Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
First things first. Fowl's commentary is like a breath of fresh air for those wanting more than just careful historical and exegetical analysis. His interpretation of φρονεω, as a common pattern of thinking, feeling and acting, is accurate and instructive. However, Fowl has problems with the notion of authorial intent, and in his essay for Between Two Horizons, "The Role of Authorial Intention in Theological Interpretation" he advances his position on this matter. As one may guess, I cannot understand this position. Perhaps it is to complex for me, but having read Umberto Eco's The Limits of Interpretation and Kevin Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in this Text?, I am persuaded that any death or denial of authorial intent undermines the meaning of a text. More specifically, the context of Fowl's quote above intrigues me. The discussion revolves around Phil 2:5-11. Fowl advances a plausible reading that suggests the "form of God" should be taken as a reference to God's glory. He does some good historical analysis, and then forsakes it in his theological construction. Now, if the creeds and confessions are scripturally disciplined, what does that mean? That we have read the scriptures and understood their intention, and formulated what we believe based on them? That seems most likely. However, were we to deny authorial intent, we could come up with any creed and just forsake what Paul says. When we claim that what Paul meant (or any author for that matter), is irrelevant, we sink into the despair of relativism. And that just won't do. Fowl himself constantly appeals to what Paul meant, and intends throughout his excellent commentary. But here, retreating into Philosophical particularities, loses the plot when he suggests that it doesn't matter if Paul himself thought this way or not. Reader-response criticism, despite Fowl's, and Wall's claims to the contrary, have no "controls" that are valid if one denies authorial intent as the governing dynamic. For a better proposal, one need look no further than Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, which outlines a suitable hermeneutic which allows for careful theological reflection within the bounds of good exegetical work. Of course theology (especially systematics) will always want to go further, but it cannot go against what the authors of Scripture said. Nor can it claim much validity once the voice of Scripture's teaching is silenced. As Hays sees it, there are four steps: (1) The Exegetical Task, Reading the Text Carefully; (2) The Synthetic Task, Placing the Text in Canonical Context; (3) The Hermeneutical Task, Relating the Text to Our Situation; and (4) The Pragmatic Task, Living the Text. It is therefore utterly relevant whether or not a particular Scriptural author thought in particular categories. Since failing to attend to those categories, could entail in a misunderstanding and misapplication of their teaching. I find myself increasingly sceptical of theological claims that are far removed from the categories of Scripture. They may have good ideas, but is it good theology?
To claim, as many biblical scholars do, that Paul never would have thought in such metaphysical terms is not in itself theologically relevant. Later creeds and confessions are best understood as scripturally disciplined ways of coherently ordering claims, inferences, and implications of scriptural language about God, the world, and God's purposes for the world. Scripture by its very diversity requires such an ordering. The question is not whether Paul thought this way himself. Rather, the question is whether one uses historical-critical, sociological, philosophical, or christian theological categories for order that diversity.
Fowl, Philippians, pg. 95-96.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
This saying embodies the activities of Jesus perfectly - and thus it is a call to disciples to be perfect, as their Father in Heaven is perfect (vs. 48). Anyone who thinks being a follower is easy, has obviously not understood what Jesus requires!
Jesus quotes Lev 19:18 not to contradict it but to enlarge it. The Pentateuch, like subsequent Jewish tradition, understands “neighbour” to be Israelite (see Lev 19:17), and this reading allows one to confine love to one’s own kind, or even to define neighbour in opposition to enemy. Jesus, however, gives “neighbour” its broadest definition. If one loves even one’s enemies, who will not be loved? One is inevitably reminded of the story of the Good Samaritan, who is good to an Israelite, his enemy (Luke 10:29-37). Love must prove itself outside the comfortable world of family, friends and associates.
Allison, The Sermon on the Mount, pg. 100
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Monday, August 03, 2009
But is it more than this? I am continually intrigued by Terrence Donaldson's excellent book: Jesus on the Mountain: A Study in Matthean Theology. Donaldson argues that
It is clear, against such a Christian misreading, that the contrast of "old and new" concerns the Israelite community of covenant in both its parts. The "old" covenant belongs to that Israelite community which through its sustained disobedience forfeited covenant with God, even as it lost the city of Jerusalem. The "new" covenant now wrought by God also concerns the Israelite community. This is the community formed anew by God among exiles who are now transformed into a community of glad obedience. Thus we are right to posit a deept discontinuity between old and new, but that deep discontinuity is not between Jews and Christians, but between recalcitrant Jews prior to 587 and transformed Jews after 587 who embrace the covenant newly offered by God.
[Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming, pg. 292]
Now the reason this intrigues me, is because I'm currently looking at the six antitheses of Matt 5:21-48. The solutions on offer at the moment suggest either that Jesus is intensifying the demands of the Torah, or that he is revising the demands of the Torah. Given the backdrop just noted, this changes everything. Jesus could be noting that the Torah applied to the people of old, the people under the leadership and direction of Moses and the teachings he gave. But given that this is a new messianic age, Jesus is giving a new set of teachings that draw from and emerge from the teachings of Torah, but go further and redirect some of it’s emphases and teachings. One could then go further and suggest that given the New Exodus theme (Wright, JVG et. al.), that Jesus envisioned his teachings replacing the demands of the old covenant, because they had been delivered from their former bondage of exile, and this was now the beginning of God's reign through the teachings of Jesus, and the Spirit, no matter where they found themselves (Matt 28:16-20). Of course this requires much annotation and justification from the sources, but I'm a BIG picture thinker, and so I'm just thinking out loud here. Thoughts?
one of the central features of Zion eschatology in the OT and throughout the Second-Temple period was the expectation of a great gathering of Israel to the holy mountain of Yahweh where they would be constituded afresh as the people of God. The gathering of the scattered flock to the holy mountain was to be the first act in the eschatological drama... In addition, one can also point to the fact that in Jewish expectation one aspect of the consummation on Mount Zion was to be a new giving of the Torah... in contemporary eschatological thought it was expected that the Messiah would bring about renewed obedience to the Torah, that he would interpret it more clearly and that he would even bring a new Torah.
[Terrence Donaldson, Jesus on the Mountain, pg. 116. See further Davies, The Setting of the Sermon on the Mount, pg. 155-156]