#9. Christological interpretation is an important key. Whereas many Biblicists seem to border on being guilty of Bibliolatry.
After almost 10 years in Seminary I took a course from Tremper Longman on Proverbs/Wisdom Literature. After years of having Grammatico-Historical exegesis pounded into my head as the only legitimate way to interpret scripture, Dr. Longman was the first to suggest that there could actually be something there in the Old Testament placed there by God, which might not have been in the mind of the original human author. For those of you who don’t know him (first of all where have you been?) he is an eminent Old Testament (OT) scholar, prolific author, internationally recognized expert on the wisdom books of the OT, author of major commentaries on Song of Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiasites, a well-known, solid exegete… For someone with his credibility to make this statement was, for me, kind of freeing: “you mean I can do this? It’s OK?” Yes. In fact, it was Jesus Himself who said that all, not just part of the scriptures are about Him (Luke 24:25-27, 44)! The question for us is are we going to take Jesus’ statement seriously here or are we going to stick a strict one meaning, original authorial intent hermeneutic? You can also read Longman’s own description of his position in Reading the Bible with Heart & Mind (p. 44). And the truth is that Longman is not alone. You might also want to read Donald G. Bloesch’s A Christological Hermeunetic: Crisis & Conflict in Hermeneutics. Another source you might be interested in is chapter 3 of Joel B. Green’s Practicing Theological Interpretation: Engaging Biblical texts for Faith and Formation.
I’m not arguing here for some kind of free flowing, let my mind wander, and come up with whatever kind of wild-eyed allegory that I fancy. Nor am I arguing for complete disregard for the original context of any particular OT passage when engaging in Christological Interpretation. I’m also not going to try to define/develop a proper Christological Hermeneutic here. But I have argued elsewhere (Toward a Hermeneutic for Devotional Reading of Scripture: ETS, 2008) that what might first appear to be Christological Interpretation may actually be Christological application!
So what is the problem? Christian Smith tells us:
The Bible is passing. Jesus Christ is eternal… Biblicism borders on idolatry
In radical biblicism, our commitment to and defense of scripture, may in fact be elevating scripture to the same level as (or in some cases above) the God who has revealed Himself to us through scripture – “Father, Son & Holy Bible!”
One final thought. There is a lot of talk lately about “reading the Bible in community” especially coming from proponents of the Theological Interpretation of Scripture movement – and, in general, I think this is a good idea. When we read the Bible Christologicaly, we are reading the Bible with the (historical) Church, rather than in the isolation of our own private individual study – and it seems to me that this should be a very good thing!
Until next time, my friends, when we will (finally) close out this series with Part 10: Renewing our Commitment to the Role of the Holy Spirit in Exegesis!