Monday, September 13, 2010

Reflections on Biblical Theology I & II (Part II)


Further to my previous post on the Biblical Theology modules, I’d better proceed with my reflections proper, so here are a few of my highlights:

  • Discussing the origins of BT (studying, for example, the text of Johann Gabler’s 1787 inaugural lecture in Altdorf) and the definition of the discipline.  Childs is helpful here: he sees that from one perspective, the entire modern history of the discipline of Biblical Theology can be interpreted as the effort to distinguish between the views that  (i) BT is descriptive, historical task seeking to determine what the theology was of the biblical authors themselves (a theology contained within the Bible), and (ii) BT is a constructive, theological one that attempts to formulate a modern theology compatible in some sense with the Bible (a theology that accords with the Bible).
  • Reading B S Childs.  My first B S Childs reading was a few years back in his excellent OTL Exodus commentary.  However, reading Childs’ Biblical Theology: A Proposal as part of the BT I module was a great introduction to Child’s canonical approach to BT.  It’s only a short book, but crystallised in its pages you find a brief history of BT, a discussion of the issue of the canon, and an outline of his canonical approach to BT: the two testaments; text and interpreter; shaping; witness and subject matter.  Of course, you then have to plunge into Childs’ Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments!
  • Apostolic Hermeneutics. This was the subject of the assessment paper for BT I.  Why do the NT authors seem to do strange things with OT texts?  Can we follow their example? Many say ‘no’, preferring to urge a straightforward grammatico-historical approach.  There’s a lot that I could write, but I simply offer what follows.  The fact is that strict grammatico-historical exegesis of OT texts will not yield Christian readings of those texts.  So this approach will not suffice.  Some form of midrashic exegesis is required. To correctly constrain the enterprise, the horizons of the OT author, NT author and present day interpreter need to be understood.  The OT author occupies a unique eschatological and canonical context (he is situated before the advent of Messiah and before there is any canon); the NT author shares an eschatological location with the present day interpreter (post Messiah), but the canonical location is different: the former is situated post-OT canon, but pre-NT canon, the latter is situated post-canon.  The Church’s task of theology then is to reflect upon the whole canon in a way that would have been impossible for the NT authors.  Enns’ description of this task as Christotelic midrash is I think correct.