the green fields beyond


Location: Charles City, Virginia, United States

Friday, March 10, 2006

Miss Marple (and Fred and Velma and Shaggy) and the Bible

Here's a mind-expanding little essay by Duke professor David Steinmetz, on reading the Bible as one would read a mystery novel. If the whole book has the same Author, then why not see if He had a plot in mind all along--even one that the characters didn't fully see at the time?
Only flaw in this essay: he didn't use a Scooby-Doo episode to illustrate his point..."So it wasn't a Zadokite priesthood, all along! It was just old Mr. McCready dressed up in a phosphorescent robe and ephod!"
Other than that, it's well worth reading. Tip-of-the-hat to WTS professor Doug Green for assigning it.



Stop giving me interesting things to read when I have so much classwork to do! Stop it! Right now!!

Oh wait...I was in that I already read this, right?

1:37 PM  

That was one of my favorite reads for that class. Glad you have a blog of your own now!

6:57 PM  

Wow! That was a good essay. I really appreciate his focus on teleology as forming the basis of scripture.

The question that comes to my mind though is whose teleology are we speaking of? Seems to me that Steinmetz favors the basis of using the historic confessions formulated in creeds as providing the right ending of the story. That seems to me well and good for distinguishing heretic (including Arians, Gnostics, etc) from Christianity. However, the question should be asked if Christ Himself left a foundation for teleological preservation? After all Catholics and Protestants differ sharply in their exigesis which is reflected in their practices. An obvious example, John 6.

Which brings me to his discussion on originalism and the constitution. He takes a quick swipe at those who feel the constitution should only be interpreted in light of what was in the mind of the Framers. And he validly refutes that notion in that a historian has a hard enough time knowing the facts, let alone getting into the minds. So in that light the constitution should be interpreted with both the antecedent of English common law and the subsequent precedent of American jurisprudence and legislation.

Fair enough. But I assume in refering to this, Steinmetz is refering to Scalia, Thomas et al and their school of strict constructionalism. But all that Scalia really says on the matter isn't necessarily intention but that words themselves have both a knowable and fixed meaning. In other words the first ammendment meant that Congress shall enact no law abridging the freedom of religion, but not the subsequent erroneous Jeffersonian quote that "a wall of seperation be interpreted between Church and state"

So my question is how then does what is actually written play in with the idea of a teleology in the realm of scripture?

1:15 PM  

Good question(s). I should have mentioned that Steinmetz's article is primarily aimed against the sort of critical scholarship that tends to chop up and isolate the Bible's parts from each other (so the book of Isaiah, they'd say, couldn't be prophesying about Christ, because Isaiah couldn't have known about Christ, etc). Steinmetz isn't, here, trying to provide an exhaustive course in hermeneutics.
Now, yes, of course, knowing what was originally said is VITAL. I wouldn't want to go in any other direction. That's one reason why i'm at Westminster: the school's high regard for the scriptures. It's also why I value the chance to dive into Hebrew and Greek, despite the headaches that can accompany such study. YES, we must ground all our theologizing in God's Word (scripture), and Scripture should be the norm that corrects all of our theological statements.
Steinmetz simply wants to affirm that those words can't be read too much in isolation from the Whole of scripture. He advocates what others have called a two-reading approach, when applied to the Old Testament...First you find out what a passage meant to the original audience, as best you can, and then you look for the (sometimes surprising) fuller meaning that it receives in light of Christ (to whom all scripture bears witness--Luke 24:25-27). Often the New Testament gives us examples of how this might look...see Hebrews, chapters 1 and 2.
And of course, we do want to listen to the great tradition of orthodoxy down through the years: from the early Fathers and creeds, through Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, etc. If our "second reading" looks way different from the outlines these guys all agreed on, we probably want to check ourselves :) So the Open Theists today, or the Episcopalian wing that condones homosexuality, for instance, though they claim scriptural support, are actually doing bad "second readings."
But yes, it's complicated.

2:44 PM  

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1:11 AM  

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