William Abraham’s genealogy of biblical criticism

William Abraham’s genealogy of biblical criticism

The rise of biblical theology was a pivotal development within Western Christian theology. It did not arise merely because we wanted a proper reading of scripture; it arose because Christian systematic theology had gotten itself into a mess after the Reformation and had therefore invented biblical theology to get out of that mess. Systematic theologians had come to develop a very particular epistemology of theology as a way of resolving first-order disagreement. Their hope was that if they could only deploy the right method of justification for beliefs then they could settle their disputes; disputes that had reached the point of death for the protagonists. The favored epistemology was simple: turn to scripture as the crucial if not sole warrant for theology and then we will find the answers we need. Hence the creation of biblical theology as the foundation of all theology was a kind of accident waiting to happen in the bosom of Western Christian theology.

from The Bible: Beyond the Impasse, (Highland Loch, 2012), 36-37.

What sort of book is scripture?

Thoughts toward reading scripture as Christians, and not only as historians

1. Hans Frei

I am persuaded that historical inquiry is a useful and necessary procedure but that theological reading is reading of the text, and not the reading of a source, which is how historians read it.

from [I’ve lost track of the source, but whatever it was, it can be found on page 11 of that work].

2. Francis Watson

Description [of an object of study] always presupposes a prior construction of the object in terms of a given interpretive paradigm. The assertion that historical-critical practice undertakes the “description” of the biblical texts is dependent on a prior interpretation of those texts as historical artifacts.

From Text, Church, and World, (Eerdmans, 1994), 33.

3. Joel Green

The meaning, truth, and authority of Scripture’s historical narratives cannot be tethered to or made dependent on modernist notions of history or historical veracity. Instead, with biblical narratives, the essential truth-claim with which we are concerned lies above all in their claim to speak, as it were, on God’s behalf — that is, to interpret reality in light of God’s self-disclosure of God’s own character and purpose working itself out in the cosmos and on the plain of human events. In this sense, the authority of these documents, read as Scripture, rests in their status as revealed history.

from “Practicing the Gospel in a Post-critical World: The Promise of Theological Exegesis,” JETS vol. 47, no. 3, (2004), 391.