British Evangelicalism in the first half of the twentieth century," TjnBul 31 (1980): 87-106. On the utility of "infallibility" in the Reformed tradition see Andrew T. B. McGowan, The Divine Spiration of Scripture: Challenging Evangelical Perspectives (Leicester: Apollos, 2007). 15 Peter Jensen, The Revelation of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2002), 197-203. 16 Contrast Millard J. Erickson (Christian Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985], 229): "It is obvious that belief in the inerrancy of the Scriptures is not an inductive conclusion arrived at as a result of examining all the passages of the Bible. By its very nature, such a conclusion would be only probable at best. Nor is the doctrine of biblical inerrancy explicitly affirmed or taught in the Bible. Rather, it is a corollary of the doctrine of the full inspiration of the Bible," with Greg K. Beale (Crossway Lecture, Evangelical Theological Society, Boston, November 2008) who maintained that inerrancy is not a scholastic theological deduction made by interpreters of the Bible, but is an exegetical observation of a theological deduction already apparent to the author of Revelation (Rev. 3:14; 19:9; 21:5; 22:6).



the integrity of the autographa has antecedents in the Christian tradition from Augustine to John Owen,17 but the autographa itself has not been the centerpiece for Christian doctrines of Scripture.18 (4) The entire inerrancy debate that erupted in 20th century American denominations is very much an intra-American affair as Daniel J. Treier comments, "Conflict over scriptural inerrancy has not defined evangelicalism elsewhere as it did in the United States."19 17 Augustine wrote: "On such terms we might amuse ourselves without fear of offending each other in the field of Scripture, but I might well wonder if the amusement was not at my expense. For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it. As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason" (Letter to Jerome 82.3). John Owen said, "the purity of the present original copies of the Scripture, or rather copies (apographa) in the original languages, which the Church of God doth now and hath for many ages enjoyed as her treasure" (cited in Theodore P Letis, Lhe Ecclesiastical Lext [Philadelphia PA: Institute for Renaissance and Reformation Biblical Studies, 1997], 43).

On the challenges that textual criticism presents to the inerrancy of the autographa, see Michael A. Grisanti, "Inspiration, Inerrancy, and The OT Canon: The Place of Textual Updating in an Inerrant View of Scripture," JELS 44 (2001): 577-598; John J. Brogan, "Can I Have Your Autograph? Uses and Abuses of Textual Criticism in Formulating an Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture," in Evangelicals and Scripture: Lradition, Authority, and Hermeneutics (ed. Vincent Bacote, Laura C. Miguelez, and Denis L. Okholm; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 93-111; J. Daniel Hays, "Jeremiah, the Septuagint, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Inerrancy: Just Exactly What Do We Mean by the 'Original Autographs'?" in Evangelicals and Scripture: Lradition, Authority, and Hermeneutics, 133—49. 18

Daniel J. Trier, "Scripture and Hermeneutics," in Lhe Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Lheology (ed. Timothy Larsen and Daniel J. Treier; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 40. 19



Thus, in seeking to define the way in which the Bible is true, or not untrue, there is the danger that one opts for a definition that is detailed and robust, but thereby becomes so specific that it fails to reflect the breadth of the Christian tradition, historical and global. For that reason, I prefer stating the truthfulness of the Christian Bible in positive terms. In fact, this is the more "biblical" approach since in the Book of Revelation there is a large emphasis on God and God's word as "faithful and true" (Rev. 3:14; 19:9; 21:5; 22:6). The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy also describes Scripture as "true and trustworthy" which reflects this biblical presentation. As such, we can give due heed to Bloesch's advocacy of the "truthfulness or veracity of Scripture" as opposed to reliance on a strict definition of inerrancy. Bloesch proceeds to speak of infallibility "as derivative from the One who alone is infallible." He thinks inerrancy is "not the preferable word" but maintains that "it should not be abandoned, for it preserves the nuance of truthfulness and is necessary for a high view of Holy Scripture."20 Ultimately, if the Word of God is God's own Word, then its factual veracity is safeguarded by divine fidelity.21 That is to say, the truthfulness of Scripture is predicated on the faithfulness of God to his own Word and not dependent on our abilities to demonstrate the absence of error in every case that could be thrown in our face by non-Christian critics (whether that is Celsus or Bart Ehrman!).22 The most intrinsic elements of any doctrine of biblical veracity, then, will be how one construes the Bible's divine origin, authority,

20 Donald G. Bloesch, Holy Scripture: Revelation, Inspiration, and Interpretation (Downers Grove: IVP, 1994), 116. 21 Cf. the exploration of this theme in Carl Trueman and Paul Helm, eds., The Trustworthiness of God: Perspectives on the Nature of Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002). 22 Note the concerns of the Scottish Theologian James Orr (Revelation and Inspiration [1910], 197-98) to B. B. Warfield's articulation of biblical inerrancy: "It is urged.. .that unless we can demonstrate what is called the inerrancy of the biblical record down even to its minutest details, the whole edifice of belief in revealed religion falls to the ground. This, on the face of it, is the most suicidal position for any defender of revelation to take up."



accuracy, clarity, and sufficiency for salvation.23 Explicating those facets, rather than wrangling over definitions, is the most important task in developing a doctrine of Scripture. Done properly, that will hopefully equip Christians to articulate the truthfulness of their Scriptures against allegations of falsehood, but also, and I think something that is becoming more far more important, enable them to resist the cultural domestication of the Bible and answer those who insist that the Bible's claims are negotiable. In light of this, what then is Scripture? I prefer the definition given by John Webster: '"Holy Scripture' is a shorthand term for the nature and function of the biblical writings in a set of communicative acts that stretch from God's merciful self-manifestation to the obedient hearing of the community of faith."24 It is the inscripturated speech of God to human beings given through the inspiration of human authors. Scripture is a true word, it is a good word, a living word, a sacred word, and God gave it to us so that, as St. Paul wrote, "by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom 15:4, NRSV).

23 Stephen R. Holmes, "Evangelical Doctrines of Scripture in Transatlantic Perspective," EvQ 81 (2009): 63. 24 John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 5.


Karen H. Jobes

The vast majority of Christians throughout history have read their Scripture in translation. This contrasts sharply with Islam and Orthodox Judaism, which both contend that their Scriptures cannot be translated accurately and therefore must be read in the respective language in which it was originally written. Christianity took a different path from its very beginning, when the divinely inspired writers of the New Testament (NT) did not hesitate to preserve the teachings of Jesus—not in his native tongue of Aramaic—but in Greek, the lingua franca of the Roman Empire. Christianity very early accepted the translation of Scripture when the Greek NT was translated into Syriac and Latin, with many other translations to follow from that time even down to our own. The first translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was made into the Greek language centuries before Jesus was born. By the time the NT writers began to pen their Gospels and epistles, more than one Greek version of it was likely at their disposal. And so the Bible adopted by the majority of Greek-speaking Christians in the Roman Empire, particularly outside of Palestine, was the Greek Old Testament (OT) next to the developing Greek NT. The term "Septuagint" is often used to refer to the Greek version of the OT, just as we today might refer to the "English Bible" without distinguishing a particular translation (NIV, NRSV, NLT, etc.). But in the context of the ancient church, when there were several different Greek versions of the OT text circulating, Christian scribes used the term to indicate a specific Greek version that originated almost three centuries before Christ. 21




In the third century before Christ, during the reign of the Egyptian king Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.E.), the Pentateuch was first translated from Hebrew into Greek in the city of Alexandria, Egypt. By the time of Christ, all the remaining books of the Hebrew Bible had been translated into Greek, although it is not known when, where, or by whom. By extension of the term, the first translation of the books beyond the Pentateuch were also referred to as the Septuagint, though many scholars today prefer the term Old Greek (OG), reserving the term Septuagint (LXX) for the original translation of the Pentateuch. At the time Christian scribes were at work centuries later, one tradition numbered the translators of the original Greek version at seventy. The English term "Septuagint" reflects scribal notes found in the manuscripts that read, "according to the Seventy," where the Greek word for "seventy" was mediated through the equivalent Latin word septuaginta, often abbreviated using the Roman numeral LXX. Revisions of the original translation or other independent translations into Greek also existed in the early church. By the second century of this era, Origen (ca. 185 to ca. 254) knew of three Greek versions in addition to the Septuagint, known as Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion (or collectively, as the Three). T H E GREEK O L D TESTAMENT ADOPTED BY N E W TESTAMENT WRITERS

The continuity of God's redemptive revelation in the Hebrew Scriptures with the Christian gospel began with Jesus himself. Perhaps this is best seen in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5, esp. v. 17), where Jesus announces that he is a fulfillment of all that the old covenant taught and commanded. Moreover, in Luke 24:13—53, the crucified and risen Jesus points his downcast disciples to the Jewish Scriptures for an explanation of the tragedy that had befallen him. Referring to the three major sections of the Hebrew Bible, he explained that everything written about him "in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44). Therefore Jesus himself gave warrant for the early Christian church to adopt the Jewish Scriptures as its own.



When the NT writers began to write about Christ in the Greek language, they naturally made extensive use of the existing Greek versions of the OT. And so the Greek NT and the Greek OT naturally formed the Bible for the early Greek-speaking church. Thereafter for a millennium the Christian church read the Greek OT and translations made from it into Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Palestinian Aramaic, Syriac, and—until Jerome's Latin Vulgate appeared—Old Latin. Even as late as the 9th century, a version of the OT in Greek was the textual base for the first Bible that appeared in Slavonic.1 T H E GREEK O L D TESTAMENT IN THE N E W

That the NT presents itself as a sequel to the Old is so readily apparent that it needs no defense. The heavy use of the Greek OT in the New through quotations, allusions, wording, themes, and imagery led one scholar to comment, "He who would read the New Testament must know Koiné [Greek]; but who would understand the New Testament must know the LXX." 2 However, no standard Greek version was adopted and the citations represent a number of different Greek versions known to the NT writers; some citations are taken verbatim from the Old Greek; some reflect a text revised toward the Hebrew at some point; a few cite Greek translations of the OT that are otherwise unknown.3 While not every reader of the NT needs to become a Septuagint scholar, some general knowledge of the Greek OT and its relationship to the New will deepen one's understanding of Scripture and do justice to the historical situation in which the NT developed. For instance, it can be perplexing to see an OT quotation in the English NT, flip back to the source of the quotation in the OT and find that the two don't match! This happens where the NT

Natalio Fernandez Marcos, The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Versions of the Bible (trans. Wilfred G. E. Watson; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 346-62. 2 Sidney Jellicoe, "Septuagint Studies in the Current Century," JBL 88 (1969): 199. 3 J. Ross Wagner, "The Septuagint and the 'Search for the Christian Bible,'" in Scripture's Doctrine and Theology's Bible (ed. Markus Bockmuehl and Alan J. Torrance; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 19. 1



writer has quoted a verse from the Greek O T that differs from the corresponding Hebrew text from which our modern English Bibles have been translated. These differences range from paraphrases that do not alter the semantic meaning of the verse, to small pluses and minuses, to the inclusion of additional chapters in the Greek Esther and Daniel that are not found in the Hebrew version (and therefore are not found in modern Protestant English versions of those books either). F o r j u d g e s , Esther, Daniel, and Tobit, Susanna, and Judith in the Apocrypha, there are two distinctly different Greek versions extant. And in the case of Jeremiah, the Greek version is much shorter than the Hebrew, and some of its content is arranged in a different order. Despite such differences, "a theology of the Septuagint in the sense of 'a comprehensive presentation of the religious and theological content of the Septuagint.. .would actually be for the most part identical with a theology of the [Hebrew] Old Testament.'" 4 The reasons for these differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts, and between different renditions of the Greek text are varied and complex. 5 In many cases, the differences between a Greek text and its corresponding Hebrew text may have been caused by a Hebrew text different from the extant MT from which the Greek was translated. Where that is the case, textual critics of the Hebrew Bible must decide which of the two Hebrew readings was original. The use of the Greek versions in textual criticism is an important field of modern scholarship, but except for the work of Origen (see discussion of the Hexapla below), the early church was more concerned with differences between various Greek versions and were generally not aware of the corresponding Hebrew, much less in explaining how differences arose. Those church fathers aware of at least some of these differences disagreed on whether the Septuagint should be considered divinely inspired. The ancient hermeneutic of multiple senses of 4 Wagner, "Search for the Christian Bible," 21, quoting Anneli Aejmelaeus, " V o n Sprache zur Theologie: Methodologische Überlegungen zur Theologie der Septuaginta," in The Septuagint and Messianism (ed. M. A. Knibb; Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2006), 23 (Wagner's translation). 5 See Karen H . Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000) for a deeper discussion of these issues, especially chapters 6, 7, and 8.



Scripture could accommodate differences between the Hebrew text and the LXX as a work of the Holy Spirit easier than hermeneutical practice can today. For instance, Augustine knew that according to the Hebrew text, Jonah announced to Nineveh forty days until the overthrow of the city, whereas the Septuagint translation says three days. Augustine believed that the prophet Jonah had actually said forty days, but that the Greek translators inspired by the Spirit of God changed it to three days, which had at the time the translation was made become a symbolic number representing the time of deliverance in Jewish tradition. Augustine suggested this anticipated the Christian gospel, writing, "The sensitive reader will recognize an allusion to Christ's resurrection on the third day." 6 And since the NT writers drew their quotations from both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures alike, Augustine believed, "both sources should be employed as authoritative, since both are one, and both are inspired by God." 7 Augustine considered only the LXX/OG version of the OT to be a special work superintended by God in preparation for the NT, and he rejected the later versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion as unsuitable for use in the church. Unlike Augustine, Jerome did not believe the differences between the Hebrew and Greek versions to be a new work of the Spirit. He believed that all Greek versions and translations made from them teemed with errors that made those versions unsuitable for use in the church. 8 For this reason, he translated the OT from the Hebrew text for his Latin Vulgate. Furthermore, Jerome rejected the divine inspiration of the Greek translators, or for that matter, of any translator. He writes, "It is one thing to be a prophet, another to be a translator. The former through the Spirit, foretells things to come; the latter must use his learning and facility in speech to translate what he understands." 9 Translations, from ancient times to our own, derive their significance and authority by being an accurate representation of the original. As Hanhart notes, 6 Augustine, City ofGodl8M (NPNF1 2:387). See also Martin Hengel, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture: Its Prehistory and the Problem of Its Canon (trans. Mark E. Biddle; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2002), 51-54. 7 Augustine, City of God 18.44. 8 Jerome, Preface to the Book of Hebrew Questions, in letters and Select Works (NPNF' 6:486). 9 Jerome, Apologia adversus libros Rufini 2.25 (NPNF2 3:516).



"As a translation of already canonized writings, the LXX translation itself has canonical significance both for Judaism and for the Christian church. It derives this significance, however, only from the strength of the canonical authority of its Hebrew original."10 If we follow Jerome's view, the question then arises of the use of an uninspired Greek translation of the OT in the inspired text of the NT. Where the NT quotes a verse from the LXX/OG that differs from the Hebrew, the wording of that particular quote in that particular context is inspired by virtue of the inspiration of the New Testament writer, but not because the translators of the Greek OT were inspired. However, the inclusion of a Greek OT quotation in the NT does not confer inspiration on the whole of the Greek translation (anymore than Paul's quotation from the pagan poets Aratus, Epimenides, and Cleanthes in Acts 17:28 confers divine inspiration on the writings of those poets). The influence of the Greek OT is pervasive throughout the entire NT. The three OT books cited most frequently in the New in descending order are Isaiah, Psalms, and Genesis, which is about tied with the frequency of citation of the Minor Prophets taken as a whole.11 Scholars may offer different counts of the number of times the NT cites the Old because of differences and ambiguities in deciding what to count. Quotations are easiest to count, but even then one must decide how many words of the source must be present to count as quotation. Then there are allusions, motifs and images, and references to people, places, and events found in the OT. Hengel estimates that 60% of all direct quotations come from just three books: Psalms, Isaiah, and Deuteronomy. 12 Swete had previously counted that nearly half of the OT passages expressly

Robert Hanhart, "Introduction: Problems in the History of the LXX Text from Its Beginnings to Origen," in Hengel, Septuagint as Christian Scripture, 5. 11 This writer determined the three most frequently cited books by examining the "Loci Citati Vel Allegata" found as an appendix in the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, 27th ed. That table includes both quotations and allusions, as defined by the editors. 12 Hengel, Septuagint as Christian Scripture, 107. 10



cited in the NT come from either the Psalms or Isaiah.13 The Psalms, Isaiah, Exodus, and Deuteronomy apparently enjoyed great popularity within Judaism at the time the NT was written, for they are also the books cited most in the Qumran writings (also known as the Dead Sea Scrolls).14 Just as Christian writers today cite predominantly from the NT, so also the writers in the early church. But given the frequency with which Isaiah, Psalms, and Genesis are cited in the NT, it is not surprising that the Psalms, Genesis, and Isaiah are consistently found as the most frequently cited OT books in the first five centuries of the Christian church.15 In the ante-Nicene fathers, Genesis is found most frequently cited, followed by Isaiah and the Psalms.16 (The ante-Nicene fathers being Clement of Alexandria, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Melito of Sardis, Polycarp, Papias, Serapion of Antioch, and Tertullian.) In Origen's extant writings, the book of Exodus is cited even more frequently than Isaiah, as Origen turns to Christian exposition of the Ten Commandments and of the exodus event; and the Psalms take first ranking in Origen's frequency of citation. This frequency of citation—Psalms, Genesis, Exodus—continues with the Antiochene fathers (Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Amphilochius of Iconium). Interestingly, the Song of Solomon ranks fifth in frequency of citation among the Antiochene fathers, even though it is cited only twice in the NT and only six times in the ante-Nicene fathers. It is the twelfth most cited book in Origen's writing, attesting to its increasing popularity among Christian writers as it came to be read

13 Henry Barclay Swete, A.n Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1914; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1989), 386. 14 Fernandez Marcos, Septuagint in Context, 324. 15 For a list of OT verses that strongly influenced the writings of the ancient church, see Swete, Introdudion to the Old Testament in Greek, 464—69. 16 The frequency of citation of the OT in the fathers was determined by examination of the Scripture index of volumes 1, 3, and 5 in Biblia Patristica (Paris: CNRS, 1975, 1980, 2001 respectively). The early fathers referred to here would be those writers indexed in volume 1.



as an allegory of Christ's love for the church—even in Antioch where the allegorical hermeneutic was generally frowned upon.17 Among the Egyptian desert fathers, the most frequently cited OT books are the Psalms, Genesis, and Isaiah, with Exodus and Ezekiel also being prominent.18 These materials from the desert fathers most likely originated in Coptic; therefore, the question of which version of the OT the desert fathers knew and the relationship of that text(s) to the Greek versions is complex. The Greek Isaiah as Christian Scripture Including allusions, there are more than five hundred citations of Isaiah in the NT drawn from every chapter except chs. 15, 18, and 20. Isaiah was clearly a most important book for the NT writers and consequently for the fathers of the church. And no passage was more frequently cited than the Suffering Servant passage of Isa 52:13—53:12 (hereafter referred to as simply Isa 53). Isaiah 53 is directly quoted, most often in its ancient Greek translation, in six NT passages written by the apostles Matthew, Luke, John, Paul, and Peter. Given the differences among these men and the diverse audiences to whom each wrote, it seems clear that Isa 53 was widely known and deeply rooted in the earliest proclamation of the Christian gospel. Luke's account of the arrest suggests that the origin of the identification of Jesus as Isaiah's Suffering Servant began with Jesus himself.19 On the last evening of his earthly life, Jesus quoted Isa 53:12 saying, "It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'" (Luke 22:37). He then concludes, "I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment" (italics added). The identification of Jesus as Isaiah's Suffering Servant is also attested in Acts 8:32, 33 which quotes Isa 53:7-8. Robert C. Hill, Reading the Old Testament in Antioch (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 105. 18 Douglas Burton-Christie, The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 97. 19 M. D. Hooker, "Did the Use of Isaiah 53 to Interpret His Mission Begin with Jesus?" in Jesus and the Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 and Christian Origins (ed. W. H. Bellinger and W. R. Farmer; Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity, 1998), 88-103. 17



Since the end of the nineteenth century it has been argued that the suffering of the servant in Isa 53 cannot be about atonement because the Hebrew passage contains none of the language found in passages about sacrificial atonement performed by Israel's cult elsewhere in the OT.20 However, the Greek translation of Isa 53 seems to amplify the theme of atonement, suggesting that long before the coming of Jesus those Jewish translators did see atonement language in the passage. Where the Hebrew text of Isa 53:4 reads, "Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering" the Old Greek reads, "This one bears our sins and suffers pain for us" (NETS, emphasis added). 21 Furthermore, in Isa 53:11—12 the Greek translates the Hebrew verbs with the same Greek verb, anapheró ("bear"), and their corresponding direct objects with the noun hamartia ("sin"), yielding "he will bear their iniquities" (53:11) and "he bore the sin of many" (53:12). The collocation of this particular Greek verb and noun is found in only three other places in the canonical books of the Greek OT, all which refer to atonement (Lev 9:10,16:25, and 2 Chr 29:21). This amplification of the idea of atonement in the Greek translation of Isa 53 is one example of how the Greek translation of the Scriptures was in places more congenial to the purposes of the NT writers than was the corresponding Hebrew text. Deissmann once commented that Hellenistic Judaism had with the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures ploughed the furrows for the gospel seed in the Western world. 22 F. F. Bruce added

20 Brevard Childs, Isaiah (OTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), 418; R. N. Whybray, Thanksgivingfor a Liberated Prophet: An Interpretation of Isaiah Chapter 53 (JSOTSup 4; Sheffield; JSOT Press, 1978), 29-57; Harry M. Orlinsky, "The So-Called 'Servant of the Lord' and 'Suffering Servant' in Second Isaiah," in Studies in the Second Part of the Book of Isaiah (VTSup 14; Leiden: Brill, 1967), 56. 21 NETS is The New English Translation of the Septuagint and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included Under That Title (ed. A. Pietersma and B. G. Wright; New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). 22 Adolf Deissmann, New Tight on the New Testament from Records of the Graeco-Roman Period (trans. Lionel R. M. Strachan; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1907), 95.



that it was the Christian preacher quoting the Septuagint who sowed that seed of the gospel. 23 The identification of Jesus as the Suffering Servant led to three other applications of the Isa 53 passage in the NT: (1) to explain that because of the example of Jesus' unjust suffering, it is better for Christians to suffer than to sin (1 Pet 2:22—24 quoting Isa 53:4—6, 9); (2) to show that Jesus' healing ministry had been prophesied as part of the messianic role (Matt 8:17 quoting Isa 53:4); and (3) to explain that the rejection of Jesus as Messiah by the vast majority of first-century Palestinian Jews was prophesied (John 12:38 and Rom 10:16 both quoting Isa 53:1). All of these quotations of Isa 53 are from the Greek OT text with the possible exception of Matthew, which does however cite the Greek Isaiah elsewhere (e.g. 1:23, see below). In addition to quotations and allusions, often the language of passages from the Greek OT is adopted to draw important biblical theological connections. The Greek Isa 52:13 speaks of the Suffering Servant being "exalted," using the Greek verb (hjpsoo) that is then echoed in John 3:14; 8:28; and 12:32, 34. The Greek verb has two meanings, either to lift something physically, or to lift up in the sense of to exalt someone. John's Gospel takes advantage of the two senses of that verb to create a word play that both echoes Isa 52:13, alluding to Jesus as the Suffering Servant, and explains that the "lifting up" of Jesus on the cross is the exaltation of God's Suffering Servant. 24 The apostle Paul does something similar in Phil 2:10 with the phrase "every knee shall bow" taken from the Greek Isa 45:23. While Isa 53 may be the most quoted passage in the NT, the Greek Isa 7:14 has caused the most controversy throughout the church's history. Matthew 1:23 quotes the prophecy of Isa 7:14 in its Greek form, "the virgin shall conceive and bear a son" with the claim that the birth of Jesus fulfills it. The controversy centers on whether this prophecy was understood to predict a miraculous

23 F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), 50. 24 Andreas J. Köstenberger, "John," in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 436.



birth in the Jewish interpretive tradition before Matthew's Gospel applied it to Jesus. At issue is the difference between the sense of the Hebrew word almah and the Greek word parthenos. The noun in the Hebrew text of Isa 7:14 speaks of an almah, a word used to refer to a young woman of marriageable age, comparable to the archaic English word "maiden," which only suggests the connotation of virginity. For whatever reason, the translator of the Old Greek Isaiah chose the more specific Greek word,parthenos, which in most contexts is used to refer specifically to a virgin woman, rather than the Greek word neanis, which more closely matches the sense of the Hebrew word almah. Some therefore argue that Isa 7:14 never predicted a virgin would give birth, only a young woman, who in the original historical context may either refer to Isaiah's wife or to the wife of King Ahaz. To be clear, this debate has no effect on Matthew's claim of Jesus' virgin birth to Mary, for Matt 1:18 unequivocally states that Mary conceived before she had sexual relations. As it happened, the Old Greek translator provided a striking rendering well suited to its later use in Matthew's Gospel. It is unlikely that we will ever know why the Old Greek translator^), working more than a century before Matthew's Gospel was written, chose the word parthenos and whether that choice held any interpretive significance for them. But this verse from the Greek Isaiah caused bitter controversy between the early church and the Jews. Justin Martyr, for instance, accused the Jews of perverting the sense of Isaiah's prophecy when they construed parthenos in Isa 7:14 to mean only a young woman (Dialogue with Trypho 84). Reaction to the Christian understanding is likely reflected in the Greek versions of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, where neanis appears instead. Subsequently in church history, the decree of the Council of Ephesus in 431 C.E. used the Greek Isa 7:14 to argue, not for the virgin birth, which it assumed, but for the fully human nature of Jesus Christ against docetic heresies. 25

Norman P. Tanner, ed., The Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils (2 vols.; London: Sheed & Ward; Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1990), 1:71. 25



The Greek Psalms as Christian Scripture The popularity of the Psalms in the ante-Nicene church extends back to their use in the NT where they are extensively quoted second only to Isaiah. They are also the most frequently cited OT book in Origen's writings and in the sayings of the desert fathers. Within the extant writings of four Antiochene fathers—Diodore, John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret of Cyrrhus—the importance of the Psalms is surpassed only by the Gospels in the piety and liturgy of the church at Antioch.26 This is not surprising, for the Gospels draw frequently on the Psalms, with their prophetic hope of a messianic son of David, to explain the identity and mission of Jesus Christ. For this purpose, Ps 110:1 is the most frequently quoted OT verse in the NT. Psalm 118 (especially w . 22—26), and Ps 22 were also of particular interest to the NT writers. Matthew 22:44, and the parallels in Mark 12:36 and Luke 20:42, present Ps 110:1 (109:1 LXX)« as central to Jesus' teaching that he is the Messiah and a son of David, and furthermore, that the Messiah is more than a merely human descendent of David. There are three persons involved in the opening phrase of Ps 110:1, Yahweh (the LORD), the "lord" Yahweh addresses, and the author of the Psalm represented by the pronoun "my," whom Jesus identifies as David. While the verse may seem confusing in English because the same word "lord" is used of two referents (as also in the Greek), the use of two different words in the Hebrew, jhwh and adoni, amplifies the point. In quoting this Psalm, Jesus implies that he is David's Lord. Peter quotes Ps 110:1 in Acts 2:34— 35 and draws the conclusion that "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah." Psalm 110 presents this Lord of David as both a conquering king ( w . 1—3) and a priest in the order of Melchizedek (v. 4). Hill, Reading the Old Testament in Antioch, 86. The versification of the Psalms is different in English translations than in the Greek versions. The Old Greek Psalms treat Pss 9 and 10 as one psalm, and divide Ps 147 into two. Moreover, it includes the superscriptions as part of verse 1, which the English does not. Therefore, it can be tricky finding corresponding verses between the English and Greek versions. See Jobes and Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint, 329—31, for a convenient table of versification differences. 26 27



Therefore, in Matt 22:44, Mark 12:36, and Luke 20:42, Jesus' implicit identification of himself as that Lord spoken of by David in Ps 110:1 also reveals Jesus' self-understanding as being both the Messianic king and the priest of a new covenant. In Mark's Gospel, this identification of Jesus from Ps 110:1 is brought together with his identification as Isaiah's Suffering Servant (as well as Daniel's messianic Son of Man). 28 The Lord goes on to say in Ps 110:1, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." The verse is widely cited by ancient Christian writers for various purposes. Justin cites this verse as a prophecy of Christ's ascension (First Apology, XLV), as well as an argument for the two advents of Christ (Dialogue with Trypho, XXXII). He also cites it to explain the delay of the consummation (First Apology, XLV). First Clement 36 cites it in an exhortation for the Corinthians to persevere in righteousness in light of certain victory. Basil includes it in his discussion of the subordination of the Son to the Father (On the Spirit, VI.15). Gregory Nazianzen, Archbishop of Constantinople, explains that the "until" is inclusive, not exclusive, to defend Christ's eternal reign against the argument of heretics (Fourth Theological Oration, IV). In addition to Ps 110, Ps 118 is also employed in the synoptic Gospels to explain Jesus' identity. Verses 22—26 are used to identify Jesus as the Messiah who would come into Jerusalem but astoundingly be rejected by those he came to deliver. Matt 21:9 (parallel Luke 13:35) quotes Ps 118:25, 26 (Ps 117:25, 26 LXX) when describing Jesus' last entrance into Jerusalem on what the church has since commemorated as Palm Sunday. Further in Matthew's Gospel, verse 21:42 presents Jesus quoting Ps 118:22, "the stone the builders rejected," apparently in reference to himself (paralleled in Mark 12:10—11 and Luke 20:17). In all three instances, the quotation follows immediately after the parable of the wicked tenants in the vineyard, which is itself an allusion to Isa 5:1—2. Jesus alludes to his destiny on the cross as a result of his rejection in Jerusalem through a Hebrew wordplay between the murdered "son" (ben) of the parable and the rejected "stone" (eben),

Rikk E. Watts, "Mark," in Commentaiy on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 138. 28



a wordplay which cannot be preserved either in Greek or in English. The rejected stone, however, becomes both the foundational stone in a new building project, the eschatological temple, as well as an instrument of destruction. These two points are picked up in 1 Pet 2:4—8 which pictures Christians as stones coming to the Living Stone and where the warning against rejecting Christ is extended to all people, whether J e w or Gentile. This image of the stone is found also in Isa 8:14—15; 28:16, and Dan 2:34, and was understood as messianic well before its use in the NT. 29 By citing the stone imagery in Ps 118:22 in reference to himself, Jesus identifies himself as the Messiah, predicts his rejection and execution, and announces the destruction of all who reject him. The Septuagint's value as Christian Scripture is affirmed even beyond the books that cited it. Archeological finds show that ancient Christian churches were adorned with engravings of verses from the Greek OT, and most often from the Psalms. The most frequently found inscription is Ps 118:20 (117:20 LXX), "This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter," engraved above the door lintel on either the western or southern side of many churches in Syria, but also as far west as Corfu, and including Palestine, Arabia, Sinai and Asia Minor. 30 Psalm 22 (21 LXX) contains a vivid description that is similar to Jesus' crucifixion as recorded in all four Gospels. Again it was Jesus who invoked Ps 22:1 from the cross crying out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34). Several other elements of Ps 22:1—21 are found in the Gospel descriptions of the crucifixion, such as the gambling for clothing (Ps 22:18/21:19 LXX). Psalm 22:22-31 continues with thanksgiving and praise of God for his deliverance, corresponding to the Resurrection, the ultimate deliverance, and the joyful proclamation "to a people yet unborn: He has done it!" (Ps 22:31).

29 Karen H. Jobes, / Peter (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 147. 30 Denis Feissel, "The Bible in Greek Inscriptions," in The Bible in Greek Christian Antiquity (ed. and trans. Paul M. Blowers; Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), 290.



Although the LXX/OG was the preferred version of the early Christian church, there are moments in its text that are not well suited to application to Christ. For instance, the Old Greek of Ps 22:2 (Ps 21:2 LXX) refers to moral transgressions, which would not be apt when understood as a prophecy about Jesus Christ. The LXX/OG translation (transgressions) may be due to a misreading of the underlying Hebrew text {groaning), because the Three translate more aptly with gnashing of my teeth (Aquila), my loud cries (Theodotion), my lament (Symmachus) .31 The early Christian commentators on Ps 22:2 preferred the reading of one of the Three even though the LXX/OG generally enjoyed a prestige that eclipsed other Greek translations known in antiquity.32 The Psalms also were a focal point of the controversies between the early church and the synagogue. Justin Martyr knew of a Greek version of Ps 96:10 (95:10 LXX) that included the additional words "from a tree" after the phrase "The Lord reigns" ("tree" referring to the cross). These words are not found in the LXX/OG version of the psalm, and so he accused the Jewish scribes of removing it from that widely used Greek version to obscure a prophecy about Jesus. 33 Such disputes over the accuracy of the Greek Scriptures motivated Origen to list in parallel columns the Hebrew text phrase by phrase, and as many Greek versions of it as he knew about, carefully marking what was missing from or added to the Greek in comparison to the Hebrew. Origen was not doing textual criticism as modern scholarship defines it, for he was not attempting to reconstruct the original text of either the Hebrew Scriptures or the Greek. By the time of Origen, the Hebrew text had developed into a more standardized form since the time the original Greek translations had been made. Moreover, Jewish scribes revised their Greek text, sometimes to conform more closely to whatever Hebrew text was known at that time and location. Origen's concern was that the churches of his day use a Greek OT that accurately reflected the 31 Theodoret, Interpretatio in Tsalmos, Patrologiae Graeca 80:1009c— 1012a—b. 32 See Jean-Noel Guinot, "Theodoret of Cyrus: Bishop and Exegete," in The Bible in Greek Christian Antiquity, 167, 186 n. 37. 33 Marcel Simon, "The Bible in the Earliest Controversies between Jews and Christians," in The Bible in Greek Christian Antiquity, 54.



Hebrew Scriptures Origen had at hand. From this document, known as the Hexapla, he produced a corrected "Septuagint" version of the OT for use by the church. In the case of Ps 96:10, the Jewish scribes were vindicated, for the phrase "from the tree" was found not to be in the Hebrew either. Clearly it was a Christian gloss to the Greek text used by Justin. Because of such bitter disputes, as well as the stabilization of a standard Hebrew text, the LXX/OG was eventually abandoned by the synagogue, which turned to other Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures produced by Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus. It was, therefore, Christian scribes who preserved the oldest Greek translation of the OT for the church. Despite the incident over Ps 96:10, the scrutiny of modern scholarship has affirmed that Christian scribes did not generally impose distinctively Christian theology on the Greek OT text as it was copied.34 The different Greek textual traditions used by church and synagogue were recognized by the Christian Roman Emperor Justinian, who decreed on February 8, 553, that all those who read the Scriptures in Greek should use the "Septuagint" but that the synagogue may also use Aquila's version if preferred.35 The Greek Genesis as Christian Scripture Allusions to the first three chapters of Genesis, which present the creation story—and especially the creation of man and woman in the image of God—permeate the NT and the writings of the church fathers. This foundational text had a long interpretive history in Judaism that the Incarnation of Christ did not fundamentally disturb. The Christian understanding of the opening chapters of Genesis retains much of Jewish creation theology with the distinctive difference of insisting that the pre-Incarnate Christ was the agent of creation (John 1:3; Col 1:15—17; Heb 1:2).

34 Robert A. Kraft, "Christian Transmission of Greek Jewish Scriptures: A Methodological Probe," in Paganisme, Judaïsme, Christianisme: Influences et affrontements dans le monde antique: Mélanges offerts â Marcel Simon (Paris: de Boccard, 1978), 207-26. 35 Amnon Lindar, ed., The Jews in Roman Imperial législation (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987), 408-409.



In the church fathers, Gen 1:26 ("Let us make humankind according to our image") and 3:22 ("Then God said, 'See, Adam has become like one of us..."'), with the plural pronouns in reference to God, became part of the defense for the Christian doctrine of the Trinitarian God, particularly in opposition to Jewish interpretation that the plural refers either to God and the angels or to God and a hypostasis of Wisdom, based on a reading of Prov 8:22ff.36 Justin Martyr re-interpreted what was a literary personification of Wisdom to be a hypostasis of the pre-incarnate Christ (Dial. 61.1), an understanding that persists today in Sophia Christology.37 (Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom.) In the christological controversies settled by the fourth century councils, the debate was not between the differences between the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek, but between the various Greek versions. Because of the early identification of Christ with Wisdom personified, the passage in the Greek Prov 8 about Wisdom's role in creation and the creation of Wisdom itself became an exegetical crux in the Arian heresy, which claimed that Christ was not co-eternal with God the Father but had been God's first creation. The Old Greek translation of Prov 8:22 ("The Lord created [ektisen] me as the beginning of his ways") reflected a certain way of reading the Hebrew text that seemed to support the Arians, if the identification of Christ with Wisdom was assumed.38 Those whose views became the orthodox Christian position preferred the reading found in Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, "The Lord possessed [ektesato] m e . . . " The development of Sophia Christology is perhaps where use of the Greek OT and the apocryphal books (e.g. Marcel Simon, "The Bible in the Earliest Controversies," 62, 66. For a critique of Sophia Christology as it developed from the Greek Old Testament, see Karen H. Jobes, "Sophia Christology: The Way of Wisdom?" in The Way of Wisdom: Essays in Honor of Bruce K. Waltke (ed. J. I. Packer and Sven K. Soderiund; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 226-50. 38 Johann Cook, The Septuagint of Proverbs. Jewish and/ or Hellenistic Proverbs? Concerning the Hellenistic Colouring oflLXX Proverbs (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 218-9; Paul Lamarche, "The Septuagint: Bible of the Earliest Christians," in The Bible in Greek Christian Antiquity, 25; Charles Kannengiesser, "The Bible in the Arian Crisis," in The Bible in Greek Christian Antiquity, 217—228, esp. 221; Swete, Old Testament in Greek, 471. 36 37



Wisdom of Solomon) has most distinctively influenced Christian thought, even down to our own day. The Greek Minor Prophets as Christian Scripture The twelve Greek Minor Prophets taken as one book run a close second to Genesis in terms of frequency of citation in the NT. While many of the quotations from the Greek OT agree closely with the Hebrew Masoretic text (MT), many do not. For instance the use of the Greek Amos 9:11, 12 at the first church council in Jerusalem in 49 C.E., as recorded in Acts 15:16—17, is an interesting example. The Hebrew MT text reads, "so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations" compared to the Old Greek, "so that the remnant of humankind and all the nations may seek [me]." Septuagint scholars are divided whether the Old Greek results from a misreading of the Hebrew or from a deliberate interpretation of the Hebrew or a combination of both. Although it may be impossible to determine with certainty how the Old Greek reading came to be different from the MT, that difference made the Greek reading more fitting to the debate at the Jerusalem Council, which was about whether those Gentile peoples who stood outside the covenant nation of Israel could receive the spiritual blessings of Christ without submitting to circumcision. The use of the Greek OT by the church councils continued throughout the first five centuries. Such examples could be multiplied. F. F. Bruce noted places "in which the Septuagint translators used a form of words which (without their being able to foresee it, naturally) lent itself to the purposes of the New Testament writers better than the Hebrew text would have done" (e.g. Matt 1:23 quoting Isa 7:14, and Acts 15:15-18 quoting Amos 9:1 Iff). 39 T H E CANON OF THE GREEK O L D TESTAMENT

Is it true that the canon of the Septuagint included more books than the Protestant canon today? It has sometimes been claimed that the Apocrypha (deutero-canonical books) was an inseparable


Bruce, Canon, 53.



part of the Scripture of early Christianity.40 The fact that the modern Rahlfs(-Hanhart) edition of the Septuagint includes all the apocryphal books reinforces that claim.41 The physical binding of "the Bible" between covers has concretized the concept of canon in ways that make it difficult to appreciate the varied status of books that happened to get bound together as the ancient format changed from scrolls to codex. The invention of the printing press further set the contents and order of the Bible as we know it. Today, the content between the covers of the Bible is the canon, and that idea is often carried into the discussion of ancient codices, producing mistaken inferences. Until the fifth century, none of the ancient manuscripts of the Greek OT included all of the apocryphal books, even though many manuscripts do include one or more of those books. Furthermore, the earliest canon lists include a shorter list of books than found in the ancient manuscripts.42 In other words, even though all of the OT books recognized by the Protestant canon today were part of the established canon of the earliest Christians, other books esteemed by various churches were included within the covers of the Bibles produced for use in those churches. Perhaps the situation is analogous to modern editions of the English Bible that contain relevant articles on geography, canon, historical background, etcetera, that are certainly not considered part of the biblical canon even though bound together with the biblical books. A second reason sometimes offered for support of the idea that the canon of the Greek Bible in the ancient church was broader is the claim that the NT quotes from some of the apocryphal books. For instance, some claim that Mark 10:19 quotes Sir 4:1. But it is just as likely to be a reference to Mai 3:8 as it is rendered, not in the Old Greek, but in the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion.

40 For instance, Peter Stuhlmacher, "The Significance of the Old Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha for the Understanding of Jesus and Chtistology," in The Apocrypha in TLcumenical Perspective (ed. S. Meurer; trans. P. Ellingworth; UBS Monograph Series 6; New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 12. 41 Septuaginta (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellscaft, 2006). 42 Hengel, Septuagint as Christian Scripture, 57—60.



On the topic of the Septuagint canon, David deSilva concludes: The "Septuagint" codices.. .are fourth- and fifth-century Christian works, fail to agree on the extent of the extra books, and seem to have been compiled more with convenience of reference in mind than as the standards of canonical versus noncanonical books.. .As "church books," they may have sought to contain what was useful rather than what was strictly canonical. 43

Therefore, to appreciate the Septuagint's rightful place in our Christian heritage does not imply that we must necessarily accept a broader canon than that allowed by Protestant tradition. T H E GREEK OLD TESTAMENT TODAY

The pervasive use of the Greek OT in the earliest Christian writings attests to its historical importance in the development of Christianity. Moreover, inscriptions of biblical texts engraved on buildings and amulets and quotations preserved in the papyri and ostraca attest to the widespread use of the Greek OT by the early church around the Mediterranean world.44 The influence of the Greek OT, especially the Greek Psalter, can also be found in hymns and prayers of the early church. Today, the Eastern Orthodox churches and, to some extent the Roman Catholic Church, still know and esteem the Septuagint. The prominent historical role of the Greek OT needs to be appreciated as an important part of Christian heritage today, and most especially by Protestants. This does not mean, however, that Bibles for Protestant use in modern languages should translate the OT from the Greek version, as some are calling for.45 Many Protestants today, if not most, David A. DeSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha. Message, Context, and Significance (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 29—30. 44 Fernandez Marcos, Septuagint in Context, 267; Feissel, "The Bible in Greek Inscriptions," 290. 45 For instance, Mogens Müller, The First Bible ofi the Church: A Pleafior the Septuagint (JSOTSup 206; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1996); Robert W. Funk, "The Once and Future New Testament," in The Canon Debate (ed. L. M. McDonald and J. A. Sanders; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2002). 43



would agree that it would be inappropriate for the Christian church to use as its OT the English Tanakh produced by the Jewish Publication Society. Of course, if the JPS English Tanakh were the only English translation of the Hebrew Bible available, then the Englishspeaking church would have little choice but to use it as our OT. And such was the situation in the Greek-speaking world of the first century in which the apostles wrote. We are in a much different moment in history. Protestants rightly have deep reverence for the Masoretic Text, but that need not exclude an appreciation for the place of the Greek OT in the earliest era of Christian history or, perhaps more importantly, a recognition of its methodological significance in biblical theology and NT exegesis today.* FOR FURTHER READING

Blowers, Paul M., ed. and trans. The Bible in Greek Christian Antiquity. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997. Fernández Marcos, Natalio. The Septuagint in Context. Introduction to the Greek Versions of the Bible. Translated by Wilfred G.E. Watson. Leiden: Brill, 2001. Hengel, Martin. The Septuagint as Christian Scripture. Its Prehistory and the Problem of Its Canon. Translated by Mark E. Biddle. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2002. Hill, Robert C. Reading the Old Testament in Antioch. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Jobes, Karen H., and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000. Müller, Mogens. The First Bible of the Church: A Vlea for the Septuagint. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament: Supplement Series 206. Sheffield: Sheffield, 1996. Swete, Henry Barclay. An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1914. Repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1989.

* The author wishes to gratefully acknowledge her research assistants, Cassandra Blackford, Matt Newkirk and Ben Ribbens, for their help in the preparation of this article.


"Scripture in the Second Century" is a dynamic field of research. It may be difficult to pinpoint exactly what the topic includes, even if we stay within a Christian context. Is this referring to Jewish Scriptures, Christianized Jewish Scriptures, Gospel writings, Old and New Testament Scriptures, sacred writings, or simply preserved or lost religious texts from the second century C.E.? Whichever is preferred, "Scripture in the Second Century" has become an increasingly important area of research in biblical studies, patristic exegesis, and dogmatic theology alike. 1 One reason for this, of course, is that, in the patristic scholar Oskar Skarsaune's wording, "in many respects, Christian literature of the period 30—250 C.E. may be said to be one single large commentary on the Scriptures." 2 Also, due to the formation of a core New Testament (NT) canon alongside the Jewish Scriptures during this time, and for other reasons, the second century certainly is "one of the most significant periods in the history of the Christian

Areas in particular that deal with our topic are studies on the canon, the "parting of the ways" and early Christian reception of Old and New Testament writings. 2 Oskar Skarsaune, "The Development of Scriptural Interpretation in the Second and Third Centuries—except Clement and Origen," in Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation, vol. 1: From the Beginnings to the Middle Ages (until 1300), Part i: Antiquity (ed. Magne Sasbo; Gôttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996), 375, here referring to the Hebrew Bible. 1




Bible and its interpretation." 3 Thus, our topic has significance not only for understanding early Christian scriptural interpretation, but also for the development of Christian apologetics and the broader notion of Christian identity vis-a-vis Judaism and its Scriptures. By the early second century, as Christianity began to reflect more on its own identity and also sought to mark out its own particular characteristics over against Judaism, and later in polemical encounters vis-a-vis Marcionism, Paganism and Gnosticism, various dimensions of the Scriptures were brought into focus. In order to analyze this second century situation I shall here single out the four properties of the usage, interpretation, text, and canon of Scripture. With special attention to these properties, this chapter shall consider the second century notion of Christian Scripture against the backdrop of the transference from Jewish to Christian Scripture from the mid-first century on. I will proceed thematically rather than historically, discussing scriptural usage in Justin and the Apostolic Fathers, and the pathway towards Christian Scripture. The subsequent section on interpretation will treat Christ-centered exegesis. In the final section I will discuss nomina sacra in Barnabas 9.7— 9 and the relation between the Scriptures and the Rule of Faith, followed by a few notes on the formation of the Christian canon. The discussion will be limited mainly to some Christian "(proto-) orthodox" writers. First, however, a word on the meaning of our topic. CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURE IN THE SECOND CENTURY

The notion of Scripture in the first Christian communities functioned both in continuity and discontinuity with its various preChristian and contemporary Jewish settings (the same prioritized text and canonical scope, but with different interpretations). 4 Judaism and Christianity thus formally shared the same Hebrew Bible, for second century Christianity often in Greek translation. With 3 James Carleton Paget, "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Second Century," in The New Cambridge History of the Bible (ed. Joachim Schaper and James Carleton Paget; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). 4 See Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (London: SCM Press, 1979), 659-71.



regard to interpretation, however, they differed. This was largely due to the widespread devotion to Jesus which affected scriptural interpretation (1 Cor 1:2), and the emergence of regulatory Jesus traditions (his words and deeds) within earliest Christianity, for which the final authority was Jesus himself (Matt 28:19; Ign. Phld. 8.2f.).5 Thus, by comparing the diverse approaches to Scripture found in writers like Ignatius of Antioch (d. ca. 107/8 C.E.), the author of the Epistle of Barnabas (ca. 70—135 C.E.) and Justin Martyr (d. ca. 165 C.E.), it is not even always clear what is meant by statements of "final" authority, such as "Scripture says" or even the very word "Scripture." This ambiguity is tied up with christological re-readings and the formation of a unique Christian canon resulting in a two-testament Bible (i.e., "Scripture" is not complete without the Gospel and its interpretive center: the teaching, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah-Christ). 6 Already by the late first century C.E. the writings that began to form the NT were read in worship and attained other functions as well that had previously been exclusive to the Jewish Scriptures. It thus appears that the gospel tradition and the emerging NT text in their memorized oral, written and re-oralized forms had an immediate authority for the primitive church similar to that of the Jewish Scriptures.7 Linking Christian scripturality to usage, interpretation, text and canon highlights what is happening in this process and makes us better equipped to understand the dynamic second century notion of Scripture. USAGE OF JEWISH AND EMERGING CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES

The Apostolic Fathers (ca. 70—150 C.E.), except for the Epistle of Barnabas and / Clement, refer to the oral or written NT tradition much more frequently than to the Jewish Scriptures (some five to

Cf. Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987), 2—8. 6 Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian and possibly Melito of Sardis are the first writers to label the Christian Bible "Old" and "New Testament." 7 On the term "re-oralization," see Samuel Byrskog, Jesus the Only Teacher: Didactic Authority and Transmission in Ancient Israel, Ancient Judaism and the Matthean Community (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1994), 339. 5



fifty times as often).8 This is a strong indication of the high status these Christian texts held from early on. That there is a close connection here between usage of a writing and its canonicity, though often disputed among scholars, is nicely phrased by von Harnack: "The question in what sense the collection of writings known as the New Testament was regarded as a Canon of religion is not decided by saying that it was regarded as canonical, but can only be answered by finding out what use was actually made of this collection."9 This is not to say that usage is the one and only dimension of canonicity, but it certainly seems to be a crucial aspect. Both the collection of the Pauline epistles into a corpus between roughly 60 and 120 C.E.,10 and the formation of the Four-Gospel canon in the mid-second century,11 or slightly later, involved usage. We can add to this that many of the NT writings, in particular the Gospels, seem to have been composed for such usage, to be read out aloud within the Christian worship setting (as Martin Hengel and others have argued). Some of these texts may even have been designed with the intention to establishing new Scripture, as Moody Smith has recently indicated: "Strangely, or not so strangely, the first and last books of the NT present themselves as scripture.. .It attests the existence of the idea of distinctively Christian scriptures before the end of the first century."12 Gospel and Proof from Prophecy in Justin Martyr Some decades after the composition of the NT Gospels, in Justin around 150 C.E., we come across an account of early Christian 8 Franz Stuhlhofer, Der Gebrauch der Bibel von Jesus bis Euseb: Eine statistische Untersucbing %ur Kanonsgescbichte (Wuppertal: Brockhaus, 1988), 67. 9 Adolf von Harnack, Bible Reading in the Early Church (London and New York, 1912), v; cited from John Barton, The Spirit and the Letter (London: SPCK, 1997), 32-33. 10 For a comprehensive discussion, including Paul, Luke and/or Timothy as possible instigators of the collection process, see Stanley Porter, ed., The Pauline Canon (Pauline Studies 1; Leiden: Brill, 2004). 11 Graham Stanton dates the formation of the Fourfold Gospel shortly before 150 C.E.; see his Jesus and Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 85. 12 D. Moody Smith, "When Did the Gospels Become Scripture?," JBL119 (2000): 15.



Sunday worship, in which, for the first time, the liturgical function of the Gospels is clearly a reality, turning out to be central for community life, and, to be noted, also for determining these writings' status vis-a-vis the Jewish Scriptures: On the day called Sunday all [believers] who live in cities or in the countryside gather together at one place, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then, when the reader has finished, the president of the assembly in a speech admonishes and invites all to imitate such examples of virtue. Then we all rise together and pray... (/ Apol. 67)13

We notice here that the congregation each Sunday usually read from the Gospel ("the memoirs of the Apostles") "as long as time permits," 14 that is, a so-called continuous reading (the texts read in order, the reader picking up where the assembly left off the Sunday before). Then they arguably proceed with readings from the prophetical writings, just as in the synagogue (Torah reading followed by a suitable reading from the Prophets, the haftarah, to supplement the Torah passage of the day), but with the important difference that the Torah reading here seems to have been exchanged for the Gospel reading.15 Nevertheless, to our knowledge Justin never quotes a NT text as Scripture,16 whereas his use of the Jewish Scriptures as Scriptures is overwhelming. As Skarsaune has argued in great detail, Justin continuously sets out to prove from Scripture that: 1) Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God; 2) the Law has a different position after Christ; 3) the community of believers in Jesus rather than the Jewish people is now the people of God. The scriptural proof can be said to have three foci: de Christo, de lege, de ecclesia,17

Other second century representatives of this major exegetical tradition, usually referred to as the "proof from prophecy," include "ANF 1:186. 14 Cf. 1 Apol. 66.3 and Dial 10.2. 15 For a critical discussion and references, see Oskar Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2002), 384ff. 16 Ibid., 280. 17 Skarsaune, "The Development of Scriptural Interpretation," 390—1.



the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, Melito of Sardis, Irenaeus and Tertullian. 18 The "Old Testament" is also strongly focused in the polemics of Justin, Irenaeus and Tertullian against Marcion (b. ca. 100 C.E.) and his rejection and negative treatment of everything Jewish, including the Scriptures. "Marcion emphatically did not cause the Church to have a New Testament; he did cause it to have an 'Old Testament,' that is, to correlate the old Scriptures with its (already more or less formed) collection of Christian books." 19 New Testament Texts in the Apostolic Fathers Tracing the reception history of the Gospel and other NT writings to the time even before Justin, we are again back to the group of writings called the Apostolic Fathers, in which both orality and literacy are characteristic marks of Christian tradition transmission. The Apostolic Fathers as well as other early writers commonly refer to the emerging NT writings by rather free allusions. / Clement (ca. 70—100 C.E.) knows of several texts from the emerging NT, at least 1 Corinthians and most likely Romans and Hebrews. 20 However, in his important 1973 study on / Clement Donald Hagner argues that the author alludes to a majority of the epistles making up the Pauline Corpus, and not only to a few. In addition to 1 Corinthians and Romans which are most clearly alluded to, there seem to be allusions to Ephesians and Colossians, as well as probable knowledge of 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians and the Pastorals. 21 There may also be allusions to Acts, 1 Peter and James. Hagner further directs our attention to the free use of Synoptic material found not only in / Clement, but in the other Apostolic Fathers as well. In the Didache (ca. 50—150 C.E.) knowledge of the Synoptic tradition can be demonstrated, in par-

Ibid., 376. Barton, The Spirit and the Tetter, 58. 20 Andrew F. Gregory, "1 Clement and the Writings that Later Formed the New Testament," in The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (ed. Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher M. Tuckett; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 154-5. 21 Donald A. Hagner, The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Home (Leiden: Brill, 1973), 278ff. On memory quotation in the Apostolic Fathers, see ibid., 290ff. 18




ticular dependency on Matthew, but arguably also on Luke. 22 Ignatius of Antioch is acquainted with at least some of Paul's letters, especially 1 Corinthians, which he "must have known.. .almost by heart," 23 Ephesians and 1 and 2 Timothy. He also most probably makes use of Matthew's Gospel and possibly Luke and John. 24 In his letter to the Philippians (ca. 110—130 C.E.) the great bishop and martyr Polycarp of Smyrna seems to be familiar with 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and 1 Peter. There is also probable usage of 1 and 2 Timothy, 1 John, and perhaps Romans, Galatians and Philippians. It is also possible that Polycarp made use of one or more of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and/or Luke. 25 Regarding the Epistle of Barnabas, Carleton-Paget thinks it is difficult to demonstrate that the author knew of any individual NT book, even if a general knowledge of Synoptic passion traditions can be shown; and perhaps, as Carleton-Paget points out, something close to a quote of Matt 22 in Barnabas 4.14. Since Matt 22:14 is the only known parallel on offer, Barnabas 4.14 is quite possibly one of our earliest quotes (William Horbury dates the epistle to the late first century) of a Gospel writing as Scripture: "let us be on guard lest we should be found to be, as it is written, 'many called, but few chosen.'" 26 From our brief analysis of some selected texts from the Apostolic Fathers we can conclude that there is great familiarity with letters of Paul in / Clement and in Ignatius' and Polycarp's letters. In addition to Paul's influence, the influence of the Synoptic tradition

Christopher M. Tuckett, "The Didache and the Writings that Later Formed the New Testament," in The Reception of the New Testament, 126—7. 23 W. R. Inge, "Ignatius," in NTAF, 61, cited from Paul Foster, "The Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch and the Writings that Later Formed the New Testament," in The Reception of the New Testament, 185. 24 Ibid. 25 Michael W. Holmes, "Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians," in The Reception of the New Testament, 197, 226. 26 So Rhodes and Köhler. James N. Rhodes, The Epistle of Barnabas and the Deuteronomic Tradition (WUNT 2/188; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2004), 153ff. Wolf-Dietrich Köhler thinks that dependence on Matthew is quite possible for Barn. 4.14; 5.8f and 7.9b; see his Die Reception des Matthäusevangeliums in der Zeit vor Irenäus (WUNT 2/24; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1987). Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament, 57, does not convince to the contrary. 22



can be noticed, in particular the Gospel of Matthew in the Didache, Ignatius' letters and the Epistle of Barnabas. Regarding the Johannine literature, based primarily on the accounts of Irenaeus (ca. 130—202 C.E.), but also of Polycarp (ca. 69-155 C.E.) and Papias (ca. 60130 C.E.), Charles Hill argues forcefully for the continuous use of the Fourth Gospel, the First Epistle and the Revelation among the "apostolic" churches "from a time very early in the second century on through to Irenaeus' day."27 On the Way to Christian Scripture Papias of Hierapolis assists us with a helpful comment on early Christian orality versus literacy. To him the oral gospel, "that which came from a living and abiding voice," was thought to be even more authoritative than the already appropriated written Gospel.28 Whereas the function of the gospel tradition and the newly written Christian writings immediately became very significant to the Christian communities, the Jewish Scriptures, on the other hand, were in many cases not used extensively, or were not even present in their entirety.29 Justin, teaching in Rome, for example, favors only a few OT books (Genesis, Isaiah and Psalms), while other books may not be quoted at all or only scarcely.30 In this connection the Austrian statistician Franz Stuhlhofer notes that "the early Church cited the Old Testament as 'Scripture,' but to begin with tended to possess it only in a fragmentary form. The New Testament, on the other hand, was widely available and was used much more heavily, but it was not yet cited as 'Scripture.'"31 John Barton similarly concludes: 27 Charles E. Hill, The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 111. 28 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical Histo/y III.39, in The Apostolic Fathers (ed. Bart D. Ehrman; 2 vols.; LCL 25; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003), 2:99. 29 Only from the mid-second century on Christians began to more systematically produce their own Septuagint copies. 30 See Oskar Skarsaune, "Justin and His Bible," in Justin Martyr and His Worlds (ed. Sara Parvis and Paul Foster; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), 57-8. 31 Stuhlhofer, Der Gebrauch der Bibel von Jesus bis Euseb, 68. Cited in Barton, The Spirit and the Tetter; 65.



The central importance of most of the writings that would come to form the New Testament is already established in the early second century, by the time of the Apostolic Fathers, and all but a very few Old Testament books (such as Isaiah or the Psalms) already play second fiddle to the Christians' own writings. Indeed, it is not until the third century that citations begin to level out as between the two Testaments. All the indications are that the New Testament became almost instantly more important than the Old for the nascent Church.. ,32

Even given these observations, based largely on the French Biblia Patristica project, it is still of some significance for the formation of the Christian Bible that what is called "the words of the Lord," "the gospel" or "the apostle" in the early second century, a few decades later is explicitly referred to as "Scripture" on par with the Old Testament (OT). While in the NT the term "Scripture" (¿raphe, occurring some 50 times) most often refers to the Jewish Scriptures—however not exclusively so, as 2 Pet 3:16 indicates— from the late first to the late second century Christian writers begin explicitly to include NT texts as well in their notion of Scripture. The earliest undisputed examples are Tatian in his anti-Hellenic writing Oration to the Greeks (13.1; ca. 170-75 C.E.), quoting John 1:5, and Theophilus of Antioch around 180 C.E. in his A.d Autolychum (iii.2), where he talks about the Evangelists as not less inspired by the Holy Spirit than the OT prophets.33 However, beside Barnabas 4.14 (see above), already 2 Clement 2.4 (mid-second century) is arguably an example of NT text being reckoned as scriptural: "And another Scripture says, 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,'" referring either to Matt 9:13 or Mark 2:17.34 In other words, we see here an important development within the early communities: the emergence of a specifically Christian notion of Scripture containing the Scriptures of old (the OT) side by side with a new body of regulatory writings from the apostolic and sub-apostolic age (the NT). In this process Christian reading patterns are derived from, but also imposed on, the old Scriptures; parallel with such readings 32 Ibid.,



Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament, 118.

34 See also Polycarp's Phil. 12.1, which seems to refer to Eph 4:26 as Scripture.



of Scripture, specifically Christian writings begin to form the NT. The core of these texts was received as authoritative to be read in worship alongside the Jewish Scriptures from roughly the mid- or late first to the early third century, as witnessed, for example, by the Pauline writings (Col 4:16; cf. 2 Pet 3:16) and by Justin (/ Apol. 67). It is here striking, as Barton emphasizes, that "the Gospels were received as, in practice, even more important than the Jewish Scriptures before they were old enough to have a natural aura of sacred antiquity."35 However, as we have seen above, there are some noteworthy early, even first century, indications of the new apostolic writings already being conceived of as Scripture. INTERPRETATION: CHRIST AS MID-POINT

The teaching of and about Christ—the gospel—whether in oral, written or re-oralized form, was often prioritized, it seems, even over against the Jewish Scriptures, which were now believed to be fulfilled. Christian Judaists in the early second century, however, could still tend to regard Jewish Scripture as the ultimate authority. Ignatius of Antioch tells us about such different expectations of authority associated with the old Scriptures in his letter to the Vhiladelphians (8.2):36 But I urge you to do nothing in a contentious way, but in accordance with the teaching of Christ. For I heard some saying: "If I do not find it in the ancient records [Gr. archaiois=the Jewish Scriptures], I do not believe in the Gospel." And when I said to them, "It is written," they replied to me, "That is just the question." But for me, Jesus Christ is the ancient records; the sacred ancient records are his cross and death, and his resurrection, and the faith that comes through him—by which things I long to be made righteous by your prayer. 37

It is natural to take Ignatius' use of the Greek archaios, "ancient record," and his phrasing "it is written" in this quote to refer to the

Barton, The Spirit and the Tetter, 67. On the difficulty of identifying Ignatius' opponents, see Thomas A. Robinson, Ignatius of Antioch and the Farting of the Ways (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2009), 113-26. 37 Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, 1:291-2 (modified). 35




Jewish Scriptures.38 However, the point he seems to be making implies a broader meaning, which involves an overall textual conception embracing both the Jewish Scriptures and their christological interpretation. Or should we rather say that Ignatius and his Judaizing Christian dialogue partners are exhibiting a problem: whether the old Scriptures and the Gospel are communicating the same Christian message, or whether the credibility of Christian claims necessarily have to be grounded in the Jewish Scriptures? As the Antiochian bishop on his journey under armed guard to martyrdom in Rome sees things, the old Scriptures and the Gospel (in oral or written form) speak of Jesus Christ, "his cross and death and his resurrection and the faith which comes through him."39 Ignatius here appears to emphasize his understanding of a creedallike center of the Scriptures, consisting of a Christian narrative reading embracing this set of keywords. Jesus Christ, his cross, death and resurrection are identified with the very text of Ignatius' Scriptures. It is interesting to note that the reverentially abbreviated nomina sacra (some five to fifteen specially demarcated sacred names) introduced universally in the Christian biblical manuscript tradition from around the late first century on, such as the Greek words for Jesus, Christ and (the less consistently demarcated) cross could quite possibly have had this creedal function that Ignatius here addresses. Along these lines, in an often cited passage, the British papyrologist C. H. Roberts has described the system of nomina sacra in the biblical manuscripts (including also the Greek words for Lord, God, Spirit and often Father and Son) as "the embryonic creed of the first Church." 40 As we shall see below, in the contemporary Epistle of Barnabas such use of nomina sacra seem to be hermeneutically important by drawing attention to the name of Jesus and his cross. Christ-centered reading as the point of convergence in much second century Christian exegesis continues in the prolific church father Origen (ca. 185—254 C.E.), who makes a claim very similar 38 For the unparalleled use of archaios referring to the Jewish Scriptures, and to similar passages in Josephus and Philo, see W. R. Schoedel, "Ignatius and the Archives," HTR 71 (1978): 97-106. 39 Cf. Phld. 5.2 and 6.1. 40 Colin H. Roberts, Manuscript, Society and Belief in Early Christian Egfpt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), 46.



to that of Ignatius when in his Commentary on John (V.6) he writes that "all the Scriptures are one book because all the teaching that has come to us about Christ is recapitulated in one single whole." Likewise Irenaeus (ca. 130—202 C.E.), for whom Christ makes up the scopos, the principle of the harmony of all Scripture, states: For if anyone reads the Scriptures with attention, he will find in them an account of Christ.. .for Christ is the treasure which was hid in the field.. .And, for this reason, indeed, when at this present time the law is read to the Jews, it is like a fable; for they do not possess the explanation of all things pertaining to the advent of the Son of God, which took place in human nature; but when it is read by the Christians, it is a treasure, hid indeed in a field, but brought to light by the cross of Christ.. .41

Irenaeus here hints at the recurring scriptural interpretive pattern among some early church teachers, referred to above as the "proof from prophecy" tradition, often containing one or more of the three focal points de Christo (on Christ), de lege (on the Law) and de ecclesia (on the church).42 On another level, here as frequently elsewhere, the bishop of Lyons gives voice to the patristic "dogma" of the unity of the Scriptures, Christ as the first principle of interpretation combined as well with what we could perhaps call a form of anti-Rabbinic reading. Taken together, these concerns of his and some of his predecessors open up to a hermeneutic movement from the Jewish law to the Messiah-Christ as the center of Scripture, for the expansion of the Jewish Scriptures to include new Christian writings, as well as for the pertinence of some textual issues related to Christology. TEXT, INTERPRETATION, CANON

Finding Jesus and His Cross in Genesis 14:14 The connection between text and interpretation is sometimes very close. An example of this is the rendering of Gen 14:14 of the number 318 in parts of the Christian manuscript tradition. This

41 42

Against Heresies IV.26.1, ANF1. See "Gospel and Proof from Prophecy" above.



may even be our oldest known witness of nomina sacra,® the earliest exposition of which is found in the Epistle ofBarnabas.u In Barnabas 9.7—9 the author presents an allegorical reading of the circumcision of Abraham's household by elaborating on the number 318, in the source rendered by the Greek letters TJE, instanced also in other contemporary early Christian manuscripts. 45 This indicates that the author of Barnabas had a Christian copy before him of Gen 14:14. The interesting text in Barnabas focusing on the name of Jesus and the dogma of grace signified by the cross reads: For Abraham, the first to perform circumcision, was looking ahead in the Spirit to Jesus when he circumcised. For he received the firm teachings of the three letters. For it says, "Abraham circumcised eighteen and three hundred men from his household." What knowledge, then, was given to him? Notice that first he mentions the eighteen and then, after a pause, the three hundred. The number eighteen [in Greek] consists of an Iota |J], 10, and an Eta [E], 8. There you have Jesus. And because the cross was about to have grace in the letter Tau [T], he next gives the three hundred, Tau. And so he shows the name Jesus by the first two letters, and the cross by the other. For the one who has placed the implanted gift of his covenant in us knew these things. No one has learned a more reliable lesson from me. But I know that you are worthy. 46

Here a reference to the nomen sacrum for Jesus (JE=18) stands alongside the symbol of the cross (T=300). The cross, said to signify grace, is further treated in Barnabas 11 and 12, there in connection with Christian baptism and the serpent raised by Moses in the desert. That the symbolic representation of the number 318 was known in Christian circles is further confirmed by Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150—215 C.E.) in his reading of Gen 14:14. However, for Clement this form of Christian gematria seems to be past tradiSee also "Interpretation: Christ as Mid-Point" above, and "Prioritized Texts and Canons" below. ^Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant: The Purpose of the Epistle of Barnabas and Jewish-Christian Competition in the Second Century (WUNT 2/82; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1996), 23. 45 For references, see Larry W. Hurtado, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 146—7. 46 Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, 2:45-47. 43



tion rather than part of his own exegetical practice. Clement comments: "For it is said that the character for 300 is by its shape a symbol of the cross of the Lord." 47 On the whole, second century readings of the Scriptures abound in references to the sign of the cross, not least in the writings of Justin Martyr. The Scriptures and the Rule of Faith The second century church made wide use of creedal summaries. Taking their point of departure in the NT (1 Cor 15:3ff; Acts 10:36-43; Rom 8:34; 2 Tim 2:8; 1 Pet 3 : 1 8 f f ) a n d in oral tradition, these variously formulated kerygmatic summaries occur, for example, in / Clement, Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. In Ignatius, we find one-limbed formulations (focusing on Christ), such as: Be deaf when anyone speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the stock of David, who was from Mary, who was truly born, ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of beings heavenly, earthly and under the earth, who also was truly raised from the dead, His Father raising him... (Trail. 9).49 Interestingly, in Ignatius (Smyrn. 1.1—2) both Jewish and Gentile believers seem to embrace the same christological creed.50 From the late second century two- or three-limbed (i.e. dyadic or triadic) summaries of the faith are referred to as the Rule of Faith, the Rule of Truth, the Ecclesiastical Rule, or simply the Kerygma, or the Faith. When presenting the four Evangelists and their written accounts in Against Heresies, Irenaeus, for example, summarizes their teaching in the Gospels by referring to this Rule: "These have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ, the Son of God" (III.1.2). What he seems to be saying is that the Rule of Faith is closely related to, or even equivalent to, « Stromateis VI.2.84, 3^1, ANF 2. 48 See J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds (3d rev. ed.; London; New York: Continuum, 1972; repr., 2006). 49 Translation ibid, (modified). 50 Oskar Skarsaune, Jewish Believers in Jesus (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2007), 509.



the narrative presentation in the written Gospel. To him, the Rule of Faith—or the Rule of Truth as Irenaeus prefers to call it—is closely associated with the Gospels and the Scriptures as a whole. Thus, in Paul Blower's wording, when Irenaeus (or Tertullian) defends the church against the Gnostics, the Rule of Faith is identified with Scripture's own intrinsic story-line "in order to avoid the Gnostics' double-talk, their propagating of one myth on the philosophical level while still trying, on another level, to communicate it with pieces of scriptural narrative." 51 This intimate connection between the biblical text and the particular reading pattern signified by the church's Rule of Faith is also found in Clement of Alexandria. To him the "Canon of the Church"—the phrase Clement often uses—is really what keeps the Scriptures together as a unified whole: "The Canon of the Church is the agreement and unity of the Law and the Prophets and the Testament delivered at the coming of the Lord." 52 Prioritized Texts and Canons in Judaism and Christianity A most important textual property of the Jewish Scriptures in the Hellenistic setting was their translatability into the lingua franca of their day, Koine Greek. The first and second century Christian choice of the Greek Septuagint as the primary authoritative Bible translation for church use was crucial. In Rabbinical Judaism it was paralleled by the emergence of new Jewish translations into Greek of the Hebrew Scriptures, such as that of Aquila (early second century C.E.), Theodotion (mid-second century C.E.) and Symmachus (ca. 150—250 C.E.). Also, while in the second century large parts of Christianity kept to the Greek Bible (still, of course, based on the Hebrew text), Rabbinic Judaism continued to use the Hebrew (Tiberian) Masoretic text as its normative text.53 Such variations regarding translation and textual preference between Jews and Christians, however, were only the starting point for further differences.

51 Paul M. Blowers, "The Régula Fidei and the Narrative Character of Early Christian Faith," ProEccl6 (1997): 212. 52 Stromateis^I1.125.2. 53 See John Elwolde, "Language and Translation of the Old Testament," in The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies (ed. J. W. Rogerson and Judith M. Lieu; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 138-9.



The textual formats preferred also differed. Instead of the classic scroll format used by both Jews and Gentiles, Christian literature from the earliest second-century papyrus discoveries onwards was written almost exclusively on codices, the early equivalent to the modern book format. Yet another typical feature, already mentioned above, which set Christian Scripture apart from other literature, was the use of nomina sacra (sacred words), as distinct from the Jewish Tetragrammaton, in the manuscripts. That is, the textual demarcation of the five primary nomina sacra Jesus, Christ, Lord, God and Spirit (e.g. in extant second/third century OT and NT papyri, and in the fourth century Codex Sinaiticus), as well as of a few other words, made the Christian Scriptures editorially unique.54 Moreover, there seems to have been a common Christian practice (although this is disputed among scholars) to collect testimonies of scriptural citations, arranged thematically, probably with brief Christian interpretations added. Such "testimony sources" appear to have been used by Justin and other Christian writers to demonstrate the fulfillment of scriptural prophecy.55 These sources are perhaps best described as Greek "targumizing" of the standard Septuagint text.56 As Justin believes he has the authentic Septuagint text in his source, he accuses the Jews of having interpolated and even removed certain passages from the Scriptures. In his Dialogue (71—73) he claims that Messianic prophesies have been undercut in Jewish copies of the Septuagint, for example when treating Ps 96:10. Justin mistakenly accuses the Jews of having cut out the words "from the tree" from the Septuagint text, by Justin supposed to be following after the phrase: "Say among the nations 'the Lord reigned.'" However, the Apologist seems unaware of the fact that here, as elsewhere, it is a matter of Christian interpolation in his own testimony source. Considering the use of the codex format,57 nomina sacra, a preference of the Septuagint text, and a different ordering of the OT 54 Cf. Martin Hengel, The Your Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Investigation of the Collection and Origin of the Canonical Gospels (Harrisburg: Trinity, 2000), 118. 55 For use of the term "testimony sources," see Skarsaune, "Justin and His Bible," 56. 56 Ibid., 59. 57 However, cf. ibid., 57.



books58 (as well as the probable usage of testimony sources), we can see that the Christian OT was easily recognizable and distinguishable from the Jewish Bible. By the late second century when the bipartite Christian Bible was conceived of as sacred text made up of the "Old" and the "New Testament," an important step had been taken in terms of textuality, mirroring changes in scriptural use and interpretation that had emerged throughout the first and second centuries.59 Turning to the NT texts, based on the NT manuscript tradition, David Trobisch forcefully argues for the publication of a full 27 books edition of the NT with typical Christian features, such as the codex format, nomina sacra and the "canonical ordering" of the NT books, already in the second century.60 On the potential inclusion of so called apocryphal NT writings in the Christian canon, such as the Gospels of Thomas and Peter, the church historian Eusebius' (ca. 260—339 C.E.) negative judgment largely applies also to the second century situation, as witnessed by Irenaeus and others: "Not a single one of these have been considered worth mentioning by any of the teachers standing in the ecclesiastical tradition" {Ecclesiastical History III.25).61 Regarding the canon of the OT it can be noted that Christianity from the beginning never was without a Bible, but shared its Scriptures with Judaism. 62 This is probably the reason why the socalled OT Apocrypha (from which many text allusions in the NT can be derived) surprisingly are never quoted as Scripture in the NT. The same tendency can be seen in the Jewish historian See Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, 667. Tomas Bokedal, The Scriptures and the Lord: Formation and Significance ofi the Christian Biblical Canon. A Study in Text, Ritual and Interpretation (Lund: Lund University Press, 2005). 60 David Trobisch, The First Edition ofi the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). See also David C. Parker's important critical review in JTS 53 (2002): 298-305. 61 Regarding the canonical status of the Gospel and Apocalypse of Peter and the Gospels of the Hebrews and the Egyptians, see Metzger, The Canon ofi the New Testament, 165-89. 62 See esp. Roger T. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon ofi the New Testament Church and its Background in Early ]udaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985). 58




Josephus, writing in the 90s C.E., who delimits the Jewish canon to 22 books (arguably equal to the Christian 39-books canon), "for which every J e w is willing to die" {Against Apion 1.38—41).63 Although there was a certain ambiguity or inconsistency in the early church regarding the OT canon, when bishops and theologians like Melito of Sardis (d. ca. 180 C.E.) and Origen (ca. 185-254 C.E.) produced lists of the OT canon "they almost invariably reproduced a list of the books in the Jewish Bible, and of these books only." 64 The Greek-speaking church 65 kept to this Jewish canon for some centuries to come.* FOR FURTHER READING Barton, John. The Spirit and the Tetter: Studies in the Biblical Canon. London: SPCK, 1997. Beckwith, R. T. The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and its Background in Early Judaism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985. Bokedal, Tomas. The Scriptures and the Tord: Formation and Significance of the Christian Biblical Canon. A Study in Text, Rdtual and Interpretation. Lund: Lund University Press, 2005. Rev. ed. forthcoming. Gamble, Harry Y. Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995. Gregory, Andrew F., and Christopher M. Tuckett, eds. The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Hvalvik, Reidar. The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant: The Purpose of the Epistle of Barnabas and Jewish-Christian Competition in the Second Century. Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1996. Kelly, J. N. D. Early Christian Creeds. 3d rev. ed. London; New York: Continuum, 1972. Repr., 2006.

Ibid., 235ff, 119ff. Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple, 291, also discussing the early church's use of a wider OT canon. 65 Including Athanasius of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Gregory of Nazianzus, but also the Latin Church Father Jerome. * Special thanks to Dr Donald Wood and my wife Anna Bokedal for reading and commenting on an earlier draft of the present chapter. 63




Parvis, Sara, and Paul Foster, eds. Justin Martyr and His Worlds. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007. Sieb0, Magne, ed. Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation. Vol. 1, From the Beginnings to the Middle Ages (until 1300). Part Antiquity. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996. Skarsaune, Oskar. In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2002.


Michael W. Pähl

The question of the relative authority and respective roles of Scripture and Tradition for Christian theology and practice continues to have great significance for contemporary theological formulation and ecumenical dialogue. Yet too often such reflection and conversation is hindered by misunderstanding, particularly related to defining the key terms "Tradition" and "Scripture" and appreciating the nuances of the Protestant concept of Sola Scriptura and the Roman Catholic teaching of "Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition." In the context of this debate—and in contrast to some popular Protestant misunderstandings—"Tradition" does not simply mean any longstanding religious beliefs or practices; this capital-T "Tradition" is to be distinguished from "the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time."1 Rather, "Tradition" in the context of this 1 The Vatican, Catechism of the Catholic Church (2d ed.; Vatican City: Libreria Edittice Vaticana, 2000), The following descriptions of "Tradition" and "Scripture" are also adapted from the Catechism. This is a fairly recent summary of Catholic doctrine, developed since the Second Vatican Council and first published in 1992 for the purpose of developing instructional materials for catechumens. It is not without controversy in the Roman Catholic Church, with detractors claiming it neglects some traditional Catholic doctrine in favor of ecumenism. However, it has been endorsed by Pope John Paul II as "a sure norm for teaching the faith and




issue refers specifically to that teaching of the apostles of Jesus concerning the gospel for the faith and practice of the church which was orally transmitted by the apostles but not written down by them, teaching which continued to be orally transmitted from generation to generation after the apostles in a direct chain of succession, and which was occasionally committed to writing to the extent that circumstances required. "Scripture" is somewhat more straightforward. With regard to the New Testament (NT), "Scripture" refers to the writings of the apostles and others in the apostolic age which express the teaching of the apostles concerning the gospel for the faith and practice of the church. In the Christian understanding, the Old Testament (OT) as "Scripture" refers to the ancient writings of the people of Israel which point forward to the gospel and are useful for the faith and practice of the church: traditionally the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. 2 As "Scripture," all these writings are "inspired" by God.3 The question of the relationship between Scripture and Tradition finds expression as early as the ante-Nicene church fathers.4 However, it was not until the sixteenth century, during the Protes-

thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" ("Fidei Depositum," Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1992). While these are Roman Catholic descriptions, most Protestants would not have difficulty with them in general terms. 2 Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and certain Protestant streams would also include a version of the OT Apocrypha as "Scripture" in some sense. However, this should not unduly complexify a discussion of the authority and function of "Scripture" vis-à-vis "Tradition": in this discussion "Scripture"—whatever the content of that Scripture—is in some sense set over against or alongside "Tradition." 3 "Inspiration" has been variously defined in both Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions. Specific theories of inspiration range widely along a spectrum that runs from a mechanical concept of divine dictation, to a more organic concept of divine-human concurrence, to conceptions that move "inspiration" from the production of the original text to the spiritual illumination of subsequent readers. See the essays in the final section of this book. 4 See the Introduction and relevant patristic excerpts in Tradition, Scripture, and Interpretation: A Sourcebook of the Ancient Church (ed. Daniel H. Williams; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006).



tant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, that the modern Scripture-Tradition debate was born. The Reformation was, without doubt, a complex phenomenon, involving not just theological but also ecclesial, social, and moral causes and concerns. In the midst of this complexity it should come as no surprise to see some diversity of thought among the Reformers on such matters as Scripture and Tradition. Nevertheless, there was some general agreement in Reformation thought and practice on this matter; Keith Mathison concludes, for example, that Martin Luther and John Calvin asserted the Scripture as the sole source of revelation and denied the existence of equally authoritative extra-scriptural revelation. They asserted that Scripture was to be interpreted in and by the Church and that it was to be interpreted according to the ancient apostolic teaching of the church—the regula fidei ["rule of faith"] .5

In response to this and other Protestant ideas, the Roman Catholic Church convened the Council of Trent. In particular, Church leaders were concerned that such an approach could lead to the free interpretation of Scripture apart from the constraint of the Church, which could result in a distortion of biblical truth—the same primary concern of the Catholic Church today. Thus in 1546 the Fourth Session of the Council affirmed the following decree: [The council] also clearly perceives that the truth and the teaching [of the Gospel] are contained in written books and in unwritten traditions, which were received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves to whom the Holy Spirit dictated them. [This teaching] has come down to us, transmitted as if from hand to hand. Following, then, the example of the orthodox Fathers, [the council] receives and venerates with equal piety and reverence all the books of the Old as well as of the New Testament, since the one God is the author of both, also the traditions.. .as hav-

5 Keith A. Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2001), 120.



ing been dictated either orally by Christ or by the Holy Spirit, and preserved in the Catholic Church in unbroken succession. 6

Much more could be said regarding the nature and historical development of this debate,7 but even this brief glance indicates that the Scripture-Tradition debate is not necessarily to be framed as "Scripture versus Tradition," as if these are entirely mutually exclusive. The Reformers who strongly advocated Sola Scriptura recognized the validity of looking to church fathers and universal creeds in order to assist in the interpretation of Scripture or to summarize biblical truth. On the other side, the Roman Catholic Church has never denied the divine inspiration and authority of written Scripture. Rather, the Scripture-Tradition debate is about the relative authority and respective roles of Sacred Scripture and Church Tradition for shaping the faith and practice of God's people. Does Scripture alone have infallible authority in matters of Christian faith and practice over all other possible resources, including Tradition, however helpful such other resources may be? This, in a nutshell, is the general Protestant view of Sola Scriptura. Or, do Scripture and Tradition hold an equal and inseparable infallible authority over all other possible resources in matters of Christian faith and practice? This, in brief, is the Roman Catholic view of "Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition." CONSIDERATIONS TOWARD A MIDDLE PATH

One could perhaps approach the Scripture-Tradition issue "from above," that is, setting the question within the theological context of such doctrines as theology proper or revelation or pneumatology. However, I would like to approach this issue "from below," setting the question of the relative authority and respective roles of Scripture and Tradition within the historical context of Christian origins, particularly in light of some relatively recent research. There are several factors worthy of consideration in this regard, factors which I would suggest point toward a middle path between 6 Session IV (8 April 1546): Decretum primum: recipiuntur libri sacri et traditions apostolorum, in Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta (ed. J. Alberigo et al.; Freiburg-im-Breisgau, 1962), 639. 7 For more in-depth studies see the list "For Further Reading" at the end of this essay.



the alternatives of Sola Scriptura and "Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition." Orality and Textuality For many decades, critical biblical scholarship has flirted with the implications of the predominant orality of the ancient Mediterranean world. It is only recently, however, in the light of a surplus of broader anthropological and historical studies on orality and textuality, that this reality has begun to be a consistent consideration in biblical scholarship, if not yet the new "default setting" James Dunn has called for.8 At least four general aspects of this new awareness of the predominance of orality in the ancient Mediterranean world are significant for our discussion.9 First, behind every written text from the biblical eras, indeed behind every community collection of written texts, there was an oral pre-history. This oral pre-history could be anything from simply the prior sharing of information such as the reports Paul receives from Chloe's household regarding the situation in Corinth (1 Cor 1:11), to the prior communication of personal testimony such as Luke alludes to in the opening lines of his Gospel (Luke 1:1—4), or to the prior formal transmission of tradition such as Paul describes regarding the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:23—25). Second, oral discourse during this period was often

8 James D. G. Dunn, "Altering the Default Setting: Re-envisaging the Early Transmission of the Jesus Tradition," NTS 49 (2003): 139-175. As many have emphasized, this is not an either/or: while the first century Mediterranean cultures were predominantly oral cultures, literacy and textuality were very much alive and well, particularly among the social elite. In such cultures which have a predominant orality and a limited textuality, these factors influence one another in a variety of often unpredictable ways. 9 For general studies of orality and literacy and oral tradition, see Walter J. Ong, Orality and Uteracy: The Technologi^ing of the Word (2d ed.; London; New York: Routledge, 2002); Jan Vansina, Oral Tradition as History (Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985). For surveys of this research in the context of the study of the Gospel traditions, see Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 240-289; James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 173—254.



viewed with more authority than a written text. Of course, this would depend on the particular matter at issue and the provenance and character of both the written text and the oral discourse. However, especially in matters related to establishing the veracity of specific claims regarding the relatively recent past, first-hand oral testimony trumped written texts (e.g. Papias in Eus., Eccl. Hist. 3.39.4). Third, oral tradition and testimony typically followed a pattern of stability at the core and fluidity at the periphery. This was especially evident in more informal or semi-formal transmission of community traditions, with those community traditions viewed as most vital for worldview formation being more stable than others, and with the most crucial aspects of specific sayings or stories being more fixed than peripheral details (e.g. 1 Cor 11:23—25 cf. Matt 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20). Fourth, written texts were typically viewed and used during this period in much the same way as oral discourse. This can be seen, for example, in the notion that a written letter functioned as a second-best substitute for the author's personal presence and oral discourse (e.g. 2 John 12), or in the way in which the Gospels were used and copied in the earliest period with a freedom to alter the perceived periphery of a given pericope in light of similar traditions regarding the story or teaching while keeping the perceived core of the pericope intact.10 Tradition and Testimony Two concepts which have gained special prominence in these scholarly discussions on predominant orality related to Christian origins are the concepts of "tradition" and "testimony." "Tradition" in this context (not to be simplistically equated with the notion of "Tradition" in the Scripture-Tradition debate) may be described as verbal material important to the life and worldview of a distinguishable social group which is orally transmitted in a relatively formal and formulaic way in order to bridge a significant chronological or geographical gap. That there were such traditions transmitted among the earliest Christians is most evident from Paul's statements to this effect. As one trained in the Pharisaic oral traditions, Paul employed the Pharisaic language of tradition transmission in describ10 See the relevant discussions in David C. Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).



ing the reception (paralambano) and passing on (paradidomi) of "tradition" iparadosis) among his converts. 11 The fact that Paul did receive these traditions from others, particular traditions regarding Jesus' life and teachings for which he was in no position to have firsthand knowledge, lends support to the notion alluded to in other NT passages (e.g. Luke 1:1—4) and acknowledged in Synoptic and Historical Jesus research that such relatively formalized early Christian tradition underlies at least some of the material in the Gospels and perhaps the rest of the NT (see below). However, much of the material in the Gospels and many of the concepts found in the NT do not necessarily represent formalized "tradition," but rather personal "testimony." "Testimony" in this context may be described as verbal material important to the life and worldview of a distinguishable social group which is orally transmitted in a relatively informal and more personally involved manner, normally in order to support a particular truth claim. That this sort of personal testimony was a vital part of early Christian teaching and proclamation is evident from the abundance of "witness" and "testimony" language in the NT writings. 12 Even more than with the more formalized early Christian tradition, by all appearances this sort of personal testimony was fairly widespread and underlies a good portion of the material in the Gospels and the rest of the NT. The precise shape and scope of this tradition and testimony is difficult to discern, but it was certainly focused on the life, teaching, and significance of Jesus, with a special spotlight on Jesus' death and resurrection. This focus is evident in at least two ways. First, when Paul as our earliest witness to Jesus provides content for the traditions he has received and passed on, they are focused on the theological and ethical significance of Jesus in the context of Rom 6:17; 1 Cor 11:2, 23; 15:1, 3; Gal 1:9; Phil 4:9; 1 Thess 2:13; 4:1; cf. Col 2:6; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6. On the significance of this language, see A. I. Baumgarten, "The Pharisaic Paradosis," HTR 80 (1987): 64-69; Martin S. Jaffee, Torah in the Mouth: Writing and Oral Tradition in Palestinian Judaism, 200 B.C.E.—400 C.E. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 7375, 80; Bauckham, Eyewitnesses, 264—265. 12 Esp. Luke 1:2; 24:48; John 19:35; 21:24; Acts 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31; 1 Pet 5:1; 1 John 1:2. On the significance of this see Bauckham, Eyewitnesses. 11



his death and resurrection. In this regard one can especially note the Lord's Supper tradition in 1 Cor 11:23—25 and the Apostolic Gospel tradition in 1 Cor 15:3—5. Second, the Gospels themselves as our most extensive early Christian witness to Jesus point to this, as they have undeniably been built from these earlier Christian traditions and testimonies focused on the life, teaching, and significance of Jesus, with a special focus on Jesus' death and resurrection (cf. Luke 1:1-4; John 21:25). More specifically, as I have suggested elsewhere, 13 one may well discern a "common Jesus tradition" in earliest Christianity, crossing geographical and apostolic boundaries, which included a basic narrative of Jesus' career and a basic fund of teaching material. This common tradition may be discernible from several angles which can only be summarized here. The commonalities between the Synoptics and John may point to such a reality. There are about thirty distinct episodes common to all four canonical Gospels, episodes which essentially trace a common narrative beginning with John the Baptist, moving through a Galilean ministry of Jesus involving teaching and miracles, and culminating in a final Jerusalem visit by Jesus in which he is crucified and resurrected. Furthermore, there are dozens of points of contact in the teaching material between the Synoptics and John, particularly evident in the triple- and double-traditional material. This common teaching material is especially characterized by pithy aphorisms and earthy metaphors primarily centered on the kingdom of God and life under the Torah, especially calling for love for God and others in a full devotion which is expressed in self-giving service. This common narrative and teaching material is particularly significant in light of the high probability that the Synoptics and John are at least to some degree independent of one another. It could well be that the Evangelists were constrained by a common Jesus tradition, however much they

13 Michael W. Pähl, "Expanded Interfluentiality: A Review of Part III: Paul Anderson's Theory of Gospel Inter-Relationships," JGRChJ 5 (2008): 135-144; Michael W. Pähl, Discerning the Word of the Lord': The Word of the Lord' in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 (LNTS 389; London: T. & T. Clark, 2009), 6164.



may have each felt some freedom to correct and augment other presentations of that common tradition and testimony.14 This same basic narrative of Jesus' public career is reflected in other early Christian writings, some earlier than the Gospels, some later but possibly employing tradition independent from the Gospels. The kerygmatic material in Acts is significant in this regard (e.g. Acts 2:22-24; 10:36-42; 13:23-31), as are snippets of material in the letters which allude to or assume such a Jesus narrative (e.g. 1 Cor 11:23-25; 15:3-8; 1 Thess 2:14—15; Heb 2:3-4; 5:7; 12:2-3; 13:12—13). Also, the early non-Gospel Christian writings follow a similar Synoptic-like or even double-traditional character in the traditional teaching material which they employ. This is evident from Paul (1 Cor 7:10; 9:14; 11:23-25; 1 Thess 4:16-17a; Rom 14:14) and James (2:5; 5:1-3, 12) through to / Clement (13:1-3) and the Didache (8:3—10). There is even a good possibility that there were certain blocks of traditional teaching material which were in wide circulation among the earliest Christians: a "kingdom teaching" collection approximating some of the double tradition material found in Matthew's Sermon on the Mount and evident throughout Luke, and also reflected in writings such as James, the Didache, and / Clement) a "missionary teaching" collection evidenced in the double tradition material in Matt 10 and Luke 9—10, and perhaps also reflected in writings such as 1 Corinthians; and an "eschatological teaching" collection, seen in the triple tradition of Mark 13, Matt 24, and Luke 21, and perhaps also reflected in writings such as 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Revelation, and the At least three general points are worth noting with regard to these observations. The first is the degree of coherence of this narrative and teaching material at a basic level. The early Christian writings reflect a consistent general portrait of Jesus' public career and distinctive teachings. The second noteworthy point is the distinctively Synoptic-like or even double-traditional character of 14 On these commonalities see Paul N. Anderson, The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus: Modern Foundations Reconsidered (LNTS 321; London; New York: T. & T. Clark, 2006), 128-135. 15 These possibilities are summarized nicely in Richard Bauckham, "The Study of Gospel Traditions outside the Canonical Gospels: Problems and Prospects," in The Jesus Tradition Outside the Gospels (ed. David Wenham; Gospel Perspectives 5; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1985), 378-379.



much of this material. This is especially significant when one considers the multiplicity of available traditions and potential ways of presenting the Jesus tradition. The third point of note is the widespread nature of this material, crossing both geographical and apostolic boundaries. It is evident from Palestinian Jewish Christianity to Diaspora Jewish or even Gentile Christianity, and within Jacobean, Pauline, and Johannine apostolic circles. All this could well suggest that there was indeed a widespread, orally transmitted, "common Jesus tradition" during the earliest decades of the Christian movement—subject, of course, to the realities of orality noted above, particularly the pattern of stability at the core and fluidity at the periphery in the transmission of this common tradition and testimony. Tradents and Apostles Tradition and testimony, like all oral discourse, is not selforiginating and self-promulgating; behind every oral tradition or testimony stands a person, a tradent or witness responsible for developing and/or communicating the tradition or testimony. Contrary to the influential assumption of Rudolf Bultmann and others in the form critical tradition,16 there does appear to have been a somewhat select group of authoritative tradents and transmitters of early Christian traditions and testimonies about Jesus among the earliest Christians. Many of these were eyewitnesses of Jesus' career, and many of them traveled widely among the early Christian communities. Those who were viewed as especially authoritative in terms of instruction regarding and interpretation of Jesus' life and teachings are described in the NT writings with terms such as "witness" (martys) or even "eyewitness" (autoptës), as one providing at least some measure of first-hand testimony about Jesus, "teacher" (didaskalos) as one responsible for instruction in these distinctive

16 Rudolf Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition (trans. John Marsh; 2d ed.; Oxford: Blackwell, 1963). Cf. Martin Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971); Werner H. Kelber, The Oral and the Written Gospel: The Hermeneutics of Speaking and Writing in the Synoptic Tradition, Mark, Taul, and Q (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983). For one response to this "anonymous community" model see Pähl, Discerning the Word of the Lord, ' 59—66.



Christian traditions, and—most significantly for our discussion— "apostle" or "envoy" ('apostolos), as one sent byjesus or in his name for a particular task.17 Much has been written about "apostleship" in the NT and earliest Christianity, and there has been no consensus on the precise origin and use of the term "apostle" in these writings.18 Very likely there was a similar lack of consensus among the earliest Christians on the significance of the term. However, a good case can be made for a distinctive, widely acknowledged group of people known as "apostles" who: (1) were believed to have ideally personally witnessed the majority of Jesus' public career but minimally personally witnessed the resurrected Jesus; (2) were believed to have been personally commissioned by Jesus to this role to be his representatives in word and deed; and therefore (3) were believed to possess a unique authority in the early Christian community related to their faith and practice, an authority viewed as the mediated authority of Christ himself and therefore of God, an authority in many respects akin to that of the ancient Hebrew prophets.19 In relation to the early Christian traditions, it is unlikely that these apostles or other tradents possessed a formal authority akin to a rabbinic college—in contrast with the proposal of Birger Gerhardsson which, while convincing in most other respects, is somewhat anachronistic in this regard.20 Rather more likely is that

On "witness," see above. On "teacher," see e.g. Acts 13:1; 1 Cor 12:28-29; Eph 4:11; Heb 5:12; Jas 3:1; Did 15:1-2. On "apostle," see e.g. Matt 10:2; Luke 6:13; J o h n 13:16; Acts 1:2; cf. Mark 3:14. On these authoritative tradents see Bauckham, Eyewitnesses. 18 See Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, "cmocrToAog," TDNT 1:407-447; D. Müller and Colin Brown, "«TTOCTTEAACO," NIDNTT 1:126-137; Francis H. Agnew, "The Origin of the NT Apostle-Concept: A Review of Research," JBL 105 (1986):75-96. 19 E.g. Mark 3:13-15; Acts 1:21-26; 1 Cor 9:1-2; 12:28; 15:7-10; 2 Cor 12:12; Gal 1:1, 11-17; Eph 2:20; 1 Tim 2:7; 2 Tim 1:11; 2 Pet 3:2; Jude 17; Rev 21:14; 1 Clem. 5:3; 42:1-2; 2 Clem. 14:2; Barn. 5:9; Ign. Trail. 3:3; Rom. 4:3. Again, see the relevant discussions in Bauckham, Eyewitnesses. 20 Birger Gerhardsson, Memory and Manuscript: Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity (trans. Eric J . Sharpe; Lund: Gleerup, 1961). Cf. Samuel Byrskog, Story as Histoy— 17



their authority in shaping the common tradition was more informal or semi-formal: originating some traditions, shaping others, and ensuring a flexible adherence to the core traditions as their travels brought them to the scattered Christian communities. Narrative and Epistemology These threads are made even more interesting when viewed from the angle of another feature of recent NT scholarship, particularly in Pauline studies: the concept of narrative epistemology. This is the idea that there is a narrative substructure to Paul's thought, a story or group of inter-related stories that form the epistemic foundation of Paul's discourse in his letters. The idea is not simply that Paul could tell stories, or that narrative was one of several ways in which Paul could relate his theology, but that an underlying story or stories is in fact the epistemic ground from which Paul proclaims, exhorts, and argues in his letters. While this idea has been challenged in some quarters—in particular, there are difficulties with discerning narrative in a non-narrative genre—the basic concept has been ably defended and more appropriately nuanced in response to these challenges.21 Most significant for our discussion is the repeated suggestion that central to this narrative substructure is a story about Jesus, a story about his sending by God, his life under the Torah, his faithful and obedient suffering and death, his divinely vindicating resurrection from the dead, his exaltation to the right hand of God, and his future return from heaven. This story functions not merely as a neat summary of Paul's Christology but as the ground from which Paul theologizes, a crucial epistemic authority for Paul in grounding his truth claims and ethical exhortations.22 In the context of our History as Story: The Gospel Tradition in the Context of Ancient Oral History (WUNT 123; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000). For one response to this "rabbinic college" model see Pähl, Discerning the Word of the Lord,' 59—66. 21 E.g. the criticism and response respectively in Francis Watson, "Is There a Story in These Texts?," in Narrative Dynamics in Faul (ed. Bruce W. Longenecker; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002); Richard B. Hays, "Is Paul's Gospel Narratable?," JSNT27 (2004): 217-239. 22 For more on this see Richard B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1—4:11 (2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002); Bruce W. Longenecker, ed., Narrative Dynamics in Faul: A



discussion so far, one could well argue that this narrative substructure to Paul's thought and discourse corresponds in some measure to the widespread apostolic story of Jesus, and that this Jesus-story functioned as a crucial epistemic authority for all early Christian thought and discourse. Orality and Gospel Another factor that needs to be part of this discussion is the primarily oral nature of the earliest Christian gospel, the distinctive Christian message of salvation focused on Jesus, his death, and his resurrection. For the earliest Christians, this "gospel" (euangelion) was thought of primarily as an orally proclaimed message that was only secondarily rendered in writing as necessity demanded. One indication of this is the abundance of verbs of speaking and hearing associated with the term euangelion in the earliest Christian writings, especially verbs of public proclamation and declaration such as kerysso and katangello and verbs of hearing and obedience such as akouo and hypakouo.72 Another indication is the frequent use in these writings of "word" (esp. logos) language as synonymous with euangelion, very often clearly retaining the fundamentally oral idea of "something spoken." 24 Furthermore, and very significantly for our purposes, this orally proclaimed message of salvation in Christ is quite frequently described as the "word of God" or "word of the Lord," drawing on the language of the biblical prophets with regard to prophetic oracles which were originally orally proclaimed and Critical Assessment (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002); Pähl, Discerning the Word of the Lord,' 83—95; Ian W. Scott, Implicit Epistemology in the Letters of Faul: Story, Experience and the Spirit (WUNT 2/205; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006). 23 E.g. Matt 4:23; Mark 1:14-15; 14:9; Acts 15:7; 20:24; Rom 10:1417; 1 Cor 9:14-18; 15:1-11; Eph 1:13; 6:19-20; Col 1:23; 1 Thess 1:4-5; 2:13; 2 Thess 1:8; 2 Tim 1:10; 1 Pet 4:17; Rev 14:6; Barn. 5:9; Ign. Phil. 5:2. See Gerhard Friedrich, "EuayyEAiCofaaL, etc.," TDNT 2:730. 24 E.g. Matt 13:19-23; Mark 4:14-17, 18-20, 33; Luke 8:11-13, 15, 21; Acts 2:41; 4:31; 8:25; 13:26; Rom 10:8, 17; 1 Cor 1:18; 2:4; 15:2; 2 Cor 1:18; 2:17; Gal 6:6; Eph 1:13; 5:26; 6:17; Phil 1:14; 2:16; Col 1:5, 25; 3:16; 1 Thess 1:8; 2:13; 2 Thess 3:1; 2 Tim 2:9, 15; 4:2; Titus 1:3, 9; 2:5; Heb 13:7; 1 Pet 1:23, 25; Jas 1:18, 21; Rev 1:9; 1 Clem. 42:3; Ign. Phil 11:1; Did. 4:1; Pol. Phil 3:2; 9:1; Barn. 16:9; Herm. 15:3, 6; 102:2.



only subsequently recorded in writing. In fact, such "word of God" language is used almost exclusively in the earliest Christian writings through the second century for the orally proclaimed gospel, and only rarely with respect to the written Scriptures. 25 In short, for the very earliest Christians the gospel was, to borrow Martin Hengel's description, "the living 'message of salvation,' preached orally and with a christological stamp." 26 It was not until later that the "gospel" (euangelion) was thought of both as something written (i.e. the Gospels) and as something spoken (i.e. the gospel), both proclaiming the salvific significance of Jesus, his death, and his resurrection. The shift to this can be seen as a series of points on a trajectory: (1) the opening lines of Mark's biography of Jesus (1:1), where it is not the writing itself which is described as "gospel" but the story which is narrated in the writing; (2) the use of the term "gospel" in the Didache (8:2; 11:3; 15:3, 4) and Ignatius {Smyrn. 5:1 cf. 1:1), possibly in reference to a single written narrative of Jesus' life and teachings which was known to the Syrian Christian community, possibly a version of Matthew's Gospel; and finally (3) Justin Martyr's description of the "memoirs of the apostles" as "Gospels" (/ Apol. 66.3).27 All this suggests that it was not until at least the early second century C.E. that Christians thought of the "gospel" as something written; for the earliest Christians the "gospel" was the orally proclaimed message of salvation centered on Jesus, his death, and his resurrection, an orally proclaimed message which was communicated by the earliest Christians in various forms but only authoritatively through apostolic testimony and tradition.

25 For more on this see Michael W. Pähl, "The 'Gospel' and the 'Word': Exploring Some Early Christian Patterns," JSNT 29 (2006): 211227; Pähl, Discerning the Word of the Lord,' 122—139. 26 Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ: A.n Investigation of the Collection and Origin of the Canonical Gospels (London: SCM Press, 2000), 61. 27 Cf. Graham Stanton, Jesus and Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 52-59.



Scripture and Intertextuality In using the term "Scripture" {¿raphe),28 the NT authors reflect the widespread early Jewish perspective on a particular body of writings believed to be sacred and normative for religious belief and practice. While there does not seem to have been a formalized canon of Jewish Scripture in the first century C.E., there are clear indications of a widely (though not unanimously) recognized functional canon grouped together as the Law and the Prophets, and in some cases also including the Writings. 29 The precise contents of these divisions may have been fluid and disputed, particularly the Writings. Also, one should certainly not think of these as collected within a single "book," or even easily and widely accessible as a unified collection or collections. 30 Nevertheless, conceptually the NT authors apparently worked within these proto-canonical categories, as is evident from summary phrases such as "the Law and the Prophets" as well as from their explicit Scriptural citations which include representation from all three major sections of the Jewish Scriptures. 31 The earliest Christians were predominantly Jewish and thus naturally continued to look to their Scriptures for their religious belief and practice, and even Gentile Christians to some degree viewed the Jewish heritage as their own and thus looked to the Jewish Scriptures as their own Scriptures.

28 Mark 12:10; 21:42; 22:29; 26:54; Mark 12:24; 14:49; Luke 4:21; 24:27, 32, 45; John 2:22; 5:39; 7:38, 42; 10:35; 13:18; 17:12; 19:24, 28, 36f; 20:9; Acts 1:16; 8:32, 35; 17:2, 11; 18:24, 28; Rom 1:2; 4:3; 9:17; 10:11; 11:2; 15:4; 15:3^1; Gal 3:8, 16, 22; 4:30; 1 Tim 4:13; 5:18; 2 Tim 3:15-16; Jas 2:8, 23; 4:5f; 1 Pet 2:6; 2 Pet 1:20; 3:16. 29 E.g. Sir prologue; Matt 7:12; 22:40; Luke 16:16; 24:27, 44; Acts 13:15; 28:23; Rom 3:21; Josephus,4g. Ap. 1.40. 30 Christopher D. Stanley, Arguing with Scripture: The Rhetoric of Quotations in the "Letters of "Paul (London: T. & T. Clark, 2004), 41-43. 31 There are approximately 150 NT citations from the Law, 110 from the Prophets (mostly the Major and Minor Prophets, rarely the Historical Books), and 90 from the Writings (almost exclusively the Psalms and Daniel). See Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger, eds., The Greek New Testament (4th ed.; Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; United Bible Societies, 1993), 887-888.



The way in which the Jewish Scriptures were read and used by the earliest Christians is, of course, a matter of ongoing scholarly interest with little consensus in sight.32 Nevertheless, there is little doubt that the language, motifs, and stories of these divinely authoritative Scriptures provided the NT authors with their richest resource for thinking about and expressing their convictions regarding what God had accomplished in Christ. Often this can be seen explicitly, as the Scriptures are employed as a primary epistemic authority for the NT authors in supporting their truth claims and ethical exhortations, for example with phrases such as "just as it is written" {kathos gegraptai). Often this occurs more implicitly, as echoes of the Scriptural texts call the reader to the broader context of the allusion, or as the thematic structure of Scriptural texts shapes the NT author's framework of thought and discourse. 33 Regardless, one thing is clear: the Jewish Scriptures, viewed as divinely originating and divinely authoritative, continued to be a crucial epistemic authority for the faith and practice of the earliest Christians. This early Christian perspective on the Scriptures relates in some significant ways to the concepts sketched out in the previous sections. As the apostles witnessed to the gospel of Christ crucified and risen via tradition and testimony, and as they interpreted and applied this gospel for the faith and practice of their churches, they looked to the Jewish Scriptures for the language, motifs, and stories for the framework of their apostolic discourse and for support for their claims regarding the gospel and its implications for belief and practice. The gospel of Christ, crucified and resurrected, is "according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3—4); the Law of Moses and the Prophets testify to the fact and significance of Jesus' death and resurrection (Luke 24:26-27; Acts 26:22-23; Rom 3:21; 16:25-26; 1 Pet 1:10—11); the Scriptures testify to Jesus and the eternal life which is found in him (John 5:39—40); the Scriptures were written for the instruction of the eschatological people of God in Christ 32 See e.g. Kenneth Berding and Jonathan Lunde, eds., Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,


On these uses of Scripture in Paul, see e.g. Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Tetters of Faul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989); Francis Watson, Faul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (London: T. & T. Clark, 2004); Stanley, Arguing. 33



(Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:11); indeed, the overarching purpose of inspired Scripture is to provide wisdom for salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus (i.e. the gospel), a salvation wisdom which includes sound doctrine and righteous living (2 Tim 3:15— 17). A SUMMARY PROPOSAL AND EVALUATION

Our mad scramble through the variegated terrain of some recent scholarship in Christian origins—with some of this ground undeniably more solid than other ground—can be summarized with a proposal. I would suggest that there was a distinct body of orally transmitted teaching material which was common to the earliest Christian communities established by those who had been personally commissioned by Jesus to be his authoritative representatives in word and deed, those legitimately considered "apostles." Some of this teaching material originated with Jesus, some could only have been developed by these apostles after Jesus' resurrection. This body of teaching material included formal tradition and personal testimony, expanded by individual apostolic interpretation, and was employed with the fluidity and stability characteristic of traditional material in a predominantly oral society. The focus of this teaching material was the "gospel," that is, the orally proclaimed message of salvation centered on Jesus, his death, and his resurrection. Around this kerygmatic core was a variety of supporting material, in particular a summary narrative of Jesus' public career especially focused on his passion, and distinct collections of teaching material related to the kingdom of God, its missionary proclamation, and its eschatological fulfillment. This apostolic tradition, testimony, and interpretation—in particular the kerygmatic core—was set within the narrative-theological context of the Jewish Scriptures, providing additional divine witness to God's saving action in Christ on behalf of his people. It was this Scripture-testified, apostle-witnessed, gospel-centered tradition—an "Apostolic-Kerygmatic Tradition"—which functioned as the primary authority for the earliest Christians in shaping theirfaith and practice. So how well do the notions of Sola Scriptura and "Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition" hold up when viewed against this tentative model of early Christian authority? The Roman Catholic notion of "Sacred Tradition" fares rather well. The Catholic teaching emphasizes the reality of gospel-focused living tradition inter-



acting dynamically with written Scripture in the early centuries of the church, with the apostles as the initial Christ-commissioned guarantors of that tradition—ideas which fit reasonably well with the model proposed above. However, the Catholic ideas of Magisterium and Apostolic Succession could be seen to be unnecessary, perhaps even misguided. One could well argue that the apostles held a unique personal authority by virtue of their direct commissioning by Christ, and the authority of their message is not conveyed by personal succession but rather through the apostolic writings, our New Testament. The Protestant concept of Sola Scriptura—properly understood—also holds up well against this proposed model. There is good reason to hold to the unique, even divine authority of written Scripture in witnessing to the gospel of Christ crucified and risen, both the Jewish Scriptures looking forward to Christ in preparation and the apostolic writings looking back in announcement and explanation. However, the extreme notion that there is no place for any other authority in legitimately witnessing to Christian faith and practice—including the universal councils and creeds of the postapostolic church—is difficult to support. In the end, then, we may find ourselves in a Protestant-leaning middle path between the Sola Scriptura and "Scripture and Tradition" views: nuancing Sola Scriptura in some important ways while acknowledging the legitimacy of some fundamental aspects of the "Scripture and Tradition" view, maintaining an emphasis on Scripture as the inspired and only remaining infallible witness we have to the authoritative "Apostolic-Kerygmatic Tradition" while drawing the line at the concepts of Magisterium and Apostolic Succession. FOR FURTHER READING

Benedict XVI, Pope. God's Word: Scripture, Tradition, Office. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008. Breck, John. Scripture in Tradition: The Bible and Its Interpretation in the Orthodox Church. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001. Bruce, F. F., and E. Gordon Rupp, eds. Holy Book and Holy Tradition: International Colloquium Held in the F'acuity of Theology, University of Manchester. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968. Congar, Yves. Tradition and Traditions: An Historical and a Theological Essay. New York: Macmillan, 1967.



Grant, Robert M., Robert E. McNally, and George H. Tavard. Perspectives on Scripture and Tradition. Notre Dame, Ind.: Fides, 1976. Mathison, Keith A. The Shape of Sola Scriptum. Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2001. Pelikan, Jaroslav J. Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003. Williams, Daniel H. Evangelicals and Tradition: The Formative Influence of the Early Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005. Williams, Daniel H., ed. Tradition, Scripture, and Interpretation: A. Sourcebook of the Ancient Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006.


Anthony Thiselton writes, "In the history of the debate about the nature of biblical authority, often each side has operated with a controlling picture on the basis of which it makes out the entire ground of the debate."1 This has never been truer than it is today. In spite of the objectivity that the historical method is supposed to infuse into our readings, very few scholars have been able to break free from tradition in their discussions of "scripture" and "canon." 2 As I hope to show, this has had an especially baneful effect on the way Christians understand the ground of Scripture's authority.3 What is the range of available understandings for the concept of "scripture," and how does that concept differ from that of "ca1 Anthony C. Thiselton, The Two Horizons: New Testament Hermeneutics and Philosophical Description with Special Reference to Heidegger, Bultmann, Gadamer, and Wittgenstein (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1980), 432. 2 Witness Kevin J. Vanhoozer's proposal that the notion of God's authorship should be the starting point for a biblical hermeneutic (First Theology: God, Scripture, Hermeneutics [Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2002]). Vanhoozer is so sure that this represents the right approach that he omits any discussion of the origin of the notion. Unfortunately for him, the concept of the divine authorship of Scripture is completely absent from Scripture (see below). 3 In this study, I capitalize "Scripture" when it refers to the Bible as historically instantiated and/or as encountered on the terms of Christian theology. I do not capitalize it when it refers to the notion of "scripture" from a history-of-religions viewpoint.




non"? And what, moreover, might be the correct view of Scripture's ground of authority? There is only limited value, of course, in understanding where the church has located that ground down through the ages; we must try to discover the New Testament's own understanding of the relation of Scripture to theology. In what follows, I hope to determine the sense in which Scripture is authoritative for Christian theology, and to identify which accompanying conceptualities of "scripture" fund this sense. My first step will be to outline the alternative understandings of "scripture" that were available to the New Testament (NT) writers. Then I will attempt to puzzle out the authority structure of Christian theology, as implicit within the NT, by way of unpacking the notion of the "foundation" of the church as presented in Eph 2. DEFINING "SCRIPTURE" AND " C A N O N "

To some extent, our definitions for "scripture" and "canon" are a matter of scholarly convention, but the fact that this convention clarifies a real conceptual distinction between differing aspects of the Bible makes it a worthwhile investment. The constant abuse of these terms in some circles also makes a closer look necessary: a number of scholars associated with the so-called "canonical approach" (along with a few scholars holding related views) use the term "scripture" in an artificially narrow way, setting it in pointed contradistinction to a variety of other historically instantiated and theologically viable models of Scripture. This narrowing of the term "scripture" has an obvious return: it causes readers to dismiss alternative models without even the shadow of an argument. For our purpose, it is important to begin by allowing "scripture" to mean all the things that it has meant in church history, especially in the era of the early church (see below). Only by admitting "scripture" into the argument at that level can we be assured that a proper understanding still lies before us of what Scripture is in terms of the NT. 4 But what of "canon"? As most people use the terms, "scripture" and "canon" overlap considerably—some would even conSee John C. Poirier, "The Canonical Approach and the Idea of 'Scripture,'" ExpTim 116 (2005): 366-70; idem, "Judaism, Christianity, and the Hebrew Bible," JES 43 (2008): 525-36. 4



sider the terms interchangeable. But there is an important distinction: "scripture" refers to any writing or body of writings that is authoritative for a given religious tradition, while "canon" refers to the closing of a body of writing to further expansion. To speak of the Christian Bible as "scripture" is to invoke the Bible's authoritativeness for the Christian religion. To speak of it as "canon" is to engage it in terms of its closed status. (The question of the order of the books of Scripture also belongs to the concept of "canon.") This means there would be a period in the development of any given scripture-based religion when a given body of writings was considered "scripture," but not yet regarded as a closed canon. 5 This was originally the case with the Christian Bible: the NT writings were for the most part authoritative for second-century figures like Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, yet there was no rule that other writings could not also be added to Scripture, and there was no rule about the order of the books. In fact, some of the latest writings in the NT refer to some of the earlier ones as "scripture"! 6 T H E IDEA OF "SCRIPTURE"

The development of the idea of "scripture" from a literary testimony to a text whose identity resides in itself was gradual. Armin Lange has shown this clearly in connection with that part of Scripture that Christians share with Jews. The history of the changing conceptions of religious texts that he relates mirrors the development of how Christians conceptualized the authority of the NT writings (on which Lange is silent). Unfortunately for us, Lange uses the term "scripture" somewhat more restrictively than I use it—he regards the notion of authority grounded in testimony as characteristic of "authoritative literature" but not yet amounting to 5 As David H. Kelsey notes, "Although 'canon' is not necessarily part of the concept 'scripture,' 'scripture' is necessarily a part of the meaning of 'canon'" (The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975], 104). 6 On the distinctions between "scripture" and "canon," see Kelsey, The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology, 103—108; John Barton, Oracles of God: Perceptions of Ancient Prophey in Israel after the Exile (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1986); Craig D. Allert, A High View of Scripture? The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon (Evangelical Ressourcement; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 44—47.



a concept of "scripture." (In other words, he allows the rabbinic synagogue and the Great Church to define how we use the term "scripture.") 7 In spite of this limitation, his study is invaluable. His reconstruction helps us get at what first-century Christians worked with and what notions of "scripture" might have been present-tohand for their own theology of scripture.8 Lange surveys some 1,145 quotations and allusions from 145 texts, which he divides into two distinct periods: the time between Alexander the Great and the high priest Jason, and the time between Jason and Pompey. Although he is not directly concerned with the concept of "canon" (other than to acknowledge the correctness of the above-described distinction between "canon" and "scripture," as he found it in Eugene Ulrich's work), Lange rightly notes that the process of canonization had an effect on how Scripture's authority was understood: "the transition from literature to scripture in the process of canonization implies an understanding of the canon's unity." 9 This is a point that could easily be lost in the zeal of some to drive home the distinction between the concepts of "scripture" and "canon." There are several telltale signs of a development in the understanding of religious texts during the Second Temple period. Lange notes that a high percentage of the texts originating in the earlier period (viz. before Jason) were "parabiblical" in nature—that is, they did not scruple to paraphrase or gloss scripture. He also finds

Lange refers to "the idea of scripture as a holy text having an identity of its own," but he seems to disallow other competing "ideas" of scripture altogether, choosing to label that which does not measure up to this ideal as something less than a full-blown concept of "scripture" ("From Literature to Scripture: The Unity and Plurality of the Hebrew Scriptures in Light of the Qumran Library," in One Scripture or Many? Canon from Biblical, Theological, and Philosophical Perspectives [ed. Christine Helmer and Christof Landmesser; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004], 51-107, esp. 56). Lange's restrictive use of the term "scripture" is understandable, in light of his appropriate use of the formula "it is written" as a distinguishing mark of a later understanding of the source of a writing's authority, but it is unfortunate in light of the more general use of the term simply as denoting any writing that is religiously authoritative. 8 Ibid., 65. 9 Ibid., 68. 7



that there was little concern in the early period for the textual purity of any given writing, and that quotation formulas were largely lacking during this period. These facts all suggest that the content rather than the identity of the text is what mattered. Lange concludes that authoritative literature in this time "had not yet acquired a dignity of its own as scripture. Its only purpose was to serve a literary means that communicated the events and revelation of the past."10 Lange finds this understanding of Scripture's authority exemplified in Neh 8:14: "And they found it written in the law, which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the people of Israel should live in booths during the festival of the seventh month." As Lange notes, "What is important and what is noted [in Neh 8:14] is the command God gave through Moses; the literature quoted has no importance of its own. Authority is given to the content communicated by Moses." 11 According to Lange, the religious reforms of 175—164 B.C.E. represent a "crucial turning-point" in the development of the later concept of "scripture." Things changed dramatically during the period between Jason and Pompey: "only 34 [out of 96] of the later texts or 36 percent (instead of 67 percent) are parabiblical in nature. . .Furthermore, with 35 exegetical texts (36 percent of the texts preserved), a new type of literature is found that was previously unknown in ancient Judaism." 12 Texts from this later period showed a regard for the book rather than the words it preserved: "In contrast to the quotation formulas in 2 Chronicles 25:4; Nehemiah 8:14; or Tobit 14:4; the [Qumranic] Midrash on Hschatology and Miscellaneous Rules do not refer to Isaiah himself, but rather to the book of Isaiah."13 Thus we reach the period when the familiar formula "it is written" ( k a t u i c o m e s into its own. Once again, change was gradual: Lange notes that the notion of textual purity still had not made its way into the scribal consciousness of the text's retainers. He also notes that this change from one conceptua l l y to another was marked by a period of mixture between competing conceptualities, so that sometimes the book was the object

^ Ibid., 82. 11 Ibid., 83. 12 Ibid., 92. 13 Ibid., 101



of the appeal to authority, and sometimes the author of a book or a quotation within a book was the object. (The same mixture, we might note, obtains within the NT.) INSPIRATION


If the development of the idea of "scripture" presents us with these two very different models of scriptural authority (viz. one based on content and the other based on the text's identity) then Christians would do well to consider carefully which model is presupposed or promoted by the NT's central theological commitments. Given the depth at which certain wrong ideas about Scripture reside within the various streams of Christian piety, this is not an easy thing to do—but that only makes the task all the more urgent. Most streams of Christianity today are indebted to a Reformation-era model of Scripture, in which the text's authority is grounded in its supposed inspiration, and the religious moment of Scripture is spread evenly throughout the canon. Among those who assume this basic model, there are a great many disagreements about where the purported revelational and truth aspects of Scripture lie. For some, the implication of Scripture's inspiration is that it is inerrant in all of its details, or at least infallible as far as its doctrinal content is concerned. For others, the truth of Scripture should not be sought along propositional lines—instead, it should be defined as an aspect of reading Scripture as a coherent narrative. There are many different shades of these two basic understandings, but they all share one notable aspect: Scripture per se—that is, Scripture in its textual/literary wholeness—is assumed to be the repository of truth, presence, grace, or some other religious good, so that Scripture itself is raised above the category of simple human testimony about the divine.14

14 See J. T. Forestell et al., "Inspiration, Biblical," in New Catholic Ernyclopedia (ed. Berard L. Marthaler et al.; 15 vols.; 2d ed.; Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2003) 7.492-96; and see the bibliography in Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725, vol. 2: Holy Scripture: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology (2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 37 n. 54.



But what if this basic model is wrong? Instead of viewing Scripture as a timeless entity whose religious aspect lies somewhere above the plane of human intentionality (i.e. unaided testimony), what if the intended (viz. original) understanding of how "scripture" functions within the authority structure of Christian theology turns simply on the fact that the NT preserves the apostolic kerygma (viz. the apostles' testimony to Christ's death, burial, resurrection, ascension/exaltation, and sending of the Spirit),15 so that the authority of Scripture is in fact authority on loan from the kerygma? According to this alternative view, Scripture's authority would derive from the doctrinal centrality of the kerygma itself, and derivatively from the need for something like Scripture to preserve that testimony for latecomers like ourselves. On these terms, Scripture is not to be engaged strictly as a literary (or narrative) whole, much less as a text whose identity resides in itself, but rather as a preserve of the apostolic testimony, presented along with what amounts to background material for helping make that testimony intelligible. Such a view does not involve the notion of inspiration at all: Scripture is to be trusted simply because it preserves eyewitness testimony of an event of inestimable religious importance. There is similarly no need to bring the doctrine of Scripture into correlation with any particular understanding of revelation. Indeed, there is little need for the idea of revelation at all, beyond the acknowledgement that God has acted in history through Jesus Christ, which is based entirely on a post-Reformation widening of the term "revelation." 16

15 Those familiar with the post-Dodd debates about the shape of the kerygma might charge me here with telescoping issues rather too conveniently, but such a charge would misunderstand my point in appealing to the kergyma. Questions about the precise shape of the kerygma (or even whether it was monolithic) have no bearing whatsoever on the kerygma's place in NT theology. 16 On this widening of the term "revelation," see Muller, PostReformation Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2: Holy Scripture, 98. Gustaf Wingren correctly notes, "To clutter Christian talk about God with the idea that 'revelation' is the fundamental concept is typical of theology after the Enlightenment—not of classical, biblical theology" (Creation and Gospel: The Neip Situation in European Theology [TST 2; Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1989], 53). James Barr similarly notes that "the dominance of the concept



Of course, simply asking whether a popular understanding could be wrong is not in itself justification for adopting an alternative scheme. But it is justification enough for rethinking that understanding. A s I argue below, the supposedly " l o w " doctrine of Scripture outlined in the preceding paragraph has considerably more backing within the words of the N T than does the view handed down from the Reformation. T h e latter may have a more welcome ring in the ears of most traditionalists, but we should not opt for the supposedly "higher" view of Scripture simply because it is more traditional or sounds more pious. It is m u c h better to agree with Scripture's own view of itself than to follow after manmade doctrines. 17 A s J o h n K n o x notes, "It is not, as far as formal definition

of revelation is modern, and has caused this term to acquire a function which it never had in the whole previous history of the Church" (Old and New in Interpretation: A Study of the Two Testaments [London: SCM Press, 1966], 83—84). See also Carl E. Braaten, justification: The Article by Which the Church Stands or Falls (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 65—66. Numerous Christian confessions include an aspect of revelation as a sort of guarantee that the Church's interpretation of the Christ event is correct, but it is important to note that the New Testament does not structure its theology in that way. The theology of the New Testament, in fact, does not use the concept of revelation (even secondarily) as an organizing principle. This fact (duly noted by Barr and others) has been especially difficult for many to get their heads around, especially in the wake of Karl Barth's ambitious attempt to place revelation at the center of everything. In the New Testament, it is strictly the eyewitness aspect of the apostolic witness that assures us that the Church's interpretation of the Christ event is correct. There is a divine initiative in the missional aspect of delivering the kerygma, but it is entirely bound up in the sending of the apostles as eyewitnesses, and does not imply any supervenience of normal means of knowing and/or interpreting events. Chief among these manmade doctrines is the notion that Scripture is the "word of God" (often simply called "the Word"). This use of the term "word of God" is indeed one of the chief distinguishing features of the inspirationist model of scriptural authority. A quick look at how the Bible uses the term "word of God"/"word of the Lord" reveals a disconnect between these two uses of the term: the Old Testament refers to prophecy as "the word of the Lord," and the New Testament refers to the apostolic kerygma as "the word of the Lord" (see Michael W. Pahl, "The 'Gospel' and the 'Word': Exploring Some Early Christian Patterns," JSNT 17



goes, intrinsic quality which determines canonicity [by which Knox means 'scriptural status'] but nearness to the revealing events or personalities." 18 W H A T OF THE INSPIRATIONIST MODEL OF SCRIPTURAL AUTHORITY?

Many Christians today hold Scripture to be specially "inspired," and they view the "inspiration" of Scripture as the most determinative factor in its status as "scripture." Before we turn to the NT basis for grounding Scripture's authority in its testimonial nature, therefore, we should briefly consider those NT passages that have given rise to the attempt to ground Scripture's authority in its supposed inspiration. Second Timothy 3:16 is clearly the most popular prooftext for an inspirationist understanding of Scripture's authority: "All scripture is theopneustos and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." The term theopneustos has traditionally been understood to mean "Godbreathed," which, in line with the Latin Vulgate rendering of pasa g,raphe theopneustos as omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata, has in turn been rendered as "inspired" (or "divinely inspired"). In spite of Benjamin Warfield's argument that Greek terms beginning with theo- and ending with -tos should be presumed passive, 19 a survey of the use of theopneustos in ecclesiastical and profane writings reveals two

29 [2006]: 211-27). Scripture does not claim to be the "word of God," nor does it ever regard itself in equivalent terms. 18 Marriott and the New Testament: An Essay in the Early History of the Canon (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942), 25. Knox wrote in a day when scholars used the terms "scripture" and "canon" interchangeably. That Knox really means "scriptural status" is shown by the context: two sentences prior to this quotation, he writes, "What is meant by 'Scripture'?" 19 Warfield presents the tendency of words of this form toward a passive sense as a lexical-morphological property rather than as a reflection of the fact that God's activities are by nature seldom spoken of in an active sense as a property of things per se. (See Benjamin B. Warfield, "GodInspired Scripture," Presbyterian and Reformed Review 11 [1900], 89—130, esp. 116—19.) In its barest form, the Greek -tos ending corresponds fairly closely to the English -at ending, which is to say that it lends itself equally to passive and active adjectival notions.



competing understandings of the term: (1) the traditional (passivesense) rendering "God-breathed" (reflected mostly within that stream of Christian piety extending from Alexandria); and (2) an active-sense rendering "God-breathing" (found in all the principal witnesses). There is not sufficient space to argue the case here, but my own understanding of the term theopneustos as used in 2 Timothy is that it should be rendered "God-breathing," and that referring to something as "God-breathing" is intended to call attention to the OT idea of the gift of life (symbolized throughout Scripture by the inbreathing of God). The purpose of 2 Timothy's reference to "all scripture" as theopneustos, therefore, is simply to say that "all scripture" is "life-giving"—which is another way of saying that all Scripture contains, in one way or another, the life-giving gospel. (The Pastoral Epistles consistently construe salvation in terms of vivification or eternal life—see 1 Tim 1:16; 6:12, 19; 2 Tim 1:1, 10; Titus 1:2; 3:7.) That this is the proper understanding of 2 Tim 3:16 is supported by the way this rendering parallels v. 15's reference to "the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." 20 Another NT passage that is often adduced in support of an inspirationist understanding of Scripture's ground of authority is 2 Pet 1:20—21: "First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." Proponents of an inspirationist bibliology (viz. theory of scripture) take "prophecy of scripture" to refer to Scripture qua scripture, as if the term means "that prophecy also known as Scripture." But that is not what the verse says— "prophecy of scripture" refers to a prophecy recorded in Scripture, which means that the prophecy itself could easily be a valid, authoritative word from God, while Scripture itself is conceived in quite different terms. The language of "prophecy of scripture," in fact, should remind us of Lange's reference to an earlier conception of a writing's authority, in which the testimonial moment of the writing (rather than something inhering in its own identity) is what

I intend to discuss this all at length elsewhere. I believe the philological data (which there is not now space to present) supports the view that I am putting forth here. 20



really matters. No one would have had a problem understanding that the prophets whose words were recorded in Scripture were inspired,21 but that does not imply in any way that Scripture itself is marked by the same attributes. SCRIPTURE AS TESTIMONY

As Henk van den Belt writes, "Scripture is so foundational for the Christian faith that the question how it gains authority is one of the most essential theological issues."22 To this end, let us examine the NT basis for considering the NT itself as "scripture." The best starting point for puzzling out a bibliology truly consistent with the theology and self-understanding of the NT is Eph 2:19—20: "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone."23 The reference to a "foundation" in these verses indicates that something very important is being said—but what? More specifically, what is meant by saying that the church is built upon the "foundation of the apostles and prophets"? Does the "foundation" in question consist of the apostles and prophets, or has the foundation only been laid by the apostles and prophets? Are the prophets mentioned in this formula OT or NT figures? And does the foundation consist of the apostles and prophets directly (viz. of their persons/ministries), or does it refer to something symbolized by their names (e.g. their message)? 21 In this respect, the gender-inclusive rendering of the New Revised Standard Version (quoted above) is fortuitous from a historical standpoint, as Scripture does contain the words of prophetesses as well as of (male) prophets, even if none of the authors of the individual books was likely to have been a woman. But see Gottfried Quell's argument that Ps 131:1—2 was written by a woman ("Struktur und Sinn des Psalms 131," in Das Feme und Nahe Wort: Festschrift Leonard Rest [ed. Fritz Maass; BZAW 105; Berlin: Topelmann, 1967], 173-85). 22 The Authority of Scripture in Reformed Theology: Truth and Trust (SRT 17; Leiden: Brill, 2008), 1. 23 I have adapted this quotation from the Revised Standard Version, translating akrogoniaios as "capstone" instead of "cornerstone." On the understanding of akrogoniaios as a part of the superstructure, see Joachim Jeremias, "ycovia KTA." TDNT 1:791-93, esp. 792.



These questions are bound up with a more basic question about how the metaphor of a "foundation" functions in this passage. Does the foundation metaphor have a chronological development in view, or is the structural role of a foundation in view? This question might affect our judgment of whether the reference to the apostles and prophets refers to them directly, or rather to something that they symbolize. A number of interpreters unfortunately fail to consider that the metaphor may have a structural rather than a chronological sense. Wayne Grudem, for example, argues that the "prophets" mentioned in v. 20 are NT figures, but his argument rests on the assumption that the foundation metaphor should be interpreted through a chronological lens. Indeed, he argues as if the metaphor in Ephesians is not that of a foundation per se, but rather that of the act of laying a foundation. 24 This is problematic, not least for the fact that v. 20 appears to envision Jesus Christ as an element lying somewhere in the superstructure of the building (viz. as a capstone), which is difficult to accommodate with a chronological rendering of the building metaphor. My own view is that the prophets mentioned here are OT figures. This was once a widespread view, but it has fallen out of favor because the notion that "prophets" could refer to OT figures has long been associated with the (now defunct) view that "apostles and prophets" is shorthand for the New and Old Testaments respectively. The interpretation of "apostles and prophets" as a reference to the Bible itself dominated the church for almost two millennia, but it has rightly been sidelined in view of the fact that the author of Ephesians could have had no conception of a twopart Christian Bible. This turn from understanding "prophets" as a reference to OT prophets, in my view, represents an instance of throwing the baby out with the bath water, for even if "prophets" can no longer be interpreted as a reference to the OT corpus, it might still be understood as a reference to the OT prophets in some other capacity—such as their newly assigned role of providing supporting testimony (in the form of prooftexts) for the apostolic kerygma. The prophets are quoted everywhere in the NT, but

24 See Wayne A. Grudem, The Gift ofProphey in 1 Corinthians (Washington D.C.: University Press of America, 1982), 82-84.



their role is never more formulized than when they are cited in support of the kerygma. 25 The best line of interpretation for Eph 2:19—20, in my opinion, understands "apostles and prophets" as a reference to the message of the apostles and prophets. On this interpretation (at least the version of it argued here), "prophets" refers to the role of OT prophetic prooftexts as supports for the kerygma, as found, for example, in the missionary speeches of Acts. "Jesus Christ," on this interpretation, is a reference to Christ's presence to the church through the Spirit—a common theme in Ephesians. The apostolic kerygma, then, is the foundation of the church. This interpretation has the significant advantage of lining up with Paul's reference to "Jesus Christ" as the "foundation" of the faith (1 Cor 3:11). If "foundation of the apostles and prophets" refers to the kerygma about the Christ event in Eph 2:20, and "Jesus Christ" refers to the gospel in 1 Cor 3:11, then the two expressions are essentially synonymous. Yves Congar has appealed to this approach's advantages: in Eph 2:20, "the level of a 'foundation'.. .is not exclusively chronological, a ministry of living faithfulness to the original testimony and kerygma.. .Continuity is guided by the Holy Spirit, but always with reference to Christ (note the equivalence in Eph 2:21, 22 of 'in the Lord' and 'in the Spirit')." 26 The implications of this interpretation of Eph 2:20 are more far-reaching for the shape of a truly Scripture-based bibliology than may be readily apparent. I have already noted the mistakenness of the centuries-long practice of understanding "prophets and apostles" as a cipher for the Bible. But the point should be driven further, as it is not the Bible, but rather the apostolic kerygma, that is 25 Jacob Jervell notes, "We have the kerygma.. .without any reference to the Spirit and the prophets only in Acts 4:10 and 5:59ff." (The Unknown Faul: Essays on Euke-A.ds and Early Christian History [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984], 108). As C. H. Dodd writes, "The study of testimony books has led to the conclusion that the application of prophecy was probably the earliest form of Christian theological thought" (History and the Gospel [London: Nisbet, 1938], 60). 26 The Word and the Spirit (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1986), 65. See also John Penney: "In our Ephesians passage.. .the foundation.. .is gospel preaching" ("The Testing of New Testament Prophecy," JPT 10 [1997]: 35-84, esp. 66).



the foundation of the church. This means that the traditional place that much if not most Christian theology has attributed to Scripture is really the province of the kerygma. In terms of logical priority, therefore, Scripture is secondary to the kerygma, so that the kerygma is what gives Scripture its authority for the Christian faith.27 This means that "truth," "grace," and other religious goods that are often plotted against the contours of the biblical canon do not possess such a shape at all. This understanding of Scripture obviously spells an end for the canonical approach, narrative theology, "scriptural reasoning," and other recent attempts to demote or sideline authorial intention and original referentiality. But its gains, in terms of allowing Scripture's authority to withstand an honest encounter with Scripture's artifactual aspect, far outweigh the pain of letting go of these misguided habits of thought. CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, we have to ask, "What is the Bible, and in what respect is it authoritative for the Christian faith?" This is the question that needs to be asked and re-asked, if greater clarity and fairness in debates about biblical hermeneutics are the goal, as it is there, at this radically originary level, that hermeneutical schools of thought are divided. For its original canonizers, the NT was authoritative simply because it preserved the testimony of the apostles. It is as a witness to the gospel that Scripture functions as "scripture" within the church. According to Luke Timothy Johnson and Todd C. Penner, "Christians should learn to read the canon of the NT, not in search of an essential core or purified 'canon within the canon'—not, in other words, within the frame of a single abstract principle—but in a living conversation with all the writings in all their diversity and

27 Given the conceptual over-againstness between grounding Scripture's authority in its preservation of the gospel, and grounding it in the purported inspiration of its authors, I am perplexed by a recent article by Dennis Farkasfalvy—he argues at length for the latter view, but devotes several pages to a very good discussion of the generative link between the apostolic preaching and all the NT writings ("Biblical Foundations for a Theology of Inspiration," N F [English version] 4 [2006]: 719—46).



divergence. Only in this way can they continue to speak." 28 Johnson and Penner are certainly au current in their sentiments, but I suggest that they are seriously wrong: the NT canon derives its authority from the apostolic kerygma which it preserves, and this kerygma is indeed a "canon within the canon." The postliberal understanding of the canon as a sort of magical snow globe of dynamic meaning with no real doctrinal center is at odds with the principle that gave rise to the NT canon in the first place. If we ask whether the NT is supposed to "continue to speak," as Johnson and Penner seem to think, the answer will depend on what one means by "speak." Certainly the NT should continue to be accorded its authority, and in that sense it should be allowed to "speak," but the notion of a "living conversation," with the attendant idea that the meaning of Scripture somehow changes across time, represents a serious misunderstanding of how Scripture was intended to function within the church. FOR FURTHER READING

Barr, James. Old and New in Interpretation: A Study of the Two Testaments. London: SCM Press, 1966. Barton, John. Oracles of God: Perceptions of Ancient Prophecy in Israel after the Exile. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1986. Dodd, C. H. The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments: Three Lectures. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1936. Kelsey, David H. The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975. Lange, Armin. "From Literature to Scripture: The Unity and Plurality of the Hebrew Scriptures in Light of the Qumran Library." Pages 51—107 in One Scripture or Many? Canon from Biblical, Theological, and Philosophical Perspectives. Edited by Christine Helmer and Christof Landmesser. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pahl, Michael W. "The 'Gospel' and the 'Word': Exploring Some Early Christian Patterns." Journal for the Study of the New Testament 29 (2006): 211-27. Poirier, John C. "The Canonical Approach and the Idea of 'Scripture.'" Expository Times 116 (2005): 366-70. 28

The Writings of the New Testament: A.n Interpretation (Minneapolis: For-

tress, 1999), 613.



Poirier, John C. "Judaism, Christianity, and the Hebrew Bible." Journal of Ecumenical Studies 43 (2008): 525—36.


1753 was a significant year in terms of the shape and future direction of the study of the Bible. Amongst, doubtless, many significant publications emanating from the famous seats of learning across Europe in that year were two works that were to significantly shape the face of the study of "sacred Scripture" for many years to come. The first came from an unlikely source—the Royal College of Medicine in Paris—the other, perhaps more expectedly, from the University of Oxford. French medical professor, Jean Astruc, was something of a polymath. As well as writing numerous key medical works during his lifetime, Astruc also wrote a work snappily entitled Conjecture sur les mémoires orignaux dont ilparait que Moyse s'est servi pour composer le livre de la Genése.1 Coming from more traditional theological stock, Robert Lowth was a churchman and academic who was later to become the Bishop of London. Lowth wrote a key work with an equally punchy title: Vraelectiones académicas de sacra poesi Hebraeorum.2 The significance of these publications could not have been surmised back in 1753 but, in different ways, these works were to shape the study of the Bible for two centuries. The 1 Conjectures on the Original Memoirs which it appears were used by Moses to Compose the Book ojGenesis, although published anonymously by a Brusselsbased publisher, Astruc's work was written while he held the chair of medicine at the Collège Royal of the University of Paris (see Janet Doe, "Jean Astruc (1694—1766): A Biographical and Bibliographical Study," JHM15 [I960]: 184-97). 2 Lectures on the Sacred Poetry oj the Hebrews. The full English text of Lowth's Lectures is available to read online and it is a fascinating read. See books?id=yDlbAAAAQAAJ.




works of Astruc and Lowth symbolize the dawn of Scripture studies profoundly shaped by the ethos of the Enlightenment. 3 In a new era of academic endeavor, scholars of the eighteenth century were no longer content with the old ways but sought to bring a new "scientific" rigor to the examination of the biblical text.4 The simple exegesis of the biblical text that was championed by the Reformers was no longer enough. The world had moved on in the Enlightenment period and the works Astruc and Lowth represent that movement outworked in the study the Bible. These two works can also be taken to represent two of the three main strands of critical scholarship. Astruc's study was one of the first to look behind the text of the Bible. In looking for sources that Moses may have used in the authorship of Genesis, he sought to reconstruct a history not from the text itself but one that preceded and fed into the text of the Bible as we have it. As such, Astruc was one of the founding fathers of the historical-critical movement within biblical studies.5 Lowth's focus, on the other hand, was still very much grounded in the text of the Scriptures. In examining the parallelisms of Hebrew poetry, Lowth sought to bring greater awareness to the whole question of how the Bible communicates. He did not attempt to reconstruct a historical setting for the poems but rather applied his awareness of Greek and Latin poetry to the Hebrew text of the Old Testament (OT). Lowth's focus was on the Bible as literature and, as such, repre-

3 Fuller consideration of the implications of the works of Astruc and Lowth can be found in the fascinating collection of papers edited by John Jatick, Sacred Conjectures: The Context and Legacy of Robert ~Lowth and ]ean Astruc (LHBOTS 457; London: T. & T. Clark, 2007). 4 "Biblical conventions throughout the world are giving special prominence this year to Pentateuch criticism, for 1953 marks the twohundredth anniversary of its birth as a special science" (Eamonn O'Doherty, "Conjectures of Jean Astruc, 1753," CBQ 15 [1953]: 300). 5 Having said that, Astruc's work was strictly speaking a sourcecritical study. However, the idea of source-criticism can be subsumed within the broader approach that might properly be described as historical-criticism.



sents the origins of another strand of critical scholarship that bec a m e k n o w n as literary criticism. 6 T h e s e t w o strands—historical and l i t e r a r y — f o r m the basis of w h a t might b e described as biblical criticism. 7 T h e remainder of this study a i m s to give a very brief insight into h o w each of these trends has developed and to discuss h o w critical scholarship has i m p a c t e d the m o d e r n reader's a p p r o a c h to and understanding of the Bible. For the sake of convenience, this essay focuses specifically o n the historical critical study of the OT. 8 HISTORICAL CRITICISM Historical Criticism is essentially the study of that w h i c h lies behind the biblical text. It seeks to examine the h u m a n b a c k g r o u n d that g a v e rise to the Scriptures as w e h a v e them. Obviously, these are often matters of conjecture because the texts themselves do not "Although the technical details of Lowth's 'discovery' [of parallelism] are not particularly our concern here, it is important to realize that this is a major step forward in the understanding of the Bible as literature. Lowth is reading these texts in the first instance as literary masterpieces, and from this draws his conclusions," (David Jasper, A Short Introduction to Hermeneutics [Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004], 72). 7 It could, of course, legitimately be argued that there is a third great strand of biblical criticism, namely, textual criticism. Arising out of the great archeological quests of the nineteenth century, the discovery of more and more fragments from New Testament letters and gospels led to comparative analysis of these texts with the accepted Greek text of the day (the so-called Textus Heceptus) that had formed the basis for modernlanguage translations of the New Testament. Differences were noted between the Textus Keceptus and those fragments that were discovered and so scholars began to discuss which text is the "correct" text. The goal of textual criticism is to reconstruct the most accurate version of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts of the Old and New Testaments as is possible based upon the evidence of early sources (both sources in the original languages and early translations of them). Whilst textual criticism can and should, undoubtedly, be classified as "biblical criticism," issues regarding the historical text of the Bible are covered in more detail earlier in the present volume and so will not be addressed in this chapter. 6

For a good discussion of historical criticism and the New Testament see I. Howard Marshall, ed., New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Principles and Methods (Exeter: Paternoster, 1979). 8



give the reader a comprehensive description of the social, historical and political questions that may be of interest to us as modern readers. However, this does not make the critical task impossible. The following section outlines some of the historical critical approaches that have been adopted throughout the years, beginning with Astruc himself. Astruc's Conjectures Jean Astruc provides us with a helpful introduction to the essence of historical-critical readings of the OT. Astruc had been much troubled by the writings of Hobbes and Spinoza who had pointed out the many inconsistencies and anachronisms in the Pentateuch that did not sit well with the idea of Mosaic authorship. 9 Therefore, he set out to mount a defense of the Mosaic authorship of the Torah by making the suggestion that it was Moses' use of sources that led to at least some of the apparent inconsistencies found in the biblical text. Astruc made three basic observations: (1) Certain events in Genesis are recorded more than once and from slightly different perspectives; (2) God is generally referred to by way of two divine epithets—Elohim and Yahweh—and the use of these names sometimes comes in blocks; (3) Certain events in Genesis are asynchronous, that is, they are reported as realities in the text although they actually occurred much later in the chronology of events (e.g. Yahweh speaking to Adam and Eve in the Garden in Gen 3, although he did not reveal himself as Yahweh until a much later historical period). 10 These observations led Astruc to the conclusion that Moses had been working from a variety of previously recorded sources in the writing of the Pentateuch. This, in turn, inspired Astruc to deconstruct the text of Genesis as he knew it into four categories of text—those where Elohim language dominated; those where Yahweh language dominated; those texts that constituted repetitions of previous accounts; and, those texts that appeared to be foreign (and therefore external) to the Hebrew community. He believed that each of these four sources were

Gordon J. Wenham, Exploring the Old Testament, vol. 1: The Pentateuch (London: SPCK, 2003), 162-65. 10 T. Desmond Alexander, From Paradise to Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch (2d ed.; Carlisle: Paternoster, 2002), 7—9. 9



originally separate written documents and that it was only at a much later date that they were combined as a single and continuous narrative. Astruc's was really the first systematic attempt to go beyond a prima facie reading of the text of the Pentateuch that sees it as a single continuous narrative written by Moses. He thus gave rise to a question that has proved challenging ever since: namely, the composition of the Pentateuch. If it was not all originally penned by Moses, then who wrote what and when? These are the questions that have dominated Pentateuchal studies more or less since Astruc's original theory was first published.11 The Documentary Hypothesis It is not possible, in so brief a paper, to trace the development of Astruc's ideas comprehensively. However, it would be fair to say that the "discovery" of sources led inexorably to further fragmentation of the text of the Pentateuch. Astruc had suggested two possible sources used by Moses in the composition of Genesis—the Yahweh source and the Elohim source—and they soon came to be known as J and E.12 However, critical scholarship soon realized that these two categories could not account for all of the texts of the Pentateuch, as many passages could not necessarily be characterized by a preponderance towards Yahweh language or Elohim language. The works of successive generations of German scholars— such as Martin Lebrecht de Wette ( 1 7 8 0 - 1 8 4 9 ) , Heinrich Graf ( 1 8 1 5 - 1 8 6 9 ) , Wilhelm Vatke ( 1 8 0 6 - 1 8 8 2 ) and, especially, Julius Wellhausen (1844—1918)—further developed the ideas of Astruc and Eichhorn by suggesting that the Pentateuch was actually constructed out of four main sources rather than two. As well as the J and E sources, these and other scholars suggested that the text of 11 Astruc's original proposal did not create the waves that he had thought it might and for a period it looked like his ideas might lapse into anonymity. However, its later adoption by German scholarship ensured the continuance and influence of Astruc's ideas. In 1780, Johann Gottfried Eichhorn applied Astruc's ideas to the rest of the Pentateuch

(i.e. beyond Genesis) in his Umleitung in das Alte Testament (Leipzig: Bey

Weidmanns Erben und Reich, 1780) and this led to a domino effect of fragmentation of the Pentateuch. 12 J for Jahve, the German rendering of Yahweh, and E, more obviously, for Elohim.



the Pentateuch also pointed to the inclusion of later and more advanced theological ideas. So, according to this view of the development of the Pentateuch, the J and E sources were primarily focused on questions of nature and creation and fertility. These were seen as the earliest and most basic expressions of religion in the OT. However, de Wette noticed the presence of much more advanced legal and ethical systems, primarily in the Book of Deuteronomy, and attributed these texts to the eighth-century prophets, naming this source D.13 So, in addition to the primal religious texts J and E, the more community orientated D source focused primarily on matters of law and ethics. A three source scenario, however, failed to account for the many texts of the Pentateuch that concentrate on religious, and particularly sacerdotal, practice. Here, it was argued, we observe the most developed layer of religious thought in the Torah, which accordingly was seen as being the latest of the Pentateuchal sources. This final source became known as the Priestly (P) source and the four-fold source theory (J, E, D, P) came to be known as the Documentary Hypothesis. 14 So within 130 years of the publication of Astruc's Conjectures, written as a defense of Mosaic authorship, critical scholarship had moved to a standard position that viewed the earliest written source contained within the Pentateuch as originating from the ninth century B.C.E. Clearly, none of this could have been written by Moses, therefore, the most significant role for historical-critical

In his doctoral dissertation written in 1805 ("Dissertation CriticoExegetica qua Deuteronomium a prioribus Pentateuchi libris diversum alius cujusdam recentoris auctoris opus esse monstratum"), de Wette suggested that the Book of Deuteronomy was not discovered by Josiah in 622 B.C.E. but was rather written by those of his court at that time to justify his religious reforms and his role as king within Judahite society. 14 This classic statement of the four sources on the Pentateuch (J, E, D, P) was made by Wellhausen in his work Prolegomena %ur Geschichte Israels (Berlin: Reimer, 1878). The order of the sources reflected the chronology in which they were developed. Although there continued to be much debate surrounding the dating of each source, Ernest Nicholson summarizes the chronology of Wellhausen's Documentary Hypothesis as follows—-J: ca. 840 B.C.E.; E: ca. 700 B.C.E.; D: ca. 623 B.C.E.; P: ca. 500-450 B.C.E. (see The Pentateuch in the Twentieth Century: The Legacy of Julius Wellhausen [Oxford: Clarendon, 1998], 21). 13



scholarship was no longer reserved for the author and his intent but was seen to be rooted in the role of the editors w h o constructed the text in accordance with the various agendas that represented their views. So, essentially, historical-critical scholarship sought to recreate the religious and intellectual thought world of the communities that shaped the text of the Pentateuch. The aim, rather than exegesis moving out from the text, was to reconstruct the possible social, religious, political and intellectual heritage that could have given rise to the themes and foci visible in the text of the Torah. Therefore, in an attempt to deal with inconsistencies of style and content, historical-critical scholarship moved from a focus on the text to a focus on what might lie behind the text. 15

The Deuteronomistic History Inevitably, this style of critical analysis spread beyond discussion of the Pentateuch to incorporate the historical books and beyond. Martin Noth wrote a key work that linked the Book of Deuteronomy with the historical books that followed (Joshua—2 Kings). 16 In this work he argued that Deuteronomy functions as a paradigm for the interpretation of the historical books that follow and that the influence of a variety of editors shaped the final form of Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History. The same basic principles for discerning sources in the Pentateuch were applied in Noth's argument regarding the historical books. A n editor, the Deuteronomist, incorporated the Deuteronomic law at the begin-

Critical scholarship continued to develop with ever increasing degrees of detail the analysis of the text of the Old Testament. So, later scholarship became dissatisfied with the simple categorization of J and E and sought to reconstruct ever more precise source categories. For example, Rudolf Smend argued that the J source consisted of not one but two documents (Die Hr^ahlung des Hextateuch auf ihre Quellen untersucht [Berlin: Reimer, 1912]), thus giving rise to the putative J1 and J 2 documents and similar arguments were raised with regard to the E source. Thus the tendency within critical scholarship was towards ever more detailed fragmentation of the text. For a defense of the "disappearing redactor" see John Barton, Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1984), 56-58. 16 Martin Noth, The Deuteronomistic History (trans. H. G. M. Williamson; JSOTSup 15; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1981). 15



ning of his work as an interpretative paradigm for all that followed and then took various disparate sources (conquest accounts, speeches, official records, etc.) and created a national history to be read and understood in the light of that law—Israel's triumphs and failures were to be viewed vis-a-vis their response to the law.17 Equally inevitably, further fragmentation of sources followed. It was observed that the concerns and emphases of the "Deuteronomist" were far from uniform, therefore it was likely that more than one editor was at work in combining the diverse sources. One group of scholars saw the diversity within the collection as resulting from chronology. They, therefore, described the two editors of the Deuteronomistic History as Dtr1, the original editor working during the reign of King Josiah, and Dtr2, a later (exilic) editor. To complicate matters even further, another group of scholars defined the editions of the Deuteronomistic History more by the themes that are observable throughout this historical collection. They, therefore, named their editors as DtrH (or DtrG in German) who was primarily a historian, whereas DtrP was the prophetic Deuteronomist, who was concerned with matters kerygmatic, and DtrN was the nomistic Deuteronomist, whose primary focus was on the law.18 Once again, the attempt to delve behind the text in order to recreate a picture of its original sources and their social locus leads to a fragmentary view of the text rather than reading the sections of the Bible as works of literature. Critique of Historical Critical Method There are, of course, many other expressions of historical or source criticism that we simply do not have space to discuss. However, even the brief discussion above highlights some of the inherent weaknesses of historical-typical approaches. Norman Whybray has

For fuller discussion see Gary N. Knoppers, "Introduction," in Reconsidering Israel and Judah: Recent Studies on the Deuteronomistic History (ed. G. N. Knoppers and J. G. McConville; SBTS 8; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2000), 1-18. 18 See Jamie A. Grant, The King as Exemplar: The Function of Deuteronomy's Kingship Taw in the Shaping of the Book of Psalms (AB 17; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature; Leiden: Brill, 2004), 30-32, for further discussion. 17



tellingly critiqued the Documentary Hypothesis. 19 He highlights eleven lacunae in the methodology lying behind source criticism, but let me summaries just a few of them. Firstly, proponents assume of the Pentateuch a consistency in the avoidance of repetition and contradiction that would be atypical of ancient Near Eastern literature. Secondly, the tendency to fragment texts into ever more minute sources destroys the literary and aesthetic qualities of each book and creates "documents" that are pretty impenetrable. Thirdly, the assumption that changes in language and style necessarily represent different sources fails to take account of the fact that such differences may occur subconsciously on the part of the author or due to any number of literary or social conventions or, indeed, for quite specific theological reasons. Fourthly, Whybray points out that when the purported source documents are placed together there is no indication of a single style or purpose or theology within them, nor is there a coherent continuous narrative thread. Fifthly, the very complexity of the Documentary Hypothesis and the fact that subsequent modifications of it have failed to make the theory more coherent count against its plausibility. Sixthly, theories lying behind the Documentary Hypothesis were unduly dependent on a particular view of the history of Israel's religion that was ultimately unverifiable. 20 However, regardless of these innate weaknesses in methodology, the historical-critical approach went on to dominate the study of the OT for over two hundred years. Current historical-critical approaches to the Pentateuch show little consensus.21 The works of John van Seters, Rolf Rendtorff and Norman Whybray (above) have significantly challenged the Documentary Hypothesis as it is classically understood. This results in widely-variant understandings of the origins of the J, E, D, and P sources in terms of the date of their authorship, their influence over the final form of the Pentateuch and the process by which the

19 R. Norman Whybray, The Making of the Pentateuch: A Methodological Study (JSOTSup 53; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987). 20 Whybray, The Making of the Pentateuch, 129-31. 21 "As we move into a new millennium there can be little doubt that Pentateuchal criticism is in something of a crisis" (Alexander, Paradise to Promised Land, 61).



Torah came into being. 22 Many of the accepted maxims of Wellhausen's approach are questioned in the contemporary secondary literature. Some now view the J source as the latest rather than the earliest of the pre-existent sources. 23 Others question the "lateness" of the P source and want to give P a greater priority within the composition of the Torah. 24 Whereas, some justifiably question the very validity of a unique and independent J source based purely on the premise that the name of Yahweh was known prior to the divine revelation to Moses. 25 So, to speak of a current consensus would misrepresent the present reality. Although many scholars still adhere to the basic underlying premises of the Documentary Hypothesis, there are now so many different flavors of this approach that it is barely possible to view this any longer as a single theory regarding the historical composition of the Pentateuch. 26 LITERARY CRITICISM Just as historical-criticism was "born" with Astruc's Conjectures, so it can be argued that literary criticism was "born" with Lowth's Lectures. The key difference between the two approaches is that Astruc sought to examine that which might have led to the formation of the text, whereas Lowth's examination concentrated on the analysis of the text itself as literature. So, although Lowth was interested in historical questions, his intent was not to discuss the worship prac-

22 See Wenham, The Pentateuch, 176—85, for fuller discussion of the diversity of opinion that exists regarding the dating if sources in contemporary scholarship. 23 John van Seters, Prologue to Histoy: The Yahwist as Historian in Genesis (Louisville: WJKP, 1992). 24 See e.g. Isaac Knohl, The Sanctuary of Silence: The Priestly Torah and the Holiness School (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), or Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972). 25 R. L. W. Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament (OBT; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992). 26 For an excellent assessment of current historical-critical approaches to the Pentateuch see Gordon J. Wenham, "Pondering the Pentateuch: The Search for a New Paradigm," in The Faces of Old Testament Studies: A Contemporary Survey of Approaches (ed. David W. Baker and Bill T. Arnold; Leicester: Apollos, 1999), 116^4.



tices that resulted in the authorship of the Psalms, rather his lectures focused on how these poems communicate with the reader: Since then it is the purpose of sacred poetry to form the human mind to the constant habit of true virtue and piety, and to excite the most ardent affections of the soul, in order to direct them to their proper end; whoever has a clear insight into the instrument, the machinery as it were, by which this end is effected, will certainly contribute not a little to the improvement of the critical art.27 This is the essence of literary criticism—in understanding how the biblical text works on a literary level, the reader comes to understand the Bible better. Literary criticism is the quest to study the Bible as a book that communicates with readers. Lowth and the Parallelism of Hebrew Poetry Lowth's 1753 study typifies the intent of literary criticism. Amongst many other observations in his lectures, Lowth noticed the "sententious" or parallelistic style of communication that typifies Hebrew poetry, whereby two lines of poetry are held together in some sort of relationship of creative tension. 28 It was clear to Lowth that this was a primary distinctive of Hebrew poetry and that these two lines in each verse are meant to be read together. What Lowth sought to do was to examine the relationship between each of the lines that were held in parallel. It was immediately clear that the two lines of a parallelism do not always relate to one another in the same manner, therefore, Lowth wanted to examine the diversity of relationships that exist between the lines of Hebrew parallelisms. His close observation of the text led him to the conclusion that there are three broad types of parallelism: synonymous, antithetic and synthetic. In the first, the two lines of the parallelism essentially say the same thing. In the second, the two lines of the parallelism are clearly contrasting or opposite. In the third, the relationship between the two lines is more complicated but, by and large, Lowth viewed the second line as somehow adding to or advancing the statement made in the first line. It is not our purpose here to examine in detail the strengths and weaknesses of Lowth's theories regarding 27 28

Lowth, lectures, 23. See Lecture XIX.



parallelism.29 Rather, we observe the underlying point of Lowth's extensive study of the "sacred poetry of the Hebrews": namely, that in detailed analysis of the mechanics of Hebrew poetry we arrive at a deeper understanding of the communicative power of those compositions. Extrapolating more broadly, Lowth's basic argument is that awareness of the communicative techniques of the literature enriches the reader's understanding of that which the text seeks to convey.30 As Lowth puts it above, insight into "the machinery" of biblical literature directs the reader to the "proper end" of the text. Form Criticism It would be fair to say that literary criticism took something of a back seat to historical criticism throughout much of the period since Astruc and Lowth wrote their respective works. Discussion of historical issues dominated the academic study of the OT for many decades to follow and this, in turn, led to a general neglect of the study of the poetic within the Hebrew Bible. However, something of a renaissance of literary criticism occurred with the birth of form criticism in the early part of the twentieth century and many see Hermann Gunkel (1862—1932) as the father of that rebirth. Gunkel picked up on the observations of classical philosophy regarding the importance of awareness of types or genres of literature if a reader is to understand the communication of any text, including the biblical text.31 As we all are, Gunkel was very much a prodFor further discussion of Lowth's views of parallelism see Jamie A. Grant, "Poetics," in Words and the Word: Explorations in Biblical Interpretation and Literary Theory (ed. David G. Firth and Jamie A. Grant; Nottingham: Apollos, 2008), 212-21. 30 This is not the place to discuss the locus of meaning and whether it is to be found in the author, the text or the reader. This has been fully discussed elsewhere (see, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text? The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Uteraiy Knowledge [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998]). 31 Discussion of the importance of genre awareness goes back as far as Plato, Aristotle and Cicero (see Jeannine K. Brown, "Genre Criticism," in Words and the Word: Explorations in Biblical Interpretation and Uteraiy Theory [ed. David G. Firth and Jamie A. Grant; Nottingham: Apollos, 2008], 113-14). 29



uct of his day and his examination of literary form was far from a purely literary task. In fact, his development of form criticism arose largely out of dissatisfaction with the principles and practice of source criticism as a means of establishing the real, historical, religious practices of ancient Israel. Gunkel argued that via the proper definition of Gattungen (literary types) one could arrive at the Sit^ im Teben (life setting) in which the text was originally spoken or written.32 So, ultimately, Gunkel's aim remained historical—his intent was still to look behind the text and reconstruct the history that led to the formation of the biblical text.33 However, the means by which he argued that this should be done was through detailed examination of the text on its own terms and, on that level, form criticism ultimately lead to a reawakening of literary criticism within biblical studies. The basic argument forwarded by Gunkel in his Genesis commentary and, later, in his work on the Psalms was that, in order to understand the various pericopes of biblical literature properly we must read and understand them their own terms.34 We do not read a newspaper in the same way that we read The Lord of the Rings. Logically, therefore, understanding the type of biblical literature we are dealing with instinctively changes the way in which we read and comprehend that passage.35 Awareness of the unique characteristics of each type of literature that we encounter within the Bible shapes our expectations and responses to that passage.36 So, although

Barton, Reading the Old Testament, 32—34. Throughout his academic career, Hermann Gunkel was a leading proponent of the History of Religions school (see Ernest Nicholson's introduction to the English translation of Gunkel's Genesis [trans. Mark E. Biddle; Mercer Library of Biblical Studies; Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1997]). 34 See also Hermann Gunkel, Introdudion to the Vsalms: The Genres of the Religious Lyric of Israel (trans. James D. Nogalski; Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1998). 35 S. D. (Fanie) Snyman, "A Structural-Historical Approach to the Exegesis of the Old Testament," in Words and the Word: Explorations in Biblical Interpretation and Titeraiy Theory (ed. David G. Firth and Jamie A. Grant; Nottingham: Apollos, 2008), 67-68. 36 For example, Origen's self-castration in response to his understanding of Christ's teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:29—30) 32




Gunkel's primary motivation remained historical, form criticism inspired something of a return to the detailed examination of the biblical text as literature, much as Lowth had advocated in his day. The Canonical Approach It was, however, later still in the twentieth century that literary criticism acquired its full voice in biblical studies. It is hard to overstate the significance of Brevard S. Childs' (1923—2007) canonical approach in terms of the way in which it has shaped the course of the academic study of the Bible since the 1980s.37 In many ways, the canonical approach to biblical interpretation marked a sea change in the academic study of the Bible. As with Gunkel, Childs was far from indifferent towards the historical background that lies behind the text of the OT.38 So, despite accusations to the contrary, Childs was neither naive nor championing a return to pre-critical exegetical practice.39 However, Childs argued forcefully that—whatever the stages of its development—the reader should ultimately read the biblical text in its final canonical form. Far from denying that is a profound—and rather disturbing—example of a lack of genre awareness. In this passage, Jesus is using the classic teaching techniques of the Hebrew wisdom teacher (among others, figurative language and didactic hyperbole) in order to make his point. The intent of the teaching was never to see anyone actually gouge out their eye or cut off their hand, rather this was a figurative and forceful exhortation to be ruthless in rooting out sin and temptation from one's life. Failure to understand the implications of a particular genre often leads to mistaken conclusions.. .painfully mistaken conclusions in Origen's case. 37 See Paul R. Noble, The Canonical Approach: A Critical Reconstruction of the Hermeneutics of Brevard S. Childs (Biblical Interpretation Series 16; Leiden; New York: E . J . Brill, 1995) for a detailed, if now slightly dated, analysis of the impact of Childs' approach to the analysis and interpretation of the biblical text. 38 It is, in fact, a frequent criticism of Childs' commentaries that they are overly focused on classical, historical-critical questions. Even a cursory reading of Childs' commentary on Exodus (OTL; London: SCM Press, 1974) or his Isaiah commentary (OTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001) will show his commitment to thorough historical-critical analysis of the text as a part of his exegetical examination. 39 Contra James Barr, "Review of Introduction to the Old Testament Scripture by Brevard S. Childs," JSOT16 (1980): 12-23.



there might be a complex prehistory leading up to the creation of the text of each book as it appears in our contemporary Bibles, Childs' proposal was that such discussion should effectively be bracketed and that the reader's interpretative focus should center upon each biblical book in its final form as a book. Herein, we see a real return to the type of literary criticism that was advocated by Lowth. Childs' desire was to treat "the literature [of the OT] with its own integrity."40 Regardless of the many sources and regardless of the many redactions, that each and every book of the Bible may have gone through to arrive at its final form, each biblical book is just that—a book. Therefore, it should be read as such. Childs argued that a degree of uncertainty and subjectivity will always remain in terms of our historical reconstruction of that which lies behind the text. However, as Christian readers of the OT, we are sure that at some point in time each of the books that we find within the canon came to be viewed as authoritative by the communities of faith that preceded us. At some point in history, the books of the Torah, Prophets and Writings ceased to develop and came to be seen as literary entities with a complete identity. Therefore, regardless of the sources lying behind the Book of Genesis, ultimately Genesis came to be read as a book. So, Childs' Introduction to the Old Testament Scripture emphasizes the wholeness and unity of each canonical book and examines the themes, theology, logical flow and argument that is presented by each book as a work of literature in its own right. The Literary Turn Whether influenced by directly or indirectly by Childs' groundbreaking work, biblical studies in the 1970s and 1980s was marked by what is often referred to as the "literary turn." At the risk of oversimplifying, the literary turn advocated the scholarly examination of the Bible as literature using all of the methods of literary theory that are practiced in the analysis of contemporary texts. So, theories of rhetorical analysis, which were both derived from and often applied to classical Greek texts, were applied to the study of,

Brevard S. Childs, Introduction don: SCM Press, 1979), 73. 40

to the Old Testament as Scripture (Lon-



for example, the Book of Jeremiah. 41 Or, alternatively, new theories of language and communication—structuralism, speech-act analysis, semiotics, and so on—were applied to the task of interpreting the Bible and profitable new insights were drawn from these analyses. So, the current position within biblical studies is one in which literary approaches to the biblical text clearly dominate and questions of genre, rhetoric, discourse analysis, poetics, and so on, still bring enlightenment to the reader's understanding of the Bible's communicative power. 42 SOME CONCLUDING COMMENTS As we have seen, critical approaches to the study of the Bible have been an ever-present reality for over 250 years. This is simply a brute fact of history. However, the fact that critical scholarship has been around for a long time and that it shows no signs of disappearing does not mean that the biblical criticism is beyond critique itself. What, if any, benefits have arisen from these postEnlightenment, scientific approaches to the study of the Bible? Or are these merely the irrelevant ramblings of an academic community where scholars speak to other scholars without reference to the world (or the church) at large? Just how critical can we be of biblical criticism? Certainly, scholars throughout many generations have been guilty of a degree of intellectual arrogance. Theory has built upon theory until the scholarly community has become so convinced

41 See Peter Phillips, "Rhetoric," in Words and the Word: Explorations in Biblical Interpretation and Eiteraiy Theory (ed. David G. Firth and Jamie A. Grant; Nottingham: Apollos, 2008), 226-65; and Walter Brueggeman, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). 42 See David G. Firth and Jamie A. Grant, eds., Words and the Word: Explorations in Biblical Interpretation and Uteraiy Theory (Nottingham: Apollos, 2008). It would, however, be fair to say that, following on from the literary turn, the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century have seen a fragmentation of hermeneutical approaches and a rise in the so-called "New Interpretative Approaches" associated with post-modernism (e.g. post-colonial, feminist, African readings, etc.). These later developments are discussed by Jennifer Bird later in this volume.



that they forget that their theories are just that.43 Certainly, contemporary readers of biblical criticism should be mindful that the suggestions regarding the social, historical and religious setting of ancient Israel that led to the authorship of the biblical texts remain in the realm of theory. While bearing in mind the critiques outlined by Whybray (above), it is probably fair to say that the scholarly communities have probably come to a fairly accurate understanding of the various settings that led to the writing of the biblical texts. However, these reconstructions are far from infallible and scholars, students and church alike should be mindful of the fallibility of critical theory. However, many Christian communities over the years have been skeptical regarding the benefits of critical scholarship. In response, it seems fair to suggest that anyone who views the Bible as being both divine and human in origin should be aware of the benefits that biblical criticism brings for our fuller understanding of the Scriptures' message. Peter Enns comments: When God reveals himself, he always does so to people, which means that he must speak and act in ways that they will understand. People are time bound, and so God adopts that characteristic if he wishes to reveal himself. We can put this even a bit more strongly: It is essential to the very nature of revelation that the Bible is not unique to its environment. The human dimension of Scripture is essential to its being Scripture.. .That the Bible bears an unmistakable human stamp does not lead to the necessary conclusion that it is merely the words of humans rather than the word of God. 44

There is no such thing as contextless Christianity. We read the Bible as those influenced by the culture in which we live and we should read the Bible as a document written to real people, at real points in history, who were also influenced by the culture of which they were a part. Biblical criticism, be it historical or literary, delves 43 For example, de Wette's theories on the origins of the Book of Deuteronomy (mentioned above) have attained little short of canonical status in the academic community despite the fact that his suggestion contains several logical inconsistencies (see J. Gordon McConville, Taw and Theology in Deuteronomy [JSOTSup 33; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984]). 44 Inspiration and Incarnation: TLvangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 20-21.



deep into the human aspects of the biblical text and brings light to the various contexts within which the Bible came to be written. Critical approaches ask questions about the social, political, historical, cultural, intellectual and literary settings that form the backdrop of the biblical story and, in coming to a fuller understanding of this backdrop, we come to a fuller understanding of what the Bible has to say to readers today. Biblical criticism, when conducted with an attitude of appropriate humility, takes us deep into the humanity of the biblical text and locating the sacred Scriptures within their human setting will ultimately make the Bible more real to readers of every succeeding generation. FOR FURTHER READING

Alexander, T. Desmond. From Paradise to Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch. 2d ed. Carlisle: Paternoster, 2002. Barton, John. Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1984. Childs, Brevard S. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. London: SCM Press, 1979. Enns, Peter. Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005. Firth, David G., and Jamie A. Grant, eds. Words and the Word: Explorations in Biblical Interpretation and Uterary Theory. Nottingham: Apollos, 2008. Nicholson, Ernest W. The Pentateuch in the Twentieth Century: The Legacy of Julius Wellhausen. Oxford: Clarendon, 1998. Noth, Martin. The Deuteronomistic History. Translated by H. G. M. Williamson. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament: Supplement Series 15. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1981. Wenham, Gordon J. Exploring the Old Testament, Volume 1: The Pentateuch. London: SPCK, 2003. Wenham, Gordon J. "Pondering the Pentateuch: The Search for a New Paradigm." Pages 116—44 in The Faces of Old Testament Studies: A Contemporary Survey of Approaches. Edited by David W. Baker and Bill T. Arnold. Leicester: Apollos, 1999. Whybray, R. Norman. The Making of the Pentateuch: A Methodological Study. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament: Supplement Series 53. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987.


Thorsten Moritz

The complexity of developing or deploying a theological form of exegesis is often underestimated. It is not a simple matter of affirming the need to stand up to the historicist demands of the Enlightenment—important as that component undoubtedly is. Nor is it enough to trumpet (quite rightly) the virtues of overcoming the silos of "Biblical Studies" and "Systematic Theology." Evidently, we need clarity as to what makes theological exegesis theological. Is it the willingness to let interpreters be theologians? And to let theologians be interpreters? I would affirm both, but, surely, to make that a major criterion for what qualifies as theological exegesis would be to say more about the disciplines—or the need to rethink them—than to claim anything about exegesis per se. The urgency of theological interpretation becomes more apparent when we realize how thoroughly Scripture and theology have become separated over the last few centuries. 1 But again, this does not address the most fundamental question: Should theological exegesis be thought of as qualitatively different from other forms of interpretation? Those who have answered in the affirmative have often done so on the basis that the nature of Scripture as

1 Joel Green, "Scripture and Theology: Uniting the Two So Long Divided," in Between Two Horizons (ed. Joel Green and Max Turner; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 23-43.




divine speech warrants a customized approach to interpretation. 2 But this appears to ignore the simple reality that matters of provenance and nature are essentially unrelated to interpretive concerns. It would be hard to see how the divine or human nature of any kind of communication would itself have any repercussions for what qualifies as its reasonable interpretation, and the tendency to connect these issues has been puzzling. Needless to say, interpretive methods need to be appropriate to the object of interpretation, but that object is primarily defined by its literary and communicative character, not its empirical genesis or our evaluation thereof. In short, I will not be arguing in this chapter for a hermeneutica sacra. Quite the opposite. To the extent that Scripture is incarnational, we need precisely not a special hermeneutic, but one that makes communicative sense. But what does that mean? Before making a constructive proposal to that effect, it is instructive to see how exegesis is being approached hermeneutically across the spectrum of theological education. Following that, it will be my task to make a contribution towards the kind of hermeneutical renewal that serves the interpretation of theological texts well. T H E STATE OF EXEGESIS IN THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION

There is a widespread perception in Christian communities of a significant gap between what the theological academy—specifically seminaries and schools of divinity—have to offer exegetically and what faith communities actually need. Over the last twenty years or so significant progress has been made in the area of hermeneutics, and some of these advances would appear well suited for overcoming the gap mentioned above. Yet, when the present author conducted a recent survey 3 of thirty very diverse theological seminaries and divinity schools across North America to compare (a) what actually happens in theological interpretation with (b) what could happen (based on the kind of hermeneutical recalibration of the sort offered later in this chapter), it turned out that these advances have so far had little or no effect on theological education. This is surprising, given the widespread conviction that hermeneutical Gerhard Maier, Biblische Hermeneutik (Giessen: TVG, 2005), 12—28. The survey was funded by the Wabash Center (Crawfordsville, Ind.) and is expected to be published in due course. 2 3



awareness is not just of importance for interpreting texts, but that it is equally pertinent for understanding one's social location and that of the communities being served by theological training. This chapter will make the case for including these social location concerns in the task of theological exegesis. More generally, it will remind us that theological exegesis is only as good as its relevance for the needs of the faith communities and the world they serve. The research underlying the aforementioned survey was focused specifically on four areas of hermeneutical concerns that impinge directly on the question of theological exegesis: (1) conceptualization of hermeneutics as the link between epistemological theory and exegetical method, interpretive art and "in-front-of-the-text" contextuati^ation; (2) questions related to "transformation" and "integration" in theological formation; (3) theological commitments and institutional constraints and their effect on the pursuit of hermeneutics in the theological academy; and (4) theological formation as occurring somewhere on a continuum between "constructive dislocation" of the incoming or advancing student and the need for either "reinforcement" or "reconstruction." For our present purposes, the first of these—the triad of exegetical method, art and context—is crucial. The following section focuses on some of these areas to prepare the ground for re-assessing the nature of theological interpretation. HERMENEUTICS AS METHOD, A R T AND CONTEXT

At the risk of some simplification, each of the seven hermeneutical areas introduced can be allocated to one of the three categories of method, art, and context. Speech-Act Theory (Method) This theory has the potential to move us towards a more holistic view of the communicative act. It envisions the communicative act as consisting of three aspects: locution (the basic cognitive content), illocution (the intended force and impact upon the communication partner), and perlocution (the intended response by the communicative partner). In the past, there has been a tendency to either disaggregate the various elements of meaning and to allocate them to different disciplines, or to ignore speech as communicative action in favor of the cognitional altogether. In theological settings, there has been a long-standing separation of the locutionary, the illocution-



ary, and perlocutionary aspects of interpretation, with the first of these often being assigned to interpretation, the second being considered only sporadically and the third being left to homiletics and/or counseling. Consequently, the text's "envisioned transformation" (the "action intention" of speech) has tended to be ignored in favor of cognitive content. To the extent that biblical speech should be envisioned as divine action, such content is best seen as a subset of speech action, rather than as the true goal of interpretation. In any case, in speech-act theory 4 (SAT), meaning is conceived not primarily as cognitive content to be retrieved and imparted, but as a mutual impact of those participating in the communicative act. Communication is in and of itself a transformative act, and SAT gives us tools to attend to the transformative forces at work in communication. Even where information is conveyed, the conveying itself is an illocutionary action. Here is one example of how SAT can impact interpretation (and ultimately theology): When, in a biblical text, God is depicted as saying, "I will blot you out from the face of this earth," it is one thing to focus on the locution and realize that there is a future tense involved, which might make it a divine prophecy; it is another thing to ask about the illocutionary force and to realize that it may instead be an enacted deterrent towards the perlocutionary goal of repentance. In light of that, when interpreters go to passages where God appears to change His mind, interpretation through a solely locutionary lens creates real theological dilemmas. However, a speech-act approach that attends to the illocutionary force avoids this trap and leads to an understanding that the passage probably recalls a deterrent enacted by God with a view to inspiring repentance. This rather simple example shows, among other things, how major theological debates could be directly impacted—and in some case frankly be simplified—by the use of SAT. The relatively recent "Open Theism" debates are a case in point. It also demonstrates that genuine hermeneutical progress can be basic and intuitive enough to hold promise even for non-academic interpreters. Having said all that, it will become evident that SAT by itself does not suffice to reinvigorate and recalibrate theological interpre4 Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Heading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press), 54—62.



tation to the extent needed to overcome the dysfunctional heritage of the Enlightenment. Even in the realist corner of the hermeneutical landscape—in the case of the present author the criticalrealist corner—more will be needed for re-envisioning hermeneutics than attention to speech-as-action.5 Hermeneutical Geography (Context) The discipline of hermeneutics has for some time distinguished between different loci of interpretation: what is in front of the text (the interpreter him- or herself either as a co-producer of meaning or as the single most significant factor in the process of interpretation), what is in the text (the imagined world constructed by the text, distinguished from its external referentiality), the referential world behind the text (the world to which the text refers either explicitly or implicitly), and the world below the text (the environment that shaped the formation of the text).6 What makes this observation intriguing is that interpreters of differently shaped academic environments inevitably focus their interpretive interests on just some aspects and/or combinations of these geographical loci, hardly ever all! These diverse emphases consequently involve different research questions and interpretive methodologies. Conversely, those areas not attended to in a given context tend to be predetermined by considerations external to the interpretive process. In this chapter, the prepositions used above (in front of in, behind, above, and below) will be used as shorthand for the interpretive selectivity often encountered in the secondary literature. While hermeneutical selectivity should typically be driven by the object of interpretation (text or tradition), strikingly, even where such selectivity leads to maneuvers that strictly fall outside 5 For the question whether texts should be treated as "speech" in the manner of SAT, see Clarence Walhout, "Narrative Hermeneutics," in The Promise of Hermeneutics (ed. Roger Lundin, Clarence Walhout, and Anthony Thiselton; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 65-79. 6 Occasionally the empirical world of the intended audience is an important part of this "landscape," either as an extension of the world below the text (such as when authors write for the benefit of others in their own communities), or as the actual world of the hoped-for empirical audience, which I refer to as being above the text, to be differentiated from coincidental or unintended empirical interpreters in front of the text.



of the parameters of interpretation, the results nonetheless often tend to be treated as "interpretive," thus forming the basis in many faith communities for what is perceived to be authoritative theological reflection. It is ironic that different faith communities with equally strong commitments to the authority of Scripture may also be equally strongly committed to the results of "interpretation," even where such interpretations differ significantly from each other, based on differing "geographic" selectivity of the interpreters involved. The "geographical" framework of hermeneutics outlined above—in all its simplicity—is an extremely useful category for making sense of widely divergent interpretive conclusions. Commentators representing different theological environments routinely focus on preferred "geographical" elements of the interpretive process. To use the example of healing narratives in the Gospels, for some commentators the theological intent of such narratives is to show the power of God. Consequently, the interpretive tools of choice are those that, ostensibly, allow the commentator to show that such miracles did or did not in fact happen. Such a behind-the-text focus differs sharply from an in-the-text approach that asks about intra-textual indicators of the theological purpose of these narratives. The latter approach is far more likely to lead to the kind of conclusion that these narratives are about fulfilling Old Testament (esp. Isaiah) based "new exodus" expectations— including healings!—not about God's omnipotence. This is theologically significant, but even for strictly hermeneutical purposes it is essential to recognize the transformative function of the imagined worlds, irrespective of external or empirical referentiality concerns reflected in the text, especially where interpretation is driven by a high view of the text. 7 Ibid., 79-84 and 100-118. For Gunter Gebauer and Chtistoph Wulf ('Mimesis: Culture, Art, Society [Berkley: University of California Press, 1995]), "mimesis" denotes the imagined world projected by the text. Walhout, on the other hand, prefers to apply the term to the relationship between imagined and actual worlds (op. cit., 77). In the present chapter, the term is used in two senses. When applied to empirical interpreters, it denotes their process of entering the imagined world projected by the text. When applied to authors, I apply it as Gebauer and Wulf have done, that is in the sense of the imagined worlds created by them. What Walhout 7



Implied versus Empirical (Art) Just as there are important distinctions between the implied world of the text (the world constructed or projected by the text) and the empirical environments which either generated the text or to which the text refers, we must also differentiate between implied and empirical authors, audiences, circumstances, presuppositions, locations, etc.8 For example, in interpreting the Gospels, it has been a longstanding practice in authorial-intentionalist camps to attempt to reconstruct the empirical author as best as we can, hoping that locating his historical personality will yield insights crucial to interpretation that may otherwise be unavailable. Despite the prevalence of this approach in the academy, it faces at least two major problems. First, we typically do not have the data to support such reconstructions, and secondly (and more importantly), literary theory quite rightly tells us that even if we succeeded at such efforts, the empirical author may have little in common with the author implied by the text. At the point of executing a speech-act, an empirical author inevitably joins the ranks of any potential, empirical audience. In other words, empirical authors who return to their prior speechacts have no way of "undoing" or "re-shaping" those speech-acts retroactively. 9 Instead, they are now subject to the same basic parameters of interpretation as anyone else. Needless to say, when authors return to their own prior speech-acts, they should be in a better position to interpret, but the reason for that is that their acts of imagination into the vantage points of the implied or ideal audiences should be less involved than those of their more distant empirical counterparts.

calls the "mimetic" relationship between the imagined and actual worlds, I call "referential" (if the exploration of this relationship is encouraged by the implied author), or "fictive" (where no such authorial encouragement is discernable). 8 The role of the implied reader is discussed in detail in Iser, The Acts of Reading, 27—38, 107. Also Umberto Eco, The Role of the Reader (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984). 9 So-called "reinterpretation" is also not an option for the empirical author (cf. n. 26 below).



These distinctions between implied and empirical have been well known in literary studies,10 but they seem to have had little impact on theological interpretation. Quite ironically, scholars with a strong commitment to the authority of the text frequently prefer an exegetical focus on the intent of the reconstructed author to that of the text's own implied author. The distinction illustrated here also applies to other aspects of the texts, such as time and location of writing, audience expectations, circumstances, and so on. It is one thing, for instance, to wonder about the dating of the Synoptic Gospels (before or after the climax of the Jewish War in 70 C.E.); it is quite another thing to ask from what implied date (around 30 C.E.) the so-called "Little Apocalypse" in Mark 13 is meant to be interpreted. Essentially the question of the empirical provenance or date of Mark 13 is interpretively irrelevant. What matters is its implied vantage point—every time. The approach pursued here extends not just to matters of authorship and date. It stands to reason that any vantage point (location, time, ideology, situation etc.) implied in the world constructed by the text is subject to this understanding, irrespective of the "geographical" referentiality of the text. Storied Hermeneutic (Method) It has been increasingly noticed in the social sciences—as well as in the neurosciences11—that human knowledge and transformation are by nature "storied" or narrative, as well relational or social. The focus here is not on such narrative aspects as genre and literary theory, but instead on the recognition that all human knowledge depends on the unifying web of stories that afford us possibilities for creating internal working models and structures, and consequently the possibility to construe and recognize "meaning." It stands to reason that propositions (cognitional content) cannot exist in a vacuum, and that the interpreter therefore has to attend to the epistemological dimension of interpretation. In that sense, all communication is "storied." For example, the Letter to the Ro10 Wayne Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1983). 11 Louis Cozolino, The Neuroscience of Relationships (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006).



mans has long been interpreted as a largely doctrinal and propositional document. However, while Romans clearly does not fit the narrative genre, we should not hesitate to reconstruct its narrative sub-structure. What emerges from such analysis is the author's strong focus on the various levels of Israel's story as his interpretive paradigm. Attending to the narrative sub-structure of Romans will not only help us become better theological interpreters, but also provide fresh points of entry into the text by many who may have been disenfranchised by the tides of historical criticism. A storied hermeneutic thus recognizes and highlights the transformative role of narrative that recent advances in psychology have served to highlight. At the same time it helps with elucidating the contextual dimension without which no theological truth claim can be truly relevant. Attention to these matters in theological interpretation is made all the more urgent by the widening gap between church and the academia. If human "storiedness" really is the key not only to interpretation, but also transformation, this advance has the potential to re-empower those marginalized by the highly specialized traditional approaches, not least because a narrative focus in interpretation can be much less technical and in that sense esoteric than what are now considered traditional scholarly approaches, thus making interpretation decidedly more accessible to many local faith communities and practitioners. To return briefly to an example from Romans, a "storied" approach to exegesis makes it more likely that Paul's numerous references to names of individuals from the Old Testament (OT) should be interpreted as symbolic story markers (that is, as an attempt to recall an entire story from Israel's past) than as references just to individual historical characters in Israel's history. In reality, the former to some extent presupposes the latter, but the different primary focus yields equally different theological results. If God "loves Jacob," but "hates Esau" (Rom 9:13), Paul is justified in asking whether God is unjust (v. 14). When he quotes Exod 33:19 as his own response (v. 15), this suggests that the Jacob and Esau labels in verse 13 were meant as a way of alluding to two kinds of human life, as symbolized by Jacob and Esau, rather than



as a reference to their personal likeability score before God.12 Otherwise it would be hard to avoid the conclusion that verse 15 is an outright contradiction of the claim of verse 14. The interpreter needs to be ready for story-telling dynamics even in the midst of so-called doctrinal passages. And it is often precisely in story-telling that the transformative power of the text is unfolded. This appears to be directly related to the way stories engage the imagination. Imagination, in turn, is directly related not only to the interpretation of plot,13 but also to neural plasticity that affects and is affected by "conscious memory, our knowledge, sensations, feelings, and behaviors"14—in short, the very components of what we commonly refer to as transformation, including spiritual transformation. The Role of Imagination (Art) If, as empirical interpreters, we have to enter the world of the implied audience, that very step necessitates a significant role for the informed imagination. So what constitutes an informed imagination? Since the implied audience and the implied author are by definition in perfect harmony, a major criterion for making this judgment has to be whether any specific cultural, sociological etc. background knowledge helps us to grow in our appreciation of the intentionality of the implied author.15 Such historical and linguistic background may help us reach that goal, but it does not always do so, and their usefulness should be carefully evaluated. In the wake of the downplaying of the interpretive role of the imagination initiated by the Enlightenment, an urgent rehabilitation of the imagination along the lines indicated by Paul Ricoeur and others becomes necessary. A significant question will be, though, how capable and 12 Support for this understanding is adduced from Second Temple Jewish sources in Mark Elliott, The Survivors of Israel: A Reconsideration of the Theology of Pre-Christian Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 289, 322— 3, 443-7. 13 Anthony Thiselton, "Communicative Action and Promise in Interdisciplinary, Biblical, and Theological Hermeneutics," in The Promise of Hermeneutics, 164—172. 14 Cozolino, The Neuroscience of Relationships, 304. 15 For a more detailed discussion of the role of the implied author and audience see Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction, 71—76, 211—12 and 395—6.



receptive are our academic parameters for embracing such a rehabilitation of the informed imagination in interpretation? Further, can the necessary hermeneutical recalibration happen in a manner that accommodates a view of transformation not so much as the obedient response to propositionally phrased or cognitionally oriented challenges, but as an integral by-product of the very act of interpretation, especially if such interpretation happens communally? Such a view of transformation may not conform to the assumptions underlying many theological interpretive projects, but recent research16 has made a very compelling case for such an understanding. Admittedly, this example presupposes the sort of interdisciplinary awareness that is highly specialized and has only recently received more attention by at least some theologians and interpreters of theological texts.17 Open versus Closed Texts (Art) Umberto Eco distinguishes between two kinds of texts. Closed texts are those endowed with a pre-determined or transmissive meaning that the reader is expected to reconstruct. By necessity, the interpreter has less freedom by virtue of being bound by prescriptive authorial intentionality. An example of a closed text might be a legal document or technical manual. Such texts guide the reader along a predetermined path, leading to predetermined outcomes and involving significant degrees of authorial encoding and interpretive decoding. Open texts, on the other hand, afford the interpreter a greater degree of freedom to process and participate in the co-production (not just re-production) of meaning. Examples of open—or, as he often refers to them, "literary"—texts might be poetry or contemplative literature.18 Ironically, by suggesting openness to the reader, an open text ends up forcing the reader into a

Cozolino, The Neuroscience of Human Relationships. Cozolino does not often use "imagination" vocabulary per se, but the concept of mental representation is at the heart of his exploration of relationality and transformation. 17 Details in C. Walhout, "Narrative Hermeneutics" in The Promise of Hermeneutics, 79—84. 18 Umberto Eco's theoretical basis for this differentiation is found in his A Theoiy of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976). 16



tight "productive" or "organizing" role that typically tests the reader's commitment to the text more than closed texts. One might expect there to be a natural correlation between issues of genre and the distinction between open and closed texts. In reality, though, genre has more to do with the implication (or absence thereof) of historical referentiality and external states of affairs and the degree of referential intentionality, whereas notions of open or closed texts are about differing implied authorial expectations for the (implied) audience. This distinction between open and closed texts and the question of the willingness of theological interpreters of sacred texts to embrace such differentiations between different kinds of sacred texts or text portions forms another intriguing filter for locating theological interpretations on the map of hermeneutical possibilities. As the example of the theological claims of the Book of Jonah shows, there is a stark difference between forcing its story line into a transmissive historicizing framework and allowing it to be a mimetic and referential emulation of Israel's missional role vis-a-vis a world in need. If the implied author had the latter in mind, this particular story contrasts at least partly with the OT's "historical claim" narratives that allow their readers to relive the exodus story and, by extension, to have their social sense of identity transformatively re-narrated in the process. Community and the Social Brain (Context) Theologically, the New Testament (NT) leaves no doubt about the major role of community in interpretation. When Paul, for instance, celebrates the "body" as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), he evidently has in mind the body of believers (cf. v. 15). Elsewhere in his letters, the Spirit that indwells that community is identified as none other than Christ who "rules in your hearts to which you were called in the one body" (Col 3:15). It is presumably no coincidence that the very next verse concludes that teaching in the local Christian body is essentially an exercise in mutuality, not transmissive teaching (v. 16). Surprisingly, Christianity lost this ecclesiological distinctive vis-a-vis the synagogue within a couple of



hundred years and by and large has not recovered it.19 Nonetheless, it is worth asking what the hermeneutical value in "mutuality in teaching"—and therefore presumably communal interpretation— might be and what benefits it may hold for theological interpretation in general. Instead of pursuing the theological preference for mutuality in early Christianity, this section considers briefly the matter of communal interpretation from the perspective of neuroscience. As neurologists have increasingly been able to understand aspects of the inner layers of the cortical structures of the brain, its flexible and organic nature has become more and more appreciated. Brains can now be shown to have considerable developmental plasticity, and not just during perinatal times, throughout childhood and during teenage years, but essentially throughout all of life.20 Attention to neural networks and social synapses has further revealed the fundamental importance of human attachment and therefore community.21 From an interdisciplinary perspective, this connects well with the formational significance of mimetic activity of the brain—such as in interpretation—especially since such activity engages the imagination in ways that enable interpreters to journey into both fictional and representative realms that are instrumental in affecting the ways we construct empirical reality. Where such interpretive activity is embedded in mental and social acts of mutuality, the potential for transformation increases exponentially. Starting approximately in the 1970s, the notion of a "social brain" emerged.22 It became increasingly clear how "sensory, moThere are significant theological reasons for Paul's preference (and indeed that of early Christianity in general, following a period of initial adjustment). While exploration of these preferences goes beyond this chapter, it is sobering to remind ourselves that to this day numerous Bible translations feel free to re-author passages that—in the Greek—clearly indicate mutuality in teaching and conversation (such as Acts 20:7; cf. the New Revised Standard Version) with the effect of giving an appearance of preaching instead (cf. the same verse in the New International Version, among others). 20 L. Cozolino, The Healthy Aging Brain (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008), 13-34, 51-63. 21 Ibid., 35—50. Also his The Neuroscience of Human Relationships, 52—57. 22 Ibid., 10-13. 19



tor, cognitive, and emotional processing streams.. .contribute to the emergence of social intelligence," 23 but also that no single part or module of the brain was responsible for these developments. Instead, the social aspects of brain development and plasticity are intricately connected to narrative. In a 1996 study24 sociologist R. Dunbar deploys a surprisingly simple strategy to demonstrate this: "eavesdropping" on cell phone conversations showed quite convincingly that the majority of content shared was inconsequential in terms of information, but hugely significant for re-enforcing, expanding, and challenging common story-connections and "worldviewish" filters. At least as importantly, our emotional health is critically dependent on such communally-driven narrative identity formation, irrespective of the presence or absence of strictly informational illocutions. Individual and group transformation is considerably more dependent on narrative interpretations of reality (and the sharing thereof) than on individual interpretations of texts or information pursued and shared on a cognitional or constative level. It would appear from this brief sketch that our reasons for thinking about interpretation in communal terms transcend theology. Or, to phrase it in opposite terms: Is it not precisely in the human experience of mutuality-based interpretation of reality and communication that the theological wisdom of pursuing social and spiritual transformation communally shines at its brightest? If so, it would seem strange that—throughout the centuries—we have largely eliminated from Christian worship settings the muchneeded communal components of interpretation, story-telling and transformation. HERMENEUTICS A S INTEGRATION

There is time to explore briefly the integrative potential of the seven hermeneutical components discussed above. The focus will be on three examples of interconnectedness, each showing how some of the seven components discussed integrate with each other.

Ibid., 11. Robin Dunbar, Grooming, Gossip, and the Involution of Language (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996). 23




Is "Implied" to "Empirical" what "Imagination" is to "Research"? To put this in slightly different terms: Does relevant research inform the interpreter's interpretive imagination analogously to the how the empirical author constructed an implied author? Much here depends on our notions of "relevant research." Above I presented a brief case for differentiating between the "implied" and the "empirical" in interpretation, but also suggested that interpreter needs to prioritize "the implied," without exception. This does not mean that the empirical (including empirical research) has become obsolete. Quite the opposite. Knowledge of the empirical realities surrounding a communicative act or text matters precisely to the extent that it helps with evaluating the relative plausibility of this or that reconstruction of "the implied"—but only to that extent! Without empirical research, the interpreter's act of imagination into the vantage point of the implied audience remains essentially unaccountable to historical plausibilities. The act of interpretation that is based on the uninformed imagination might be better termed "reauthoring,"25 irrespective of whether this is in fact the goal of the empirical "interpreter." On the other hand, "re-authoring" (or other forms of non-interpretation) will also occur almost inevitably when the empirical research brought into the interpretive process fails to facilitate the interpreter's particular mimetic task.26 From a theological perspective, there is no reason to deny the possibility of divine speech-acts through human "re-authoring"— however, to say that is an evaluative judgment, not an interpretive one. But if, hermeneutically speaking, the interpreter's imagination should be "informed," that is, guided by plausibility frameworks that depend significantly on empirical awareness and research, alongside our experiential basis for the cognitional,27 it follows that This would help with avoiding the potentially oxymoronic notion of "re-interpretation," where "re-" places the locus of meaning in the empirical interpreter, whereas "interpretation" appears to defer to the text/author combination. 26 A classic example of this is when Study Bibles preface the NT's anonymous Gospels with Introductions that offer under "Authorship" academia's futile speculations about the empirical authors of these books. 27 For the latter see Alvin Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 15. 25



the interpreter's mimetic journey into the realm of the "implied" should be significantly contingent on the "empirical" realities that can help inform such acts of imagination. None of this means that interpretation requires extensive empirical research at all times. The amount and nature of research necessary is a function of the distance between the empirical and the implied audiences. But irrespective of that, it is in the interpreter's mimetic journey into the implied realm of the text that the transformative illocutionary intent projected by the text can begin to morph into perlocutionary reality in the interpreter's imagination. Ultimately, of course, theological interpretation has to lead to such transformation—or else it would be merely intellectual. Specifically, it cannot fail to consider the transformative side of the interpreter's mimetic engagement. But that in itself does not suffice to make interpretation "theological." Neither does the notion of a special hermeneutica sacra—at least in the sense of providing the interpreter with special interpretive privileges and procedures. The question remains: What makes interpretation truly theological? Before suggesting answers to this question by way of conclusion, a couple more pieces are needed. Is "Open" to "Closed" what "Mimetic" is to "Referential"? Above, I defined "mimetic" as denoting the text's imagined world or—when applied to interpreters—their mimetic process of entering that imagined world. I use "referentiality," on the other hand, to speak of the extent to which the imagined world is meant to emulate and be interpreted with reference the external or "actual" worlds, either behind, below or above the text, or some combination thereof. Where no such referentiality is intended for the interpreter's mimetic act, I call the imagined world fictive. 28 Whether or not we call (with Eco) a text "open" or "closed" is directly related to the author's mimetic intention for the audience. The more referentiality is suggested by the text (behind, below, or above), the more likely we are to understand it as "closed." Where the fictive element prevails, so can the text's "openness" and the This is not to suggest that an imagined world can be "fictive" in the sense of being construable apart from prior notions of external states of affairs (contra Iser, The Act of Reading; 72). 28



attending need for the interpreter's increased commitment to the co-creation of meaning. But fictive texts are not necessarily "open"—the author may well choose to project the mimetic world in a manner that puts tight limitations on the interpreter's mimetic activity. Interpreters of Scripture predominantly encounter closed texts. To use the heuristic model of hermeneutical geography, closed texts typically call for interpretation that tends to focus on the referential realm behind, below, or above the text, or occasionally a combination thereof. In any case, historical awareness and research are required to inform the interpreter's mimetic journey into the world projected by the text. The appropriateness of the interpreter's methodological tools may vary widely depending on the text's behind-the-text-rferentiality (e.g. cultural anthropology, redaction criticism, etc.), its below-thetext-referentiality (e.g. semantics, form criticism, sociology, etc.) or its above-the-text referentiality, which would typically require the use of similar tools as the world below the text. Authors may even pursue a strategy of merging any of the referential worlds external to the text. When an author shapes the discourse in ways that remind the readers of the narrative fabric of the actual world above or below the text (or both), so-called "mirror-reading" from the perspective in front of the text is not only justified, but a must. 29 But this presupposes that we are able to determine the referential directionality in any given case, a particularly hard task when it is at most implied.30 In the case of open texts, critical tools may hold less promise. What connects both kinds of texts, however, is the interpreter's need to attend to the world projected by (or in) the text. At a minimum, this necessitates that interpreters are attuned to the text's epistemological and mimetic assumptions 31 and that they have the Despite the reservations of Stephen C. Barton, "Can We Identify the Gospel Audiences?" in The GospelforA.ll Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences (ed. Richard Bauckham; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 175— 76. 30 The reference to the synagogue in John 9:22 serves as a classic example of this difficulty. Hermeneutically-geographically speaking, what is the locus of "the synagogue"? Cf. also John 12:42; 16:2. 31 Authorial mimetic assumptions are themselves contingent on the possibilities of the empirical author. Empirical interpreters therefore bene29



narrative critical skills to follow plot lines, implications of vantage point etc. And yet, important as these tools are, illocutionary and perlocutionary success depend even more on the mimetic potential and openness of the empirical interpreter. To that extent, informed creativity is as much a prerequisite to interpretation and transformation as is the application of appropriate tools. In sum, "mimetic" can be to "referential" what "open" is to "closed," but it does not have to be. As with other aspects of intentionality, the implied author has to be the final adjudicator of the "open" or "closed" textual realization of the empirical author's mimetic possibilities. Either way, open or closed, the interpreter's mimetic journey into the vantage point of the implied audience needs to reflect the extent and "geographical" nature of the referentiality embodied in the text. Is "Illocution" to "Perlocution" what "Storiedness" is to "Transformation"? It has become customary to discuss interpretation primarily with reference to locution and illocution.32 I hinted above that it would almost certainly be preferable to include the perlocutionary notion of transformation in discussing the act of interpretation. While illocution is the force exerted by a speech-act on the authorial and textual side, perlocution refers to the intended effect of that same act on the side of the implied audience. For the empirical audience, the actual perlocutionary effect is what drives transformation. Transformation is, in short, perlocutionary. But if, on the side of the author and text, illocution determines perlocutionary intent, what shapes transformation on the side of the interpreter? Above I argued—not least on interdisciplinary grounds—that human "storiedness" plays a significant role in interpretive focus (the example used was the Letter to the Romans), but also in perlocutionary outcome. What, then, is the role of story on the empirical interpreter's side?

fit from awareness of these authorial possibilities, even where the textual focus may be essentially fictive. 32 So for instance Thiselton, "Communicative Action and Promise,"




As human beings we are defined epistemologically by a spectrum of stories that resembles, by way of illustration, the shape of a funnel: Broad at the top, narrow at the bottom. By superimposing an imaginary rainbow over the funnel, we can begin to conceptualize that some stories (the rainbow layers near the top of the funnel) are far broader and universal than the more particular, "local" and lower order stories near the bottom. For example, a person's commitment to pantheism, the goodness of creation and an understanding of the Fall as a human preference for selfishness will be far more influential in that person's wordviewish sense of identity (top), than his or her preference for public or private transport (bottom). It is more likely that one of the former—say, belief in the goodness of creation—affects the latter (preferred mode of transport, based on, for instance, environmental concerns), than for the latter to affect the former. Let us now imagine a further superimposed image, horizontal lines that represent challenging beliefs and values "out there" that collide with our funnel at various "rainbow levels." It is the resulting explosions—significant at the top, fairly small near the bottom—that fire our transformational episodes 33 and that nudge our "funnels" ever so slightly into different epistemological locations. If we take the imagery suggested here and now substitute the world presupposed by the text (such as the commitment to monotheism in Romans) for the challenges that our world confronts us with (such as polytheism), we see immediately how the heuristic model from above continues to apply. In short, in interpreting the biblical text, we have at a minimum three types of "funnels" on potential collision course, that of the text, our own (personal/communal), and those of the contexts we inhabit (social location). The inherent transformative energy is enormous! It is all too evident how, in the wake of the Enlightenment, we have thoroughly succumbed to pressures to deploy exegetical methodologies that are atomistic, historicizing, and frankly methodol-


T h e imagery proposed here is also applicable to the story world presupposed by acts of communication, such as, once more, the Letter to the Romans. O n e need only compare the letter's "spectrum of issues" which is as far-ranging as f r o m G o d ' s commitment to creation despite the Fall (ch. 8) to what to eat in the local Christian community (ch. 14).



ogically esoteric.34 In short, we have often prioritized methods that reside firmly near the bottom of our imaginary funnel. If, as argued earlier, the real transformative energy occurs near the top of the funnel, it stands to reason that our preferred tools of choice need to reflect that narrative reality. CONCLUSION: W H A T IS THEOLOGICAL EXEGESIS?

If we are right to insist that interpretation must be understood as action and transformation, and if theological interpretation is not characterized by a privileged hermeneutica sacra, nor simply by the subject matter or the interpreter's motivation, what are the major conditions for and characteristics of theological exegesis? (1) The theological text and the interpreter or interpretive community are equally "storied." Consequently, and irrespective of the Enlightenment's insistence to the contrary, the bridging of the time and culture gap between the Bible "then" and us "now" is possible. Spiritually transformative—and therefore theological— interpretation can occur. (2) Such interpretation has to occur on the level of narrative engagement and the historically informed imagination. It is not achieved by converting the text into timeless theological lessons, to be transferred with the help of reasoned analogies, translated homiletically and enacted via the end-user's obedience. Theological interpretation does precisely not revolve around principlizing, cognitive analogies and re-authoring! That way lies re-authoring! (3) Instead of the theological academy thinking of itself as a supplier of propositional truth to the communities' rhetorical mediators, the transformative art of theological story-telling needs to be recovered to draw the empirical interpretive community into the mimetic world projected by the theological text, including whatever historical referentiality it implies. This assumes that interpreters themselves are willing to indwell that mimetic space created by the text. Indeed, such willingness is the primary hallmark of the theological interpreter. When interpreters without such theological

One thinks, for instance, of the catastrophic role etymological word studies have played in allowing theological re-authoring to present itself in the guise of "interpretation." 34



openness exhibit superior methodological skills, their reading is not consciously theological in the sense of transformation. (4) The community that provides the environment for transformative, theological interpretation will be characterized by at least the following: mutual, relational commitment at a deep narrative level, both to the God of Scripture and each other, and in ways that transcend unhelpful clergy-laity distinctions; theological openness to the mimetic world of the Scriptural text, a praxis involving a holistic, intuitive and giftdriven understanding of communicative dynamics, as discussed throughout this chapter. (5) Clearly, most faith communities will not see a need for investing in interpretive tools that are epistemologically and theologically warranted, especially since the academy has removed the interpretive responsibility from the grasp of "the many" by making it methodologically unattainable to the uninitiated. If our communities are to recover a commitment to the intentionality of the sacred texts'—or frankly any theological texts'—implied authors, coupled with the kind of mimetic openness without which theological transformation remains abstract, the academy needs to step up and reconnect with intuitive hermeneutics on the one hand, and the transformative needs of our communities on the other. A postscript: The vision cast here is not as Utopian as might appear. But it requires a significant amount of re-thinking^ both in churches and in the academy. If the notion of a priesthood of all—not some!—believers is at all theologically meaningful, it must entail a renewed, communal praxis of theological reading. Christian communities are emerging that are willing to rise to the challenge. Are the twin sisters of theological education and research capable and willing to re-engage meaningfully ? FOR FURTHER READING

Adam, A. K. M., Stephen Fowl, Kevin Vanhoozer, and Francis Watson, eds. Reading Scripture with the Church: Toward a Hermeneutic for Theological Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006. Booth, Wayne. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983. Eco, Umberto. The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1980. Green, Joel. Seized by Truth: Reading the Bible as Scripture. Nashville: Abingdon, 2007.



Green, Joel, and Max Turner, eds. Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1980. Lundin, Roger, Clare Walhout, and Anthony Thiselton, eds. The Promise ofHermeneutics. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. Treier, Daniel. Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008. Adam, A. K. M., Stephen Fowl, Kevin Vanhoozer, and Francis Watson, eds. Reading Scripture with the Church: Toward a Hermeneutic for Theological Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006. Walsh, Brian, and Sylvia Keesmaat. Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Timpire. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2004.


Robert Shillaker

"Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?".. ."Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" 1

The interpretation of the Bible has changed significantly through the history of the Christian church2 but with the advent of postmodernism there is a new twist to the reading of the Scriptures. Postmodernism's relativism has been portrayed as hermeneutically nihilistic, and of failing by its self-defeating claim that there is no absolute truth. This brief introduction on the relationship between postmodernism and Scripture will look at how the locus of meaning has moved during the transition from modernism to postmodernism. The result is an ambiguous relationship between the two views in which postmodernism has a continued dependency on modernism and retreats from nihilism. In section three there is a discussion on the use of authorial intent when reading; and in section four, a discussion on the challenge to objective truth presented by postmodernism.

1 J. K. Rowling, Har/y Potter and the Deathly Hallows (London: Bloomsbury, 2007), 579. 2 For a useful overview see Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation, Vast and Present {.Leicester: Apollos, 1996).




THE MOVEMENT OF MEANING Postmodernism is notoriously difficult to define, and some such as Hans Bertens even question its existence. 3 Rather than a philosophy or school of thought, postmodernism is a title given to a shift in the intellectual life of the West. At the simplest level, Thomas Ogden states, "Whatever outlasts modernity is postmodern," but he soon continues with a description, "Postmoderns are those who refuse to take modernity as the final expression of providence in history. They are not intimidated by a period of history that is now waning. They refuse to accept modernity's descriptions of itself as an ultimate, irreversible, untranscendable stage of historical progress." 4 This seems to be the strategy of many: to recognize that a paradigm shift has occurred. It is postmodern, not in the sense of a complete replacement system of philosophy but a real, identifiable and significant change from modernism. Most notably for Christianity and the reading of the Bible is postmodernism's take on truth and language's relation to it. David Dockery's description of postmodernism starts, "The primary assumption of postmodernists is that truth is not rational or objective.. .Thus truth is shaped and understood by each individual and the community of which he or she is a part," 5 or in Albert Mohler's words, "universal truth claims are impossible." 6 One way to explain this change in the reception of texts and truth is to look at the developments in literary theory in the twentieth century. From the outset of the modern period hermeneutics was interested in establishing, above all, the authorial intention of any text. In order to do this the interpreter used a historical-critical interpretation to establish what the author meant. 3 Albert Möhler, "The Integrity of the Evangelical Tradition and the Challenge of the Postmodern Paradigm," in The Challenge of Postmodernism (ed. David Dockery; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), 54; referring to Hans Bertens, "Postmodern Weltanschauung and Its Relation to Modernism," in Natoli and Hutcheon, Postmodernism, 1. 4 Thomas Oden, After Modernity.. .What? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 74, 76. 5 David Dockery, "The Challenge of Postmodernism," in The Challenge of Postmodernism, 13. 6 Möhler, "The Integrity of the Evangelical Tradition," 57.



This all changed with the New Hermeneutic, where, at first, the text becomes the focus of hermeneutics. Structuralism is associated with the work of Ferdinand de Saussure (1857—1913), and also Roman Jakobson (1896-1982) and Claud Lévi-Strauss (1908-). They noted the way language works: words really only have meaning in the structure of the text, not in some abstract sense. The exegete should thus focus on the structures of discourse and the words' functions as "signs" (hence the theory is also known as the Semiotic theory). The meaning, and therefore truth, of the text is to be found in the semiotic structures it contains. Language is a system of signs that are linked together in a network, a languagesystem. While concrete speech has a "real" existence, languagesystems themselves do not. Language, therefore, does not "mirror the world" but is "culture bound" and arbitrary. There is no absolute connection between a particular word or a particular grammatical construction and the real world; rather, they function as arbitrary signs in a particular sociological and historical context. The features to note are that the focus of interest and locus of meaning are shifting away from the author to the text itself, and the acknowledgement that language is relative. The act of hermeneutics is not to find the author's intent but to analyze the text as a linguistic structure. It is with the next stage of development that the flavor of postmodern hermeneutics really becomes apparent. Roland Barthes (1915—1980), a socialist literature critic, takes the conclusions of semiotic theory further—the flavor is captured in the title of his 1968 essay, The Death of the Author. Barthes notes that we can read and then re-read a work understanding first one thing then another from the same text. This ability to appropriate different meanings from a text is even more pronounced when reading between cultures and ages. The result is, in effect, that the author has become a paper entity only, to be played with by the reader. The author's "response" can, obviously, only come through the text; so the text and author are one. And as for structuralists, words are signs: every word can only be defined by other words which in turn need defining by more words. D. A. Carson notes it is "elephants, all the way down" (drawing on Richard Rorty's illustration from ancient cos-



mology of the world resting on the back of an elephant). 7 There is no absolute meaning, no non-verbal foundation. Hermeneutics is one continuous circle where texts interpret texts which interpret more texts. This clearly has significant implications. Firstly, there is no possibility of getting to the author's intention; this is a totally unreasonable goal for hermeneutics. It is impossible from the slippery stuff of language to read a text, with its multiple possibilities, and then gain a real grasp of the psychological intent of a long dead author from a long extinct culture. But unlike structuralists, Barthes argues that we cannot just refer to the text itself for meaning because it means different things to different people, the text cannot be said to have just one meaning for all time. To use a text like this would be to use it as a weapon of oppression and control. Some extracts from The Death of the Author might illustrate Barthes' view: We know that a text does not consist of a line of words, releasing a single "theological" meaning (the "message" of the Author-God), but is a space of many dimensions, in which are wedded and contested various kinds of writing, no one of which is original: the text is a tissue of citations...Once the Author is gone, the claim to "decipher" a text becomes quite useless. To give an Author to a text is to impose upon that text a stop clause, to furnish it with a final signification, to close the writing... In this way is revealed the whole being of writing: a text consists of multiple writings, issuing from several cultures and entering into dialogue with each other, into parody, into contestation; but there is one place where this multiplicity is collected, united, and this place is not the author, as we have hitherto said it was, but the reader: the reader is the very space in which are inscribed, without any being lost, all the citations a writing consists of; the unity of a text is not in its origin, it is in its destination; but this destination can no longer be personal: the reader is a man without history, without biography, without psychology; he is only that someone who holds gathered into a single field all the paths of which the text is constituted.. .the


D. A. Carson, The Gating

of God (Leicester: Apollos, 1996), 74.



birth of the reader must be ransomed by the death of the Author.8 This last paragraph really brings the point home. Barthes has noted that the claim that the author's intent is important is wrong, and it is not even the text itself that contains the meaning (as with structuralism) but, because of the nature of language and of reading, ultimately it is the reader that gives the meaning to the text. With the advent of postmodernism it is the reader and his or her response that is the focus of hermeneutics. Accompanying this is a deep suspicion about the way texts have been used in the past: by investing them with one meaning as a part of a larger truthstructure that has been used to control and establish a powerbase. There is in postmodernism then an inherent distrust for "metanarrative," for any attempt to produce the "big picture" of an allencompassing worldview. As such a theory of hermeneutics has developed that is deeply suspicious of traditional readings. The focus is now fully on the reader: gone is authorial intent (seen as naive modernism), gone is the text as having one fixed meaning (structuralism). The technique of deconstruction developed, a conscious critique of the power-motivated standard, or traditional, interpretations. The most significant person in the development of this technique is Jacques Derrida (1930—2004). Deconstruction, it is argued, is not about destruction of text or of meaning, but rather it is about critical-analytical reading of a text. Nevertheless it is the most radical of the postmodern approaches. There is an intense scrutiny of the text, looking at the motives and "unintended" meanings of the text and its traditional interpretations. Often "binary oppositions" (e.g. light/dark, man/woman) are identified and it is observed that the traditional interpretations place one in ascendency, but nevertheless require the other for meaning. Deconstruction aims to show that this "is not natural or inevitable but a construction, produced by discourses that rely upon it.. .it seeks to dismantle it and reinscribe it—that is

Roland Barthes, "The Death of the May 11,2009). 8

Author," (accessed



not destroy it but give it a different structure and functioning." 9 A. K. M. Adam writes, "The most familiar deconstructive maneuver is probably a hyperbolically close reading of a text; this painstakingly minute deconstructive examination reveals ways in which the text always undoes the arguments it is ostensibly making." 10 It is like someone pulling on a loose thread and enjoying the unraveling of the garment, continues Adam. Stanley Fish (1938—) in his form of the reader-response theory develops the concept of the "interpretive community." This also teaches that meaning is found in the reader, but explains that agreement in textual interpretation can be found because texts are read in interpretive communities. It is the reader in the interpretive community that puts meaning into the text (and also puts limits on the possible meanings of a text, a point we shall return to). POSTMODERNISM AND MODERNISM Stanley Grenz, while acknowledging that postmodernism "defies definition," notes that its title does highlight its dependency upon modernism by accepting its principles but recognizing their dangers in what he calls "chastened rationality." 11 The most consistently used "definition" of postmodernism is that it is simply postmodern; for example: "Postmodernity in our meaning is nothing more or less enigmatic than what follows modernity."12 The continual need to relate postmodernism to modernism highlights the ambiguous nature of their relationship. Thomas Oden wants to distinguish between ultramodernism and postmodernism. 13 This defines a boundary within what is generally called postmodernism. "Experience teaches us that when avant-garde academics bandy about the term 'postmodern,' it is usually more accurate to strike post and insert ultra. For guild schol-

Jonathan Culler, Titerary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 126. 10 A. K. M. Adam, What is Postmodern Biblical Criticism? (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 31. 11 Stanley Grenz, Renewing the Center (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 169. 12 Oden, 25. 13 Thomas Oden, "The Death of Modernity and Postmodern Evangelical Spirituality," in The Challenge of Postmodernism, 26. 9



ars, postmodern typically means simply hypermodern." 14 Oden's thesis is that with Derrida and Rorty and other such literary critics we see ultramodernism and not genuine postmodernism, in his words a "terminal modernity." On the other hand, Oden's "emergent actual" postmodernism is not concerned with the dismantling of modern systems or proving the modernism is faulty but rather, positively, re-using ideas that modernism had discounted, on the grounds that modernism itself is defunct. "The axiom of postmodern consciousness is not that modernity is corrupt, but that it is defunct, obsolete, passe, antiquated. This is why after-modern evangelical spirituality is not accurately defined as anti-modern." 15 Postmodernism is understood in one sense to be the fulfillment of certain aspects of modernism. Goosen reads deconstructionism as radicalized Kantian thinking and therefore not antimodernist at all: Deconstruction is often and together with postmodernism accused of being anti-modernist. However, the opposite is more true to deconstructive practices. Deconstruction is therefore not only modernist. It's even more than that. Deconstruction represents an attempt to modernize modernity. 16

Kevin Vanhoozer sees deconstruction/postmodernism as fulfillment of Nietzsche's non-realism. 17 Postmodernism's love of hermeneutical games and relative interpretations leads to the accusation that it is basically nihilistic: bringing Nietzsche's principles into hermeneutics. When relativism is brought into hermeneutics a nihilistic result is inevitable: "Hermeneutic non-realism leads inexo-

14 Oden, "The Death of Modernity," 26-27. Similarly in After Modernity...What?, 77. 15 Oden, 21. 16 D. P. Goosen, "The Rhetoric of the Scapegoat: a Deconstructive View on Postmodern Hermeneutics," in Rhetoric, Scripture and Theology (ed. Stanley Porter and Thomas Olbricht; Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 1996), 385. 17 Kevin Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text? The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Uteraiy Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 57.



rably to hermeneutical relativism (or, less polemically, hermeneutic indeterminacy)." 18 Call it nihilism with a human face: there is nothing—in the world, in the text—that is not the creation of some human individual or community. The question is: can such nihilism with a human face preserve humanity and human values? 19

Those who practice postmodern hermeneutics do not want to agree that they are nihilistic. While the meaning is not to be found in the author or in the text but in the reader this does not mean that the text can mean anything at all. Adam writes: Interpreters cannot "make the Bible mean whatever they want it to mean" unless there are audiences that find those interpretations convincing. And thereby hangs the hermeneutical dilemma: No interpretation is self-authenticating, but the validity of any interpretation depends on the assent of some audience. While modern interpreters obey the modern commandment to seek the approval of academically trained disciplinary specialists, postmodern interpreters may seek out a different audience, one that has an ear to hear and understand their readings. 20

This may put some limits on interpretation and counter the claim that the relativism, or indeterminacy, of postmodern interpretation removes all meaning from the text and all restraint from reading it. Relativism is not absolute: the imagination of the interpreter may give absolute freedom to hermeneutics, but the credulity of an audience its limits. However, external "truth" is not the measure applied by the audience, but rather literary taste, that is, aesthetics. Amongst other things, Culler suggests that "[Literary] Theory is a critique of common sense, of concepts taken as natural,"21 something that challenges societies' assumptions and hermeneutical norms. Yet how can this be when the final arbiter of interIbid., 98. « I b i d . , 59. 20 Adam, What is Postmodern Biblical Criticism68. Similarly in Culler, Utera)y Theoiy, 66: "But if you come up with an interpretation, you have to persuade others of its pertinence, or else it will be dismissed. No one claims that 'anything goes.'" 21 Culler, Uteraiy Theoiy, 15. 18



pretation is whether you can gain an audience? This just means that what is deemed "right" is what meets the approval of some of the cultural tastes and mores of those who ratify the interpretation. Taste (that is acceptable-taste) and not truth is the guide, which is not as counter-cultural as postmodernism first suggests. If Stanley Fish is right and interpretive communities provide the meaning for the text (which is Adam's and Culler's argument against nihilism) this suggests another tension in the postmodern approach. D. P. Goosen wants to differentiate postmodernism and deconstructionism. Deconstructionism is technique, "cold or hard hermeneutics," 22 whereas postmodernism is creative. Both agree that the world is a "rhetorically invented construction.. .While deconstruction tends to emphasize an inerasable lack of meaning in every attempt to construct the world, postmodernism tends to emphasize an over-supply of meaningful answers." 23 Noting this, Goosen comes to the opposite opinion to Oden: it is postmodernism that shares similarities to modernism by excluding ("scapegoat ing") the "other" from an "intimate circle of initiates" through its supplying meaning to texts.24 'The deconstructive idea that texts (and even holy Scriptures) can be literally useless or.. .inoperative, is simply foreign to postmodern hermeneutics," he argues.25 Deconstructionism, on the other hand, requires the "other" as it presupposes it as a precondition for the "self." 26 There appear to be two options, based on the constructivist view of truth. Take the cold hermeneutic of deconstructionism that recognizes the "other" but sacrifices meaning; or take "heroic talk" of postmodernism that

Goosen, "The Rhetoric of the Scapegoat," 389. Ibid., 384. 24 "Whether the subject in question is experienced as the discussion group, the interpreting community, the avant guard, the revolutionary church, or the mobilized ethnic group is beside the point. The point is rather that the active subject is constituted and eventually safe-guarded through the exclusion of others. Once the other is excluded and the socalled hermeneutical gap filled, the subject can act assured in the knowledge that no inhibiting other will slow it down, no strange exteriority will remind it of its own provisional or tentative status, and no helpless feeling brought about by useless texts will bring it to a standstill" (Ibid., 390). 25 Ibid., 390. 26 Ibid., 383-4. 22




"fills the gap" between reader and text, but in constructing a meaning inevitably excludes others. But Goosen argues that deconstruction does not deny meaning or truth—it is not nihilistic but indeterminist. So rather than resorting to the credulity of the audience to evaluate interpretations, he notes the technically limited aims of deconstruction: "Another way of putting this is to argue that deconstruction is in favor of the continuous 'postponement' or 'deferral' of meaning." 27 This is an answer to the nihilistic issue; if it is left there, however, it does not seem to provide anything more than endless criticism—every view can suffer under deconstruction. Is this genuinely open to the other, or really closed to every reading? The attempt to establish foundational concept of truth is undermined by the nature of language, argues Adam, using an analogy of a teenager twisting language: Humans communicate their philosophical foundations with words and symbols; but words and symbols are in every case ambiguous. Anyone who had dealt with hormonally supercharged adolescent boys knows that they can turn any remark into a sexual innuendo. The capacity to discover unintended multiple meanings is not a peculiarity of adolescent males (although the aforementioned topic may be), but is a general condition of human communication. 28

But this seems to require us to recognize authorial intent, not deny it. In fact, postmodernism seems almost parasitical because it seeks thrills by turning the text from the accepted meaning. "Transgressive interpretations are the positive face of deconstruction: while deconstruction chastens our efforts to ascertain anything about a text, transgressive readers assert audacious 'versions' of anything about the text: inversions, extraversions, conversions, perversions, contraversions, diversions, transversions, subversions."29 This is a "deliberate flouting" of the hermeneutical convention. Will second generation and third generation deconstruction seem so appealing, deconstructing the deconstruction? Like the adolescent, it is a flouting of conventions to see what happens. Ibid., 388. Adam, What is Postmodern Biblical 29 Ibid., 61. 27





Apart from being a part of character-building in adolescence, by opening up new perspectives and identifying weaknesses in traditional views, does it bear any lasting results? The parasitical nature that postmodernism has with modernism is revealed in this observation by Adam: Postmodern critics are often careful to avoid arguing that their perspective has finally overcome modernity, for that would simply reinscribe postmodernity into the modern cycle of overcoming and being overcome. Modernity will not be vanquished, it will not be done away with, but postmodern critics invite their audiences to consider whether modern or postmodern ways of reading are more fitting for their lives.30 POSTMODERNISM AND AUTHORIAL INTENT

Bruce Benson in his article "Now I Would Not Have You Ignorant" seeks to defend his creed that authors do have intentions and those intentions are discernable to readers.31 Drawing on some of Husserl's and Derrida's work Benson derives the mechanism by which the three basic components, minds, words and meanings,32 operate in the writing and reading of texts. The stages of this mechanism are perception, retention in the memory, writing to produce the "ideal object" (a "spiritual entity" that can be repeated and remain the same).33 This simple description of the process is complicated by Derrida argues Benson. The perception of objects, even the perception of the "I," is never complete or perfect; similarly with retention, the short-term memory, again, is not perfect. The recording (the final stage in the making of what he calls an ideal object) has three complications: writing "clarifies" thought, which implies that it is different from the original perception; it compromises thought as language is co-owned by others, so the writer has

Ibid., 21. Bruce Benson, "Now I Would Not Have You Ignorant," in .Evangelicals and Scripture: Tradition, Authority and Hermeneutics (ed. Vincent Bacote, Laura Miguelez, and Denis Okholm; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 173. 32 Benson, "I Would Not Have You Ignorant," 178; a distillation of "Husserl's account of language." 33 Ibid. 31



only limited control over the words; and finally, the writing can be taken into contexts completely different from the author's. With all this uncertainty built into the process, Derrida (and others), would appear to give up all hope of authorial intent. Benson, however, notes that this is not the case in practice. He notes that Derrida argues that his critics (John Searle in the example given) misunderstand him,34 Writers espousing our inability to discern authorial intent still want to be understood correctly from their own writings. The second point that Benson notes is Derrida's acceptance of the importance of "doubling commentaries" and more "literal" interpretations. 35 Derrida and Hans-Georg Gadamer would agree with Hirsch when he writes that "an author almost always means more than he is aware of meaning," argues Benson.36 The difference between the two is that Gadamer is talking about the text and Hirsch, the author's intent. Hirsch's defense of authorial intent is for Benson, however, on the wrong grounds: pragmatism. This highlights the ethical implication of denying authorial intent or using a pragmatic basis for its acceptance. Benson argues that we should be concerned for authorial intent because "we respect other people and their thoughts." 37 Hirsch was aware of the ethical problem, writes Benson: "to treat an author's words merely as grist for one's own mill is ethically analogous to using another man merely for one's own purpose." 38 The ethical injustice of being misread, especially willfully, and the expectation of being understood is common to all authors, irrespective of their stated views on authorial intention. As Kevin Vanhoozer notes this has been the expectation since (or before) Augustine wrote that "it is most honorable to believe that an author was a good man whose writings were intended to benefit the human race and posterity." As Vanhoozer comments, "The first hermeneutic reflex, therefore, should be charity towards the Ibid., 183—4. See Carson's similar approach in a humorous encounter with a student, The Gagging of God, 102—3. 35 Benson, "I Would Not Have You Ignorant," 184. 36 Ibid., 185; citing E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967), 22, 249. 37 Benson, "I Would Not Have You Ignorant," 185. 38 Citing E. D. Hirsch, The Aims of Interpretation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 91. 34



author. If we come to a text believing that there is nothing in it, we are likely to go away as empty as we came.39 The author wrote with intent 40 to communicate his or her perception of a reality; to simply deny this and then to use the text to promote one's own, perhaps contradictory, ends has moral implications: it is intellectual exploitation. Having said that, we must recognize that authorial intent can be reliably, but only partially or imperfectly, encoded in a text. The result is a degree of relativity, but not absolute relativity, on the matter of authorial intent. "OBJECTIVE" TRUTH: A METAPHOR

Stanley Grenz distils the modernist view of truth into two principles: it "assumes that the world is a given reality existing outside the human mind...[and that] the human mind is capable of more or less accurately mirroring the external, objective nonhuman reality. As a product of the human mind, language provides an adequate means of declaring what the world is like." 41 These principles then support, or even require, a correspondence theory of the truth. That is that every statement can be to a greater or lesser extent true or false as it corresponds to the objective reality which it intends to mirror. This in turn tends to favor propositional language and the understanding that the primary aim of text is to convey true facts, locutionary language. 42 In this system each component part reinforces each other part to construct a tightly knit intellectual framework: the realist metaphysic is underwritten by the correspondence theory of truth and a descriptive theory of language, while the correspondence theory of truth is underwritten by the realist meta39 Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text?, 32, citing J. H. S. Burleigh, ed., Augustine: TLarlier Writings (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953), 300. 40 This is the point made by Benson's article title, quoting from Rom 1:13. 41 Grenz, Renewing the Center, 169. 42 As noted in the previous sections, the drift in hermeneutics of locating meaning with the author through to locating it with the reader means that to the postmodern mind the correspondence theory fails. It fails because any meaning found through the reading of a text is now perceived to be a construct of the reader and not a fixed reflection of "reality."



physic and the desctiptivist theory of is this framework that constitutes the intellectual structure I will call the modern mind.43 David Glodo notes the shared principle of both modernism and postmodernism of the "vesting of authority in the self' and argues that "therefore, postmodernism's uniqueness is not in its relativism. Relativism was the rule already...It is in their respective concepts of truth." 44 This is a view that David Williams supports: it is above all the traditional understanding of truth that is being challenged. 45 Williams notes the diversity and use of truth in Scripture based on Anthony Thiselton's entry in the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology.46 Thiselton writes, in part, against Bultmann's entry into Theological Dictionary of the New Testament47 which overemphasizes the difference between the Semitic use of 'emet (firmness, faithfulness, truth 48 ) with the Greek use of aletheia (truthfulness, truth, reality 49 ) and cognates. 50 Bultmann argues that "the NT use of dAf]$£ux \aletheia\ is partly determined by the Semitic use of riQK Yemet\ and partly by Greek and Hellenistic use of dAf]§£ux. That the basic meanings of riQK and dAf]§£ux are not coincident is shown already by the fact that the LXX has to use 7xLOTLC; \pistis, "faith"], &LKaLoauvr) \dikaiosyne, "righteousness"], etc. as well as dAf]§£ux to translate riON."51 The charge against Bultmann is not of concern here, but the diversity of the concept of truth in Scripture is highlighted by both men. Thiselton's analysis of the New Testament (NT) encompasses: (1) an ontological, almost Platonic reality, such as in the true tabernacle in Hebrews

43 David Williams, "Scripture, Truth and Our Postmodern Context," in TLvangelicals and Scripture, 230—1. 44 Michael Glodo, "The Bible in Stereo," in The Challenge of Postmodernism, 108-9. 45 Williams, "Scripture, Truth and Our Postmodern Context," 229243. « Anthony Thiselton, "Truth," NIDNTT 3:874-902. 47 Rudolf Bultmann, dAr]§£La-dAr]§£i3co, TDNT 1:232-251. is BDB 54. 49 BDAG 42-3. so Thiselton, NIDNTT 3:874-5, 877. 51 Bultmann, TDNT 1:238.



8:2 and 9:24, or in the Johannine use [see sections 3.e and 4.a]; (2) a reality in contrast to appearances; [l.d; 4.d]; (3) the opposite of falsehood, or in accordance with the facts of the matter [l.c; 2.c; 3.b; 4.b]; (4) a reliable or honest thing [4.c]; (5) synonymous with the gospel [2.a (&b); 3.a]; (6) marking solemnity [l.a]; (7) doing the truth [4.e]52; (8) expressed in the person of Christ [4.f|.53 This descriptive approach analyzing the NT usage does not directly lead us to the issues debated in the postmodern context. It does, however, immediately reveal two things. Firstly, that the concept of truth is multifaceted and describes more than propositional fact (whether this is verified using correspondence, coherence or some other theory).54 Nevertheless, truth is used to describe a reality, sometimes beyond the physical appearances; it is used to describe that which is not false and is in accordance to the facts, but also truth is something that can be done and ultimately it is found in the person of Christ. "Jesus Christ is the truth because he is God-keeping-his-word; as God's 'kept' word, Christ not only bears but is the truth, a personal bearer of the way God is."55 Secondly, that the concept of truth is explained through metaphor, which is William's discussion point: truth as objective or subjective. Metaphors, argues Williams, are not merely linguistic or stylistic techniques to illustrate objective language, and the idea that any metaphor can be fully translated into literal plain propositional language is wrong. Metaphors are not merely window dressing but actually communicate something beyond the capability of literal language. He argues that metaphors are an integral part of our lan52 Williams, "Scripture, Truth and Our Postmodern Context," 240, emphasizes the verbal form as "doing the truth" in Eph 4:15, but he is not alone; see e.g. John Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Leicester: InterVarsity, 1979), 171-2; and John Eadie, Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 318. 53 See also Roger Nicole, "The Biblical Concept of Truth," in Scripture and Truth (ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 287-298. 54 Thiselton adds a lengthy discussion on various different modern philosophical approaches to truth. 55 Kevin Vanhoozer, "Lost in Interpretation? Truth, Scriptures and Hermeneutics," in Whatever Happened to Truth? (ed. Andreas Kostenburger; Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 124.



guage, to the extent that we are often unaware we are using them, and as such structure the way we think and experience life.56 Theories of truth also use metaphors. Consider the modernist desire for objective truth; truth is not literally an object. This objective-truth metaphor implies that truth is out there to be sought and found. Communicating truth becomes a mechanical process as "ideas are objects, linguistic expressions are containers, and communication is sending."57 In this metaphor the knower is subjective and risks contaminating the unchanging objective truth, and the best knowledge is that which most closely corresponds to the objective truth. Postmodernism recognizes the lack of "distanciation" between knowledge and knower which challenges the idea of the objective-truth metaphor and the correspondence theory of understanding.58 Williams is critical of the way that evangelicals have overly focused on the "truth is objective" metaphor, and argues that following the assault of postmodernism, and in the light of biblical use of "truth," the objective-truth metaphor needs a supplement (but not replacement): truth is personal; and truth is action, too. Biblically, truth starts with God not humans; theological truth is not constructed by theologians. So there is truth-out-there in an objective sense, and it is revealed to us. It is not however a question of just one metaphor, such as Scripture corresponds to God's objective truth, and good exegesis distils the objective truth into propositions which correspond accurately to the biblical imagery, by which then we can live. This model brings in the three elements of objectivity, appropriation and action almost linearly. What Williams is proposing is that these three are parallel metaphors of truth: "truth as objective," "truth as personal," and "truth as action." "We need not be put in the situation as to have only one metaphor for truth. Scripture shows us differently. We can recognize... that as metaphors they each hide and highlight at the same

56 Williams, "Scripture, Truth and Our Postmodern Context," 231—4, using the work of George Lakoff, Mark Hohnson and Janet Soskice. 57 Ibid., 235. 58 Williams notes that new metaphors have been developed "truth as a web" (coherence theory) and the more pragmatic "truth is a process" or "truth is solidarity [with a particular community]."



time."59 In particular, "truth as an action" is "not a second logical step.. .but [is].. .inherent in the knowing." 60 Vanhoozer has similar concerns from a hermeneutical perspective. If truth is understood exclusively as objective it will bias our reading of Scripture directing us to the literalistic and propositional. He has no wish to exclude propositional truth from Scripture and theology, but to use this model exclusively or overbearingly is to impoverish and mislead in biblical exegesis. Vanhoozer, at one point, uses the analogy of a map which (for the sake of the argument) is inerrant. It still needs interpretation, and to interpret it you need to know the map's conventions by using the key provided. It is no use applying the key of one map to another, nor is it to the benefit of truth to apply, for example, the rules of the propositional communication to a poem, or to an exhortation: this is a literary-category mistake. So if we are not exclusively dealing with propositions, with objective truths, what then is the measure of truth? Truth is the fit between text and reality, between what is written and what is written about. But maps remind us that there is more than one kind of fit...A road map need not contradict a map that highlights topography, or a map that highlights historical land marks.. .Each type of map reflects a certain interest [and, one might add, a different and appropriate way of expressing it].61

Earlier Vanhoozer wrote: "We need to get beyond 'cheap inerrancy,' beyond ascribing accolades to the Bible to understanding what the Bible is actually saying, beyond professing biblical truth to practicing it."62 The Bible presents a truth that extends beyond facts reduced to a list of propositions, to a "theodramatic" and "cartographic" correspondence. 63 The biblical truth tells propositional truth but is a divine communication establishing covenantrelations through speech-acts.

59 Ibid., 243. 60 Ibid., 242. 61 Vanhoozer, "Lost in Interpretation?," 113. 62 Ibid., 108. 63 Ibid., 110-113.



Robert Kurka in his engagement with Grenz and Franke, Beyond Foundationalism, clearly and unequivocally supports the concept of biblical inerrancy and writes: "Perhaps our contention that a Christian, rational realism is before foundationalism could actually help promote a more biblically and theologically-accurate alternative to the too-modern-sounding term 'inerrancy'.. .such as aletheia},,(A Though this might sound better, if this is a cosmetic change it does not help advance our understanding; if it is saying more it leads to the question, "What is truth? How is the Bible aletheia?" The answer to that, as discussed above, might be to note the richness of the biblical use of "truth" and to expect something similar as Scripture is read. CONCLUSION: A W A Y FORWARD

Postmodernism has challenged the assumptions of the modernist reading of the Bible. The idea that, because of the nature of language, we should give up any idea of finding what the authors of the Bible meant and therefore construct our own meaning(s) is unconvincing. The truth that the Scriptures provide, however, is not simply objective and propositional, nor does the ideal reader have a non-subjective, clinical approach. The Bible is not an object to be handled in the laboratory of academia, but a truth that is also personal, covenantal and perceived fully in action. A truth found neither in logical positivism nor constructivist relativism, but a truth, personal and real (both subjective and objective) and embodied in word and action—a way of life. For Williams the church already has resources at hand to read the Scriptures in the liturgical traditions, narrative theology, speech-act theory, and readerresponse theories by which to develop a re-appreciation of the depth of truth in Scripture.65 FOR FURTHER READING

Adam, A. K. M. What is Postmodern Biblical Criticism? Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995. 64 Robert Kurka, "Before 'Foundationalism': A More Biblical Alternative to the Grenz/Franke Proposal for Doing Theology," JETS 50 (2007): 158. 65 Williams, "Scripture, Truth and Our Postmodern Context," 242.



Bacote, Vincent, Laura Miguelez, and Denis Okholm, eds. Evangelicals and Scripture: Tradition, Authority and Hermeneutics. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004. Carson, D. A. The Gagging of God. Leicester: Apollos, 1996. Culler, Jonathan. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Dockery, David S., ed. The Challenge of Postmodernism. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995. Goosen, D. P. "The Rhetoric of the Scapegoat: a Deconstructive View on Postmodern Hermeneutics." Pages 383—392 in Rhetoric, Scripture and Theology. Edited by Stanley Porter and Thomas Olbricht. Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 1996. Grenz, Stanley. Renewing the Center. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000. Kòstenburger, Andreas. Whatever Happened to Truth? Wheaton: Crossway, 2005. Oden, Thomas. After Modernity... What? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990. Vanhoozer, Kevin. Is There a Meaning in This Text? The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.


Jennifer G. Bird

One increasingly hears of "feminist biblical interpretation" or "postcolonial biblical interpretation" in biblical studies or theology, and this can lead one to a genuine interest to learn more about these methods—whether out of curiosity, appreciation, or even skepticism. It is important to note that these methods are only two of many ideological,1 or "standpoint," interpretive approaches to the Scriptures that have developed and become important voices within biblical studies in the past fifty years. Thus it will be helpful to provide a brief description of the broader cultural landscape in which these ideological interpretive methods have developed. I will then offer a brief description of the range of possibilities for both feminist and postcolonial interpretations, concluding with an application of a feminist postcolonial engagement with 1 Pet 2:18—3:7.

This is the first of many terms that might stand out to the reader as potentially contradictory to a faithful interpretation of the scriptures. The working definition I have in mind is simply a set of ideals or a belief system that is central to understanding and creating coherence within our world. In other words, it is a misinformed claim that only some people "have an ideology." For an accessible engagement of this complex concept, see Terry Eagleton, Ideology: An Introduction (New York: Verso, 1991). 1




OUTLINING THE LANDSCAPE A n y cultural and political ferment in the United States has an impact on the critical questions academics bring to their respective fields. J u s t as the second w a v e of feminism and the Civil Rights m o v e m e n t of the 1950s—60s lead to the critique of society in the United States, in terms of gender and race relations, so too did they lead to parallel critical analyses of gender and race relations within biblical texts, noting h o w these realities affect both the interpretations of the Bible and the field of biblical scholarship as a whole. 2 T h e subsequent theorizing of gender, race and ethnicity matters in the 70s and 80s, along with the increasing awareness of immigration f r o m various countries "south of the b o r d e r " and a conscientization of the United States' political, economic and cultural role on a global scale, created m o r e solid grounding for critical engagem e n t of biblical texts f r o m all of these vantage points. 3

Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983); Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Interpretation (Minneapolis; Fortress, 1999); and The Power of the Word: Scripture and the BJoetoric of Empire (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007); Letty Russell, ed., Feminist Interpretation of the Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985); Carol A. Newsome and Sharon H. Ringe, eds., Women's Bible Commentary, with Apocrypha (expanded ed.; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998); and Caroline Vander Stichele and Todd Penner, Her Master's Tools? Feminist and Postcolonial Engagements of HistoricalCritical Discourse (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005). 3 For critical feminist biblical engagements with the Bible, see Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza, Bread Not Stone: The Challenge of Feminist Biblical Interpretation (Boston: Beacon, 1984); Sharing Her Word: Feminist Biblical Interpretation in Context (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1998); and Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 2001); Luise Schottroff, Silvia Schroer and Mario-Theres Wacker, eds., Feminist Interpretation: The Bible in Women's Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998); and Esther Yue L. Ng, Reconstructing Christian Origins? The Feminist Theology of Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza: An Evaluation (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2002). For works engaging race and ethnicity and the Bible, see Mark Brett, ed., Ethnicity and the Bible (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996); Cain Hope Felder, ed., Stony the Road we Trod: African-American Biblical Interpretation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991); Vincent Wimbush, African Americans and the Bible: Sacred Texts and Social Textures (New York: Continuum, 2000); Michael Joseph Brown, Blackening of the Bible: The Aims of African American Biblical Scholarship (Har2



The same can be said of the Liberation movements within Latin and South America in the 1960s—70s. They led to, and in many cases were inspired by, engagement of biblical texts from the vantage points of the oppressed people rather than from that of an elite, usually white, person of Western Europe or the U.S. Thus the critique and analysis of political economy and social classes was theoretically grounded and quickly made its way into biblical and theological scholarship. 4 Scholars began raising questions regarding the economic and political situations of the people of Israel in the various stages of their history,5 or of the Jews in first century Palestine, trying to fill in gaps and silences in the texts on these matters that would have been known by the original audiences. The development of social-scientific criticism, a branch of historical-critical methods, also served to address the ways social and cultural dimensions are embodied within the Scriptures, the intended consequences of communication processes that the biblical texts represented, and most importantly how these texts both reflect and respond to culturally and socially specific events.6

risburg: Trinity Press, 2004); Rodney Steven Sadler Jr., Can a Cushite Change His Skin? An Examination of Race, Ethnicity, and Othering in the Hebrew Bible (New York: Clark, 2005); and Mary F. Fosket and Jeffrey K. Kuan, eds., Ways of Being Ways of Reading: Asian American Biblical Interpretation (St Louis: Chalice, 2006). 4 Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Eiberation: History, Politics and Salvation (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1973); Clodovis Boff and Leonardo Boff, Salvation and Eiberation: In Search of a Balance Between Faith and Politics (New York: Orbis, 1984); and Eiberation Theology: From Confrontation to Dialogue (New York: Harper & Row, 1986); and Miguel de la Torre, Reading the Bible from the Margins (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 2002). 5 Norman K. Gottwald, The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Eiberated Israel 1250—1050 BC (Orbis Books, 1979); and The Bible and Eiberation: Political and Social Hermeneutics (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1983); and Norman K. Gottwald, ed., Social Scientific Criticism of the Hebrew Bible and its Social World: The Israelite Monarchy, Semeia 37 (1986): 1—147. 6 John H. Elliott, What is Social-Scientific Criticism? (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 7. See also Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology (rev. ed.; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993); and Philip F. Esler, The First Christians in Their Social Worlds: Socialscientific Approaches to New Testament Interpretation (New York: Routledge,



Questions regarding not simply gender construction but also sexual identity and orientation were being discussed within colleges and universities by the mid-1980s, and received a hearing in biblical studies within a decade. At a very basic level, from this perspective scholars analyze how some of the claims, commands and rhetoric of Scripture contribute to the construction of gender and the definition of "heteronormative" sexuality in our current contexts. The same variations of "queer" studies that one finds in university settings can be found within biblical scholarship—engaging issues particular to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender concerns that one can see at work within biblical stories, as well as seeking to "queer" the texts, which is to ask questions of the normative subject identity that the biblical texts create and sustain, particularly in relation to sexuality.7 At the end of the so-called "cold war," geopolitical and imperial-colonial relations received renewed critical engagement in the 1990s, most notably sparked by Edward Said's Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism? which subsequently lead to similar critical postcolonial analyses of biblical texts, their uses and the interpretations of them. 9 To this end, scholars pose questions regarding the un1994); and Modelling Early Christianity: Social-scientific Study ofi the New Testament in its Context (New York: Routledge, 1995). 7 Ken Stone, Practicing Safer Texts: Food, Sex and the Bible in Queer Perspective (London: T. & T. Clark, 2005); Stephen Moore, God's Beauty Parlor and Other Queer Spaces in and around the Bible (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001); and Joseph A. Marchal, "Giving an Account of a Desirable Subject: Critically Queering Graduate Biblical Education," in Transforming Graduate Biblical Education: Ethos and Discipline (ed. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Kent Richards; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, forthcoming). See also Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini, Eove the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Eimits of Religious Tolerance (New York: New York University Press, 2003); and Dale B. Martin, Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006). 8 Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1994); and Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1994). 9 R. S. Sugirtharajah, The Postcolonial Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1998); Asian Biblical Hermeneutics and Postcolonialism: Contesting the Interpretations (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1998); and The Bible and the Third World: Precolonial, Colonial and Postcolonial Encounters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Musa W. Dube, Postcolonial Feminist Interpretation of



equal relations of power between the "center" of the Roman Empire and its peripheral colonial subjects, all discussed further below. For many people it is easier to grasp how these social and political realities and theoretical developments are relevant for fields such as political science, or cultural and literary studies than for biblical studies. It is understandable that many people respond to a "critical" engagement of the Scriptures with defensiveness on their behalf or even with an underlying sense of being threatened. The sacredness the church ascribes to its Scriptures can make engagement with them in any way other than a positivistic, "reading with the grain" approach somewhat problematic. God's word is a gift, intended for good, and for the building up and training of God's people. Why do people need to attack or "criticize" it? This was my initial reaction to reading feminist biblical and theological scholarship. I knew that the Scriptures were written in a location and culture so different from my own that I could not properly understand them, so I trusted that the Spirit would reveal all truths and would bridge any gaps caused by the passage of time and crossing of terrain. Then someone posed the question: "What does it mean to you that these Scriptures were written by males who lived in a patriarchal culture?" I initially had no clue why that reality about the culture was even relevant to the biblical texts! The implications of this aspect of the Bible began to rise to the surface, most specifically in the form of realizing that the world view and perspective of women endorsed at that time were going to be embodied in the biblical passages that I held so dear. In spite of the claim of 2 Tim 3:16, I could see evidence to the contrary and had to believe that the negative and oppressive roles and prescriptions within the Bible were not intended by the God of the gospel of Christ. the Bible (St. Louis: Chalice, 2000); Fernando Segovia, Decolonizing Biblical Studies: A View from the Margins (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 2004); and "Biblical Criticism and Postcolonial Studies: Toward a Postcolonial Optic," in The Vostcolonial Bible (ed. R. S. Sugirtharajah; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1998): 49—65; Jean K. Kim, Woman and Nation: An Intercontextual Reading of the Gospel of John from a Vostcolonial Feminist Perspective ( Boston, Brill, 2004); and Fernando F. Segovia and R. S. Sugirtharajah, eds., A Vostcolonial Commentary on the New Testament Writings (London; New York: T. & T. Clark, 2007).



Once I was allowed to ask questions, instead of consenting to the "rightness" of everything that I read, I could see that even when the protagonist is female the stories are clearly told by men, women's well-being is irrelevant at times (in particular when it comes to saving the life of an important male), stories often reflect the cultural expectations that women can be talked about and treated as possessions, and that God was spoken of as clearly and only a male Being.10 As much as I did not want to see these symptoms of patriarchy within the Bible, I also could not deny their presence. It was clear that I needed constructive feminist critical engagements with the Scriptures in order to be able to read them at all. FEMINIST INTERPRETATIONS

The reality is that there is a spectrum of feminist concerns in any field, and thus one still cannot know specifically to what this qualifier, "feminist," refers.11 Within biblical studies, when we add a qualifier in front of "interpretation" it has the effect of distinguishing it as different from "regular" interpretations. Perhaps you the reader will take a moment to consider the wide variety of interpretive approaches that have heretofore fallen under the same generic umbrella, "biblical interpretation." I raise this point in order to note that one of the first things to know about feminist approaches is that a feminist scholar is simply conscious of her or his feminist commitment. This label is not intended to suggest that the inter-

10 While this chapter cannot begin to fully address the implications of a purely male deity, this is one of many issues that feminist biblical scholars, along with feminist theologians, discuss and seek to highlight about the nature of the biblical texts. For further reading, see Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology (Boston: Beacon, 1983); and Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroad, 1992). 11 For a clear delineation of three primary Christian feminist uses of the Bible, see Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, "Feminist Uses of Biblical Materials," in Feminist Interpretation of the Bible (ed. Letty M. Russell; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985), 55-64.



pretation she12 offers can be seen as secondary or peripheral to more traditional views, rather that the scholar is acknowledging that she is wearing feminist lenses, which in turn means she is looking for aspects of the texts that address gender relations.13 In this regard, it ought not to be thought of as any less relevant or any more subjective than "historical-critical" interpretations. 14 The ultimate concern of feminist interpretations is that of power differentials, specifically as they play out between males and females. Applied to the biblical text, then, it is a matter of how gender relations of the context in which the Scriptures were written end up within the texts themselves. This primary concern then takes several significant applications within feminist interpretations and engagements with the Scriptures, which can be generalized in the following: (1) From whose perspectives are stories told—do females have a voice in their own stories? (2) How are females portrayed within the biblical texts—are there essentialist models used repetitively that serve to reinforce particular roles for all females? (3) Whose experiences are drawn upon and what kind of language is used for defining and describing the communities and the God they worship? These sets of questions highlight what Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza has called a "hermeneutics of suspicion,"15 and There are plenty of male feminist biblical scholars; I chose "she" here simply to make the sentence less awkward as compared with repeatedly using "she or he." 13 There are numerous configurations of "feminist" biblical scholarship that go beyond the male/female divide to include an investigation of the text for any aspect of society that creates an imbalance of power for the benefit of one group over another—thus including issues of race, class, vocation, sexual orientation, etc. They are also combined with more traditional approaches, such as historical-critical, literary-critical, sociological, anthropological, early Christian historical, ecumenical, and so on. For fine examples of the latter grouping, see Searching the Scriptures, Vol. 1: A Feminist Introduction (ed. Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza with Shelly Matthews; New York: Crossroad, 1993). 14 In fact, feminist interpretations often begin with and build upon historical-critical approaches. 15 This is another phrase that trips up many scholars. Again, the intention here is to affirm that it is okay to question even this authority, for the sake of naming patriarchal ideals within it in order to get to life-giving and redeeming messages worthy to be associated with the gospel. 12



they can be applied not only to a reading of the Scriptures, but also to the history of their interpretation or to the current engagement and application of them. Far from disregarding the Bible as irrelevant or simply trying to "prove it wrong," feminist interpretations take seriously both the biblical texts and their continuing effect in our world. 16 POSTCOLONIAL STUDIES

As with feminist interpretations, there are multiple ways of applying the theoretical insights that come from postcolonial studies. Colonial studies proper refers to work done analyzing the exploitation and other effects of colonization on political and social structures, or to analyzing literary works that represent or reflect upon such structures. 17 With the added prefix, "post-," the temporal dimension of these studies is brought to the fore, begging the question as to whether the historical situation or documents in question happen or were created during the colonization process or after the colonization has ended, which is a time of de-colonization. Either approach is utilized within postcolonial studies. 18 There is also a social-psychological approach, which regards the "post-colonial" as a state of mind. It leads to an analysis of the way a group or individual comes to terms with the various dynamics of unequal power

Schiissler Fiorenza also suggests that a "hermeneutics of ethical and theological evaluation," one of "remembrance and re-construction," "of imagination" and "of transformation" be employed alongside that of "suspicion." For further development of these interpretive keys, see BJoetoric and Ethic, 48-55. 16 This is not to say that there are not feminists who would like to "revise" or even replace parts or all of the Biblical texts, due to being "hopelessly patriarchal." These perspectives are alive and well. But it is important to keep in mind that even such extreme reactions to the Bible come from a deep awareness of its very real—and in their assessment, rather detrimental—continued influence on our culture, politics, social standards, gender constructions, religious beliefs, and so forth. 17 Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts (New York: Routledge, 2002), 40-50. 18 For a discussion of the distinctions between colonialism, postcolonialism, decolonialism and neo-colonialism, see Ania Loomba, Colonialism/Tostcolonialism (New York: Routledge, 2002), 1—103.



at work within the geo-political nature of the imperial-colonial framework. 19 Within the context of biblical studies, these approaches are undertaken with the people of Israel or the Jews and other members of "Christian" faith communities of first century Palestine in mind as members of the colonized peoples. Though they are central within their own writings, in the larger picture they clearly inhabit spaces in the periphery politically speaking. The postcolonial inquiry applied in the interpretation below looks for effects of the presence of the Roman Empire on these sacred texts of the church, specifically in terms of representation and mimicry. Representation is seen in the portrayal of the Roman Empire or imperial representatives and the relation or interaction with them that is encouraged for members of the faith communities. The idea of mimicry gets at ways we see the colonized imitating the relations of power and the social structures of the colonizer. Given the passage to be discussed, there is an added dimension that a feminist mindset brings to this set of inquiries, which is to note how the bodies of females and their sexuality or sexual relationships are used as a part of these methods of structural and relational control, and thus how they are circumscribed by the text. For a further delineation of the meaning, scope, terrain and mode of postcolonial inquiries, see Fernando F. Segovia, "John," in A Postcolonial Commentary on the New Testament Writings (ed. Fernando F. Segovia and R.S. Sugirtharajah; London; New York: T. & T. Clark, 2007), 156-63. For initial theorizing within postcolonial work see Said, Culture and Imperialism and Orientalism; Gayatri Chakrovorty Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?" in Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader (ed. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman; New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 66— 111; and A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a Histo/y of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999); and Homi Bhabha, The Tocation of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994). For critically theorized biblical and theological postcolonial work, see Segovia, Decolonizing Biblical Studies-, Kwok Pui-lan, Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005); R. S. Sugirtharajah, ed., Asian Biblical Hermeneutics and Postcolonialism, The Bible and the Third World, and The Postcolonial Bible; Kim, Woman and Nation; Fernando F. Segovia and Stephen Moore, eds., Postcolonial Biblical Criticism: Interdisciplinary Intersections (New York: T. & T. Clark, 2005); and Segovia and Sugirtharajah, eds., A Postcolonial Commentary. 19




Due to limited space, this section will offer an abbreviated combination of a feminist and a postcolonial engagement with Scripture, focusing on the passage of 1 Pet 2:18—3:6.20 The form of this passage is adapted from what scholars refer to as the "household code," or Haustafel, in which the head of the household is addressed in terms of his three primary roles—master, husband, and father—which highlights his rule over all other members, comprising slaves, wife and children. Within the Christian texts there is a subtle move toward equality because the wives/women, children and slaves are given some form of empowerment through the author's direct address to them.21 From a postcolonial studies perspective, what is worth our attention is the fact that a socio-cultural construct, which has the ultimate goal of engendering political obedience, has been taken up into Christian texts. Since this adapted household code comes immediately after the commands to "honor everyone, love the brothers, fear God and honor the Emperor," the reader is clued in to the heightened social and political dimensions of this passage. Since we have reason to believe that the members of the movement may have been

For a more in-depth explanation and application of a feminist postcolonial engagement of this passage, please see Jennifer Bird, Abuse, Power, and Fearful Obedience: Reconsidering 1 Peter's Commands to Wives (London: T. & T. Clark, forthcoming). 21 There is no clear consensus regarding which passages can truly be classified as "household codes," but the following are without question: Eph 5:22-6:9; Col 3:18-4:1; and 1 Pet 2:18-3:7. Given that the underlying purpose of the household code was to ensure a well-run household, which in turn would ensure obedience to the State or imperial power, some scholars suggest that passages addressing civic duties should also be included. See David Balch, "Household Codes," in Greco-Roman Uterature and the New Testament: Seierted Forms and Genres (ed. David Aune; SBLSBS 21; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988), 25—50. See also James E. Crouch, The Origin and Intention of the Colossian Haustafel (FRLANT 109; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1972); J. Paul Sampley, 'And the two shall become one flesh': A Study of Traditions in Ephesians 5:21—33 (SNTSMS 16; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 19; and Martin Dibelius, An Die Kolosser, an die Epheser, an Philemon (HNT 12; Tübingen: J. C. B. Möhr, 1927), 48. 20



under duress and potential persecution, whether locally or imperially sanctioned, ensuring that followers of Jesus would not be seen as subversive makes a great deal of strategic sense. At the same time these writings have subsequently become canonized, thus decontextualized, and continue to be taught as "God's word" to communities that look nothing like those in first century Asia Minor. Short term solutions are not always the best long-term guidelines. The content of this section addressed solely to the slaves is noticeably longer than the parts addressed to any other member of the household. They are told that in their suffering they become like Christ, following in the pattern or example that he set for them (2:18—25). Aside from the obvious concern that according to Pauline texts Christ suffered, died and was raised so that his followers would not have to suffer and die, this passage has been remarkably productive in terms of creating obedient and compliant followers of Christ. It has also been used, most unfortunately, to glorify suffering in general, in spite of the fact that the suffering that is held up as making them Christ-like is due to a particular socio-political situation. The lowest members of society are here affirmed for silent submission and accepting undeserved harsh treatment from their masters. While this may help them survive difficult situations, it simultaneously controls the masses, so to speak, those who are most important to control for the sake of political stability and economic productivity. Certainly today we question the acceptability of a text that endorses slavery at all. But it also leads us to this line of thought: "What does it mean that the culture in which this letter was written and to which it was addressed had no recourse for ending slavery, thus accepted it as an inevitable component of society? Does this view of socio-cultural norms not raise a concern for reading any part of this letter uncritically?" The acknowledgement of the master/slave relationship at all, within the sacred texts of the church, ought to send us reconsidering exactly which part of this letter can be affirmed as a message from the liberating God. The section addressed to the wives implies that they, too, ought to silently submit to the head of the household, their husbands, and let their holy/pure/chaste actions "win them over." Not only is the author of 1 Peter specifically silencing these wives, he is also drawing upon a cultural standard that judged females in



terms of (sexual) purity. These two pieces alone serve to control the voice and freedom of a woman. Perhaps this would be a minor matter if these were not the only defining qualities of wives specifically named in this letter. Additionally, given that it is the "household code" that has been adopted here, we can rest assured that it is wives and only wives who are addressed by this section. One might ask why the church is eager to apply the message of this passage to all females, then. From a feminist postcolonial perspective, one possible explanation is that it does, when given the authority of Scripture, rather conveniently place limitations upon females. They are circumscribed by this text. At the end of this section the author makes an out-of-the-blue reference to Sarah, which is all the more interesting if we notice that it was her lack of fear in the face of terrifying things that the wives are encouraged to emulate. Perhaps the reference is too short for anyone to pick up on the subtext, but the only time(s) Sarah is mentioned as having been in a terrifying situation is when she was thrust into the concubinage of Pharaoh (and the King of Gerar). It is easy to read right past these details, but the reality is that Sarah's body was used to save the life of her husband (twice!). She is a possession, "pimped out" for her husband's survival. While the 1 Peter passage does not make specific reference to sexual exploitation or abuse, there is a similar pattern within the text as what we see playing out within abusive relationships today: the wives/partners are silenced by the abuser, which only serves to isolate them; they are told by outsiders that if they stick it out and behave well they might cause the abuser to change his behavior, which is actually contradicted by the statistics; and in most if not all abusive situations, the wife/woman is dependent upon her husband/partner to such an extent that leaving is economically, physically and psychologically next to impossible. In other words, what seems like an innocent handful of verses intended to support wives through a troubling situation has actually become an abusive relation/dynamic that continues to go unquestioned by many to this day. It should not be a surprise to learn that this passage is used to council abused wives to stay in the marriage, in spite of solid statistics that indicate that abuse escalates over time. This passage has helped to create the fallacy believed by so many that "if you stick it out, you might win him over."



The command to husbands in 3:7 to live respectfully with their wives, while in itself is a kind and helpful word of advice, stands in stark contrast to 3:1—6. It is clear that males/husbands are expected to rule over the females in their lives. The suggestion that wives are to be thought of as "weaker vessels" has been taken to heart and taken literally, becoming one small piece of the justification to rule over them and to perpetuate the patriarchal system that keeps females at the mercy of males. This short section of 1 Peter demonstrates how the "words of humans" that reflect cultural biases can be mistaken for the word of God. CONCLUSION

Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza has said that "it cannot be the task of feminist interpretation to defend the Bible against its feminist critics but to understand and interpret [the Bible] in such a way that its oppressive and liberating power is clearly recognized." 22 Since the Bible has been used to justify untold acts of government sanctioned violence and silencing the voices of women throughout the ages, we as responsible biblical scholars would do well to face head on the life-stealing aspects of the Bible in order to have the lifegiving words speak unencumbered for themselves. FOR FURTHER READING

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, eds. PostColonial Studies: The Key Concepts. New York: Routledge, 2000. Moore, Stephen, and Fernando F. Segovia, eds. V ostcolonial Biblical Criticism: Interdisciplinary Intersections. Bible and Postcolonialism. London: T. & T. Clark, 2005. Newsome, Carol A., and Sharon H. Ringe, eds. Women's Bible Commentary, with Apocrypha. Expanded ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998. Russell, Letty M., ed. Feminist Interpretation of the Bible. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1995. Schiissler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. Bread Not Stone: The Challenge of Feminist Biblical Interpretation. Boston: Beacon, 1995. Schiissler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. The Power of the Word: Scripture and the Hhetoric of Empire. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007. 22

Schiissler Fiorenza, Bread Not Stone, x.



Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth, and Shelley Matthews, eds. Searching the Scriptures. Vol. 1: A. Feminist Introduction. New York: Crossroad, 1993. Segovia, Fernando F., and R. S. Sugirtharajah, eds. A Postcolonial Commentary on the New Testament Writings. The Bible and Postcolonialism 13. New York: T. & T. Clark, 2007. Sugirtharajah, R. S., ed. The Vostcolonial Bible. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1998. Vander Stichele, Caroline, and Todd Penner. Her Master's Tools? Feminist and Vostcolonial Engagements of Historical-Critical Discourse. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005.


What is the Bible? Is it divinely inspired? If so, does it teach the truth? To what extent is it free from error? How should we interpret Scripture? What rules should be followed and what methods employed in order to properly understand the sacred text? These are questions that Christians of every stripe have asked over the centuries. The purpose of this essay, however, is to explore what the Catholic Church in particular teaches about the Bible. In order to accomplish this in limited space, I will focus primarily on three fundamental issues: the inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation of Sacred Scripture. Moreover, I will not concentrate on the proposals of any particular theologian or biblical scholar, but rather on the official teachings of the Catholic magisterium (Latin "teaching authority")—the bishops in union with the Pope.1 Catholic doctrine on Sacred Scripture can be found in several key sources: (1) The Councils of Trent (1546), Vatican I (1870), and Vatican II (1965), all of which were led by Popes and which promulgated dogmatic Catholic teachings on the Bible; 1 For a collection of magisterial documents on Sacred Scripture, see Dean P. Béchard, éd., The Scripture Documents: An Anthology of Official Catholic Teachings (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2001). Unless otherwise noted, I will be following Béchard's translations and numbering system, which is sometimes different from the Vatican website (, where most of the documents can also be found.




(2) The three papal encyclical letters on the Bible, written by Leo XIII (1893), Benedict XV (1920), and Pius XII (1943), in which the Popes expounded in an authoritative and detailed manner the precise beliefs of the Catholic Church regarding Scripture; (3) Most recently, the summary statement of Catholic doctrine on Scripture given in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 101— 141, promulgated in 1992 by Pope John Paul II. Taken together, these sources provide everything we need for an overview of magisterial teachings on Sacred Scripture. Unfortunately, many of them—especially the papal encyclicals on the Bible—are often not studied closely by students in biblical studies. Hence, we will attempt to familiarize the reader with them by quoting them directly. Moreover, since the Second Vatican Council's 1965 Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum (Latin, the "Word of God"), is the most recent and most thorough conciliar teaching on the Bible, we will pay primary attention to its presentation of Catholic doctrine on Scripture. By examining the teaching of Vatican II in continuity with the three major papal encyclicals on Scripture, as well as earlier Church councils, we will attempt to give a brief overview of the shape of a distinctively Catholic approach to the Bible. As we will see, contrary to what is sometimes assumed about the Catholic Church and the Bible, when studied carefully, the teachings of the Magisterium present us with a beautiful, challenging, and inspiring vision of the splendor of God's word as found in the pages of the sacred text. T H E INSPIRATION OF SACRED SCRIPTURE

The first teaching that demands our attention is the one that lays the foundation for all of the others: the Catholic doctrine of inspiration. At the Second Vatican Council, the Pope and the bishops summarized the Church's teaching on inspiration of Scripture with the following words: The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the



inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author; and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. 2

Several aspects of this teaching merit our attention. First, the doctrine of inspiration is directly tied to the reality of divine revelation. This is very important. From a Catholic perspective, there are two orders of knowledge: natural reason, and supernatural divine revelation. 3 Scripture belongs in a special way to the latter category; indeed, "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."4 In other words, Scripture is no merely human book, but the very word of God. Second, notice that Vatican II also clearly teaches that inspiration is not limited to certain parts of Scripture. Rather, all of the books of Old and New Testaments, "whole and entire, with all their parts," are divinely inspired. With these words, Vatican II is reaffirming a doctrine of plenary (rather than partial) inspiration. Where does the Council get this formula? In the footnote to Dei Verbum, 11, Vatican II cites two key sources. The first is the dogmatic teaching of Vatican I in 1870, which defined that the books of the Bible, "whole with all their parts" (integri cum omnibus suis partibus) are "written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."5 The second is the 1915 decree of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which spoke of "the Catholic dogma regarding the inspiration (inspiratione) of Sacred Scripture," whereby "everything (omne) the sacred writer asserts, expresses, and suggests must be held to be asserted, expressed, and suggested by the Holy Spirit."6 As we will see throughout this essay, this is but the first of many cases in which 2 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 11. All translations of Dei Verbum contained herein are from Austin Flannery, O.P., Vatican Council II, vol.1: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (rev. ed.; Northport: Costello, 1996), 750— 65. Unless otherwise noted, all emphasis in quotations from Vatican II is added for the sake of this essay. 3 See Catechism of the Catholic Church (2d ed.; Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, Inc.; Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), no. 50. See also René Latourelle, S.J., Theology of Revelation (New York: Alba House, 1966). 4 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 9. 5 Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Dei Filius 2. 6 Pontifical Biblical Commission, Responsa, June 18, 1915.



Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution will invite us to interpret its teaching with what Pope Benedict XVI has called "a hermeneutic of continuity" with previous magisterial teachings. 7 Vatican II does this by repeatedly calling our attention to its drawing directly on earlier official Catholic teachings on Sacred Scripture. Third, and perhaps most important of all, notice that the question of inspiration is ultimately a question of authorship. As such, the Catholic doctrine of inspiration is an affirmation of the divine authorship of Sacred Scripture. In the final analysis, when the Church affirms the doctrine of inspiration, it answers the perennial question—Who authored the Bible?—by declaring in no uncertain terms: "God is the author of Sacred Scripture." 8 Again, as Vatican I affirmed in 1870, inspiration is not the result of the books of the Bible being "later approved" of the Church, or even because they contain "revelation without error"; it is because the books of Scripture "have God for their author." 9 Such a bold affirmation raises several questions: If God is the author of Scripture, what role did the human authors have to play? Does the Church's doctrine of divine authorship negate or neglect the human dimension of Sacred Scripture? By no means. In the very same breath in which Vatican II affirms the divine authorship of Scripture, it also proclaims with equal force the truly human authorship of the sacred texts. Compare the very next lines: To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their powers and faculties so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more. 10

This emphasis on the full use of the human faculties and powers by the individual authors of the books of Scripture is something on which it is critical to insist. As anyone who has read the Bible knows, any doctrine of inspiration that fails to take into account 7 Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia Offering them his Christmas Greetings (December 22, 2005). 8 Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 105. 9 Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Dei Filius,

2:2. 10

Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 11.



the diversity of human voices within Scripture ultimately fails to reckon with the reality of the biblical texts. And to be sure, once again, in affirming this full human authorship of Scripture, Vatican II cites the earlier teachings of Pope Pius XII. In his famous 1943 encyclical promoting the historical study of Scripture, the Pope taught that "the inspired writer, in composing the sacred Book, is the living and reasonable instrument ('organon) of the Holy Spirit," such that by using "his faculties and powers" any reader of the Bible can infer "the special character of each" human author "and, as it were, his personal traits." 11 However, Catholic doctrine does not stop at merely affirming the fully divine and fully human authorship of Sacred Scripture. It also goes on to propose a striking analogy for illuminating the relationship between them: Indeed, the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in eveiy way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men}1 With these words, Vatican II is claiming that the mystery of dual authorship—divine and human—can best be understood by the equally ineffable (but equally true) mystery of the Incarnation. In the Incarnation, the eternal "Word" of God "became flesh and dwelt amongst us" (John 1:14), fully human, yet fully divine. 13 Yet again, the Council is taking this analogy straight from Pope Pius XII's encyclical, in which he taught that just as in the Incarnation the eternal Son of God became like us "in all things 'except sin', so too, in Sacred Scripture, the words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error" (cf. Heb 4:15). 14

Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 19, citing Benedict XV, Spiritus Paraclitus, 3. 12 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 13. 13 On the Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation, see Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 456—83. I owe the language of "the mystery of dual authorship" to the article on "Inspiration" in the Catholic Bible Dictionaiy (ed. Scott W. Hahn; New York: Doubleday, 2009), 381-91. 14 Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 20 (emphasis added). 11



In short, the Catholic Church proposes an incarnational analogy for understanding the mystery of Scripture's inspiration. By means of this analogy, it affirms in the strongest possible terms both the divine authorship of Scripture as well as the free, full, and reasonable human authorship of the sacred texts. T H E INERRANCY OF SCRIPTURE

The next teaching that demands our attention is what the 1915 decree of the Pontifical Biblical Commission—as cited by Vatican II in the footnote to Dei Verbum 11—refers to as "the Catholic dogma regarding the inerrancy (inerrantid) of Sacred Scripture." 15 The first thing that should be said about the Church's doctrine of inerrancy is that it flows directly from the doctrine of inspiration. The two cannot be understood apart from one another; nor can they be separated from one another without detriment to both. That is why Vatican II's teaching on the truth of Scripture follows immediately on the heels of its doctrine of inspiration. After affirming that the human authors wrote only what God wanted written, and no more, the Council states: Since, therefore, all that the inspired authors or sacred writers assert, must be held as asserted by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture teach truth—which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to consign to the sacred writings— firmly, faithfully, and without error}6

Three aspects of this text demand our attention. First, it begins by reaffirming the integral scope of inspiration: "all" (imne) that the inspired authors assert must be regarded as "asserted by the Holy Spirit." This is a staggering claim, but one entirely consistent with 15 Pontifical Biblical Commission, Responsa, June 18, 1915, cited in the first footnote of Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 11. See also Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, 25, who speaks of "the traditional teaching regarding the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture." 16 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 11. Since there is debate about how to interpret this text, I have adapted Flannery's translation to more clearly reflect the original. The Latin reads: Cum ergo omne id, quod auctores inspirati seu hagiographi asserunt, retineri debeat assertum a Spiritu Sancto, inde Scripturae libri veritatem, quam Deus nostrae salutis causa, Utteris Sacris consignari voluit, firmiter, fideliter et sine errore docereprofitendi sunt.



the teaching on divine authorship we analyzed above. Second, on the basis of its doctrine of plenary inspiration, Vatican II goes on to affirm ("therefore") that the Bible teaches "truth" (veritatem)— firmly, faithfully, and "without error" (sine errore). With these words we find reference to the Bible's freedom from error, commonly referred to by Catholic theologians as the doctrine of inerrancy.17 Third and finally, the specific reason for Scripture's freedom from error is given: it is "for the sake of our salvation" (nostrae salutis causa) that God inspired the sacred authors to teach truth without error. These points sum up Vatican II's teaching on the truth of Scripture and its freedom from error. It is important to note here that since the time of the Second Vatican Council a debate has arisen among scholars about how to interpret this teaching. Specifically, the debate revolves around whether or not the second half of the sentence in Dei Verbum 11 limits the extent of the inerrancy of Scripture. On the one hand, some scholars claim that the text teaches a form of restricted inerrancy. From this perspective, the phrase "for the sake of our salvation" limits inerrancy to the 'saving truth' of Scripture; truths that are not directly salvific are not protected from error.18 On the other hand, some scholars argue that the restricted inerrancy position is based on a misinterpretation of Dei Verbum It. 19 This perspective points out that in the original Latin, the expression "for the sake of our salvation" is an adverbial phrase modifying the word "consign," not an adjectival phrase modifying the word "truth." In other words, this clause tells us God's purpose in protecting Scripture from error; it does not limit what kind of truth in Scripture is protected from error.20 In short, Vatican II is simply reaffirming the traditional Catholic belief in the absolute inerrancy of Scripture. Moreover, the Council indicates this by explicitly citing the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office's 1923 decree regard-

17 E.g. Augustine Bea, S.J., De inspirations et inerrantia Sacrae Scripturae: notae historicae et dogmaticae (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1954). 18 E.g. Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Shape of Catholic Theology (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1991), 131-40. 19 E.g. Augustine Cardinal Bea, The Word of God and Mankind (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1967), 184-93. 20 Bea, The Word of God and Mankind, 191.



ing "the absolute inerrancy of Sacred Scripture" in the first footnote of the teaching on inspiration.21 Although we cannot go into the details of this debate in such a short essay, it is important for the reader grasp its basic contours, not least because similar debates over inspiration and inerrancy are taking place in Christian communities outside the Catholic Church.22 However, because the interpretation of Vatican II's teaching is disputed among Catholic scholars, I would like to make several basic arguments in favor of the latter position, while recognizing that the final interpreter of the Council is the living Magisterium of the Catholic Church.23 First, if we interpret Vatican II's teaching on Scripture with a hermeneutic of continuity, then the weight of probability is tipped heavily in favor of absolute inerrancy. The reason: previous magisterial teachings on Scripture are unequivocal on this point. For example, in 1870, Vatican I dogmatically proclaimed that the canonical books of Scripture contain "revelation without error" (sine errore).11' In 1893, Pope Leo XIII declared it to be "the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church" that "inspiration is not only essentially 21 See Dei Verbum, 11, first footnote, citing the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, lam pluribus, Dec. 22, 1923. Translation in Dennis J. Murphy, M.S.C., ed., The Church and the Bible: Official Documents of the Catholic Church (Rev. ed.; Boston: St. Paul's/Alba House, 2007), 216. See also Benedict XV, Spiritus Taraclitus 5, who speaks of "the traditional belief of the Church" in "the absolute immunity of Scripture from error." 22 For an exploration of the issue by a leading Protestant exegete, see G. K. Beale, The Erosion of Inerrang in Evangelicalism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). 23 In the Fall of 2008, Pope Benedict XVI called for a world synod of Bishops to discuss the topic of "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church." At this synod, one of the items discussed was the debate over the interpretation of the doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy in Dei Verbum, 11. After the closing of the synod, the bishops requested that Pope Benedict XVI issue a clarification of the matter; currently, the Pope is preparing a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Sacred Scripture that may address the issue. Along the same lines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the help of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, is also supposed to be preparing a document on the matter. 24 Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Dei Filius,




incompatible with error but excludes and rejects it.. .absolutely and necessarily."25 Indeed, he declares Scripture to be "entirely immune from all error" (ab omni omnino errore immunes).lb In 1920, Pope Benedict XV repeated Leo's teaching and proclaimed "the absolute immunity of Scripture from error" (de absoluta Scripturarum a quibusvis erroribus immunitate) as "the ancient and traditional belief of the Church." 27 Finally, and perhaps most significantly, in 1943, Pope Pius XII began his historic encyclical on the Bible by declaring Scripture's "freedom from any error whatsoever" to be a "solemn definition of Catholic doctrine."28 Second, as we saw above, Vatican II clearly teaches the doctrine of plenary inspiration. The logical result of plenary inspiration is absolute inerrancy. To be sure, this is exactly how Vatican II formulates the teaching on the truth of Scripture: the reason "we must acknowledge that the Sacred books teach truth.. .firmly, faithfully, and without error," is because "all (omne) that the inspired authors assert" is "asserted by the Holy Spirit" (Dei Verbum 11). It is only when the teaching on the truth of Scripture is taken out of its immediate context and separated from the teaching on inspiration that the Dogmatic Constitution can be interpreted as somehow restricting inerrancy. For it makes no sense to affirm that inspiration is unlimited, but inerrancy—which is the direct result of inspiration—is limited. If everything asserted by the sacred writers is asserted by the Holy Spirit, then, both logically and theologically, everything asserted by the sacred authors must be free from error. Third, in the footnote to the teaching on the truth of Scripture, Vatican II explicitly cites two previous papal condemnations of limited inerrancy.29 Although these condemnations in the footnote are frequently overlooked, they are critical to correctly interLeo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 41. Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 41. 27 Benedict XV, Spiritus Paraclitus 5. In the same section, the Pope also speaks of "the absolute truth" (Latin absolutamque veritateni) and "immunity from error" (Latin erroris immunitatem), stating that "no error can occur in the inspired text," and that "divine inspiration extends to every part of the Bible without the slightest exception and that no error can occur in the inspired text." 28 Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 1. 29 See Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 11 n. 5, citing Leo XIII and Pius XII. 25




preting the teaching, since Vatican II wished to bring them to our attention: But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals and nothing beyond, because (as they wrongly think) in a question of the truth of falsehood or a passage, we should consider not so much what God has said as the reason or purpose that he had in mind in saying it—this system cannot be tolerated. 30 It is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain passages of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred," since divine inspiration "not only is essentially incompatible with error but excludes it and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and constant faith of the Church." This teaching, which our predecessor Leo XIII set forth with such solemnity, we also proclaim with our authority, and we urge all to adhere to it religiously. 31

It is not apparent how these citations can be reconciled with the view that Dei Verbum is restricting inerrancy. As we have seen throughout this article, Vatican II's overall teaching on the Bible stands in direct continuity with previous papal and conciliar teachings and shows this by repeatedly citing them in the footnotes. Hence, if the teaching on the truth of Scripture were actually restricting the scope of inerrancy, then this would be the only footnote in Dei Verbum that indicates a rupture with previous magisterial teaching rather than direct continuity. I find this intrinsically implausible and exegetically untenable. Instead, the most probable interpretation is that Vatican II, like the papal encyclicals that it deliberately chooses to cite, is reaffirming in a summary fashion the traditional Catholic doctrine of the absolute inerrancy of Scripture. In final support of this interpretation, it is worth noting the most recent magisterial interpretation of Dei Verbum 11, penned by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) in 1998. Writ-

30 31

Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 40. Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 3—4.



ing as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger affirms that the "the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts" is a divinely revealed article of faith, of like status as the solemnly defined christological dogmas or the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 32 To say the least, it is hard to reconcile this statement with any theory that maintains the presence of error in the sacred texts. In support of his assertion, Ratzinger cites Vatican II, Dei Verbum 11, as well as Pope Leo XIII's condemnation of limited inerrancy. With that being said, it is important to conclude this section by briefly distinguishing the Catholic doctrine of inerrancy from other concepts of inerrancy that may be found outside the Catholic Church, such as in Protestant fundamentalism. 33 For within different Christian communities the idea of biblical inerrancy takes various forms, some of which are very different from the Catholic understanding. First, the Catholic doctrine of inerrancy does not mean that subsequent manuscripts of Sacred Scripture are somehow preserved from any textual errors, omissions, or alterations. To the contrary, it is precisely the task of textual criticism—which Catholics have been doing at least since the time of Origen (ca. 200 C.E.)—to establish the most probable form of the original text. As Pope Pius XII affirms, the sacred writer "is not to be taxed with error" simply because "copyists have made mistakes." 34 Second—and this is very important—the Catholic concept of absolute inerrancy is directly dependent upon a correct approach to biblical interpretation. This means that the biblical text is not to be interpreted in an overly literalistic fashion, without respect for the literary genre of the text as well as the actual intentions of the hu32 See Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, "Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the 'Professio Fide?" appended to Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio, Ad Tuendam Fidem (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1998), 21. 33 For a discussion of the problems with fundamentalist interpretation and how it differs from Catholic doctrine, see esp. Pope John Paul II, Address on the Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, April 23, 1993, 8; Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, section F; in Bechard, The Scripture Documents, 174—75, 273—75. 34 Pius XII, Divino affiante Spiritu, 3.



m a n author. It should go without saying that any interpretation of Scripture that disregards the genre and historical context of the writings is bound to end up accusing the text of error—and not without justification. This is particularly true of those portions of Scripture that in modern times especially have been interpreted as making "scientific" claims that are verifiably false. Again, as Pope Pius XII states, following the teaching of T h o m a s Aquinas: The first and greatest care of Leo XIII was to set forth the teaching on the truth of the sacred Books and to defend it from attack. Hence with grave words did he proclaim that there is no error whatsoever if the sacred writer, speaking of things of the physical order, "went by what sensibly appeared," as the Angelic Doctor [i.e. Aquinas] says, speaking either "in figurative language or in terms that were commonly used at the time and many instances are in daily use at this day, even among the most eminent men of science." (Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu 3) For example, w h e n the Psalms speak about the "rising" of the sun being "from the end of the heavens" (Ps 19:6), it is no more making an objective 'scientific' claim about the relationship between the sun and earth than is the modern weathercaster w h o speaks about 'sunrise' being at 6:00 a.m. (my example). Just as no one w h o understood the idiom would accuse the weathercaster of affirming an astronomical error, neither should w e accuse the sacred text of having erred on this point. In neither case is a properly 'scientific' claim even being made. Instead, both are speaking in a figurative o r p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l way about what the sun appears to do as it "rises" in the sky. A s such, both statements are true. In other words, in any given case of an apparent error, one has to ask exactly what the biblical author is asserting in order to ascertain whether or not there was error. Third, according to Pope Pius XII, inerrancy does mean that Scripture's "freedom from any error whatsoever" also applies to "matters of history," which are not to be seen as "in no way connected with faith." 35 This needs to be understood in context. For one thing, it should be noted that Church's view of the historical truth of Scripture also presupposes correct interpretation; that is, 35

Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 1.



there must be an actual historical intent on the part of the biblical author. This is of course not always the case for every book of the Bible—for example, the Psalms, Wisdom literature, and so on— nor even every passage in a particular book—for example, parables in the Gospels, allegories, or apocalyptic imagery. Moreover, Pius XII also recognizes the presence of "approximations" in the language of Scripture that must be taken into account, so that what appears to be "historical error" often ends up being rather "the customary modes of expression" used by ancient historiographers.36 One might think here of the differences in detail between the various Synoptic accounts of Jesus' words at the Last Supper.37 However, with these qualifications in mind, the Church does indeed affirm "the historical truth of Sacred Scripture."38 As Pope Benedict XV wrote: Those, too, who hold that the historical portions of Scripture do not rest on the absolute truth of the facts but merely upon what they are pleased to term their relative truth, namely, what people then commonly thought are. ..out of harmony with the Church's teaching.. .For whereas physics is concerned with 'sensible appearances' and must consequently square with phenomena, history, on the contrary, must square with the facts, since history is the written account of events as they actually occurred. 39

This teaching may come as something of a surprise, given the climate of historical skepticism that has characterized a great deal of modern biblical scholarship. However, it is the logical outcome of the doctrine of plenary inspiration, in which "everything asserted by the sacred authors"—including their historical assertions—is "asserted by the Holy Spirit" (Dei Verbum 11). Given the reality of inspiration, the Catholic Church teaches that whenever a biblical author actually makes an historical assertion, these assertions are also true, in accordance with the intentions of the human author.40 Fourth and finally, from a Catholic perspective, the doctrine of inerrancy certainly does not mean that there are no apparent erPius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 20—21. Matt 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23. 38 Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 3. 39 Benedict XV, Spiritus Taraclitus, 6. 40 See Bea, The Word of God and Mankind, 189-90. 36 37



rors, apparent contradictions, or other serious difficulties scattered throughout the Scriptures. To the contrary, the Popes have repeatedly encouraged Catholic commentators to both recognize such difficulties and seek solutions to them.41 To this end, two of the papal encyclicals cite Augustine's rule for how exegetes should deal with an apparent error in Scripture: And if in these Books I meet anything that seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude that (1) the text is faulty, or (2) that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or (3) that I myself do not understand. (Augustine,

In other words, the Catholic doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy ultimately calls the biblical interpreter to embrace what might be called a hermeneutic of trust—as opposed to the hermeneutic of skepticism that has been so widespread in the modern period. From this interpretive posture, the truth of the biblical text is presumed and Scripture is always given the benefit of the doubt. This hermeneutic of trust is not uncritical naivete, but rather a reasonable response to the divine authorship of Scripture. It is important to note that from a Catholic perspective, inerrancy is also not something that one derives as a result of inductive analysis, but a truth that is received as divinely revealed. All of this of course calls for a momentous exercise of the virtues of patience and humility on the part of the biblical scholar or theologian. But if all of Scripture is indeed the inspired word of God, then it seems reasonable to suggest that this is exactly the posture that a person of "faith" or "trust" ipistis) should take. T H E INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE

The third and final issue is slightly less controversial but no less central: the Catholic teaching regarding the interpretation of Sacred Scripture. Once again, it is no coincidence that Vatican II's discussion of biblical interpretation comes after the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy, for it presupposes them:

41 42


E.g. Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 24. Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 24; Leo XIII, Providentissimus




Seeing that, in sacred Scripture, God speaks through men in a human fashion, it follows that the interpreter of sacred Scriptures, if he is to ascertain what God has wished to communicate to us, should carefully search out the meaning which the sacred writers really had in mind, that meaning which God had thought well to manifest through the medium of their words. 43

Notice that the teaching on interpretation emphasizes both the human authorship of Sacred Scripture ("the meaning which the sacred authors really had in mind") as well as the divine authorship ("the meaning which God thought well to manifest through their words"). Both must be taken into account and neither isolated from the other if one is to properly interpret the inspired text. It is worth pointing out that this emphasis distinguishes Vatican II's methodology of interpretation from much modern exegesis, in which attention is given solely to what the human author intended to affirm. How then do we discover what the human author(s) intended? In one of the lengthiest and most detailed sections of the dogmatic constitution, Vatican II has this to say: In determining the intention of the sacred writers, attention must be paid, inter alia, to "literary forms," for the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression. Hence the exegete must look for that meaning which the sacred writer, in a determined situation and given the circumstances of his time and culture, intended to express and did in fact express, through the medium of a contemporaiy literary form. Rightly to understand what the sacred author wanted to affirm in his work, due attention must be paid both to the customary and characteristic patterns of perception, speech, and narrative which prevailed at the age of the sacred writer, and to the conventions which the people of his time followed in their dealings with one another. 44

From this rather dense teaching, we are able to distill several tools that Catholic exegetes use in order to determine the intentions of the human author. First, exegesis must pay attention to literary forms. This means asking questions like: What kind of book is this? What 43 44

Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 12. Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 12.



is the literary genre? Is it poetry, prophecy, history, et cetera? How one answers this question will have a direct effect on the interpretation of the text. Second, the exegete must also closely examine the language of the sacred text, and its "characteristic patterns.. .of speech." This means asking questions such as: What is the precise meaning of the words used? What is their denotation, as well as connotation? Is the human author using a particular idiom, such as hyperbole or double entendre, and so on? Finally, both literary and linguistic analysis must be accompanied by a close study of history and culture: What is the "age of the sacred writer" in which the text was composed? What was the "determined situation" in which the text came to birth? What were the "circumstances of time and culture" that inform the text, as well as the "conventions which the people of his time followed" that can shed light on the text? In sum, these four tools—literature, language, history, and culture— are Vatican II's primary means of discovering the intention of the human authors. Once again, in making these statements, we can see Vatican II building in a very explicit way on the earlier teachings of the papal encyclicals on the Bible. In this case, Dei Verbum 12 is directly footnoting Pope Pius XII's lengthy discussion of historical exegesis in his 1943 encyclical, in which he vigorously promoted the use of "grammar, philology.. .history, archaeology, ethnology, and other sciences" as well as close attention to the literary "modes of expression" used in the biblical text.45 Before him, in 1920, Pope Benedict XV had followed Jerome in affirming that "all interpretation rests on the literal sense"—that is, "a careful study of the actual words so that we may be perfectly certain what the writer really does say." 46 Finally, as far back as 1893, Pope Leo XIII was insisting on recourse to the study of the original languages of Scripture and to "the practice of scientific criticism," in which the "historical investigation" of Scripture should be carried out.47 Once again, a close reading of Vatican II reveals a hermeneutic of continuity: far from proposing any kind of novel approach to the Bible, the

See Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 19—23. Benedict XV, Spiritus Varaclitus, 14. 47 Leo XIII, Providentissimus Dens, 36—37. 45




Council is building on previous papal support for a scientific, literary, and historical criticism of the Bible. But this is not the end of the interpreter's task. Given the reality of inspiration, simply determining what the human authors intended does not exhaust the task of exegesis. Indeed, to stop with the human author actually leaves exegesis incomplete, for there is another author involved: God. Hence, the exegete must also discover what the divine author intended. Surely this is a more difficult task. How does one accomplish it? According to Vatican II, the answer is as follows: But since sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted with its divine authorship in mind, n o less attention must be devoted to the content and unity of the whole Scripture, taking into account the living Tradition of the entire Church and the analogy of faith, if we are to derive their true meaning f r o m the sacred texts. 48

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly points out, in the above passage, the Second Vatican Council was proposing "three criteria" for discovering what the divine author of Scripture intended. 49 (1) The content and unity of the whole Scripture. The Council's first criterion for discovering the divine author's intention is to interpret any given text in the canonical context of the Bible as a whole. This means that the meaning of a given portion of Holy Scripture, say, in the Old Testament (OT), can legitimately be interpreted in light of another portion, say, the New Testament (NT). Even though such texts may have different human authors, both texts have the same divine author. This gives them a unity that is supernatural but nonetheless real. Indeed, given the divine authorship of Scripture, it is not only fitting that Scripture interpret Scripture; correct interpretation actually requires that the biblical canon as a whole be taken into account. (2) The living Tradition of the entire Church. The second criterion for discovering what the divine author intended is more controversial, since historically it has constituted a dividing line between Catholic and Protestant exegesis. According to Vatican II, the biblical text must not only be interpreted in the light of Sacred Scrip48 49

Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 12. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 111.



ture as a whole, but in the light of Sacred Tradition as well. Unfortunately, we do not have the space here to go into a detailed discussion of the nature and extent what the Catholic Church means by Sacred Tradition. 50 Suffice it to say for now that from a Catholic perspective, Sacred Tradition is also the word of God, which has its origin in "the preaching of the apostles," is continued in the Church "in her doctrine, life, and worship," and is witnessed in a special way in "the sayings of the Holy Fathers"—i.e., the early church fathers of the first centuries. 51 All of these are guided by the help of the Holy Spirit. And because the Holy Spirit is likewise the author of Sacred Scripture, in order to discover the intention of the divine author, Scripture must be not be interpreted apart from Sacred Tradition—as if the two were opposed to one another—but in the light of Sacred Tradition, led by the same Spirit of God. As Paul says: "Stand firm and hold to the traditions (paradosis) which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess 2:15). (3) The analogy offaith. Finally, the interpreter must take into account what Vatican II calls "the analogy of faith." This somewhat more obscure term is a reference to "the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the plan of Revelation." 52 In other words, the interpreter must also take into account the doctrine of the Church, as expressed in the ordinary and universal teachings of the living Magisterium (the Pope and the bishops in union with him). Yet again, the Second Vatican Council is drawing this language from Pope Leo XIII's encyclical on the Bible, in which he states that "the analogy of faith should be followed," referring to "Catholic doctrine, as authoritatively proposed by the Church." 53 While this may seem like putting the doctrinal cart before the exegetical horse, note the reason for the Pope's teaching: "Seeing that the same God is the author both of the Sacred Books 50

On the relationship between Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, see esp. Dei Verbum, 7—10, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 74— 83. For an exhaustive modern scholarly study, see Yves Congar, O.P., Tradition and Traditions (London: Burns and Oates, 1966). 51 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 8. 52 Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 114. 53 Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 28. The "analogy of faith" is also mentioned in Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 15.



and of the doctrine committed to the Church.. .it follows that all interpretation is foolish and false which either makes the sacred writers disagree with one another, or is opposed to the doctrine of the Church." 54 No doubt this will strike non-Catholic readers as problematic, but consider two points. First, whether or not one agrees with the premises, the logic of the teaching is consistent. If the same Holy Spirit who authored Scripture also guides the Magisterium in the formulation and teaching of Church doctrine, then "sound doctrine" (Titus 1:9) is an aid, not an obstacle, to discovering what the divine author of Scripture intended. Both Scripture and sound doctrine are true. Second, a good case can be made that any Christian who accepts a closed canon implicitly acknowledges the importance of Church doctrine in interpreting Scripture. The very fact that Christians accept the existence of a single definitive canonical list of books implies an acceptance of this third criterion, because the canonical list of books is nothing other than an extra-biblical Church doctrine?^ There is no inspired table of contents for Scripture; the canon is a Church doctrine, not found in the Bible itself, one believed by both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.56 If the doctrine of the canon is an aid to interpretation, then it is consistent to suggest that other Church doctrines are as well. In short, in addition to the incarnational analogy of inspiration we saw above, the official Catholic doctrine of biblical interpretation proposes what might be called an incarnational and ecclesial hermeneutic—one that gives equal emphasis to the human and divine authorship of Scripture, as interpreted in the context of Christ's Church. Discovering what the human author intended necessitates focusing on the literal sense of the text in its historical context. Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 28 (emphasis added). See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 120, for the Catholic doctrine of the canon, citing the definitive canonical lists of the councils of Rome (382 C.E.), Florence (1442), and Trent (1546). These lists can be found in Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma (trans. Roy J. Deferrari; New York: Herder, 1954), 33-34, 244-45. 56 Unfortunately, we do not have the space here to enter into the debate over the Old Testament canon. Suffice it so say that my point stands merely on the basis of the New Testament canonical list of books, which is likewise an extra-biblical Church doctrine. 54 55



Hence the importance of literary and historical criticism. Discovering what the divine author intended means interpreting the biblical text in light of three broader contexts: Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the doctrines of the Magisterium. Hence the importance—indeed, necessity—of theological exegesis done in an ecclesial context. CONCLUSION

By way of conclusion, we can now briefly summarize what we have learned about inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation, and briefly tie each of these to the teaching of Scripture itself. According to Catholic doctrine on Sacred Scripture, the Bible is nothing less than the inspired word of God, written under the very breath of the Holy Spirit. In making such an audacious claim, the Church is drawing directly on the teaching of the apostle Paul, who himself affirms that "all Scripture is inspired by God"—or, more literally, "God-breathed" (theopneustos)—"and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16). Given the reality of divine inspiration, the Church also affirms that the Scriptures are to be believed: they teach the truth, firmly, faithfully, and without error. Again, proposing this doctrine, the Church is simply following the model of Jesus in the Gospels, who declares that "Scripture cannot be nullified" (John 10:35) and upbraids the disciples on the Road to Emmaus by saying: "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all ipasin) that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25). Notice that Jesus does not limit the trust his disciples are to place in the inspired Word: "all" that the prophets have spoken is to be believed. 57 Finally, the Catholic doctrine of interpretation adopts an incarnational and ecclesial approach to the interpretation of Scripture. This approach recognizes both Scripture's fully human ele57 Historically, it is worth nothing that Jesus no doubt shared the ancient Jewish belief in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. According to Josephus, first-century Jews believed both that the Scriptures were "inspired" and that "there is no discrepancy in what is written." Josephus, AgainstApion, 1:37 (LCL).



ments and difficulties as well as its divine origin and ecclesial destination. In this, the Church once again follows the NT itself, which declares that in the Scriptures—especially the letters of Paul— "there are some things hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction" (2 Pet 3:16). It is precisely for this reason that, "no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation (idias epiljsis)" (2 Pet 1:20). Rather, the written word of God must be interpreted in the living light of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the doctrines of the faith, so that it not be "a dead letter" but rather become for "the children of the Church.. .strength for [the] faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting font of the spiritual life." 58 FOR FURTHER READING

Bea, Augustine Cardinal. The Word of God and Mankind. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1967. Catholic Bible Dictionary. Edited by Scott W. Hahn. New York: Doubleday, 2009. The Church and the Bible: Official Documents of the Catholic Church. Edited by Dennis J. Murphy, M.S.C. Rev. and enlarged 2d ed. Boston: St. Paul's/Alba House, 2007. The Scripture Documents: An Anthology of Official Catholic Teachings. Edited by Dean P. Bechard, S.J. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2001. Vatican Council II: Volume 1: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. Edited by Austin Flannery, O.P. Rev. ed. Northport: Costello, 1996.


Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. I l l ; Dei Verbum, 24.


Do not tarry for another teacher, you have the words of God; no one teaches you as they.. .Do not just look into them, but rather take them wholly within you, keep them in your mind. This is the cause of all evils, lack of knowledge of Scripture. — St. John Chrysostom, Horn. IX in Ep. ad Coloss., III.

It seems nearly impossible to encapsulate the theological status of the Bible and biblical hermeneutics within a multifaceted tradition that traces its interpretive heritage to the early church as does Eastern Orthodoxy. After all, the question that immediately arises is: On what ground and from what sources can one really establish a distinctly Orthodox perspective f1 A long history of geographic, national, and linguistic isolation, as well as the principle of autocephaly, have conspired to make a unified voice on biblical hermeneutics among the Orthodox

1 For an excellent treatment of these difficulties and an answer based on the liturgical practices of Eastern Orthodoxy, see Petros Vassiliadis, "Canon and Authority of Scripture: An Orthodox Hermeneutical Perspective," in Orthodox and Wesleyan Scriptural Understanding and Practice (ed. S. T. Kimbrough Jr.; Crestwood: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2005), 21— 35.




rather problematic. 2 The Orthodox do not have a magisterium, a single, unifying authority as do Roman Catholics, nor do they traditionally turn to communion-formative Confessions such as the Westminster Confession, or the Augsburg Confession, as Protestants do. The difficulty of the task is also compounded by at least three additional factors: first is the issue of identity, the understanding that Orthodoxia is not a geographical or cultural cipher but "refers to the wholeness of the people of God who share in the right conviction (or the doxa = right opinion) concerning the event of God's salvation in Christ and his Church, and the right expression (iorthopraxia) of this faith." 3 Second, though engagement with the Bible has been at the heart of historical Orthodoxy, as John Breck notes, "it is a well-known, if to some minds curious fact that Orthodox biblical scholars today rarely write commentaries on books of the Bible." 4 Even more complicating, third, the only authoritative sources to which the Orthodox turn are in fact common to the rest of the Christians: the Bible and the Tradition. It is the task of this essay to work through these phenomena and try to provide a somewhat coherent, albeit synopsized, account of the status of the Bible as Scripture within Eastern Orthodoxy, beginning with the traditional view of its diachronic relationship with the early church as that is expressed in and through the worship, preaching, teaching, spirituality, and theology of the community. SCRIPTURE AS CANON

Holy Scripture is both central and authoritative for the church because it is the word of God, the canonical record of divine revelation, inspired by the Holy Spirit, proclaimed by the biblical authors, and received in transformative practice by the community of the faithful. This continues to be the sine qua non for the church univer-

2 Cf. Simon Crisp, "Orthodox Biblical Scholarship Between Patristics and Postmodernity: A View from the West," in Auslegung der Bibel in orthodoxer und westlicher Perspektive (ed. Dunn et al.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), 123-25. 3 Vassiliadis, "Canon and Authority," 21. 4 John Breck, Scripture in Tradition: The Bible and Its Interpretation in the Orthodox Church (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001), 1.



sal, East and West, Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant. However, foundational to Orthodox theology is the understanding that there is a synergeia, a spirit of organic unity between the Scripture and the church whose life, worship, preaching, teaching, spiritual formation, and theology it shapes and forms. 5 This synergistic relationship is based on the recognition that the Bible is not sui generis but is born and shaped within the Ekklesia, the community of faith to which it is addressed and by which it is received. From antiquity almost all the fathers of the church have argued that the formation of the canon of the New Testament (NT), and indeed the whole of Scripture, was not simply a reactionary movement against those of their time who questioned the faith and practices of the community, but "was rather the profoundly positive experience of the living God, who reveals himself and continues to act for the salvation and glorification of his people." 6 That Scripture is canonical, that is, normative for the community of faith, has been a first principle for the church from the beginning (2 Tim 3:16), but what is to be included in the Bible?7 To be sure, there are the canons of local synods (Laodicea ca. 363, Rome in 382, Carthage in 397, etc.) and the writings of a number of church fathers, including the famous festal letter of Athanasius in 367,8 that seem to have settled the number and ordering of the twenty-seven books of the canon of the NT (receiving ecumenical status through the Quinisext Council in Trullo, 692), but the number of the canonical books of the OT (and perhaps the status of Revelation) remain unsettled. The theological debates that took place during the Reformation forced the Western traditions to deal with the issue of the canon in a more direct and decisive form than the East, and to develop more clearly articulated statements on the authority and inspiration of Scripture.

We will deal with this principle in more detail later in this essay. Breck, Scripture in Tradition, 3. 7 It is not within the scope of this essay to detail the long and multifaceted history and debates on the formation of the canon. For a helpful discussion see F. F. Bruce et al., eds., The Origin of the Bible (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003). 8 One needs to add Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Amphilochios of Iconion to this list of writers. 5 6



In regard to the NT, the Eastern Orthodox recognize together with Roman Catholics and Protestants the twenty-seven books in their ascribed order, even though no readings from the book of Revelation are used in the liturgy. Yet Eastern Orthodoxy is not a singular tradition: among the Syriac Churches, only twenty-two of the NT books were considered authoritative (excluding 2 Peter, 2— 3 John, Jude, and Revelation), while the canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Churches is much broader, comprised of thirty-five writings.9 Even among the Fathers, as late as the eight century, St. John of Damascus listed twenty-eight books, including the Canons of the Holy Apostles. This apparent ambiguity is due to the fact that for the Orthodox, "the 'closing of the canon' is a firm but not rigid principle.. .because the classic Christian tradition never dogmatized the exact number of scriptural books and always valued many other writings and liturgical texts in addition to the canonical collection of the Scriptures."10 As far as the OT is concerned, the Christian traditions vary not only in the number of books included, but also in their use. Traditionally, all Christian communions have accepted the thirtynine11 books of the Tanakh, the "Old Testament" or "Hebrew Scriptures." Unlike the Roman Catholic or Protestant traditions, however, the Orthodox do not turn to the Masoretic text, the Hebrew original of the OT, as Scripture but to the Septuagint (LXX). The Septuagint (septuaginta means "seventy" in Latin) was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures prepared in the third and second centuries B.C.E. by the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria. The Septuagint is the version of Scripture most often quoted by the writers of the NT and was the version adopted early by the (primarily) Greek-speaking Christian communities throughout the Mediterranean as the word of God. Along with Roman Catholics, the Orthodox include in the canon a number of books (at least ten) Including the Sinodos (4 sections), the Book of the Covenant (2 sections), Clement (1), the Ethiopian Didascalia (1) to the canon. 10 T. G. Stylianopoulos, The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1997), 28 (emphasis added). 11 The Tanakh is composed of thirty-eight books, but the separation of Ezra from Nehemiah into two different books in the Christian canon brings the total to thirty-nine. 9



that since the Reformation have been called Deuterocanonical', meaning "secondary authority" (a term invented in the sixteenth century by Sixtus of Sienna) or Apocrypha, a (pejorative) term meaning "hidden," without canonical authority and therefore excised from the canon. For both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches, these books are neither of secondary authority, nor rejected. On the contrary, though their number varies among the Orthodox traditions they are known as Anaginoskomena, "Readable Books," indicating that they are profitable for the faithful and are widely used in the liturgy of the church without differentiation from the rest of the canonical writings. There is, however, a category of Apocrypha in the Orthodox tradition; these writings are usually called Pseu¿epigrapha in the West, and refer to books that are primarily historical in nature and carry no canonical authority.12 Moreover, Roman Catholics and Orthodox accept as canonical extensive passages of Esther and Daniel that are found in the Septuagint but not in the Hebrew version of these texts and are therefore rejected by Protestants. SCRIPTURE AS TRADITION

Since Eastern Orthodoxy assumes a continuity rather than distance in time, it turns to the diachronic ecclesial community for guidance and faithful interpretation of the sacred texts. This hermeneutic of "familial dependence" on the early church is a fundamental aspect of the Paradosis, or Holy Tradition that under girds Orthodox approaches to the Scripture.13 Holy Tradition is the kanon tespisteos or tes aletheias,u the regula fidei,ls the regula veritatis, the depositum of 12 For a detailed presentation the writings included in each category, see Vassiliadis, "Canon and Authority," 21—24. 13 See John A. McGuckin, "Recent Biblical Hermeneutics in Patristic Perspective: The Tradition of Orthodoxy," in Sacred Text and Interpretation: Perspectives in Orthodox Biblical Studies (ed. Theodore G. Stylianopoulos; Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press), 293—324, for an excellent treatment of the differences between the "hermeneutic of suspicion" that leads to much of the hermeneutical anarchy of modern approaches to the Bible and what he calls the principles of "ecclesial reading" that inform Orthodox hermeneutics. 14 Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 1.8.1, 1.9.4. 15 Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum 12, also 13.



Truth, the rule of faith, the fundamental beliefs that come from the apostles and unite Christians in a single ecclesial Body. For Orthodoxy, Tradition is not church history, but a charismatic principle, which Sergius Bulgakov describes as "the living memory of the Church" 16 guided by the Holy Spirit who guarantees its unity and continuity "within a vibrant worshiping and praying community of faith that holds to the authority of Scripture and classical Christian doctrine."17 John Breck reminds us that for the Orthodox the relationship between the two is not antithetical, Scripture or Tradition, which is a decisively Protestant reaction to the later medieval Roman Catholic "two-source" notion (Scripture and Tradition, with primacy given to the latter), but unitary, one of mutual reflection, that is, Scripture in Tradition. This is because Orthodoxy recognizes that the Bible, as written text, is born of Tradition, "in the sense that the New Testament writings are part of Tradition and constitute its normative element. Those writings came forth from the church's life and proclamation, and they have continued through the ages to be the measure, rule or 'canon' of Christian faith."18 For Orthodoxy then, Tradition, as expressed through the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the fathers of the church is the decisive and final hermeneutical agent of Scripture. Though this may be criticized as a too idealized view of the writings of the Fathers (which were neither as unified nor as indurate as might be assumed) the crucial emphasis here is on the permanence of the Christian faith through space and time. Many of the patristic writers expressed a deep concern regarding "private" opinions and even perversion of Scripture. The double recourse to Scripture and Tradition allows true Christian faith to be recognized and safeguards against such perfidy. It was to this diachronic apostolic ecumenicity that Irenaeus turned in his efforts against the secret teachings of the Gnostics. The bishop of Lyons explained the danger of isolating Scripture

16 Sergius Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997), 10. 17 Theodore G. Stylianopoulos, "Biblical Studies in Orthodox Theology: A Response," GOTR 18 (1972): 192. 18 Breck, Scripture in Tradition, 4; also 9—16.



from the community to which it was addressed and for which it is normative through the story of a beautiful mosaic of a king that was rearranged by someone into the picture of a dog or of a fox, in both instances claiming that the reconstruction was true to the original, since he used the original stones.19 Irenaeus insisted that everything in the Bible is "certain, true, and real" {omnia firma et vera et substantiam habentia)20 and there is no need to turn from the teachings of Christ and his apostles as those are preserved in the canonical writings. Basil the Great emphasized the need for keeping the traditional interpretations of Scripture lest "we would reduce the Gospel to bare words" 21 —and bare words, outside the context of spiritual authority and the "common" mind of the church catholic, are open to misuse. To understand the self-evident meaning of Scripture, we have to read it in the church, in other words, in her publicly confessed and authenticated tradition that has come down from the apostles.22 Writers from both East and West agreed that the principle function of Tradition was to be a guardian of the true and faithful meaning of Scripture. Hilary of Poitiers and Jerome rebuked heretics because they turned the divine gospel, the Evangelium, into human words and insisted that "Scripture is not in the reading but in the understanding," which meant that, "Scripture is really useful for the hearers when it is spoken with [(that is, "in the presence of')] Christ, when it is presented with the Fathers, and those who are preaching do not introduce it without the Holy Spirit."23 The same sentiment is reflected clearly in the work of Georges Florovsky who defines the function of Tradition as discernment: "The true meaning of Scripture, the sensus Scripturae, that is—the Divine message, can be detected onlyjuxta jidei veritatem [in conjunction with the Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 1.8.1, 1.9.4. Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 5.35.2. 21 Basil, De Spiritu Sanrto, 21.66. Also, St. Vincent of Letins, Commonitorium 2: "We must hold what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all." 22 Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Scandal of the Incarnation: Irenaeus Against the Heresies (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1990), 10—11. 23 Theodore G. Stylianopoulos, "Orthodox Biblical Interpretation," in Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation (ed. John H. Hayes; 2 vols.; Nashville: Abingdon, 1999), 2:227. 19




truth of faith], under the guidance of the rule of faith. The Veritas fidei [the truth of faith] is, in this context, the Trinitarian confession of faith."24 ORTHODOX BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION

Theodore G. Stylianopoulos identifies three distinct periods in the history of Orthodox biblical interpretation (patristic, traditionalist, and modern) within each of which the relationship of the faithful to the Scriptures has differed, albeit within the broader framework of the church's doctrinal consensus. The Patristic Heritage The most creative and formative period was the patristic era, from the second to the fifth centuries C.E. As we have already seen in our discussion on the canon, this was a time of intense theological debate as the nascent Christian communities were struggling with questions of (self-)identity, doctrine, worship, authority, and canon. It was during this period that those who are recognized by Eastern Orthodoxy as Doctors, or Fathers of the church, flourished. These include writers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus (also known as the Theologian), Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, and Cyril of Alexandria.25 Though varied in scope and methodologies, the work of these writers contains normative propositions and principles for faith and worship for the Orthodox and carries comparable authority to the biblical witness. Though the patristic tradition is not a particularly Orthodox birthright,26 Stylianopoulos enumerates nine normative elements 24 Georges Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View (Belmont, Mass.: Nordland Publishing Company, 1972), 91. 25 The Eastern Churches also turn to a number of Western Fathers, including Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, and Jerome, but, because of cultural and linguistic distinctions between Greek East and Latin West, as well as later ecclesiastical divisions, not as often or with the same degree of dependence (esp. in the case of Augustine). 26 See Savas Agourides, "The Orthodox Church and Contemporary Biblical Research," in Auslegung der Bibel in orthodoxer und westlicher Perspektive (ed. Dunn et al.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), 139-153, for a particularly poignant exposition on the matter.



that derive from the writings of these church fathers and together shape Orthodox understanding and interpretation of the Bible: (1) a christocentric approach to the OT as prophetic testimony to Christ, the new covenant, the church, and the Christian life; (2) Christ as the new criterion of salvation fulfilling and replacing the Mosaic law; (3) the unity of the OT and the NT as opposed to the depreciation or even rejection of the OT by heretical groups; (4) the harmonious coherence and interdependence between the Scriptures and the church's developing evangelistic, liturgical, homiletical, catechetical, and creedal traditions; (5) the hermeneutical role of the church's doctrinal discernment expressed in particular creedal teachings (rule of faith) and significantly operative in the canonization of the church's Scriptures; (6) the creative free and interrelated use of allegorical, typological, and grammatical exegesis accompanied by an emphasis on the spirit rather than the letter of Scripture; (7) holistic attention to the entire landscape of the larger biblical canon interpreted according to the central aim or unifying purpose (skopos) of particular books and passages; (8) the role of the living tradition as the decisive and final hermeneutical agent, especially in cases of widely disputed matters, expressed through ecumenical councils and reception by the whole church (e.g. Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed as doctrinal summary of biblical truth); and (9) the primacy and centrality of the Bible as the word of God to be celebrated, read, and obeyed by the church and by all believers.27 Even a cursory look at the patristic period reveals that the Fathers did not approach Scripture in a unitary fashion and their methodologies varied significantly by period, region, genre, or even so-called "school" of biblical interpretation; yet they all understood the Bible to be the word of God whose source is the Holy Spirit, whose subject is Christ, and whose aim is the sanctification of God's people. Because the source of Truth is the incarnate Logos himself, the truth and truthfulness of Scripture was an axiomatic principle of patristic approaches to the Bible. Christ is the Truth was the confession readily professed by all Christian writers. Rooted in

Stylianopoulos, "Orthodox Biblical Interpretation," 227-28. Each of these nine normative elements is inextricably linked to the rest and each deserves much fuller analysis than can be attempted here. 27



the Incarnation, this view of Scripture as the verbalization of the divine Logos led the patristic writers to a more dynamic rather than mechanistic view of inspiration and revelation—a synergy between the Holy Spirit who inspires and guides and the human authors who, each in one's own way, instruct the faithful into mature knowledge of God. Reflecting on the "humanity" of the Bible, evident in the variety of books, authors, style, language, historical origins and development of the canon itself, the patristic writers understood Scripture as God's descent into the world of human thoughts and words, a form of gracious divine condescension (synkatabasis) towards people because of the weakness of human language and understanding (1 Cor 2:3—16; 2 Cor 3:6),28 yet without compromising the absolute authority and truthfulness of the divine message. The universality (or ecumenicity) of Christian faith, therefore, lies in the mystery of the living God behind the witness of Scripture and patristic exegesis aimed at enabling the people of God to hear his Word and to receive it for their salvation. The Fathers insisted that biblical exegesis faithful to the incarnate Logos was a charismatic activity, the gifting of the Holy Spirit, because "the Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth...From [the Spirit] comes...understanding of the mysteries [of faith], insight into what is hidden [(in Scripture)], and other special gifts." 29 As such, the study of Scripture could not be limited to (even by) formal critical inquiry, and divine revelation could not be condensed to rational deductions and theological pronouncements. Rather, engagement with Scripture needed to be lived out as it encompassed the whole of Christian life, worship, preaching, teaching, pastoral guidance, spirituality, as well as theology. "It required a spiritual vision (OECOQUX \theoria\) in which the Holy Spirit actualized the transformative power of biblical truth in the interpreter and in the life of the church." 30 Nowhere is this transformative power and spiritual vision more vividly expressed than in the Eucharistic lit-

28 See also Athanasius, Contra Gentes, 46—47, on divine condescension as derivative from God'sphilanthropia, based on Phil 2:9—10. 29 Basil, De Sp. S., 9.23; c f . Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, 57.1— 3. See also McGuckin, "Recent Biblical Hermeneutics," 309-314. 30 Stylianopoulos, "Orthodox Biblical Interpretation," 228.



urgy of the Orthodox churches. Through the reading and exposition of Scripture during the "Mystery of the Word" and the abundant biblical references during the "Eucharistic Mystery" the Divine Liturgy calls the Orthodox to hear and see, participate in and experience the life of Christ and his church, and thus united with the church diachronic live in eschatological expectation of his second coming. The Traditionalist Period In contrast to the prolific doctrinal and exegetical engagement with the Bible that permeated the patristic era, the period from the sixth to the eighteenth centuries was characterized by what Stylianopoulos identifies as "a paucity of material as a result of a structured shift from direct, concentrated engagement with the Scripture to overwhelming dependence on the church fathers, a shift already evident in the christological controversies of the fifth and sixth centuries."31 Though biblical authority remained formally supreme within Orthodoxy, during this traditionalist period the driving principle was the sensus catholicus, the ecclesiastical mind, and the emphasis was not to the Scriptures themselves but on "following the Holy Fathers." On the one hand, this consensus partum was seen a safeguard of doctrinal fidelity, but, on the other hand, it eventually resulted in making Scripture more of a "holy artifact." This is also the time of the rise of monastic spirituality, where meditative reading and recitation of Scriptures—especially Psalms—became a mainstay of Orthodoxy. The writings of the Fathers begun to be collected in special collections, anthologia, and since the seventh century these patristic commentaries have become the prescriptive sources for Orthodox exegesis of Scripture.32 To be sure, during this traditionalist period there were also those who engaged in scholarly philological work, as in the case of Photius of Constantinople (9th cent.). Others turned to Scripture directly to call for a spiritual awakening, an apostolic experience of salvation based on the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Symeon the New Theologian in the 10th—11th centuries), or evangelistic revival in the church (Kosmas

31 32

Ibid. Cf. Canon 19 of the Quinisext Council in Trullo (691-692).



Aitolos in the 18th cent.), but their numbers and influence was very limited during this span of twelve centuries. Various historical and geopolitical circumstances such as the fragmentation of the Byzantine and the Holy Roman Empires, and the disparate histories of Greek and Latin traditions, the rise of the Ottoman Empire and Russia in the East, Scholasticism, the Reformation, Enlightenment in the West, also conspired to reinforce the formalism and isolationism that characterize this traditionalist period. In particular, following the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there were intense proselytistic activities in traditionally Orthodox lands that forced a strong reaction and condemnation of Reformation principles and aspirations. One such example is that of Patriarch Cyril Lukaris (1572—1638) who advocated ecclesial reform, a narrower Old Testament (OT) canon and the authority of the Bible over the church, and was therefore accused of Calvinism and condemned by the local synods of Constantinople (1638) and Jerusalem (1672).33 In further reaction to the spread of Protestantism in his time, Patriarch Jeremiah III of Constantinople issued in 1723 an encyclical prohibited the reading of the Bible by the faithful.34 Under these circumstances, two principles of self-identity became hallmarks of Orthodoxy during the traditionalist period: on the one hand, a more trenchant understanding that the Orthodox Church alone constitutes the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church unaltered from the apostolic period (with the NonChalcedonian, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches seen as apostates from the Faith)35 and, on the other, a view of the church 33 Cf. George A. Hadjiantoniou, Protestant Patriarch: The Life of Cyril Lucaris (1572—1638), Patriarch of Constantinople (Richmond: John Knox, 1961). 34 Stylianopoulos, TheNeiv Testament, 114 n. 19. 35 Since early in the eighteenth century at a series of Synods (1722, 1727, 1838, 1895, and the encyclicals of 1848), the emphasis on the Holy Orthodox Church as the only true Church has become a locus of contention among Orthodox theologians. During the Conference of Lund in 1952, representatives of the Orthodox churches declared that: "We came here not to judge other Churches but to help them see the truth, to enlighten their thought in a brotherly manner, informing them of the teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, that is to say, the



fathers as holders of the unerring key to the Bible and the infallible authority of the church, leading to a (reluctant) acceptance of the Roman Catholic notion of Scripture and Tradition as "two sources" of divine revelation. Stylianopoulos argues that during this traditionalist period, "the lack of education and printed material due to various historical circumstances, the popular concentration on the lives and miracles of the saints, and a tendency toward formalism in worship all reinforced traditionalism, which," he concludes, "in various ways obscured the prophetic witness and renewing power of God's written word in the church.36 The Modern Period The last two centuries have been marked by heightened ambivalence on the relationship between the principles and methodologies that were dominant during the traditionalist period and in hermeneutical methodologies and theological presuppositions that seem to stem from a growing ecumenical movement. Though somewhat overstated, Vladimir Berzonsky's description encapsulates the mainstream of Orthodox understanding: The Bible... is not truth itself in the same way Christ is truth. To say it is so is to limit Christ to the Bible and deprive the church of his continuing presence in history. To set the Bible as an abstract criterion of truth is to harness the freedom of the church to utilize its wisdom garnered from centuries of witnessing the gospel through countless thousands of Christians. To liberate the individual consciousness from the experience and demands of the consciousness of the church is to violate and even to destroy the corporate consciousness of God's people. This is what makes the results of the Reformation nothing less than sinful—sin being literally 'missing the target.'" 37

Greek Orthodox Church, which is unaltered from the apostolic period." The more recent ecumenical discussions and agreements have rekindled interesting intra-Orthodox debates reinforced by the principle of autocephaly, and continue to raise issues of "communion" among the Orthodox. 36 Stylianopoulos, "Orthodox Biblical Interpretation," 228. 37 Vladimir Berzonsky, "Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No: An Orthodox Perspective," in Three Views on Eastern



More recently, there seems to be an ever-widening gap between the national (and isolationist) claims of autocephaly and an internationalism that makes it even harder to identify what is uniquely "Orthodox" about Orthodox biblical studies. In spite of these limitations, a significant corpus of biblical scholarship has been produced in Russia, Greece, Western Europe, but especially North America during this period, focusing primarily on hermeneutical issues and the relationship between Orthodox theology and historical-critical methodologies. An appeal to the rule of faith and the confessional and ecclesial dimensions of Orthodox approaches to the Scripture remains at the core, but there also seems to a renewed openness to what Florovsky called, a "neo-patristic synthesis." Florovsky wanted to reach back into the undivided church, past the traditionalist period, to recover the mind of the early Fathers not just to recite them, thus combining doctrinal integrity with the theological vision rooted in the life of faith. CONCLUSION

John Breck, Savas Agourides, and many others lament the troubling phenomenon that, though Orthodox theology formally teaches a high view of Scripture, Orthodox praxis manifests a low use of Scripture. This phenomenon seems paradoxical for a tradition that has historically been replete with Scriptural references— from the readings during the liturgy, to the ubiquitous use of Scripture in worship, and iconography. The centuries-long paucity of direct engagement with Scripture has brought about unfamiliarity with its basic content, which, in turn, creates a lack of context for the scriptural readings of the liturgy and the biblical allusions of iconography and worship. As a result, what is read from the Scripture is rendered "incomprehensible and therefore meaningless," 38 even to those who have grown up in the church and have heard them repeatedly. Breck traces this phenomenon to "an artificial 'spiritual' approach to the Bible adopted for pious reasons by many Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism (ed. Stanley N. Gundry et al.; Grand rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 175-6. 38 Breck, Scripture in Tradition, ix. See also, Stylianopoulos, "Orthodox Biblical Interpretation," 228.



Orthodox Christian, [which] while well-meaning.. .tends toward a reading of Scriptures that is subjective and arbitrary." 39 Such a reading of Scriptures would be unrecognizable by the Fathers to whom proof-text and catachrestic appeals are often made. Many Orthodox continue to call for biblical and liturgical reform 40 that will revivify the church and show that a "holistic Orthodox hermeneutic will reflect the classic patristic interdependence between Scripture and tradition, granting particularly needed attention to Scripture's authority for the church." 41 FOR FURTHER READING

Agourides, S. "Biblical Studies in Orthodox Theology." Greek Orthodox Theological Review 18 (1972 ): 51—62. Behr, J. "Scripture, The Gospel, and Orthodoxy." St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 42: (1999): 223—248. Breck, J. Scripture in Tradition: The Bible and Its Interpretation in the Orthodox Church. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001. Bruce, F. F. et al v eds. The Origin of the Bible. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2003. Bulgakov, S. The Orthodox Church. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997. Dunn, J. D. G., H. Klein, and U. Luz u. Vasile Mihoc, eds. Auslegung der Bibel in orthodoxer und westlicher Perspektive. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000. Florovsky, G. Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View. Belmont, Mass.: Nordland, 1972. Kesich, V. "The Orthodox Church and Biblical Interpretation." St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 37 (1993): 342-51. Schmemann, A. "Moment of Truth for Orthodoxy." Pages 47—56 in Unity in Mid-Career: An Ecumenical Critique. Edited by Keith R. Bridston and Walter D. Wagoner. New York: Macmillan, 1963. Stylianopoulos, T. G. The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective. Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1997.

39 40 41

Ibid. See Agourides, "The Orthodox Church," 152. Stylianopoulos, "Orthodox Biblical Interpretation," 230.


James M. Hamilton Jr.

Evangelicals are first and foremost people of the gospel. With Jesus at the Father's right hand and the Apostles gone to their reward, evangelicals hold that our sure source for knowledge of the gospel is the Bible.1 The Bible is, in the well known words of catechism2 1 Cf. Benjamin B. Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, in The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (10 vols.; New York: Oxford University Press, 1932; repr., Baker, 2003), 1:72. Not a few non-evangelicals have alleged that evangelicals exalt the Bible over Jesus. See, for instance, the discussion of a previous generation of liberals and moderates who held this and/or similar positions while teaching at the institution I am privileged to serve, in Gregory A. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminaiy, 1859—2009 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 244-46, 373, 406, 496-97. What is most remarkable to me about this charge is how superficial it is. Apart from the Bible, what knowledge of Jesus does anyone have? If Jesus has priority over the Bible, how does one arrive at a knowledge of Jesus that puts one in position to criticize the Bible? (cf. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 262—63.) Which parts of the Bible are trusted in order to arrive at the position from which the Bible is criticized? (cf. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminaiy, 137—38.) liberals and moderates point to contradictions they see between, for instance, Jesus and Paul, but conservatives and evangelicals are not convinced that there are contradictions (see Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, 182—89) and seek to read the New Testament from a hermeneutic of sympathy and trust rather than suspicion




and confessional statement, 3 "the only infallible rule of faith and practice." In other words, what we believe (faith) and what we do (practice) comes from the Bible.4 In this essay I will argue that the evangelical view of Scripture is derived from the Bible alone.5 In keeping with the Reformation and skepticism. As an evangelical, I would argue that a hermeneutic of suspicion and skepticism bars the way to understanding the sources and the concerns of those who produced them. Moreover, the Bible is more easily seen to be consistent with itself than critical scholars are (see Wills again, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 163—64). For the role of the Bible in spirituality, see Peter Adam, Hearing God's Words: Exploring Biblical Spirituality (NSBT; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004). 2 See e.g. question 4 of "The Baptist Catechism" (from the ed. printed by the Charleston Association [South Carolina] in 1813) in Tom J. Nettles, Teaching Truth, Training Hearts: The Study of Catechisms in Baptist Ufe (Amityville, N.Y.: Calvary, 1998), 59. 3 See e.g. "Of the Holy Scriptures" in the "Second London Confession" (a.k.a. "The Baptist Confession of 1689) 1.1 in William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (rev. ed.; Valley Forge: Judson, 1969), 248. Such language is typical of Protestant confessional statements and can be found in the Anglican Thirty Nine Articles, the Presbyterian Westminster Confession, the Methodist Articles of Religion, and the Congregationalist Savoy Declaration (cf. the Lutheran cry sola Scripturd). For a representative statement of the non-denominational Bible church movement, similar language can be found in the full doctrinal statement of Dallas Theological Seminary. 4 For studies of the trajectory of institutions that started with an evangelical view of the Bible only to abandon the same, see George M. Marsden, The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), and James Turnstead Burtchaell, The Dying of the Eight: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from their Christian Churches (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). For what took place at Fuller Seminary, see George Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 200-219. 5 As will be seen below, this does not exclude the use of supporting evidence from extra-canonical ancient writings. I consider the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy [hereafter CSBI] to be an apt summary of the evangelical understanding of Scripture. This document is available many places online, e.g. (accessed June 2009).



cry of sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), 6 evangelicals believe the Bible's o w n assertions about itself. 7 Rather than being a philosophical or theological construct, 8 the evangelical doctrine of Scripture arises inductively f r o m the text of Scripture itself. 9 M o r e specifically, the understanding of the Bible to w h i c h the Bible itself bears witness is this: the sixty-six b o o k s of the Protestant canon are inspired by the H o l y Spirit and therefore inerrant. 1 0 T h e inspiration of the H o l y Spirit results in written c o m m u n i c a t i o n that is totally true and trustworthy. 1 1 This is the Bible's o w n claim about itself, as this es-

Cf. Article II of the CSBI, "We deny that church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible." 7 Cf. Article XV of the CSBI, "We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the teaching of the Bible about inspiration." 8 Cf. Article XVI of the CSBI, "We deny that inerrancy is a doctrine invented by scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism. 9 See Gregory K. Beale's lecture, "The Use of the Old Testament in Revelation and Its Bearing on Christology and on the Authority of Revelation as Scripture," delivered at Westminster Theological Seminary on May 1, 2009, ?id=819 (accessed July 7, 2009). For a survey of the language used in the Old and New Testaments to describe "revelation," see Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, 29—33. Cf. also Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, 205: "Let it not be said that.. .we are refusing the inductive method of establishing doctrine. We follow the inductive method..." 10 Cf. the statement on Scripture in the Doctrinal Basis of the Evangelical Theological Society: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs." The argument of this essay is focused on the inerrancy of the Protestant canon because this is what separates the evangelical view of Scripture from others who may have a high view of Scripture. In my view, a high view of Scripture entails its authority, clarity, necessity, and s t f f f i c i e n g . For a recent argument for the perspicuity of Scripture, see Mark D. Thompson, A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture (NSBT; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2006). 6

Cf. Article IX of the CSBI, "We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write." 11



say will attempt to demonstrate. 1 2 It is b e y o n d the scope of this essay to demonstrate that the evangelical v i e w of Scripture is the historic position of orthodox Christianity, but it is w o r t h m e n t i o n ing that evangelicals believe this to be so. 13 M y attempt to demonstrate the thesis that the Bible itself claims to be inspired and therefore inerrant will be presented in three parts. First I will seek to s h o w that the sixty-six b o o k s of the Protestant c a n o n have been recognised as inspired. 1 4 This recognition can be seen within the texts of these canonical books, and extracanonical literature also testifies to this reality. T h a t is, both biblical and non-biblical writings recognize only the sixty-six b o o k s of the Protestant canon as having b e e n inspired by the H o l y Spirit. Second, I will seek to s h o w that the Bible itself claims to be inspired 12 It might be objected that this essay presents nothing new. My response is that lengthy citations of primary sources in the body of the text accompanied by generous quotation of the CSBI in the footnotes is necessary because those who reject inerrancy so glibly pass over the primary data, so often misrepresent the standard evangelical position set forth in the CSBI (this is especially true among those who resent the fact that their institutions require them to affirm inerrancy), and employ so much fallacious logic and rhetoric. For a thorough engagement with the discussion in recent secondary literature, see Jason S. Sexton, "How Far Beyond Chicago? Assessing Recent Attempts to Reframe the Inerrancy Debate," Them 34 (2009): 26—49. For trenchant review-essays of recent books on Scripture, see Robert W. Yarbrough, "The Embattled Bible: Four More Books," Them 34 (2009): 6-25, and D. A. Carson, "Three More Books on the Bible: A Critical Review," TrinJ 27 (2006): 1-62. For a thorough response to recent challenges to inerrancy from Peter Enns, see G. K. Beale, The Erosion of Inerrang in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). It is remarkable how contemporary Warfield's essay "The Real Problem of Inspiration" seems (in Revelation and Inspiration, 169—226), reinforcing the idea that "new" challenges to the doctrine are just stale, outworn retreads of boring, long rejected ideas. 13 Cf. Article XVI of the CSBI, "We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church's faith throughout its history." For a defense of this position, see John D. Woodbridge, Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/ McKim Proposal (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982). See also Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, 149—65, 173. 14 Cf. Article I of the CSBI, "We deny that the Scriptures receive their authority from the Church, tradition, or any other human source."



by the H o l y Spirit, flawless, totally true, and completely trustworthy. In three words, the Bible claims to be inspired, inerrant, and infallible. Inspiration points to the role of G o d ' s Spirit guiding those w h o w r o t e (2 T i m 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20—21).15 Inerrancy points to "the quality of being free f r o m all falsehood or mistake." 1 6 Infallibility points to "the quality of neither misleading nor being misled. . . H o l y Scripture is a sure, safe and reliable rule and guide in all matters." 1 7 In the necessarily brief third section of the essay, I will seek to address key objections to the doctrine of inerrancy. T o b e clear about w h a t is at stake, if m y thesis is demonstrated to be true, then rejection of the evangelical v i e w of Scripture (that the sixty-six b o o k s of the Protestant canon are inspired by the H o l y Spirit and therefore inerrant) is rejection of the Bible's o w n claims about itself. 18

15 Cf. Article VII of the CSBI, "We affirm that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us." 16 The CSBI, Part III "Exposition," Section C "Infallibility, Inerrancy, Interpretation," paragraph 3. 17 The CSBI, Part III "Exposition," Section C "Infallibility, Inerrancy, Interpretation," paragraph 2. 18 Assertions like the one that I have just made invariably strike people today as arrogant, or at least overconfident. It seems to me that an assertion of what one thinks to be true is only arrogant if one claims to have invented that truth or to be exempt from its jurisdiction. The humble position is that of submission to the truth. The arrogant position is taken by those who reject the truth. I would also embrace the humility expressed by the framers of the CSBI in the fourth and fifth paragraphs of the preface: "We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we propose by God's grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said...we are conscious that we who confess this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and habits, into true subjection to the divine Word. We invite response.. .We claim no personal infallibility for the witness we bear, and for any help that enables us to strengthen this testimony to God's Word we shall be grateful."



T H E SIXTY-SIX BOOK PROTESTANT CANON T h e W i t n e s s of the O T to Its O w n C a n o n i c i t y T h e Old T e s t a m e n t (OT) bears witness to its o w n canonicity by evidencing a recognition of certain writings as those in w h i c h G o d has spoken. T h e O T itself then s h o w s that these writings w e r e set apart in w a y s that reflect their uniqueness and authority. 1 9 For instance, E x o d 24:7 states, " T h e n he took the B o o k of the C o v e n a n t and read it in the hearing of the people. A n d they said, 'All that the LORD has spoken w e will do, and w e will b e obedient.'" 2 0 T h r e e points inductively arise f r o m this text. First, the description of w h a t M o s e s read as "the B o o k of the C o v e n a n t " s h o w s that M o s e s presented this i n f o r m a t i o n in his o w n language and in accordance with the literary f o r m s of his culture. 2 1 Second, the text depicts the people themselves recognising that w h a t M o s e s had read to t h e m had b e e n s p o k e n by G o d . Neither M o s e s nor a g r o u p of elders a r o u n d h i m told the people that w h a t they had heard w a s the w o r d of the L o r d ; the people recognized it for themselves. Third, the people's promise to obey the w o r d of the L o r d s h o w s their understanding of its binding authority. 19 The best treatment of the Old Testament canon is Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and its Background in Early Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985). For a full summary, see esp. Roger T. Beckwith, "Formation of the Hebrew Bible," in Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (ed. Martin Jan Mulder and Harry Sysling; CRINT 2/1; 1988; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendtickson, 2004), 39-86. See now also Roger T. Beckwith, "The Canon of the Old Testament," in The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2577-79. 20 Unless otherwise noted, all biblical quotations are from the English Standard Version. 21 Cf. Article IV of the CSBI, "We deny that human language is so limited by our creatureliness that it is rendered inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation. We further deny that the corruption of human culture and language through sin has thwarted God's work of inspiration." Article VIII is also relevant, "We affirm that God in His work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared." See Peter J. Gentry, "Kingdom through Covenant: Humanity as the Divine Image," SBJT 12 (2008): 18-19, and idem, "The Covenant at Sinai," SBJT 12 (2008): 60.



The Bible also gives indication of an awareness that revelation was being progressively received from God.22 So we find evidence in the narratives that a growing amount of material was, like the Book of the Covenant in Exod 24:7, seen to be God's word, authoritative, and canonical in that it was set apart from other writings.23 In Exod 40:20 we see that "the testimony" is placed in a uniquely holy place, and nothing else is put there: "He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above the ark." In the next verse the ark of the covenant is referred to as "the ark of the testimony" (40:21).24 We find something similar near the end of the book of Deuteronomy, in a statement that seems to apply to the whole of the Pentateuch: "When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, 'Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God,

that it may be there for a witness against you" (Deut 31:24—26).25 The many references to the "Law of Moses" in the rest of the Old and New Testaments are not limited in scope to the book of Deuteronomy, which indicates that later biblical authors understood the 22 Cf. Article V of the CSBI, "We affirm that God's revelation in the Holy Scriptures was progressive." 23 See Beckwith's discussion of "The Temple as the shrine of the canon," The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 80—86, 101—103. 24 Cf. Gentry, "Kingdom through Covenant," 26: "If one were to enter a pagan temple, passing through the courtyard, and the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies, what would one find there? An image representing one of the forces of nature. But that is not what one finds at the center of Israel's worship. What was in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle? First of all, there was no image or statue there.. .All there is in the Holy of Holies is just a little box. And what is in the box? The Ten Commandments. Thus, what God is saying to the Israelites is that he cannot be manipulated by magic. If they want the good life, they must conform their lifestyle to his revealed standards of right and wrong.. .when one both compares and contrasts the biblical text with the ancient Near Eastern cultural setting.. .the differences are so radical that only divine revelation can explain the origin of the text."

Cf. also Deut 31:9, "Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel." 25



"Law of Moses" to comprise the whole of the Pentateuch. Evangelicals accept the testimony of the ancient texts as more reliable than the skeptical rejection of the sources reflected in higher critical opinions of the last two centuries. Milton Fisher writes, There is now abundant evidence from the ancient Near East of a "psychology of canonicity"—viz., a sensitivity to the inviolability of authoritative documents as far back as early second millennium B.C.E. This will not surprise the careful reader of the Bible. He finds no difficulty in statements that Moses (Deut 31:9ff. [26]), Joshua (Josh 24:25, 26), and Samuel (1 Sam 10:25) placed written covenant documents in the sanctuary, for this paralleled the common practice among surrounding peoples of that day. 26

The texts Fisher cites from Joshua and Samuel indicate that later texts were added to the Mosaic writings as the years passed. Josh 24:25—26 states, "So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD." This text indicates that material now in the book of Joshua was added to the Mosaic writings, which were with the ark in the sanctuary. The Mosaic writings are also referred to as "the Law of God." These claims the text makes for itself, namely, that the writings recognized as speaking for God were held at the sanctuary with the ark. First Samuel 10:25 states, "Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the LORD..." Robinson and Harrison write, "Such language was also found in Hittite suzerainty treaties, which contained a clause requiring deposition of the text in some secure location so that in subsequent generations the treaty would be available for public reading." 27

26 Milton C. Fisher, "The Canon of the Old Testament," in The Expositor's Bible Commentaiy (12 vols.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 1:387. 27 G. L. Robinson and R. K. Harrison, "Canon of the OT," in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (4 vols.; rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 1:593.



Later in the OT we find indication that the writings of Moses were indeed kept in the ark: "There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt" (1 Kgs 8:9). In addition to the texts already cited above, other texts show that sacred writ encompassed more than the two tablets: "Then he brought out the king's son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony. And they proclaimed him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, 'Long live the king!'" (2 Kgs 11:12). This reference to the "testimony" recalls other instances of that word seen above. Nor are texts lacking that show that the Law of Moses was also thought of as the Law of God. For instance, Neh 8:8 states, "They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." Beckwith notes, "Twice at least God is spoken of as the writer of the Law (2 Kings 17.37; Hos. 8.12)." 28 Zechariah 7:12 indicates that Yahweh gave his word by the Spirit through the prophets: "...the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets..." The book of Daniel also asserts that the word of the Lord comes not only in the writings of Moses but also in those of the prophets: "in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years" (Dan 9:2). It is not uncommon for modern scholars to reject the testimony seen in the OT itself to the canonicity of the OT documents. Those who hold the evangelical view of Scripture simply find the OT's own canonical consciousness more compelling than the alternative constructs of those who reject the OT's self-attestation. The alternative construct is not derived from the text's own claims as the evangelical view of Scripture is. The idea that only the books of the Protestant canon are canonical also finds support in the extra-canonical writings. To this evidence we now turn.


Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 68.



Other Jewish Writings and the OT Canon The evidence drawn from both ancient testimony and the surviving manuscripts supports the evangelical understanding of the OT canon. As Robinson and Harrison correctly state, "The MSS discovered at Qumran make it evident that no canonical book of the OT was written later than the Persian period [ca. 539—331 B.C.E.], a consideration that also extends to Daniel and those Psalms that were formerly regarded as Maccabean."29 The Prologue to the Wisdom of Sirach, dating from about 132 B.C.E., gives threefold evidence of the tri-partite arrangement of the OT canon: "Whereas many great teachings have been given to us through the law and the prophets and the others thatfollowed them.. .my grandfather Jesus, after devoting himself especially to the reading of the law and the prophets and the other books of our fathers.. .Not only this work, but even the law itself the prophecies, and the rest of the books..." (emphasis added)30 Josephus's statement in Against Apion also provides strong evidence on the OT canon: Seeing that with us it is not open to everybody to write the records, and that there is no discrepancy in what is written; seeing that, on the contrary, the prophets alone had this privilege, obtaining their knowledge of the most remote and ancient history through the inspiration which they owed to God, and committing to writing a clear account of the events of their

29 Robinson and Harrison, "Canon of the OT," 595. See also Roger Beckwith, "Early Traces of the Book of Daniel," TynBul 53 (2002): 75-82, which demonstrates the use of Daniel in three intertestamental works that date from before the time Daniel is commonly supposed to have been written. 30 Robert Hanhart writes, "It seems to me justifiable to conclude that the distinction—in relation both to their character and the quality of their translation—between Law, Prophets, and the other Writings, on the one hand, and the literature first exemplified in the work of his grandfather, on the other, was grounded first and foremost in the distinction between 'canonical' and 'apocryphal' already current at the time" (Robert Hanhart, "Problems in the History of the LXX Text from Its Beginnings to Origen," forward to The Septuagint as Christian Scripture, by Martin Hengel [trans. Mark E. Biddle; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002], 3). Unless otherwise noted, citations of the Apocrypha are from The Revised Standard Version.



own time just as they occurred 31 —it follows, I say, that we do not possess myriads of inconsistent books, conflicting with each other. Our books, those which are justly accredited, are but two and twenty, and contain the record of all time. Of these, five are the books of Moses, comprising the laws and the traditional history from the birth of man down to the death of the lawgiver. This period falls only a little short of three thousand years. From the death of Moses until Artaxerxes, who succeeded Xerxes as king of Persian, 32 the prophets subsequent to Moses wrote the history of the events of their own times in thirteen books. 33 The remaining four books 34 contain hymns to God and precepts for the conduct of life. From Artaxerxes to our own time the complete history has been written, but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records, because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets. 35 We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; 36 and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the

31 Josephus manifestly states that the OT consists of writings recognized as Scripture because they were (1) understood to be the writings of prophets who were (2) inspired by God that (3) do not contradict each other, (4) are perspicuous—"clear account," and (5) historically accurate—"just as they occurred." 32 From this statement and the reference to Artaxerxes that follows a few phrases later, we see that Josephus regards the whole of the OT to have been completed during the reign of Artaxerxes (464^-23 B.C.E.). 33 Probably (1) Joshua, (2) Judges and Ruth, (3) Samuel, (4) Kings, (5) Chronicles, (6) Ezra and Nehemiah, (7) Esther, (8) Job, (9) Isaiah, (10) Jeremiah, (11) Ezekiel, (12) Minor Prophets, (13) Daniel. 34 Probably (1) Psalms, (2) Song of Songs, (3) Proverbs, (4) Ecclesiastes. 35 Josephus draws a firm line between the OT and the Apocrypha, and his basis for drawing that line is the fact that the Apocrypha were not written by inspired prophets. 36 It is not difficult to harmonize the evidence that some things in the OT were updated with what Josephus says here about nothing being altered. From his statements that "it is not open to everybody to write the records" and from his assertion that only inspired prophets had the privilege, we can also say the following: while anyone might undertake an effort to edit or alter a text previously recognized as sacred Scripture, from what Josephus says we have evidence that the community would only



day of his birth, to regard them as the decrees of God, 37 to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to die for them. 38 W i t h the statement of J o s e p h u s that the writings of the O T w e r e completed b y the time of Artaxerxes (ca. 464—423 B.C.E.), there are several other indications that Ezra (who returned to J e r u salem in 4 5 8 B.C.E.) and N e h e m i a h (who returned in 445 B.C.E.) played key roles in the finalization of the O T canon. 3 9 Second M a c cabees (ca. 70 B.C.E.) states that N e h e m i a h " f o u n d e d a library and collected the b o o k s about the kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and the letters of kings about votive offerings" (2:13). 40 T h e apocryphal 4 E^ra (a.k.a. 2 Esdras in the R S V A p o c r y p h a )

accept alterations or updates done by those recognized as inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the evidence would seem to allow for someone like Ezra, who was recognized as an inspired author of Scripture, to update place names and perhaps arrange the final form of the Psalter. See further Michael A. Grisanti, "Inspiration, Inerrancy, and the OT Canon: The Place of Textual Updating in an Inerrant View of Scripture," JETS 44 (2001): 577-98. 37 Josephus indicates that all Jews regard these twenty two books, which can be identified as the thirty nine books of the Protestant Old Testament, as the unalterable, error free, authoritative, inspired word of God. On the reference to the twenty two books of the Old Testament, see Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 235—40, 263-64. 38 Josephus, Against Apion, (trans. H. St. J. Thackeray; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1926), 1.37-42 (LCL 186:177-81). 39 See the discussion by Beckwith of the references in the Mishnah (Moed Katan 3.4, variant text) and the Tosephta (Tos. Kelim B.M.5.8) to "a copy of the Pentateuch in the Temple called 'the Book of Ezra.' This was probably the oldest and most revered copy of all, traditionally believed to have been written by Ezra the scribe," in The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 84, 102, 112, 167. See also David N. Freedman, "The Symmetry of the Hebrew Bible," ST 46 (1992): 105: "We attribute the conception and execution [of the final arrangement of the whole OT] to the Scribe Ezra and Governor Nehemiah, who may have worked partly in tandem, but also in sequence, with Ezra responsible chiefly for the conception and Nehemiah for the execution and completion of the project." 40 On this text see Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 150-53.



clearly distinguishes between canonical and non-canonical writings, giving Ezra a key role with respect to both: "And when the forty days were ended, the Most High spoke to me, saying, 'Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first41 and let the worthy and the unworthy read them; but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise42 among your people" (4 E^ra 14:45-46). In addition to these differentiations between the books understood to be canonical and the books that were understood to come after them, we have statements within the apocryphal writings that disclaim inspiration. 43 That is, there are statements in these writings that openly declare that their authors are not inspired prophets. Three times in 1 Maccabees (ca. 100 B.C.E.) alone we find statements that there is no prophet: [They] stored the stones...until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them. (1 Macc 4:46) Thus there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them. (1 Macc 9:27) And the Jews and their priests decided that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until a trustworthy prophet should arise... (1 Macc 14:41)

These statements all declare that at the time the narrated events took place, there were no prophets who were inspired by the Holy Spirit and able to give authoritative decisions from God. Since 1 Maccabees does not go on to narrate the resolution of the problem 41 The tri-partite order is probably in view here: Five books of Moses, eight books of the Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve), and eleven books of the Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra—Nehemiah, and Chronicles). 42 Note the esoteric, hidden nature of the "Apocryphal" books. 43 Bruce M. Metzger, "The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, 1:162, citing the Prologue to Ecclus., 2 Macc 2:27 and 15:38. On the status of the Apocrypha, see esp. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 338—433. Summarized briefly in Roger T. Beckwith, "The Apocrypha," in The ESV Study Bible, 2581-83.



of the lack of a prophet, we can conclude that the author of the book did not regard himself as possessing that status.44 Against this can be compared the reference to the writings of the OT as "the holy books" in 1 Macc 12:9. Also going in this direction is the clear statement that there are no more prophets in 2 Bar 85:1—3.45 N T Evidence on the OT Canon The New Testament (NT) evidence on the OT canon is, for evangelicals, decisive. 46 In addition to the many references to "the Scriptures" 47 and to "the Law and the Prophets," 48 there is the reference to the tri-partite arrangement of the whole of the OT in Luke 24:44, "Then he said to them, 'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in

44 Beckwith (The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 68) explains, "Since the Scriptures were God-given and sacred, and often originated with prophets, the concept of inspiration was extended from the oral form of the messages of the prophets to their written form, and was applied to these in every part." 45 2 Bar 85:1—3, "Further, know that our fathers in former times and former generations had helpers, righteous prophets and holy men. But we were also in our country, and they helped us when we sinned, and they intervened for us with him who has created us since they trusted in their works. And the Mighty One heard them and purged us from our sins. But now, the righteous have been assembled, and the prophets are sleeping. Also we have left our land, and Zion has been taken away from us, and we have nothing now apart from the Mighty One and his Law." 46 Cf. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 10: "To Christians, however, the teaching of Jesus, his apostles and the other New Testament waters has also a theological significance; for if they teach us what their Old Testament canon was, do they not also teach us what, for Christians, the Old Testament canon ought to be?" See also E. Earie Ellis, "The Old Testament Canon in the Early Church," in Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, 653—90. 47 Cf. Matt 21:42; 22:29; 26:54, 56; Mark 12:24; 14:49; Luke 24:27, 32, 45; John 5:39; Acts 17:2, 11; 18:24, 28; Rom 1:2; 1 Cor 15:3, 4; 2 Pet 3:16. See the essay on "'Scripture,' 'The Scriptures,' in the New Testament" in Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, 115—65. 48 Matt 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16; 24:44; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Rom 3:21.



the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Vsalms must be fulfilled" (emphasis added). The phrase "the Psalms" likely refers to the whole of the Writings. Significantly, no Apocryphal book is ever cited as Scripture in the NT. Never are the non-canonical writings cited using the kind of quotation formula used for the books of the OT.49 Some scholars reject the testimony of Jesus and the authors of the NT to the OT canon,50 but not evangelicals. Evangelicals embrace the testi49 Cf. Metzger, "Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha," 162. On the citation of 1 Enoch 1:9 in Jude 1:14—15, see Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (NAC; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 468-71: "First Enoch is not considered to be canonical Scripture by any religious group, whether we think of Judaism, Roman Catholicism, the Greek or Russian Orthodox, or Protestantism.. .It is better to conclude that Jude quoted the pseudepigraphical / Enoch and that he also believed that the portion he quoted represented God's truth. Jude's wording does not demand that he thought we have an authentic oracle from the historical Enoch.. .Indeed, the content of the prophecy is not remarkable, assuring the readers that the Lord will truly judge the ungodly...The verb 'prophesy'...sometimes is used to designate canonical Scripture (Matt 15:7; 1 Pet 1:10). But the verb also is used to say that a certain utterance or saying is from God. For example, Caiaphas prophesied...(John 11:51)...A prophecy may derive from God and still not be a part of canonical Scripture..." Since writing this, Thomas Schreiner alerted me to the fact that / Enoch is sometimes thought to be included in the Ethiopian Orthodox Deuterocanon, along with other books only they hold to be at all canonical, such as Jubilees and 1, 2, and 3 Makabis, not to be confused with the Books of Maccabees. But Beckwith (Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 430 n. 237) contends, "It is often asserted that these four works [including / Enoch\ are in the (very inclusive) Ethiopian canon, but, as is seen in Appendix 5, the Ascension of Isaiah is not in the Ethiopian canon even today, and in the early period of Ethiopian church history it is probable that only Jubilees was, if, indeed, any of them were." See his appendix 5 in Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 478—505, and also the discussion of the way the New Testament authors handle the Old, '"It Says:' 'Scripture Says:' 'God Says,'" in Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, 283—332. 50 For instance, Richard H. Bell (The Irrevocable Call of God: An Inquiiy into Paul's Theology of Israel [WUNT; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005], 310) writes concerning Jesus, "He was fallible regarding biblical criticism." Illustrating the "fallible" positions of Jesus, Bell notes, "For example, he assumed Moses wrote the Pentateuch and that David wrote Psalm 110"



mony of the Old and New Testaments regarding the OT canon, and that testimony is corroborated by other non-canonical Jewish writings. We turn now to the NT canon. The NT Canon Because no Christian group adds to the NT canon the way that some add to the OT canon, this discussion can be brief. When we consider the question of the NT canon, two sets of data must be considered. First is the testimony that has established the traditional view of the formation of the NT canon.51 The second set of facts has given rise to recent arguments that would support the notion that the NT canon was recognized earlier rather than later.

The Traditional Argument We can work back from the thirty ninth Easter letter of Athanasius in 367 C.E., sometimes regarded as "The first official recognition of the twenty-seven books of the present NT canon as being the NT canon of the Church..." 52 That being one bookend, the other bookend is the earliest testimony pointing to a developing NT canon in the indications that Paul expected his own writings to be read aloud to the gathered church in the context of Christian worship (e.g. Col 4:16). In addition to Paul's own statements we have the words of Peter that both treat Paul's writings as Scripture and point toward an early collection of his writings: "...just as our beloved brother Vaul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him, as he does in all his letters.. .There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures" (2 Pet 3:15—16, emphasis added). We see in this statement that Peter is aware of

(310 n. 78). Bell has assumed that Moses did not write the Pentateuch and that David did not write Ps 110, and evangelicals simply find the "assumptions" of Jesus more compelling than Bell and scholars of like mind. 51 For this see Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987). For a brief summary see Charles E. Hill, "The Canon of the New Testament," in The BSV Study Bible, 2579-81. 52 R. P. Meye, "Canon of the NT," in International Standard Bible Ency-

clopedia, 1:601.



"all" Paul's letters, and we also see that Peter refers to what is done to Paul's letters as being done to "the other Scriptures," which places Paul's letters on par with other Scripture.53 After the words of 2 Pet 3:15—16, another strong testimony to the NT canon is the Muratorian Fragment. 54 This document contains a list of writings that can and "cannot be received in the catholic Church," rejecting, for instance, an epistle "to the Alexandrians, forged in Paul's name for the sect of Marcion, and several others."55 These words are especially significant on the point that pseudonymous writings were in circulation and were rejected. We should not neglect on this point also 2 Thess 2:2, where Paul himself rejects writings that purport to be from him but are not: "we ask you...not to be quickly letter seeming to be from u s . . . " (cf. also 2 Thess 3:17).56 Also significant is the Muratorian Canon's concern regarding which books can and "cannot be read publicly in the Church." 57 The Muratorian Canon is concerned with apostolicity: lines 3—4 establishing Luke's legitimacy via his being a companion of Paul, and line 14 noting Andrew's apostolic status. Following the statement disallowing the reading of Hermas in church (line 78), there is what appears to be a reference to the reading of "the [OTP] prophets, whose number is settled," and the Schreiner has answered the arguments against the authenticity of 2 Peter in 1, 2, Peter, Jade, 255-76. 54 Dating from ca. 200 C.E., so named because it was discovered and published in 1740 by the Italian historian L. A. Muratori (1672-1750). The 8th century manuscript is an annotated catalogue of the writings of the NT. The document might have originated earlier than 200 C.E., for it claims to be contemporaneous with the Shepherd of Hermas, which is dated to about 140 C.E. See lines 73—75 in the Muratorian Canon, as numbered in New Testament Apocrypha (ed. Wilhelm Schneemelcher; trans. R. McL. Wilson; 2 vols.; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991), 1:36. 55 See ibid., lines 63-65. 56 Some scholars dispute the Pauline authorship of canonical letters claiming to have been written by him. Evangelicals hold that these letters are genuine because the church rejected forgeries, and because we find it more likely that these letters are authentic than that they fooled everyone for 1700 years only to be found out by modern scholars working in the last few centuries. See Article XVIII of the CSBI. 57 See ibid., 36, lines 70—78, where the revelation of Peter and the Shepherd of Hermas are not read in church. 53



reading of "the apostles to the end of time" (lines 79—80). These lines appear to indicate that whereas the prophets and apostles were read aloud in church, Hermas is not to be classed with either set of writings. With this evidence are the classifications made by Eusebius of the writings that were acknowledged, disputed, and heretical.58 The acknowledged books were used in church by all, the disputed were used in church by some, and the heretical were forgeries put forward by heretics. This is the evidence that has traditionally been used to establish the limits of the NT canon. Recently some arguments have been made on the basis of evidence based directly on features of the manuscripts.

Recent Arguments Based on Manuscript Evidence Both Larry Hurtado59 and David Trobisch60 have made observations on the evidence yielded by the manuscripts. Hurtado does not go as far as Trobisch, so we will begin with his findings. Hurtado makes the important observation that texts played a large role in early Christianity, and in spite of the claims of the modern day champions of various heretics and heresies, the majority of texts that have come down to us are "artifacts of Christians of recognizably mainstream, 'orthodox' stance."61 The manuscripts in our possession indicate that the only Gospels that were linked and copied together in one manuscript were those that became part of the NT canon, and texts such as the Gospel of Thomas were not so treated. Hurtado concludes that "those Gospel texts that were copied together were regarded as in some way complementary and sufficiently compatible with one another to be so linked."62 The linking together of Paul's writings in the manuscripts give further evidence of an early Pauline letter collection, at least by the 58 Eusebius, Historia Ecclesia, 3.25.1—7; 3.3.1—2, 6. For a fascinating study, see Anthony Grafton and Megan Williams, Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Tibraty of Caesarea (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008). 59 Larry W. Hurtado, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006). 60 David Trobisch, The First Edition of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). 61 Hurtado, Earliest Christian Artifacts, 29, cf. 24. 62 Hurtado, Earliest Christian Artifacts, 37.



early second century and perhaps late in the first. Similar manuscript evidence points to a Johannine collection consisting of the letters and Gospel of John as well as the Apocalypse. John's writings appear to have been bound in a single codex and circulated as a collection. 63 Having surveyed the use of the codex by the early Christians, which was a manifest departure from the preference for the roll in the wider culture, Hurtado concludes "that Christians strongly preferred the codex for those writings that they regarded as scripture.. ."64 He goes on to suggest that this use of the codex appears to have been a deliberate step intended to differentiate copies of Christian Scripture from other writings. In my view, even though Hurtado thinks the process took longer to complete than what Trobisch proposes, 65 the conclusions reached by the two authors are complementary. Trobisch's proposal is based on realities common to the manuscripts: the abbreviation of the sacred names (nomina sacra), the use of the codex, and the collection units of the manuscript tradition. He argues that these features function the way that modern printing conventions function. For instance, the page numbers of this book will all be in the same place on the page, the size of the margins will be uniform, and so forth. An editor decided upon these features of this book then made sure they were consistent throughout. Trobisch argues that the same can be said for the widespread use of the common collection units, the nomina sacra, and the use of the codex. 66 The uniformity of the titles of the Four Gospels, 67 the consistent abbreviate of key terms, the grouping of the same books in the same order into codices as opposed to rolls are all features that would point to an early practice achieving an influence so widespread that it became virtually universal. Trobisch is restrained in his suggestion as to when this "First Edition" of the NT was produced and published, simply presenting it as a work of Hurtado, Eartiest Christian Artifacts, 39. Hurtado, Earliest Christian Artifacts, 57. 65 See Hurtado, Earliest Christian Artifacts, 122 n. 82. 66 Trobisch, The First Edition of the New Testament, 6, 8—44. 67 See also Martin Hengel, The Your Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Investigation of the Collection and Origin of the Canonical Gospels (trans. John Bowden; Hartisburg: Trinity Press, 2000), 48-56. 63




the second century.68 If Trobisch's theory is correct, the appearance of these manuscript features in the earliest manuscripts we possess calls for a date earlier in the second century rather than later. Whatever we conclude as to when the twenty seven books of the NT canon were recognized as Scripture, and the evidence indicates that it happened earlier rather than later, that the NT canon consists of twenty seven books is the agreed upon position of historic Christian orthodoxy. Evangelicals agree. Some Christians think that the OT canon includes more than the thirty nine books recognized by Protestants, but evangelicals are convinced that the OT's own witness, the Apocryphal writings themselves, other early Jewish literature, and the testimony of the NT to the question firmly settles the matter. The NT never quotes the Apocrypha as Scripture, and the Jews never accepted it as Scripture.69 We now turn to the evidence that the Bible itself claims to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore flawless. INSPIRED BY THE H O L Y SPIRIT AND THEREFORE INERRANT

The point evangelicals hold here is simple. Just as the Bible does not use the word "Trinity" while teaching the truth, so the Bible does not use the term "inerrant" while claiming to be so. Here is a sampling of the kinds of claims the Bible makes about itself: The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. (Ps 12:6) The law of the Lord is perfect. (Ps 19:7) Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. (Ps 119:89) I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad. (Ps 119:96) The sum of your words is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. (Ps 119:160) Every word of God proves true. (Prov 30:5) Trobisch, The First Edition of the New Testament, 7, 43. I owe this precise formulation to correspondence with Thomas Schreiner. 68




Truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass away from the law until all is accomplished. (Matt 5:18) Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Mark 13:31) The Scripture cannot be broken. (John 10:35) Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17) Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David... (Acts 1:16) But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets... (Acts 3:18) When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God. (2 Thess 2:13) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17) No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet 1:20-21)

Evangelicals hold the Bible to be self-authenticating. 70 We believe what it claims for itself. The Bible is our authority. We place ourselves under it. We approach it with a hermeneutic of trust.71 70 See Wayne A. Grudem, "Scripture's Self-Attestation and the Problem of Formulating a Doctrine of Scripture," in Scripture and Truth (ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 19-59. 71 See Richard B. Hays's essay, "A Hermeneutic of Trust," in his The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel's Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 190—201. Unfortunately Hays contradicts himself and the hermeneutic of trust he advocates when he writes, "Cases may arise in which we must acknowledge internal tensions within Scripture that require us to choose guidance from one biblical witness and to reject another" (198). Evangelicals trust that no biblical witness needs to be rejected, not even those that are out of step with modern day feminism. In



We believe what it says. It claims to be pure, perfect, inspired,72 and true, and we believe those claims. As Warfield put it, "It is the testimony of the Bible itself to its own origin and character as the Oracles of the Most High, that has led the Church to her acceptance of it as such.. ,"73 In addition to this testimony from the Bible about the Bible, evangelical Christians can employ an argument from authority when discussing the nature of Scripture. That is, evangelicals invoke the authority of Jesus himself, and we believe that we have learned our view of the Bible from him.74 OBJECTIONS TO THE EVANGELICAL VIEW

Those who reject the evangelical view of Scripture do so because they do not think it stands the test of the evidence. Prominent objections to the evangelical view of Scripture include (1) the claim that the doctrine of inerrancy dies the death of a thousand qualifications; (2) the claim that since we do not possess the autographa, to which evangelicals attribute inerrancy, the doctrine is useless; and (3) the simple claim that there are manifest errors in the Bible. To the first objection, Jason Sexton persuasively responds, "Qualifications describe theology, which is always provisional, fragmentary, and tainted because it is human." 75 We might also his otherwise excellent commentary on 1 Corinthians, Hays regards Paul's argument about the role of women in 1 Cor 11:2—16 as invalid (Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians [Interpretation; Louisville: John Knox, 1997], 187, 191—92). For the view that Paul's argument is valid, see my essay, "What Women Can Do in Ministry: Full Participation within Biblical Boundaries," in Women, Ministry and the Gospel (ed. Mark A. Husbands and Timothy Larsen; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2007), 32—52. 72 See the impressive study of "God-Inspired Scripture" in Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, 229—80. 73 Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, 174. 74 See John W. Wenham, "Christ's View of Scripture," in Inerrang (ed. Norman L. Geisler; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 3—36; and Donald Macleod, "Jesus and Scripture," in The Trustworthiness of God: Perspectives on the Nature of Scripture (ed. Paul Helm and Carl R. Trueman; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 69—95. See also Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, 84— 90. 75 Sexton, "How Far Beyond Chicago?" 48.



quote J o h n A m e s ' s observation about the m a n w h o "lacked patience for anything but the plainest interpretations." 7 6 W e can also note that the Chicago Statement o n Biblical Inerrancy seeks to address the m a n y a r g u m e n t s l o d g e d against inerrancy. S o m e of the complexity, then, is due as m u c h to the o p p o n e n t s of the doctrine as it is f r o m the biblical data itself. A s k e d w h a t they believe about the Bible, m a n y evangelical Christians are content to quote 2 T i m 3:16. T o the second w e simply observe that w h a t inerrantists m e a n is that G o d has not re-inspired everyone w h o set out to copy or translate the text of the Bible. 77 G o d inspired the authors of the text, and w e have substantially w h a t they wrote. Indeed, w e h a v e everything they wrote, and w e h a v e s o m e variants that do not represent w h a t they wrote. N o major doctrine of the Christian faith is affected by any text critical variant. 7 8 T o the third objection the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states: Apparent inconsistencies should not be ignored. Solution of them, where this can be convincingly achieved, will encourage 76 John Ames is a fictional character in Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Gilead (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004), 31. 77 See Hurtado's discussion of "Corrections" in The Earliest Christian Artifacts, 185—189, the upshot of which is that "...even less skillful scribes...showed by their zealousness in correcting their mistakes that they too felt 'the obligation to make an exact copy'" (188, quoting James Royse). For further discussion, see Greg L. Bahnsen, "The Inerrancy of the Autographa," in Inerrang, 151—93. 78 See Daniel B. Wallace, "Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the Twenty-First Century," JETS 52 (2009): 94—95. See also Article X of the CSBI: "We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original. We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant." See also Peter J. Gentry, "The Text of the Old Testament," JETS 52 (2009): 19-45, and idem, "The Septuagint and the Text of the Old Testament," BBR 16 (2006): 193-218.



our faith, and where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we shall significantly honor God by trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances, and by maintaining our confidence that one day they will be seen to have been illusions. 79

In addition to this I would observe that a remarkable amount of confidence is necessary to declare the Bible to be in error. One must be absolutely certain that one is correct about so many things.80 The scope of this presentation allows for only one example of what I have in mind. The New Oxford Annotated Bible asserts in a note on Dan 2:1, "Secondyear is a slip (compare 'third year' in 1.5—6,17,20)."81 The logic here appears to be that since Daniel was to be educated for three years (Dan 1:5), and since he stood before the king at the end of that period in Dan 1:17—20, the placement of the events of Dan 2 in the "second year" of Nebuchadnezzar cannot possibly be correct. But what if Nebuchadnezzar had reigned for part of a year before his first official year began (Daniel's first year of training)? There are indications that Nebuchadnezzar reigned some months before the official tally of his years on the throne began. Depending, then, on how the years were counted, it is possible that Daniel completed three years of training by the second "official" year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. I do not know that this is in fact the way things happened, but the possibility that this explanation is true would urge against a confident assertion that Dan 2:1 represents an error. A modern analogy to this example is the way the United States of America considers the years of its presidents. George W. Bush was president from 2000 to 2008, but he was not sworn into office until early in 2001, and he did not leave office until Barack Obama was sworn into office in early 2009. Some historian thousands of years hence might declare that the ancient records have wrongly listed the years of George W. Bush as being 2000 to 2008, when in fact they were 2001 to 2009. The error will be on the part of the historian, not the ancient re19 80

Section III, part C, paragraph 6. For a similar discussion, see Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, 214—

26. The New Oxford Annotated Bible: Revised Standard Version Containing the Old and New Testaments (ed. Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger; New York: Oxford University Press, 1962, 1973), 1068. 81



cords. Evangelicals are content to trust that when all the evidence is brought forth, the Bible's claims about itself will be vindicated. CONCLUSION

The evangelical view of Scripture is that the sixty-six books of the Protestant Canon have been recognized to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore inerrant. The Old and New Testaments attest to their own inspiration, and evangelicals believe the Bible's testimony about itself to be self-authenticating. We seek to be those whom God himself describes, "this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word" (Isa 66:2).* FOR FURTHER READING

Beale, G. K. The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. Beckwith, Roger. The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and its Background in Early Judaism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985.

Carson, D. A., ed. The Scripture Project: The Bible and Biblical Authority in the New Millennium. 2 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming. Hengel, Martin. The Tour Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Investigation of the Collection and Origin of the Canonical Gospels. Translated by John Bowden. Harrisburg: Trinity Press, 2000. Hurtado, Larry W. The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006. Marsden, George M. The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Thompson, Mark D. A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture. NSBT. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2006). Trobisch, David. The First Edition of the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. * I wish to express my gratitude to Professors Thomas R. Schreiner and Jay E. Smith, as well as to the editors of this volume, for reading this essay and offering helpful comments and suggestions for its improvement.



Warfield, Benjamin B. Revelation and Inspiration. In vol. 1 of The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield. New York: Oxford University Press, 1932. Repr., Baker, 2003. Woodbridge, John D. Biblical Authority: A. Critique of the Rogers /McKim Proposal. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.


Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann are without question the two most important theological scholars of the twentieth century. Their work has decisively shaped the fields of theology and biblical studies, respectively. For both, theological reflection and biblical exegesis imply each other and resist any static bifurcation. Any attempt to summarize their views on Scripture will necessarily be incomplete and inchoate. In addition, the two of them share a complex relationship that began in the early 1920s, when they were allies in the rejection of 19th-century German liberalism. With time, the group of dialectical theologians broke apart, and Barth and Bultmann came to oppose each other's work. 1 Ever since then, the divide between them has become something of a truism that one

1 One can see the change in their relationship by reading the letters, many of which have been gathered together and translated as Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann, Karl Barth-Rudolf Bultmann Letters, 1922— 1966 (ed. Bernd Jaspert; trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981). For a very helpful analysis of the "break-up" between the so-called "dialectical theologians," which included Barth, Bultmann, Emil Brunner, and Friedrich Gogarten, see Bruce L. McCormack, Karl Barth's Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology: Its Genesis and Development, 1909—1936 (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 391-411. See also Christophe Chalamet, Dialectical Theologians: Wilhelm Herrmann, Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann (Zürich: TVZ, 2005).




can simply presuppose. The two have become type and antitype, symbolic of larger theological schools and currents of thought. As a result, the concrete points of unity and divergence are all too often forgotten. This essay will interrogate the relation between Barth and Bultmann regarding the nature and interpretation of Scripture. Many view the doctrine of Scripture as a central point of divergence between them. Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that, despite some key differences, they share a substantial common ground. To borrow a phrase that Eberhard Jiingel uses in relation to God, we can speak of a still greater similarity between Barth and 'Bultmann in the midst of a great dissimilarity.1 Both view the Bible as the event of God's Word addressed to us, and both understand exegesis as an existential, participatory encounter with the living Christ who confronts us in the text. Hopefully, by taking a fresh look at how Barth and Bultmann understand the Bible, a new appreciation for each theologian—beyond the bitter disputes of the past—will become possible again. THE BIBLE AS THE EVENT OF GOD'S ADDRESS: THE BEING-IN-BECOMING OF HOLY SCRIPTURE What is the Bible? What is the relation between the biblical text and the Word of God? What makes Scripture authoritative for the church? These questions regarding the nature of Holy Scripture raise the problem of ontology—the being of the Bible. Despite differing on the relationship between theology and philosophy, between the gospel and being, Barth and Bultmann are of one mind in their distinctly actualistic conceptions of Scripture. For both of them, the Bible becomes the Word of God for us by a special divine act.

2 Eberhard Jiingel, God as the Mysteiy of the World: On the Foundation of the Theology of the Crucified One in the Dispute between Theism and Atheism (trans. Darrell L. Guder; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 288. The original quote reads: "...a still greater similarity between God and man in the midst of a great dissimilarity."



Barth's Christological Conception of Scripture Barth develops his doctrine of Scripture within the context of what he calls the "threefold form of the Word of God." He first presented this concept in the prolegomena to his 1924 lectures on dogmatics in Gottingen3 and later gave it a definitive form in volume one of his massive Church Dogmatics,4 published in 1932. Barth's doctrine of the Word of God serves to distinguish between three interrelated modes of existence: the Word incarnate as revelation, the Word written as Holy Scripture, and the Word proclaimed as Christian preaching. The first alone is the Word of God proper and is thus constitutive of the latter two, both of which exist only insofar as they bear witness to the first: Scripture referring us back to revelation, and preaching to both Scripture and revelation.5 Barth orders these three forms according to his famous metaphor of the concentric circles. Jesus Christ stands at the center, with Scripture as the inner circle and preaching as the outer periphery. Nevertheless, there are not three different words of God, but rather one Word in a threefold unity-in-differentiation. Through this threefold form of God's Word, Barth introduces his key dogmatic distinction between revelation and Scripture, between the christological event of God's self-disclosure and the human witness to that divine event. "The texts bear witness," he says in the Gottingen Dogmatics, "and the texts are the witness that we are to perceive. We cannot leap out of this circle. The reality of revela3 Cf. Karl Barth, The Gottingen Dogmatics: Instruction in the Christian Religion (ed. Hannelotte Reiffen; trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 1:3. 4 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance; 13 vols.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1956-75); hereafter cited as CD. 5 Cf. CD 1/1, 120—21: "It is one and the same whether we understand [the Word of God] as revelation, Bible, or proclamation. There is no distinction of degree or value between the three forms.. .The revealed Word of God we know only from the Scripture adopted by Church proclamation or the proclamation of the Church based on Scripture. The written Word of God we know only through the revelation which fulfills proclamation or through the proclamation fulfilled by revelation. The preached Word of God we know only through the revelation attested in Scripture or the Scripture which attests revelation."



tion is indirectly identical with the reality of Scripture. Indirectly, for the Bible is not the same as revelation. The tension remains. The Bible is one thing and revelation another." 6 The relation between the Bible and revelation is paradoxical, because it is not selfevident apart from faith that this ancient text is indeed the Word of God to us. The 17th-century doctrine of verbal inspiration is "deplorable," he says, precisely because it transforms an indirect witness to revelation into direct revelation. These theologians, he says, "no longer had the courage to face this paradox. They did not have too much faith but too little." 7 In addition to rejecting any objective "mechanization and stabilization of the Word of God" in Scripture,8 Barth is also keen on rejecting any form of subjectivism which would stabilize revelation by locating it in one's "inner experience." 9 According to Barth, the Christian theologian must firmly reject any attempt to capture revelation in some static given—whether objective or subjective in nature—that is directly available to human beings. All such approaches undermine the lordship of God whose Word never becomes a fixed entity that we can control and manipulate. God's Word is instead a free act of divine self-communication. In contrast to the Protestant scholastic tradition which presupposes a doctrine of biblical inerrancy, Barth offers a different basis for Scripture's clarity and authority. For Barth, what makes the Bible to be the Word of God is solely the event of God's address to us: In this event the Bible is God's Word. That is to say, in this event the human prophetic and apostolic word is a representative of God's Word in the same way as the word of the modern preacher is to be in the event of real proclamation: a human word which has God's commission to us behind it, a human word to which God has given Himself as object, a human word which is recognized and accepted by God as good, a human word in which God's own address to us is an event. The fact that God's own address becomes an event in the human word of the Bible is, however, God's affair and not ours. Barth, Göttingen Dogmatics, 216. 7 Ibid, 217-18. 8 Ibid, 218. 9 Ibid, 224. 6



This is what we mean when we call the Bible God's Word.. .The Bible is God's Word to the extent that God causes it to be His Word, to the extent that He speaks through it.. .The Bible, then, becomes God's Word in this event, and in the statement that the Bible is God's Word the little word "is" refers to its being in this becoming. 10

The Bible must become God's Word and this occurs only when God wills to address us in and through it.11 While this applies also to proclamation as the third form of the Word of God, the first form, as revelation, does not become but simply is the Word of God. The Christ-event is God's definitive self-disclosure, while Scripture and preaching are made to correspond to him as faithful witnesses. The correspondence between the Word of God incarnate and the Word of God written leads Barth to develop an analogy between the divinity and humanity of Scripture and the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. Barth identifies three basic aspects to this analogy. First, there is an ontological analogy between the "two natures" of Christ and the "two authors" or aspects of Scripture. Just as Christ is f u l l y human and f u l l y divine, and not partly human and partly divine or some combination of the two, so too Scripture is fully human and fully divine—that is, fully determined by its actualistic participation in the revealed Word of God. "Holy Scripture," according to Barth, "is like the unity of God and man in Jesus Christ. It is neither divine only nor human only.. .But in its own way and degree it is very God and very man, i.e., a witness of revelation which itself belongs to revelation, and historically a very human literary document." 12 Following the basic guidelines of the Chalcedonian Definition, we can neither collapse the two natures into each other, nor bifurcate them. For this reason "it is quite impossible that there should be a direct identity between the human word of Holy Scripture and the Word of God," since even in Jesus Chr-

CD 1/1,109-10. See Bruce L. McCormack, "The Being of Holy Scripture is in Becoming: Karl Barth in Conversation with American Evangelical Criticism," in Evangelicals and Scripture: Tradition, Authority and Hermeneutics (ed. Vincent Bacote, Laura C. Miguélez, and Dennis L. Okholm; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 55-75. 12 CD 1/2, 501. 10 11



ist there is no direct identity between God and humanity. 13 By positing a direct identity between revelation and Scripture, the doctrine of inerrancy is guilty, by analogy, of docetism. 14 The second, and closely related, aspect of this analogy between Christ and Scripture is soteriological. Just as the incarnation, in Barth's distinctly Reformed Christology, is not the divinization of humanity, so too God's authorization of Scripture does not involve the divinization of human authorship. 15 God's divine Word remains absolutely transcendent and cannot be turned into a finite, creaturely artifact; likewise, the biblical text remains, culturally and historically, a thoroughly human word. Like the incarnation, the "divinity" of Scripture remains divine and its "humanity" remains human. But unlike the incarnation, "there is no unity of person between God and the humanity of the prophets and apostles." 16 The Bible is not a prolongation of the incarnation. There is no permanent, independent significance that inheres in the biblical text, for the simple reason that Scripture is not the event of salvation but only the witness to it. We protect the freedom and sovereignty of God's grace in Jesus Christ by refusing to objectify and ossify God's revelatory self-communication in the text of Scripture. "The statement that the Bible is the Word of God cannot therefore say that the Word of God is tied to the Bible," Barth declares. "On the contrary, what it must say is that the Bible is tied to the Word of God."11 The third aspect of the analogy is pneumatologicak the Word of God is always empowered by the Spirit of God. In the same way that Jesus of Nazareth fulfills the will of the Father only by the power of his Spirit, so too the Bible only becomes the Word of God by the Holy Spirit's communicative agency. Already in the Gottingen Dogmatics we read that inspiration is an "act of both the biblical authors and ourselves. It is an act in which the Spirit speaks to spirit, and spirit receives the Spirit. With reference to the holiness of Scripture we are not to distinguish between the otitic basis (then, there, outside) and the noetic basis (here, today, in-

Ibid., 499. Cf. ibid., 510. 15 Cf. McCormack, "Being of Holy Scripture," 70. 16 CD 1/2, 500. 17 Ibid., 513; emphasis added. 13




side)." 18 The external clarity of Scripture coincides with our internal clarity, and both aspects occur as a divine act in which the Spirit clarifies the biblical text and illuminates our eyes with the gift of faith. The authority and divine authorship of Scripture is therefore a pentecostal occurrence in the present, not an intrinsic attribute of the text. As Barth puts it in his Table Talk, "For me the Word of God is a happening, not a thing. Therefore the Bible must become the Word of God, and it does this through the work of the Spirit." 19 As we encounter these writings, God grants us understanding through the illumination of the Spirit so that the revelation to which Scripture witnesses becomes a present reality here and now. What distinguishes Scripture as a text, therefore, is the revelatory content or subject matter (die Sache) to which it witnesses, not the words themselves.20 Moreover, this ability to witness to the gospel—and thus to mediate the subject matter of revelation—is not a natural predicate of the text but a gift of God's grace, in the same way that our faith in Christ is not a natural predicate of our humanity but a divine gift in the Spirit. For this reason, we cannot say the biblical text qua text has two authors: divine and human. Rather, only insofar as the text bears witness to the kerygma of Jesus Christ by the power of his Spirit—and thus insofar as the community hears this kerygma in faith—can we speak about dual authorship. Instead of inerrancy, Barth presents us with the notion of "dynamic infallibilism," 21 a term coined by Bruce McCormack to refer to Barth's insight that the Bible becomes infallible in the concrete moment when God addresses us by the Spirit through the witness of the prophets and apostles. Because of its actualism, Barth's doctrine of the Word of God is able to uphold the normativity of Scripture for the church without any fear of historicalcritical scholarship. The infallibility of God's Word and the fallibility of all human words coexist in an actualistic relationship of noncompetitive simultaneity, analogous to the way the doctrine of

Barth, Göttingen Dogmatics, 225. Karl Barth, Karl Barth's Table Talk (ed. John D. Godsey; Richmond: John Knox, 1963), 26. 20 Cf. CD 1/1, 108. 21 McCormack, "Being of Holy Scripture," 73. 18




creation and modern science coexist non-competitively. Historical research does not undermine the authority of the text but rather emphasizes the fact that its authority comes from God alone.22 Revelation is not a given confined to these ancient writings; it is much rather a divine giving here and now. In these human words, we encounter the Word of God—which is "living and active" only because God is living and active and chooses to address us in these writings with the radiance of God's self-disclosure (cf. Heb 4:12). In the end, the Word of God is not a what or a how, but a who. Bultmann's Kerygmatic Conception of Scripture Turning now to Bultmann's understanding of Scripture, we find a substantially similar picture of how these ancient writings function as the Word of God. While he does not elaborate an ontology of Scripture, he does speak about the actualistic nature of how these ancient historical writings become the Word of God to us. His context for proposing such a view is quite different from Barth's, however. Unlike Barth, Bultmann is not combating the Protestant scholastic doctrine of verbal inspiration. As a scholar trained in historical-critical methods, he already presupposes the "humanity" of the text. His target is rather the 19th-century German liberalism which reduces everything of significance to what historical criticism can reconstruct. Whereas Barth opposes bibliological docetism, Bultmann opposes historicist reductionism. Liberal theology implicitly presupposes what Bultmann in 1924 calls a "pantheism of history," in which God is given to us directly in social history as an object available for our investigation.23 It is this "givenness" of God within the nexus of social relations, human personality, and scientific research that defines liberalism. The consequence of this view is that revelation becomes a historical-psychological phenomenon, Jesus becomes a great religious personality, and faith becomes a religious "feeling" (Gefiiht)

22 Cf. CD 1/2, 508: "We know what we say when we call the Bible the Word of God only when we recognize its human imperfection in face of its divine perfection, and its divine perfection in spite of its human imperfection." 23 Rudolf Bultmann, Faith and Understanding (ed. Robert W. Funk; trans. Louise Pettibone Smith; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 32.



rooted in our "sense of value" and our "yearning for God." In short, liberal historicism leads to the deification of human experience (Erlebnis). Against this, Bultmann proclaims that "God is not a given entity" 24 —that is, God is absolutely transcendent and thus not a directly accessible thing that we can objectify—and this becomes axiomatic for everything that Bultmann says later in life, including especially his understanding of Scripture and biblical exegesis. The radical differentiation between God and the world that Bultmann makes basic to all theology corresponds to the differentiation between the Word of God and the human words of the Bible. Bultmann distinguishes between the ancient writings which are objectively available for all and the divine word of address which personally confronts us in the text as a present-tense event of faith. The Scriptures must therefore be "understood neither as a manual of doctrine nor as a record of witnesses to a faith which I interpret by sympathy and empathy. On the contrary, to hear the Scriptures as the Word of God means to hear them as a word which is addressed to me, as kerygma, as a proclamation." 25 In short, the Word of God is visible—or rather, audible—only to faith. Because it is an act of God, it precludes verification. One cannot offer a proof that this canonical text is authoritative and truthful. "The fact that the word of the Scriptures is God's Word cannot be demonstrated objectively; it is an event which happens here and now. God's Word is hidden in the Scriptures as each action of God is hidden everywhere." 26 For Bultmann, God's radical transcendence means that God does not act in a perceptible way as an agent among other agents. Divine action is sui generis and does not interfere with creaturely activity. Instead, faith confesses "the paradoxical identity of an occurrence within the world with the act of the God who stands beyond the world." 27 Bultmann therefore distinguishes between Word and word, between God and world, so that the two may pa-

Ibid., 45. Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology (New York: Sctibner, 1958), 71. 26 Ibid. 27 Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings (trans. Schubert M. Ogden; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 162. 24 25



radoxically and kerygmatically coexist without competition or confusion—as a truly divine Word proclaimed in truly human words. The emphasis on address and proclamation, which is strong in Barth's theology, is even stronger in Bultmann. The word of the preacher is, for Bultmann, the self-proclamation of Jesus Christ. It is a performative utterance, a divine speech-act, which makes present what it promises. For this reason, Scripture does not primarily function as a witness to some past occurrence or message, but rather serves, when joined with the spoken word, as the present occasion for our encounter with the living God. According to Bultmann, "the proclamation of the church refers me to scripture as the place where I will hear something decisive about my existence."28 The preached kerygma turns our attention to the text. In this oral-aural event, the words of the preacher and the words of Scripture together become the Word of God: God meets us in His Word, in a concrete word, the preaching instituted in Jesus Christ.. .Accordingly it must be said that the Word of God is what it is only in the moment in which it is spoken. The Word of God is not a timeless statement but a concrete word addressed to men here and now...It is His Word as an event, in an encounter.. .From this it follows that God's Word is a real word spoken to me in human language, whether in the preaching of the Church or in the Bible, in the sense that the Bible is not viewed merely as an interesting collection of sources for the history of religion, but that the Bible is transmitted through the Church as a word addressing us.29

Scripture and preaching coincide in the event of God's Word. In the moment that we hear this concrete word of address, the Word of God happens,30 The divine Word is never contained in a text which one can examine and assess apart from the moment of faith. Bultmann does not mean that the Word of God is simply a subjective psychological experience. On the contrary, this is precisely what he is trying to protect against. While he is often criticized for reducing theology to anthropology and the objective to

Ibid., 106. Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology, 78—79. 30 Cf. ibid., 82: "The word of God is Word of God only as it happens here and now." 28




the subjective, his point is rather that we cannot speak about the objective reality apart from our subjective relation to it. He is fond of quoting his teacher Wilhelm Herrmann, "We cannot say of God how he is in himself but only what he does to us."31 And he repeatedly says that "if a man will speak of God, he must evidently speak of himself"^2 As insists, however, this does not mean that God has no reality apart from us.33 Rather, it means we cannot objectify God by taking a supposedly "neutral" position vis-à-vis the divine. "God does not stand still and does not put up with being made an object of observation," but instead "God ever stands before me as one who is coming." 34 We can speak about God only because God first interrupts us with a word that addresses us, calls us into question, and demands a decision. This apocalyptic encounter with God occurs anew in each moment. Faith is "not a knowledge possessed once for all"; it is new every morning.35 The same goes for Scripture as the Word of God. The divine Word is not a visible object contained in a particular text that presents itself to a neutral observer, but instead it confronts us as a fresh word for today. That is why, when Bultmann asks how God speaks to us through the Bible, he can turn the question around and ask instead, "Are we ready to hear?" 36 In the end, like Barth, the Bible for Bultmann is a being-inbecoming. The relation between Scripture and revelation is, for both of them, dialectical in nature, in correspondence to the dialectical relation between divinity and humanity which we find concretized in Jesus Christ. Revelation is not an object we can see; it is a word that we hear and receive. These ancient texts thus become the Word of God for us in the preaching moment, when we hear See Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology, 99. Bultmann, Faith and Understanding, 55 (emphasis original). 33 Cf. Bultmann, _/&f«f Christ and Mythology, 70. 34 Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology, 144. 35 Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology, 64. For an excellent treatment of Bultmann's conception of faith, see Benjamin Myers, "Faith as SelfUnderstanding: Towards a Post-Barthian Appreciation of Rudolf Bultmann," IJST10 (2008): 21-35. 36 Cf. Rudolf Bultmann, Existence and Faith: Shorter Writings of Rudolf Bultmann (trans. Schubert M. Ogden; New York: Meridian Books, 1960), 170. 31 32



God addressing us in and through them. With Barth, Bultmann declares that this divine speech-act occurs by the Spirit. The fact that the Bible "becomes a word addressed to me personally, which gives me existence.. .is—in traditional terminology—the work of the Holy Spirit." 37 In distinction from Barth, however, the Word of God for Bultmann has no independent significance apart from the receptive relationship of faith and obedience actualized through the Spirit's existentializing activity. Bultmann's conception of God's Word is thus pneumatic-kerygmatic, where Barth's is more strictly christological through an analogy with Christ's two natures. To put it differently, Scripture for Bultmann mediates the interrupting presence of the Christus praesens,38 whereas Scripture for Barth mediates the self-proclamation of the historical Jesus Christ. In both cases, the human witness of the prophets and apostles becomes God's personal address to us today through the gift of the Holy Spirit. BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION AS PARTICIPATORY EVENT: EXEGESIS AS EXISTENTIAL ENCOUNTER

Even if Barth and Bultmann share a fundamentally actualistic and dialectical conception of Scripture's being and authority, it is clear that there is no common ground between them on the interpretation of Scripture. Or is it? Certainly, this was the point that Barth himself found so objectionable about Bultmann. But did Barth understand Bultmann correctly? Barth himself admits in a letter that "we are like a whale...and an elephant meeting with boundless astonishment on some oceanic shore." 39 They do not share a common language, Barth says, and the only hope for mutual understanding is eschatological. In the midst of such a seemingly insuperable impasse, there appears to be little hope for a rapprochement between them. And yet an attempt at mutual understanding must and can be made. Stark differences remain, albeit within the scope of a more expansive affinity. Much has been written already Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology, 106. See the very fine study by James F. Kay, Christus Praesens: A Reconsideration of Rudolf Bultmann's Christology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994). 39 Barth and Bultmann, 'Letters, 105. 37




on the hermeneutics of Barth and Bultmann, and I will not attempt in this space to summarize the results of those studies.40 Instead, I will take as my starting-point the suggestive comment by HansGeorg Gadamer that "Bultmann's combination of historical-critical research with theological exegesis and his reliance on philosophy (Heidegger) for methodological self-awareness prevents Barth from recognizing himself in Bultmann's method."41 In order to assess the accuracy of this statement, I will first sketch their basic agreement regarding a participatory model of exegesis, then I will complicate this by exploring the point of their disagreement. Existential Presuppositions and Participatory Exegesis In his 1962 methodological definition of "biblical theology," Krister Stendahl famously distinguished between "two tenses" of meaning in a biblical text: "What did it mean?" and "What does it mean?"42 Stendahl separated the historical task of descriptive exegesis from the theological task of relevant translation and application—restricting biblical theology to the former. The result was a divide between biblical studies and theological reflection, between an objective-scientific investigation into the historical meaning of the text and a theological-contextual application of the text's present significance. In contradistinction to Stendahl, Barth and Bultmann are united in their opposition to any final separation between what a text meant and what it means, precisely because the past and present of a text are coterminous. As will become clear, true exegesis for On Barth's hermeneutics, see Richard E. Burnett, Karl Earth's Theological Exegesis: The Hermeneutical Principles of the Römerbrief Period (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004); Bruce McCormack, "The Significance of Karl Barth's Theological Exegesis of Philippians," in Orthodox and Modern: Studies in the Theolog of Karl Barth (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 89— 105. For a critical but appreciative and detailed study of Bultmann's hermeneutics, see Anthony C. Thiselton, The Two Horizons: New Testament Hermeneutics and Philosophical Description with Special Reference to Heidegger, Bultmann, Gadamer, and Wittgenstein (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980). 41 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall; 2d rev. ed.; New York: Continuum, 2004), 509. 42 See Krister Stendahl, "Biblical Theology, Contemporary," in The Interpreter's Didionaiy of the Bible (ed. George A. Buttrick; 5 vols.; Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 1:418-32. 40



both Barth and Bultmann requires instead an existential participation in the Sache—the "subject matter" or "object"—of the text. In an important 1957 essay, "Is Exegesis Without Presuppositions Possible?" Bultmann challenges the separation between exegesis and translation by arguing for an approach to biblical hermeneutics which acknowledges the necessity of certain existential presuppositions. 43 The question whether exegesis without presuppositions is possible must be answered affirmatively if "without presuppositions" means "without presupposing the results of exegesis." In this sense, exegesis without presuppositions is not only possible but imperative. In another sense, however, no exegesis is without presuppositions, because the exegete is not a tabula rasa but approaches the text with specific questions or with a specific way of asking questions and thus has a certain idea of the subject matter with which the text is concerned. 44

Every exegete, according to Bultmann, "is determined by his or her own individuality in the sense of special biases and habits, gifts and weaknesses." 45 These factors do not prevent our understanding of the text, but rather make such understanding possible. To understand history, we must be in history. We must be "existentially alive" to our present historical situation, and thus to the claims that the text makes upon us.46 Bultmann calls this existential involvement a "life-relation" (Lebensverhdltnis) or "preunderstanding" (Vorverstandnis).47 This preunderstanding is neither a "definitive understanding" which prejudices the meaning of the text, nor is it "subjective" in the sense that history "loses all objective significance." 48 43 See Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology, 145—53. Originally translated in Bultmann, Existence and Faith, 289—96. The ideas presented in this essay are present in at least an incipient form in his 1925 essay on theological exegesis. See Rudolf Bultmann, "The Problem of a Theological Exegesis of the New Testament," in The Beginnings of Dialectic Theolog (ed. James M. Robinson; Richmond, Va.: John Knox, 1968), 236— 56. 44 Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology, 145. 45 Ibid., 146. 46 Bultmann, "Problem of a Theological Exegesis," 245. 47 Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology, 149. 48 Ibid., 150.



It simply means that we are capable of understanding the subject matter of the text. For example, in order to understand the narration of a war or a parable about money, the exegete presupposes his or her preunderstanding about politics and economics. We are not ahistorical beings who come to the biblical writings with a blank mind. "Therefore, every word we utter about history is necessarily a word about ourselves," because "there is no point at which we can stand outside history."49 The self s existence is involved in the exegetical act, and thus, quite paradoxically, only a "subjective" interpretation is truly "objective." A faithful understanding of history "is possible only for one who does not stand over against it as a neutral, nonparticipating spectator but also stands within it and shares responsibility for it."50 We must participate in the subject matter of the text in order to properly interpret the text. For Bultmann this means that exegesis is translation. If one's understanding of the text occurs in an event of mutual understanding between past and present, then one's interpretation is inseparable from the translation of the text into the thought-world of the exegete. In order for the biblical writings to be understood as the authoritative witness to the kerygma, "they must first be interpreted historically, because they speak in a strange language, in concepts of a faraway time, of a world picture that is alien to us. Simply put, they must be translated.. .To translate means to make understandable, and this presupposes an understanding." 51 Translation from one historical context to another is therefore the sine qua non of all exegesis,52 according to Bultmann, and this is precisely what Stendahl and those who represent the modern divide between Scripture and theology are not willing to accept.

Bultmann, "Problem of a Theological Exegesis," 242, 250. Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology, 150. 51 Ibid., 148. 52 This conception of hermeneutical translation is the essence of what Bultmann means by "demythologization." He explicitly states that demythologization is not the elimination but the interpretation of myth, in which the exegete translates the Sache of the text from an ancient world-picture (Weltbild) to the modern one so as to facilitate one's proper understanding of the biblical message. See ibid., 11—12. 49 50



We find Bultmann's affirmation of existential presuppositions already anticipated by Barth in the preface drafts to the first edition of his Epistle to the Romans.53 Barth repeats a radical axiom throughout these drafts: "Whoever does not continually 'read in' because he participates in the subject matter cannot 'read out' either."54 Exegesis is not possible without a certain kind of eisegesis—a participatory involvement in the Sache of the biblical text. Barth says, "I have consciously raised again the method which has long since been repudiated in theology of 'reading in' our own problems into the thought world of the Bible...But it could not be otherwise.. .because, from the beginning, I felt I was participating in it [the subject matter] much too strongly, because I had heard Paul speaking directly to us so clearly."55 This does not mean that we only "read out" what we first "read in." Instead, Barth intends to affirm that we can only be grasped by the subject matter of the text if we first participate in it: "One can only understand \verstehen\ that for which one stands \stehen\."S6 There must be a true concourse between past and present, what Barth calls an "immediate relation" or "living context," in order for historical understanding to take place.57 Barth later affirms the necessity of existential, participatory exegesis in his Church Dogmatics. He reasserts the axiom that exegesis includes eisegesis: "Exegesis is always a combination of taking and giving, of reading out and reading in."58 And in a small-print paragraph in Church Dogmatics 1/2, he explicitly dismisses the position of "complete impartiality" as "merely comical."59 According to Barth, while there is always the danger of doing violence to the text, this risk is necessary to preserve the possibility of participating

53 I am dependent for what follows on the work of Richard Burnett, who has made Barth's preface drafts available to English-speaking audiences for the first time. 54 Burnett, Karl Barth's Theological Exegesis, Appendix 2, Preface Draft III, 288. 55 Ibid. Barth places his participatory exegesis over against "the Unwillingness-To-Understand, the non-participatory, distancing of oneself [which] has simply been made into a scientific principle" (ibid.). 56 Ibid. 57 Ibid. 58 CD 1/1,106. 59 CD 1/2, 469.



in the subject matter, content, and theme of the Bible. We are called to the perilous vocation of exegesis. Methodologically speaking, therefore, Barth and Bultmann are in basic agreement—as Gadamer suggests.60 Both understand the hermeneutical task as a participation in the Sache of Scripture, and this Sache is none other than the living Christ who confronts us by his Spirit. It is thus not surprising that Stendahl explicitly defines his method in opposition to them, because they are "primarily concerned with the present meaning" of the text.61 Stendahl is indeed correct when he says that the existential-theological hermeneutic of Barth and Bultmann indicates a loss of "enthusiasm or ultimate respect for the descriptive task," but this does not mean Barth and Bultmann reject historical-descriptive work altogether. They simply reject giving this task any ultimate respect. As a purely historical enterprise, the investigation into what a text meant to its "original audience" has a certain relative value. But in the act of interpretation and understanding past and present meaning coincide, since there is no exegesis without an existential relation to the subject matter. Theology and Hermeneutics: Clarifying the Divide between Barth and Bultmann Bruce McCormack is quite right when he states that "the measure of agreement between Barth and Bultmann in the 1920s on the hermeneutical level was great."62 But this agreement is not limited to the 1920s. Certainly the affinity between them in those early years turned into indifference, if not hostility, at least from Barth's side. And yet there remains, I would argue, even in the 1950s, a 60 I will grant that this similarity is obvious in the 1920s, when the two of them were allies. However, contrary to popular wisdom and despite appearances to the contrary, I would argue that the basic theological and hermeneutical decisions advanced in this early stage hold true in their mature work. While I cannot support that claim here, it will be central to my forthcoming dissertation. For more on this point, see Gerhard Ebeling, Word and Faith (trans. James W. Leitch; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1963), 309-11. 61 Stendahl, "Biblical Theology," 421. 62 McCormack, "Barth's Theological Exegesis of Philippians," 9 7 98n31.



substantial amount of methodological consonance. It is no doubt true that Bultmann's mature hermeneutics differentiates more sharply between the descriptive and theological tasks,63 while Barth seems to repudiate his early existential exegesis in favor of a "tested and critical naivety."64 The story of their development, however, is not a straightforward movement from agreement to disagreement. Burnett oversimplifies matters when he says, without qualification, that Bultmann follows the tradition of Schleiermacher and Dilthey. Burnett even asserts that Bultmann is "caught up in the same bifurcated, 'double-entry book-keeping' approach" of people like Stendahl.65 While this is perhaps Barth's perspective, it is a misunderstanding of Bultmann's position. In his 1950 essay on "The Problem of Hermeneutics," Bultmann places himself in the tradition of Schleiermacher and Dilthey, but not without subjecting this tradition to serious criticism. Against his predecessors, he says that "instead of reflection on the individuality of the author and of the interpreter, on their psychical processes, and on the interpreter's genius or congeniality," what is necessary "is reflection on the simple fact that the presupposition of understanding is the life relation of the interpreter to the subject matter that is—directly or indirectly—expressed in the text."66 There is considerable overlap between this statement and Barth's own hermeneutical procedure. For this reason, McCormack is correct to point out that "the real

63 To a certain extent, the later Bultmann separates scientific and theological exegesis, but unlike traditional liberal and evangelical hermeneutics, he does not isolate an objective interpretation from a subjective application. Bultmann retains a two-step process to exegesis in order to distinguish between the text and the subject matter; historical criticism negatively identifies what the true Sache of the text is by positively identifying what is accessible to scientific investigation. On the other hand, Barth collapses historical and theological exegesis such that the text and the subject matter coincide. But Barth does not directly identify the text with the subject matter. Rather, a distinction remains between the kerygma and the historical witness to it, even if the two coexist in simultaneity by the Spirit's work. 64 65 66

Cf. CD IV/2, 479. Burnett, Karl Barth's Theological Exegesis, 202—3. Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology, 73—74.



dividing point b e t w e e n Barth and B u l t m a n n w a s not hermeneutical, in the first instance, but theological."61 W e can be m o r e specific and identify soteriology as the locus of their disagreement. T o flesh this out, w e must first see just h o w m u c h affinity there is b e t w e e n them. In a lengthy passage f r o m an address h e g a v e o n the authority of Scripture, Barth demonstrates both his similarity to and dissimilarity f r o m B u l t m a n n : What distinguishes the witness of the prophets and the apostles, so that it can have this significance for the existence of the congregation and its proclamation to the world? After all, they were men as fallible as we are, children of their time as we are of ours, and their spiritual horizon was as limited as ours—in significant ways, even more limited than ours. Whoever enjoys that sort of thing can again and again demonstrate that their natural science, conception of the world, and also to a great extent their morality cannot be binding for us. They told all sorts of sagas and legends and at least made free use of all kinds of mythological material. In many things they said—and in some important propositions—they contradicted each other. With few exceptions they were not remarkable theologians. They have only their election and calling to commend them. But this counts! Their many-sided testimony has, in its own way and in its own place, one and the same center, subject, and content: Jesus of Nazareth, indicated and anticipated in God's covenant with His people Israel, born at the end of the divine judgment on Israel's unfaithfulness, together with the new people, His disciples and brothers, the Christ of the Jews who as such is also the Savior of the Gentiles. 68 A f e w things are w o r t h noting. First, Barth fully a f f i r m s the results of historical criticism, even if he himself does not care to engage in that w o r k ("whoever enjoys that sort of thing"). Second, the biblical text is not directly identical w i t h the subject matter, and thus Scripture's significance cannot be read off the surface of the text. T h e "center, subject, and c o n t e n t " of Scripture is the living Christ w h o confronts us in and through the textual witness, but is not


McCormack, "Barth's Theological Exegesis of Philippians," 97 n.

31. 68 Karl Barth, "The Authority and Significance of the Bible: Twelve Theses," in God Here and Now (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 48.



identical with the witness itself.69 Third, because of the distinction between text and Sache, Barth says later that the exegete "must bring to light the perspective and conceptual world of the author of a given text" in order "to translate his meaning and intention." 70 Fourth, and most importantly, the Sache of the text is Jesus Christ, the electing God and elected human, whose election includes the election of the prophets and apostles as the normative witness to this covenant of grace. The subject matter for Barth is thus not simply Jesus of Nazareth, but rather Jesus as understood in the light of Barth's doctrine of election. It is this soteriological dimension which forms the real conflict with Bultmann when it comes to reading the Bible. We see this soteriological disagreement play itself out in their competing interpretations of Rom 5. In his 1952 essay, Christ and Adam, Barth claims that Jesus Christ ontologically precedes Adam and so constitutes true humanity.71 By subordinating Adam to Christ, Barth makes the reconciliation accomplished in Jesus effective for all humanity prior to each person's own existential acknowledgement of this salvific fact. Barth argues that "in His [Christ's] own death He makes their [humanity's] peace with God—before they themselves have decided for this peace and quite apart from that decision. In believing, they are only conforming to the decision about them that has already been made in Him." 72 Bultmann responded to Barth by rejecting the universalistic logic that Barth

Pace Frei, who states: "That was what Barth's ambition was, to be a direct reader of the text, and not of some hypothetical subject matter behind the text. The subjert matter is the text' (emphasis added). See Hans W. Frei, "Scripture as Realistic Narrative: Karl Barth as Critic of Historical Criticism" (paper presented at the Karl Barth Society of North America, Toronto, 1974), Frei02-Narrative.htm. The distinction between Frei and Barth can be put like this: Frei has a direct identity between the Sache and the biblical witness, whereas Barth has only an indirect, paradoxical, and actualistic identity, in accordance with the ontology of Scripture outlined above. 70 Barth, "Authority and Significance of the Bible," 53. 71 See Karl Barth, Christ and Adam: Man and Humanity in Romans 5 (trans. Thomas Allan Smail; New York: Harper, 1957). 72 Ibid., 24. 69



finds in Rom 5:12—21, and insisting that there is no objectively true humanity in abstraction from our personal act of faith: According to logical consequence all men after Christ should receive life. Of course Paul does not mean that; instead all men now face the decision whether they wish to belong to "those who have received," provided that the word of proclamation has already reached them. While Adam, then, brought death to all men after him without a possibility of escape, Christ brought for all the possibility (of life). One thing, however, is clear now: just as the fate of Adamic mankind is predestined by the trespass of Adam, so, to be sure, the fate of mankind after Christ is not predestined by the obedience of Christ, for this depends upon the decision of faith "to receive." 73

For Bultmann, there is no election apart from faith but only in faith: "Every speculative or mythological conception of the idea of election is therefore to be rejected. Election comes to pass in faith—neither before nor after it."74 It is this soteriological differentiation which finally separates Barth and Bultmann, while their actualistic doctrine of the Word of God and their basic understanding of what exegesis entails—viz. a participatory encounter with the christological Sache of the text—are materially congruent. This only serves to confirm that hermeneutics and theology are inseparable. There is no unidirectional movement from exegesis to theology: exegesis presupposes theology just as theology presupposes exegesis. CONCLUSION: READING THE BIBLE BEYOND BARTH AND BULTMANN

Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann were both men of their time. Their "theology of crisis" was a response to the problems of liberal theology, even as it set forth a new paradigm for thinking about divine transcendence and agency. Misunderstandings of both theo73 Rudolf Bultmann, "Adam and Christ According to Romans 5," in Current Issues in New Testament Interpretation: Essays in Honor of Otto A.. Viper (ed. William Klassen and Graydon F. Snyder; New York: Harper & Brothers, 1962), 158. 74 Rudolf Bultmann, Essays, Philosophical and Theological (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 178.



logians predominate whenever their dialectical heritage is obscured or ignored. In the case of Barth, attempts to turn him into a postliberal or make him palatable to Roman Catholicism fail to attend to the thoroughly dialectical character of his mature dogmatic theology. In the case of Bultmann, interpretations of his controversial program of demythologization often ignore its dialectical basis,75 thus failing to see that it is a method which interprets Scripture anti-metaphysically in light of God's radical transcendence. 76 Much like Barth's own analogia fidei, demythologization is a program for God-talk that seeks to ensure that our language is indeed about God and not about ourselves. For both Barth and Bultmann, God is an event of Word and Spirit, not an object in nature, history, or Scripture that we can analyze extra fides. What can we learn from their different conceptions of Scripture and the task of interpretation? First, the conflict between biblical authority and historical-critical research is a false conflict because it makes the gospel proclamation "a truth among other truths" in the world, instead of being "a question-mark against all truths."77 God does not compete with creaturely agency, and therefore historical criticism cannot in any way threaten the truth of God's self-revelation. Second, the post-Enlightenment ideal of exegetical neutrality is to be rejected as a false understanding of what interpretation entails. Contrary to both historicist liberals and conservative evangelicals, there is no straight line of authority that moves from "objective" exegesis through biblical and historical theology to its "subjective" appropriation in systematic and practi-

75 An exception to the rule is Chalamet's superb study, The Dialectical Theologians. 76 There is much confusion regarding the nature of "myth" in Bultmann's theology, not only on the part of Barth but also on the part of many theologians today. In lieu of a complete analysis of this problem, we can state the following: what Bultmann calls "myth," Barth calls "metaphysics." Barth mistakenly thinks that his concept of "saga" occupies the space which Bultmann assigns to the word "myth." While his mistake is understandable, it has had the effect of obscuring Bultmann's true intention. 77 Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans (trans. Edwyn C. Hoskyns; 6th ed.; London: Oxford University Press, 1933; repr., 1968), 35.



cal theology.78 Barth and Bultmann, by contrast, point toward a "third way" which is able to engage in historical research without sacrificing a deeply evangelical emphasis on Scripture's authoritative witness. Third and finally, Barth and Bultmann attest to the central role of divine agency in the being and interpretation of Scripture. Scripture becomes the Word of God by virtue of God's gracious decision, and we become capable of exegeting Scripture only through the Holy Spirit's illuminating power. Mark Alan Bowald rightly describes the "objective" and "neutral" mode of post-Enlightenment biblical exegesis as effectively "deistic or atheistic,"79 since it isolates the interpretive task from the ongoing agency of Father, Son, and Spirit. The true Word of God is intrinsic to neither text nor reader, but is rather a verbum externum that speaks to us again and again from without. 80 To put this differently, the perspicuity of Scripture is not a property of the text that we can simply read off the page; instead, it is a speech-act of God—the viva vox Dei—in which the Spirit clarifies both text and reader within the context of God's self-communicative mission of reconciliation. The clarity of Holy Scripture is the clarity of God.81 As helpful as I think both Barth and Bultmann are, the task today is to think not only with them but also beyond them. From Bultmann, we can glean the insight that interpretation is necessarily

78 Joel Green points out that evangelicals, in particular, have adopted Stendahl's methodology for their own "biblical theology." See Joel B. Green, "Scripture and Theology: Uniting the Two So Long Divided," in Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology (ed. Joel B. Green and Max Turner; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 33. Dan Treier also takes evangelicals to task for their use of "inductive Bible study," which employs a "two-step hermeneutics" that separates the objective facts of a text from their subjective significance. See Daniel J. Treier, Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 24. 79 Mark Alan Bowald, Rendering the Word in Theological Hermeneutics: MappingDivine and Human Ageny (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), 1. 80 Cf. Bultmann, Christ and Mythology, 79. 81 For a profound treatment of the perspicuity of Scripture, see John Webster, "On the Clarity of Holy Scripture," in Confessing God: Essays in Christian Dogmatics II (London: T. & T. Clark, 2005), 33—67.



an act of translation; it is a dialogical engagement with the Sache of the text within our concrete existential horizon. Bultmann does not, however, attend to the communal nature of biblical exegesis. His existential emphasis focuses on the interpreter as an individual who hears and responds to God's Word in an almost private manner. On this point, we have much to learn from Barth, who rightly situates the reader within the Christian community gathered and sent by the Spirit to participate in the mission of God through its active witness. On the other hand, from Barth we gain a doctrine of concursus in which divine agency coexists with creaturely agency. 82 In light of this—and here I can only be suggestive—we can develop a doctrine of Scripture in which (1) divine authorship fully and non-competitively coincides with human authorship in the past, while (2) divine illumination non-competitively coincides with human interpretation in the present. By bringing these elements together, we can move beyond Barth and Bultmann in ways that are both biblically faithful and theologically fruitful. The future of the church has much to gain by allowing them to speak anew as witnesses to "the one Word of God which we have to hear, and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death" (Barmen Declaration). FOR FURTHER READING

Barth, Karl. "The Authority and Significance of the Bible: Twelve Theses." Pages 45—60 in God Here and Now. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. Barth, Karl, and Rudolf Bultmann. Karl Barth-Rudolf Bultmann Letters, 1922-1966. Edited by Bernd Jaspert. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981. Bowald, Mark Alan. Rendering the Word in Theological Hermeneutics: Mapping Divine and Human Agency. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. Bultmann, Rudolf. Jesus Christ and Mythology. New York: Scribner, 1958. Bultmann, Rudolf. New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings. Translated by Schubert M. Ogden. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984.


See CD III/3, 90-154.



Burnett, Richard E. Karl Harth's Theological Exegesis: The Hermeneutical Prinâples of the Römerbrif Period. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004. Chalamet, Christophe. Dialectical Theologians: Wilhelm Herrmann, Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann. Zürich: TVZ, 2005. Kay, James F. Christus Praesens: A. Reconsideration of Rudolf Bultmann's Christology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994. McCormack, Bruce L. "The Being of Holy Scripture is in Becoming: Karl Barth in Conversation with American Evangelical Criticism." Pages 55—75 in Evangelicals and Scripture: Tradition, Authority and Hermeneutics. Edited by Vincent Bacote, Laura C. Miguélez, and Dennis L. Okholm. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004.


Apocrypha, 24, 39-40, 59, 64, 162, 173, 203, 224-7, 229, 231,234 authority, 3, 7, 11, 17, 25, 45, 50, 52, 57, 63-66, 68, 72-74, 78-80, 83-93, 96-97, 115, 124,126,154,167,172,1778, 186, 200-6, 208-11, 213, 217-18, 220-2, 226-7, 2356, 242, 244, 247-9, 252, 255, 259, 262-3 biblical criticism, 103, 116-17, 229

8, 210, 216-18, 220-1, 2234, 226-32, 234, 249 church councils, 6, 9, 11, 37—38, 80,178,195,207, 217 church fathers, 24, 27-28, 32, 36-37, 44-45, 48-52, 55, 60, 64, 66, 194, 201, 204, 207, 209,211 creeds, 9-11, 53, 56, 66, 80,151, 207,217 Hebrew Bible, 2, 6, 22, 24, 41, 43-44, 61, 84, 98, 112, 163, 220, 226, 228 inerrancy, 6-7, 14-17, 88, 1578, 177, 182-90, 196, 217-19, 234, 236-7, 239, 244, 246-7 infallibility, 14-15, 17, 66, 80, 88,117,211,216, 219, 247 inspiration, 2-3, 6-10, 15, 18, 21, 24-26, 51, 64, 66, 79-80, 88-89, 91, 93, 96, 104, 114, 163, 177-87, 189-91, 193, 195-6, 200-1, 208, 217-20, 224-8, 234, 236-7, 239, 244, 246, 248 interpretation, 1-8, 10-13, 25, 31, 36-38, 41, 43^15, 53-54, 59, 65-66, 72, 79, 90, 92, 9496, 102, 107, 114, 116, 11939, 141-50, 153, 156-7, 161, 166-9, 173, 177, 184, 186-8, 190-3, 195-6, 199, 203-4,

feminist criticism, 5, 13, 116, 161-2,165-70,172-3 historical criticism, 4, 7, 102— 4, 106-7, 109-10, 112, 114, 127, 142, 163, 167, 193, 196, 212, 247-8, 253, 258-9, 262 literary criticism, 4, 103, 11015 post-colonial criticism, 5, 13, 116,168 reader-response criticism, 5 social-scientific criticism, 163 textual criticism, 16, 24, 35, 103,187 canon, 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 16, 26, 29, 38-40, 43-46, 59-60, 70, 77, 83-86, 88, 91, 96, 114-15, 117,178,184,193,195,200267



206-9, 211-12, 235, 241-2, 249, 252-9, 261-4 Jewish Scriptures, 3, 22, 36, 43, 45, 47, 50-54, 57, 77-80 kerygma, 4, 7, 56, 71, 79, 89-90, 94-95, 97, 108, 247, 249-50, 252, 255, 258 Magisterium, 3, 80, 177-8, 184, 194-6, 200 modernism, 5, 12, 116, 141-2, 145-7,149,151,154 New Testament, 2, 7—11, 21, 23, 25-30, 32-34, 36, 3 8 ^ 1 , 43, 45-52, 56, 58-60, 64-65, 69, 72-74, 77-78, 80, 83-85, 8 8 97, 103, 130, 133, 139, 154— 5, 163, 165, 169-70, 174, 193, 195, 197, 201-2, 204, 207, 210, 214-15, 220-1, 223, 226-34, 237, 239, 249, 251-5, 258, 261-4 Old Testament, 2-4, 7-9, 16, 21-30, 32-34, 36-41, 43-44, 48, 50-51, 57-61, 64, 78, 90, 92-95, 102-4, 106-7, 10910, 112-15, 117-18, 124, 127, 130, 193, 195, 201-2, 207, 210, 217, 220-31, 234, 237, 239 orality, 3, 45, 48, 50, 52-53, 56, 67-68, 72, 75, 79, 228, 250 postmodernism, 4, 5, 12, 141—3, 145-51,153-6

revelation, 10, 17, 22, 65-66, 87, 89, 110, 117, 179-80, 184, 200, 208, 211, 217, 220-1, 231, 243, 245, 247-8, 251, 262 rule of faith, 2-3, 10, 44, 56-57, 65, 203-4, 2 0 6 - 7 , 2 1 2 , 2 1 6 Septuagint, 2-3, 6, 16, 21-27, 29-41, 50, 57-58, 154, 202, 224, 237 Sola Scriptura, 3, 11, 63, 65—67, 79-81,216-17 structuralism, 5, 116,145 theology, 1-8, 11, 13, 15, 24, 30, 63, 65-66, 69, 79, 88, 93, 95, 101, 106, 109, 119-22, 124, 126-7, 129-34, 137-9, 144, 156, 163, 165, 168-9, 196, 199, 201, 206, 208, 211-12, 217, 228, 241-2, 253-4, 2 5 7 9 tradition, 1, 3, 6-8, 10, 15-16, 22, 25, 31, 36, 40, 45, 47-50, 53-54, 56, 59, 63-74, 76, 7 8 81, 83, 85, 123, 142, 151, 158, 193-4, 196-7, 199-207, 210-13, 218-19, 233, 244-5, 258, 265 translation, 21-22, 24-26, 2 8 29, 35-37, 41, 44, 57, 113, 182, 202, 224, 2 5 3 - 5 , 2 6 4 Vulgate, 23, 25, 91