Hermeneutical Method for Biblical Theology

Richard Hays’ pioneering work in narrative theology, especially in Paul, has proven to be a massive contribution to Biblical Theology. Hays’ had a significant influence on N.T. Wright’s hermeneutic. In Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, Hays outlines seven helpful criteria for detecting intertextual echoes:

  1. The text echoed must be available to the original recipients/readers.
  2. A significant volume of intertextual echo should be present, determined by repetition of words, syntactical patterns and general prominence in author’s overall thought.
  3. Recurrence, how often does the author cite or allude to the scriptural passage?
  4. Thematic coherence, does the alleged echo square with the author’s argument?
  5. Is the allusion historically plausible, could the readers and hearers have understood the allusion?
  6. Does the interpretation align with the history of interpretation?
  7. Does the allusion provide a satisfactory explanation with the other six criteria, illuminating the surrounding discourse?

It is rare that all seven criterion will apply in any given allusion or echo. Moreover, shades of certainty vary with the number and degree of criterion which are met. However, as Hays points out, texts are not inert and can not always be contained by our hermeneutical methods. Nevertheless, these seven criterion are valuable–critical–hermeneutical guide in doing Biblical theology

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