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


Colossians and Missiology

My reflections on the missiology that can be learned from the historical setting of Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae.

Moo Speaks on Colossians

I am working through Moo on Colossians. So far so good, though it isn’t quite as technical as I expected. I had forgotten that the Pillar series tries to strike a balance between academic and accessible.

Justin Taylor links for four messages by Moo on Colossians.

The Old Testament & Politics

Commenting on the complexity of Old Testament political postures, N. T. Wright says:

At points like these we realize how inadequate our left-right specturm is for understanding how the Jewish poeple thought about earlthly rulers. Radical subversion of pagan political systems does not mean support for anarchy. The Jewish poitlical belief we find in books like this was based on a strong theology of creation, fall and providence: the one God had in fact created all the world, incliuding all rulers,  and though they were often exceedingly wicked God was overrruling their whilsm for his own strange and often hidden purposes, and would judge them in thier turn. – Paul: A Fresh Perspective, 66

Suggested Systematic & Biblical Theologies

Here are some recommendations on Systematic and Biblical Theologies:

Systematic Theologies

  • Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology – Berkhof offers a classic Reformed systematic. His older language is worth the wade, as he addresses the attributes of God with a sense of reverence that is often missing from contemporary systematics. His section on the immensity of God is especially good.
  • Lewis & Demarest, Integrative Theology– This theology integrates historical, systematic, biblical theologies and apologetics all in one volume. The strength is its well rounded approach; however, at times it is too scientific in methodology and explanation.
  • John Frame, Theology of Lordship series – Frame is among the most cogent and clear systematicians. His triperspectival lens offers a unique perspective on systematic theology.
  • Tim Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity– Tennent offers a global perspective on systematic theology, presenting various systematic doctrines from diverse cultural voices, i.e. Christology from an African perspective. Tennent is a consummate missionary-theologian.
  • Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology – lucid, readable, accessible, worshipful. Contains hymns and questions and a glossary at the end of each section. Contains a rare systematic treatment of Prayer, Spiritual Warfare.

Biblical Theology

  • N.T. Wright, History of Christian Origins Series, – an incomplete, multivolume work of remarkable scholarship, both in theological depth and historical breadth. Though demanding, these books are very rewarding.
  • Charles Scobie, The Ways of Our Goda massive treatment of major biblical themes gathered around four primary concepts (God’s Order, Servant, People, & Way) and one primary methodology (promise-fulfillment-consummation).
  • Hafemann & House, Central Themes in Biblical Theologyan oustanding collection of essays that offer various thematic studies as well as two excellent essays on overarching frameworks for BT by Hafemann and Ciampa.
  • Marvin Pate, The Story of Israel – traces the story and reconfiguration of Israel around Jesus throughout the whole Bible, paying particular attention to the role of covenant blessings and curses.

Moo’s New Colossians Commentary

I’ve been eagerly anticipating Moo’s new commentary on Colossians and Philemon. For my Th.M thesis I wrote about 150 pages on this letter, which has profoundly shaped my theology, ministry, and everyday life. I did email briefly with Moo about getting him to review my thesis for the commentary, but alas, the manuscript was already dedicated. I am moving towards publishing an article on my research, and will be eager to see how much I line up with Moo. His Romans commentary is among the best single volumes on that letter.

Anyway, I called Eerdmans yesterday and got a copy shipped within 24 hours of the book being published, fresh off the press. Amazon doesnt even have it yet! Excited to take and read; I’ll be preaching through Colossians this Fall.

Greek Lesson on the Great Commission

Dr. Roy Ciampa gives us a great Greek lesson on participles and imperatives by correcting popular, pastoral interpreations of Matthew 28:18. Read the helpful article here. Here is his conclusion:

So what does all this tell us about Matthew 28:19 and the Great Commission? It means no ancient Greek would take it to mean “while/as you go, disciple the nations” but would understand, from intimate familiarity with this common usage, that the meaning was “Go and disciple the nations” and that the main point was not to go but to disciple the nations, but that the nations would never become disciples if the apostles and those converted by them did not take the gospel to them.

Free Witherington Lectures on Jesus

Gordon Conwell has made the recent lectures by NT scholar, Ben Witherington III available free online. Witherington brings rich historical and archeological wisdom to bear on contemporary debates about the identity of the historical Jesus. Here are the lectures:

First Lecture, What Have They Done With Jesus?

Second Lecture, The Talpiot Tomb – The Family Tomb of Jesus?

Third Lecture, The Jesus History and the Pseudo-Christ of Gnosticism.

For more information about Dr. Witherington, please visit benwitherington.com

Paul Against the Empire?

Earlier I posted on some of the emerging scholarly debates regarding a counterimperial impulse in Paul’s writing. Of late, I have been reflecting on this theological trend. Why such a preoccupation with counterimperial theology? Is this a product of anti-American sentiment? Perhpas a resurgence in Greco-Roman backgrounds for NT scholarship? Or maybe a political hermeneutic? I suspect all three are at play and that there is no consensus explanation for the spate of literature on counterimperialism in Paul.

However, I am more concerned about hermeneutics than motive. Did Paul intend to convey counterimperial ideas when writing his epistles? Was his word selection based on Greek or Jewish lexicography? Is it an either/or, after all Paul was both missionary and theologian. I engaged some of these issues in my Th.M thesis, Creation in Colossians, and was struck at the time by the hyper-counterimperialism of Walsh and Keesmaat’s Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire. At times, they confuse contemporary implication with Pauline meaning. That said, I have room for Pauline contextualization, which is often counter-cultural; however, I have been careful to not confuse his intended theological meaning with his missiological orientation.

Denny Burk has provided some critical reflection on what he dons “The Fresh Perspective,” language taken from Wright’s writings on Paul. In this issue (vol 51) of JETS, Burk published:“Is Paul’s Gospel Counterimperial? Evaluating the Prospects of the ‘Fresh Perspective’ fro Evangelical Theology.” Although Burk states in anti-imperial thesis up front )(314), he adduces convincing reasons to be suspect of the FP hermeneutic. Here are a few:

  1. Caution of the use of parallels. Just because a biblical word or concept has a Roman parallel use does not mean that Paul intended it to be an anti-Roman polemic, especially when the word or concept has a rich Jewish origin. After all, Paul quotes and theologizes extensively from the Septuagint (Greek version of the OT). Burk identifies the key linguistic issue: “To what extent are teh parallels due merly to the fact that Pal and the imepraci cult were drawing from the common stock of Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the eastern part of the Roman Empire?” (317)
  2. Caution about the distinciton between meaning and implciation. Citing E.D. Hirsch’s landmark work on interpretation, he writes: “An implication, however, differs in taht it is not a part of the autohr’s conscious intention, even though it is established by a type tha tderives from the author’s willed meaning.” (320)
  3. Caution about the hermeneutics of the FP. Burk points out that much of the hermeneutical ethos of the FP has been generated by the Paul and Politics group from SBL. Richard Horsley, a leading scholar among the FP clearly articulates a political agenda in the fresh perspective of counterimperial studies: “The aims and agenda of the Paul and Politics group are, broadly, to problematize, interrogate, and re-vision Pauline texts and interpretations, to idnetify oppresisvie formulaitlns as well as potnetially liberative visions and values…” And here is Burk’s concern–Horsley’s elevation of the post-colonial readers of Paul to the level of “the text being read in the work of interpretation” in Paul. In other words, by trying to accomodate the political concerns of readers, Horsley and his colleagues give those popular readers’ concerns a prominent place in the interpretive task.

New SBTS Journal free

Adorare Mente is a new academic journal from the students of SBTS. The articles are up and downloadable for free. Here is a list of the first round of offerings:

Hyun-Gwang Kim, Imitating Christ: An Exegetical Study of Philippians 2:5-11

John Meade, The Meaning of Circumcision in Israel: A Proposal for a Transfer of Rite from Egypt to Israel

Blake White, Christ as the Last Adam

Trevin Wax, The Centrality of Christology in the Marburg Colloquy

Nathanael Copeland, Pastoral Presuppositionalism: Lessons from the Life and Work of Francis Schaeffer

Adorare Mente, Volume 1 (complete issue as a PDF)

HT: Blake White