Posts for Nov, 2008.

11/16/2008 3:29:00 PM


Posted Sunday, November 16, 2008 by Brian Beers
Categories: HermeneuticsTheological Interpretation of Scripture   Comments: None
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Since the historical-critical way of reading the Bible is not going to die out anytime soon, I am thankful for the positive influence that TIS is having in the guild. Its many beneficial aspects can cohere well with evangelicalism.[12] I am especially thankful for the connection between theology and the Bible being made by many more than in the past, and I hope that TIS has wide impact, particularly in the biblical studies guild. But in spite of its compatibility with evangelicalism, I remain concerned about some unbalanced directions TIS is being taken and unconvinced that TIS is desperately needed by evangelicals or that we should follow it in every detail

See below for comparison of TIS with other solutions. 


11/16/2008 3:27:00 PM


Posted Sunday, November 16, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: HermeneuticsTheological Interpretation of Scripture   Comments: None
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Whenever evangelical biblical scholars discuss TIS with theologians, one question always seems to arise: How is this different from what we have been doing? The difference between TIS and standard historical critical work is clear, but the border between TIS and evangelical thought is fuzzy.

Follow the link for more of my thoughts on TIS commentaries.


11/3/2008 9:25:00 PM


Posted Monday, November 03, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: HermeneuticsTheological Interpretation of Scripture   Comments: None
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Unity of the Bible

One of the key characteristics of TIOS is the focus on the unity of Bible, in reaction to the breaking up of the Bible by historical critical views. Evangelicals certainly should affirm the unity of the Bible, since we believe the entire Bible is inspired and profitable. Frankly, however, this is not a reminder that evangelicalism as a whole needs. In my (limited) experience, I more often have to remind evangelicals that there is diversity in the Bible than that there is unity.

While the goal of focusing on unity is admirable, I think that at times TIOS is guilty of going too far in the other direction and flattening the Bible. Seeking to show how the Bible fits together, the differences between various parts of the Bible are sometimes ignored.1 Trevor Hart presents a good case for how to recognize both the unity and the diversity in Scripture,2 but I worry that in practice some TIOS advocates have pushed the pendulum too far in the unity direction. Beverly Roberts Gaventa has some helpful thoughts in a review article of a TIOS book by Angus Paddison.

I do not fear that our [historical critics] reconstructions will be overlooked but that the cranky, minority voices of Scripture will be silenced—that Paul’s profound analysis of the enslaving power of Sin will be tempered by Luke’s more optimistic call for repentance and forgiveness, for example, or that the prophetic warnings about mingling with foreigners will overpower the book of Ruth, with its vivid tribute to a Moabite woman, or that Deuteronomy’s promise will mute Job’s witness that obedience does not always produce blessing. As I see it, the canon’s diversity is not an unpleasant historical fact that reflects varying religious communities in their varying historical settings; on the contrary, it is crucial to the very theological richness Paddison wants to recover. And I worry that a canonical interpretation of the sort that Paddison favors could easily produce a homogenized biblical theology void of taste or texture.3

My wife occasionally reminds me that just because all of the food she eats ends up in the same place does not mean that we should just mix all the food on our plate. While historical-critical methods have kept the food on different plates in different rooms, TIOS tends to mix all the food on the plate. We as evangelicals need to remember that there is both one plate (unity) and different kinds of food (diversity).

A good example of this problem is found in a TIOS essay by Robin Parry on Lamentations.4 He presents the idea of the ideal reader, who reads in the way expected by the text. Since the text does not know the NT, the canonical Christian reading will be unexpected, based on that definition. "Indeed, it is essential for a Christian theological reading of Lamentations that the reader is not standing in the shoes of the implied reader".5 But the Christian theological reading must have an organic relationship with the expected reading: the expected reading is an important and necessary first step, but only the first step. The primary key for a Christian reading of Lamentations for Parry is Isaiah 40-55 (postexilic for him, hence after Lamentations). Second Isaiah takes Lamentations and injects hope into the book, particularly through the connection of the man of Lamentations 3 and the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. From there it is only a short step to the NT and Jesus. Building on N. T. Wright's view of Jesus as true Israel, Lamentations is the equivalent of Saturday in the Passion week. Bringing in the rule of faith, Parry wonders how the Trinity plays a role in Lamentations. Yahweh and Jesus have already been discussed, but how does the Spirit fit in? Parry finds the connection in Romans 8:17, where the Spirit groans with the church and creation. The Spirit thus groans with those who are suffering in Lamentations. The essay ends with a response to the expected complaint: does this not rob Lamentations of its power? Lamentations is designed to be about bad news, not good news. The voice of Yahweh has been purposefully removed from Lamentations; how can we now insert that voice and still consider it a legitimate reading of the book? In response, he says that we must pay attention to both the canonical form and the canonical context: we must balance the good news and the bad news, in a sense. We must be sure to not move too quickly to Sunday from Saturday, but neither should we forget Sunday is coming.

For anyone interested in theological interpretation of Scripture, this is an excellent place to begin. Not only does he give a good example, he is self-conscious about what he is doing and helps the reader along the way with his thinking. But I remained somewhat bothered with his conclusion. The complaint he raises is precisely the complaint I have: Lamentations no longer lives up to its name. While I fully agree that canonically we have hope, I want to guard the places like Lamentations where that hope is not expressed. The author of Lamentations could have expressed that hope if he desired; in my thinking Second Isaiah already had been around for a few centuries, and even apart from that many of the other prophets had spoken of a future hope after exile. The author of Lamentations purposely does not include any hope because he wants to express the despair present at the time and hope would go counter to his desire. I agree with Parry's conclusions in a sense, although I get there a different way: I agree that we need to stay in Saturday for awhile but not forget Sunday is coming. But I would rather frame it as staying in Lamentations for awhile before moving on to Isaiah and the Resurrection. I do not want to level the various books of the Bible and make them all say the same thing; I want to preserve the diversity in them.