[This post is part of the What Is Theological Interpretation? series]
Recently, Baker Academic has been very gracious in sending me several books. Two of those books, Psalms as Torah and The Character of Christian Scripture are part of an on-going series called Studies in Theological Interpretation. After looking at the other titles, I decided to try and pick up the other books on my own and perhaps review them on here as well.
For you all interested, this what else they’ve got in the series:
- Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Studies by Markus Bockmuehl
- Prophecy and Hermeneutics: Towards A New Introduction to the Prophets by Christopher Seitz
- And I Turned To See The Voice: The Rhetoric of Vision in the New Testament by Edith Humphrey
- Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible by Joel Green
- The Virtuous Reader: The Old Testament Narrative and Interpretive Virtue by Richard Briggs
Thanks to a good spot on Amazon, our local used bookstore, and an upcoming gift certificate to Westminster’s bookstore, I’ll soon have all of these but the last two. Having read Seitz’s other book in the series, The Character of Christian Scripture over the weekend, and getting Wenham’s book in the mail Friday, I can say I’m pretty stoked about digging into this series.
This is all part of the larger project I’m undertaking about understanding theological interpretation. In another book I’ll have up for review soon, Theological Commentary: Evangelical Perspectives, D. A. Carson is somewhat skeptical of the project (of theological interpretation, not my personal journey to understand it).
Graham Cole, a colleague of Carson at Trinity put together this outline of 4 levels of interpretation:
- Understanding the text exegetically within its historical and literary contexts
- Understanding the text within the whole of biblical theology (where it fits and what it contributes)
- Bringing theological structures in the text into harmony with other texts and their emphases
- Integrating the teachings of the text into a larger hermeneutical proposal
Commenting on this, Carson says:
Traditional interpreters of Scripture who hold the Bible as the Word of God tend to operate at levels 1 and 2, with the strongest of them making excursions now and then into level 3.
So far, many if not most supporters of TIS (theological interpretation of Scripture) operate at levels 3 and 4…
For what is really needed is work that shows how levels 1, 2, and 3 should be tied together. One should indulge in level 4 only with the greatest of caution, and only after the writer has done a lot of work on the first three levels (p. 207)
My journey on here then is to investigate and see if Carson is right. Because the theological interpretation of Scripture, as a movement, is relatively recent, it wasn’t what I was taught at seminary. I’m interested to see how it differs and whether or not, as Carson concludes, “what is most valuable in TIS (and much is), is not new; what is new in TIS varies from ambiguous to mistaken, depending in part on the theological location of the interpreter.”
I guess we’ll see if this proves to be true!