Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
January 2nd, 2014 by Joel Watts

Review of @ivpacademic’s The Future of Biblical Interpretation: Responsible Plurality in Biblical Hermeneutics

The modern world has not treated biblical interpretation kindly. As one of the contributors points out, such interpretation is often treated as a way to validate one’s presuppositions about all things theist. Further, modernity has given us new swaths of methodologies, some of them foreign to Scripture and Christian Tradition and some of them underused. This book, through various essays explaining how to be responsible in biblical interpretation, attempts to address our approaches to Scripture. The essays, previously given as lectures, are in honor of Anthony Thiselton and his work defining interpretative methodologies.

The book has 8 chapters, an introduction and a conclusion. These essays examine biblical hermeneutics not from various methodologies, such as post-colonialism or empire critical studies, but as to what responsibility the biblical exegete must employ. At no point should you understand that this book is going to tell you how to interpret according to this or that strategy. Rather, it is to teach you how to be responsible. For example, Thiselton gives the first essay as a move forward, setting out the reason we must include different interpretative strategies in our understanding of Scripture. From here, we encounter 7 areas of responsibility — theological, scriptural, kerygmatic, historical, critical, relational, and ecclesial. Easy essay is presented in an accessible way, to engender a better dialogue between the Church and the Academy, between the traditional and non-traditional approaches.

The authors are faithful to Scripture and in a unique, critical, and non-naive way, faithful to Christian Tradition. Unless one is so complacent in their own historical setting as to remain unmoved, either by reason or the Spirit, then everyone who takes up and reads this book will learn more about biblical interpretation then they may have allowed possible. Be warned, there is little room for confirmation bias. The arguments are methodical and made by authors representing the best of the Christian intellect.

My one concern is the lack of representation among the essayists/contributors. All are men and I would offer a guess, they are solely white. As a white male, I should have no issue with this, but it would be interesting to see what a non-white female may have had to say in the historical responsibility setting. Further, since the book is expressly about the plurality of voices in modern biblical interpretation, the book is rather hegemonic in context. With that said, however, what The Future of Biblical Interpretation: Responsible Plurality in Biblical Hermeneutics delivers is nothing less than a giant leap into the right direction for deciding what to do with pre-modernity, modernity, Tradition, and the plurality of voices when it involves how to interpret Scripture responsibly.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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