Overlooking Details in Biblical Literature

Photograph of Karl Barth
Photograph of Karl Barth via Wikimedia Commons

In commenting on the “onesideness” inherent in Martin Luther’s law-gospel contrast as it applies in various biblical corpora, Karl Barth reflects:

In all these cases the failure to recognise the unity of Scripture involved sooner or later, and inevitably, a failure to recognise that it is Holy Scripture. For when we have such arbitrary preferences, we do not read even the parts which we prefer as Holy Scripture. The same is true of any preference, even the most detailed. This criterion ought to be applied to the most commonly accepted doctrine of the Church, even that which we find in the confessional documents. And particularly should it be applied to individual teachers, even the greatest of them. For fundamentally, whenever anything which is “written” is overlooked in the exposition of Scripture, whenever for the sake of the exposition we are forced to weaken or even omit what is written, there is always the possibility that the exposition has really missed the one thing which Scripture as a whole attests, even when it thinks that it has found it. (Church Dogmatics 1.2, 485; underlining added).

To be sure, it is important to be able to see a really viable argument through apparent difficulties. But, at the same time, when interpreting biblical literature, one must always be alert to a sense of the text’s starting to “present itself in all its otherness and thus assert its own truth against [our] own fore-meanings” (Gadamer, Truth and Method, 282).

Biblical references in writing theology

Earlier this month, Rick Brannan posted an analysis of the most frequently cited in a selection of systematic theologies. Rick has since made available on his blog the bibliography of systematic theologies that fed this analysis.

Meanwhile, Christianity Today picked up the post for further discussion. According to CT,

Perhaps most interesting—and potentially disturbing—is the dearth of Old Testament references among the 100 most-cited verses. This raises the question of whether the Old Testament is necessary for Christian theology, and whether it should be included in systematic theology more often.

Is such a strong preference for the same key verses, especially those in the New Testament, a problem in systematic theology? CT asked experts to weigh in.

There then follows a paragraph each from Kevin Vanhoozer, Craig Keener, John Stackhause, Michael Bird, Michael Allen, and William Dyrness.

Now Brannan has followed up at theLAB with the promised corresponding analysis for biblical theologies. This new analysis comments in part,

What is immediately striking to me is the frequency of Old Testament references. Systematic theologies had nine OT references in the top 100. In Biblical theologies, seven of the top ten references are from the Old Testament, and 29 of the top 100.

Twenty-nine is markedly larger than nine. But, the still-substantial slant to the New Testament perhaps suggests a tendency to do primarily “New Testament biblical theology” in practice, if not always in title. As a balancing resource, perhaps we need a new sub-publishing genre of “Old Testament biblical theology”?

Ad fontes @Logos

Graves, ed., "Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church" coverI’ve previously mentioned Michael Graves’s Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church (Fortress, 2017).  The text is part of a projected 8-volume series. Logos Bible Software now has the first four volumes available for order via their pre-publication program. This includes

  • Michael Graves, ed., Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church’
  • Maria E. Doerfler and George Kalantzis, eds., Church and Empire
  • Everett Ferguson and George Kalantzis, eds., Understandings of the Church
  • Helen Rhee and George Kalantzis, eds., Wealth and Poverty in Early Christianity

For more information about the half-series bundle or to order, see the Logos website.

Graves, ed., “Biblical interpretation in the early church”

Graves, ed., "Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church" coverAvailable in Fortress’s Ad fontes series is Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church, edited by Michael Graves. According to the volume’s blurb,

Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church is part of Ad Fontes: Early Christian Sources, a series designed to present ancient Christian texts essential to an understanding of Christian theology, ecclesiology, and practice. The books in the series will make the wealth of early Christian thought available to new generations of students of theology and provide a valuable resource for the Church. This volume focuses on how Scripture was interpreted and used for teaching by early Christian scholars and church leaders.

Developed in light of recent Patristic scholarship, Ad Fontes volumes will provide a representative sampling of theological contributions from both East and West. The series aims to provide volumes that are relevant for a variety of courses: from introduction to theology to classes on doctrine and the development of Christian thought. The goal of each volume is not to be exhaustive, but rather representative enough to denote for a non-specialist audience the multivalent character of early Christian thought, allowing readers to see how and why early Christian doctrine and practice developed the way it did.

Free Richards, O’Brien with discount on Bailey @Logos

For April, Logos Bible Software’s “free book of the month” and discounted companion focus on Scripture in its cultural contexts.

Richards and O'Brien, The free text is Randolph Richards and Brandon O’Brien’s Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (IVP, 2012). According to the book’s blub:

Brandon O’Brien and E. Randolph Richards shed light on the ways Western readers often misunderstand the cultural dynamics of the Bible. They identify nine key areas where modern Westerners have significantly different assumptions about what is going on in a text than what the context actually suggests. Drawing on their own cross-cultural experience in global missions, the authors show how greater understanding of cultural differences in language, time, and social mores allow us to see the Bible in fresh and unexpected ways.

Bailey, The companion reduced-price text for $1.99 is Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (IVP, 2008). According to it’s blurb:

Beginning with Jesus’ birth, Ken Bailey leads you on a kaleidoscopic study of Jesus throughout the four Gospels. Bailey examines the life and ministry of Jesus with attention to the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, Jesus’ relationship to women, and especially Jesus’ parables.

Even if you’re not otherwise a Logos user, you can get Logos 7 basic for free also and add these digital resources to your virtual research library.