Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Getting Over Grammatical Historical Exegesis

Grammatical Historical Exegesis is good as far as it goes. We want to seek to work out what Amos probably meant to his first audience and what Paul probably meant in writing his letters to the Corinthians. Our interpretation should pay careful attention to what the text actually says and we mustn’t leap to conclusions or to applications. The thought associations in my brain, which may be provoked in part by the biblical text, must be weighed against the Scriptures, not unreflectively prefaced with “thus says the LORD”.

Yet we also want to get over GHE. We are much more interested in what God the Holy Spirit means in speaking these same words to his church today than in what the human author may have thought. Praying for the Spirit’s help, we want to understand God’s words as fully as we can, with all the connections and implications that we can perceive. We will think in terms of the fullness of meaning and associations, not simply reduction to some essence or crunching down the text into propositions, principles, sermon headings or aim sentences. Significance will be located within a Biblical world view and symbolism suggested in the Bible will be taken into account. There may be many helpful perspectives on a passage and we don’t want to be overly anxious about not straying from the human writer’s main point, or too minimalistic in our reading.

In getting over GHE, the transcendental or incarnational hermeneutics of John W. Nevin may be of use.

Here are some jottings from DiPuccio, William, The Interior Sense of Scripture: The Sacred Hermeneutics of John W. Nevin Studies in American Biblical Hermeneutics 14 (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1998)

“For Nevin, the Incarnation is the transcendental (or top-down) archetype of all hermeneutics and philosophy.”

n the editor’s preface, Charles Mabee comments: “This is an important issue for those of us trained in Eurocentric historical-criticism of the Bible (called by Nevin “grammatical-historical method”), and we will have our cages rattled yet one more time by this book. As all practitioners of Eurocentric historical-criticism may readily acknowledge, there is very little “transcendental” about it. Yet, it is important to hear this criticism from a fresh angle that is neither postmodern nor fundamentalistic…. Nevin’s primary concern was not to allow the collapse of faith into the merely human. (pviii) ... This book provides us with a paradigm for biblical study that is both old and stunning in its freshness.” (pix)

“Nevin’s transcendental and even mystical hermeneutics is presented here to the church and the academy as a postcritical but orthodox alternative to modern and postmodern systems.” (p3)

“The spiritual is first, inmost, foundational and substantial; the natural is secondary, outmost, contingent, and phenomenal.” (p45) but there is a real connection or correspondence between them.

“The genius and power of Nevin’s system rests on the fact that the spiritual world is foundational to all else. As Paul once said, “the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). Behind our mundane world is an immense and unfathomable “spiritual” cosmos which is, in a manner of speaking, more real and more concrete, than the world of sense. The heavenly is not a metaphor of things invisible and eternal. In other words, it is we who are the “metaphor”, God is the “reality.”” (p48)

“Following the pattern of the Incarnation itself, the historical sense (inseparably joined to this higher spiritual sense) is not diminished or set aside; rather, it is sanctified and ennobled.” (p49)

“Mercesrsburg’s sacramental [ and analogical] understanding of language…” (p49)

“sacramental and organic view of creation” (p50)

“The Incarnation serves as the archetype of the sacraments and the word by uniting distinct things (that is, the created and divine, unlike in their natures) into an indivisible, organic whole without transmutation or separation. It denominates the relation between the sacramental sign and the grace which it signifies, as well as the relation between the words of Scripture and the divine life they embody….” (p53)

“… an incarnational view of language… which sets the stage for his sacramental view of Scripture…” (p54)

Nevin: “The whole constitution of the world is sacramental, as being not simply the sign of, but the actual form and presence of invisible things.” (p55 citing Erb, NT 372-373

“For Nevin, … the Scriptures are the incarnation of the Divine life in human language. They are “the very embodiment in natural form of a supernatural spiritual power and glory surpassing immeasurably the reach of all merely natural intelligence and thought.” [Nevin, “Christianity and Humanity” p476] … Like the two natures of Christ, the words of the text are organically joined to the spiritual life they embody.” (p79)

“Even more fundamental than an understanding of the Bible’s grammar and history (though these are necessary) is a true faith which holds directly to Christ in and through the apostolic life and teachings of the church. Those who disregard or minimize the necessity of this first principle, or who adopt a worldview based upon other foundational principles (e.g., rationalism, humanism, historicism), can never grasp the true life and meaning of the Scriptures.” (p80)

“The continuity between the incarnate Word (Christ) and the word written was the basis of Nevin’s sacramental view of the Scriptures.” (p81)

“Allegorico-mystical Exegesis” (p87ff)

“The words of Scripture are to Christ what the body is to the soul.” (p90)

“The interior sense of the Bible is not behind, beyond, or even before the word, but in the word.” (p91)

typological more than allegorical since historical sense retained (p91f)

Spiritual-Dynamic Inspiration and Exegesis (p100ff)

“Because so much of the historical evidence used in biblical scholarship and ancient history is (relatively speaking) indirect, inferential, and even tenuous, it is often sorted and adapted to support a variety of theoretical constructs. Or to put it another way, though historical facts and grammatical constraints do indeed limit the variety and scope of our interpretations (some constructs / interpretations are impossible to sustain), they may still yield a number of competing interpretations. The ever-changing and even contradictory history of biblical criticism over the past two centuries ably bears this out.

Consequently, our exegesis, as well as our critical disposition toward the Bible, is moulded, to a large degree, by our presuppositions. Conscious or unconscious, this pre-understanding shapes the criteria we use to adjudicate questions of meaning, historicity, and authorship. Every method of interpretation, therefore, is rooted in assumptions which often depend more on faith than on demonstration. Nevin was on solid ground, then, in rejecting many of the presuppositions that have been superstitiously appended to the historical-critical method in favour of the Apostles’ Creed and the catholic tradition.” (p111)

1 comment:

ros said...

Excellent. I shall steal this.