John Webster on theological interpretation

John Webster on the theological interpretation of scripture

The task of biblical interpretation is a function of the nature of scripture; the nature of Scripture is a function of its appointment as herald of the self-communicative presence of the risen one. […]

Proposals about “theological interpretation” of the Bible commonly lack an ontology of scripture. Theological interpretation is often described as a distinct hermeneutical strategy or interest — a matter of reading for certain theological themes (rather than proceeding no further than historical or literary content), or, perhaps, a matter of reading under the tutelage of the church’s traditions of interpretation, or of reading virtuously. Much can be said in favor of these claims, but they will only prove fruitful if grounded in a theological account of what Scripture is. Questions about interpretive methods can only be settled “metaphysically,” that is, by working out what the text is, who we are as its interpreters and what ends we are to pursue as we read it. The core of such an account is, of course, the doctrine of the triune God, who alone is the ratio essendi et cognoscenti [the logos of being and knowing] of all creatures.

from The Domain of the Word, (T&T Clark, 2012), 32-3.

Telford Work on scripture

Telford Work on scripture as the church’s language

There is perhaps no adequate way to condense the main dimensions of Scripture’s relationship to Jesus Christ. But since twentieth-century philosophy’s linguistic turn, the term language has acquired a richness that makes it an appropriate term. Scripture is Jesus’ heritage, his horizon, his formation, his practice, his authority, his instrument, his medium, his teaching, his crisis and vindication, his witness, his confession, his community and his glory. The Bible is the very language of the Messiah.

[…] In describing the relationship between Scripture and Christ, we have all along been describing the relationship between those in Scripture and Christ. Holy Scripture is also the Church’s heritage, its horizon, its formation, its practice, its authority, its instrument, its medium, its teaching, its criterion, its witness, its confession, its community and its glory.

No other institution pervades the Christian life like the Bible. […] It is the language of the Triune God, the language of Israel, the language of Messiah, the language of the Church, and the language of salvation.

Living and Active, Eerdmans, (2002), 212, 269, 315.

R. T. France on typology

R. T. France on typology

Interpreters have often spoken of a sensus plenior, a “fuller meaning” in the OT texts, which the NT writers are able to perceive. Perhaps that is not the best way to put it. This new meaning is not something inherent in the OT texts themselves, so that any objective exegesis, Jewish or Christian, ought properly to perceive it. Rather, it is a new level of relevance, going beyond what the OT writer and the original readers could have perceived, which is now discovered by retrospective reflection in the light of NT events. Typology depends not so much on exegesis of the original meaning as on a theological hindsight informed by commitment to Christ as the climax of God’s work of salvation. It proceeds from faith rather than from objective literary analysis.

from “Relationship between the Testaments,” Dictionary for the Theological Interpretation of Scripture, (Baker, 2005), 669.

On scripture’s role as theological authority

On scripture’s role as theological authority

A. Robert Jenson

There is no mandate to reproduce all apostolic theologoumena. Indeed, they are not guaranteed to be especially felicitous; we turn to the apostolic church not for the certainly best thought-out instances of gospel-speaking but for unchallengeable instances. … apostolic reflective activity — however profoundly or superficially done — must have been the right sort of thing to be doing.

from Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 The Triune God, (OUP, 1997), 32.

B. David Kelsey

As its “authority,” scripture is “normative” for a proposal’s Christian aptness, not for its origin.

from Proving Doctrine, (Bloomsbury, 1999), 193.

C. John Webster

Scripture is not so much a source or norm of theology as its idiom.

from “Authority of Scripture,” Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, (Baker, 2005), 724.

D. Rowan Williams

Revelation is addressed not so much to a will called upon to submit as to an imagination called upon to ‘open itself.’

from “Trinity and Revelation,” Modern Theology vol 2, no 3, (1986): 209.

The New Testament is less a set of theological conclusions than a set of generative models for how to do Christian thinking.

from On Christian Theology, Oxford, Blackwell, 2000, 22.

John Webster on the theological location of scripture

John Webster on scripture’s systematic horizons

A ‘doctrine’ of Scripture cannot be extracted from the web of theological convictions of which it is part. Doctrines of Scripture are never freestanding—even in those modern neorationalist theological schemes in which bibliology undertakes the role of epistemological foundation for everything that follows. Rather, doctrines of Scripture are bound up with (sometimes driven by pressure from) theological teaching about the nature of God and God’s communicative or revelatory acts, about Christ, Spirit, church, salvation, faith, and much else. Moreover, it is not only doctrinal convictions that exercise this kind of pressure on how the nature of Scripture is construed, but also other basic (and often subterranean) attitudes that form the particular dogmatic ‘dialectic’ with which a theologian speaks — views about distinction between God and the world, about the human historical condition, about knowledge and its media, about the operations of language.

from Scripture’s Doctrine and Theology’s Bible, (Baker, 2008), 106-7