Thursday 18 March 2010

Aspects of Theological Interpretation 11

[This is the eleventh of twelve posts outlining a number of streams in the current interest in theological interpretation, paying particular attention to recent treatments. For earlier introductions to theological interpretation, see here, here, and here.]

#1 – Its uneasy relationship with historical criticism

#2 – Its disputed overlap with biblical theology

#3 – Its natural affinity with precritical interpretation

#4 – Its noteworthy exemplar in Karl Barth

#5 – Its relative comfort with multiple interpretations

#6 – Its significant emphasis on the role of the community of faith

#7 – Its contested dependence on ‘general’ hermeneutics

#8. Its careful attention to the role of the canon and typology

#9. Its renewed reflection on the doctrine of Scripture

#10. Its increasing interest in reception history

#11. Its undeveloped potential for engaging global concerns and the social locations of interpreters

This is connected to the previous point in this series (regarding the increasing significance attached to reception of the text) where the cultural context and social location of the interpreter is important in the framing of theological discourse.

[For a helpful overview, see: Daniel J. Treier, Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice (Nottingham: Apollos, 2008), 157-86. See also Walter Brueggemann, ‘The Re-Emergence of Scripture: Post-Liberalism’, in Paul Ballard and Stephen R. Holmes (eds.), The Bible in Pastoral Practice: Readings in the Place and Function of Scripture in the Church, Using the Bible in Pastoral Practice Series (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2005), 153-73, esp. 164-70, who discusses the contextual reading of the Bible with postliberal approaches to Scripture, which emphasises ‘pragmatic’ interpretation in and for particular faith communities (171).]

Here is a basic recognition that where theological interpretation is carried out, it is done so in a variety of contexts.

[Stephen E. Fowl, ‘Introduction’, in Stephen E. Fowl (ed.), The Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Classic and Contemporary Readings, Blackwell Readings in Modern Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), xii-xxx, here xx, and see the African-American and feminist readings of biblical passages in the essays that follow Fowl’s Introduction.]

Two of the main driving elements are postcolonial theory and the rise of Pentecostalism in the ‘south’, with its belief in supernatural revelation.

[Philip Jenkins, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); Fernando F. Segovia, Decolonizing Biblical Studies: A View from the Margins (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2000); R.S. Sugirtharajah, The Bible and the Third World: Precolonial, Colonial and Postcolonial Encounters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).]

It is a reminder that those interested in theological interpretation do not necessarily endorse a single approach to the text (say, historical criticism), that even so-called ‘academic’ exegesis takes place in particular contexts, and that ‘by attending to those contexts (in the act of interpretation itself) we have the possibility of maintaining some awareness of our own prejudices which may condition or distort reading’.

[Christopher Rowland and Jonathan Roberts, The Bible for Sinners: Interpretation in the Present Time (London: SPCK, 2008), 43.]

The role of the believing community in biblical interpretation is being explored in ‘local’ UK contexts.

[On which see, e.g., Andrew Rogers, ‘Reading Scripture in Congregations: Towards an Ordinary Hermeneutics’, in Andrew Walker and Luke Bretherton (eds.), Remembering Our Future: Explorations in Deep Church (Bletchley: Paternoster, 2007), 81-107, and John B. Thomson, ‘Time for Church? Evangelicals, Scripture and Conversational Hermeneutics’, Anvil 21, 4 (2004), 245-57; Andrew Village, The Bible and Lay People: An Empirical Approach to Ordinary Hermeneutics (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).]

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