Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Apostolic hermeneutics vs. Bridges and Hays

With little time during the extended Labor Day weekend to spend on the recent ‘blogging wars’, I would now like to return to apostolic exegesis and its relationship to post-apostolic interpretation. As a starting point for this thread, I shall begin by reviewing some comments made by Gene Bridges (in an apologia of sorts for Steve Hays) over at Triablogue (hopefully, they have been able to move past their Catholic serial killer mentality).

Gene Bridges posted (HERE):

>> Me: And the primary hermeneutic of Jesus and the Apostles was?

1. Notice that Waltz waltzes right past this one.

a. We are not God.
b. We are not Apostles.
c. Are we to exegete Scripture exactly like the Apostles? Which of us is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?
d. The NT, among other things, is an infallible commentary on the OT. The way to understand the NT is by the GHM, thereby the GHM takes account of the "primary hermeneutic of Jesus and the Apostles." The issue isn't the way THEY exegeted the Scriptures, but how WE are to properly understand THEM when they did so.
e. Perhaps, David, you should take a gander at Carson and Beale. When you've done that, get back to Steve on this response of yours. It's been offered here a number of times by others already
.>>

Bridges (and the same can be said of Hays) states the “issue isn't the way THEY exegeted the Scriptures, but how WE are to properly understand THEM when they did so.” Really? I totally disagree, for the “issue” IS HOW THEY EXEGETED THE SCRIPTURES. To take “account of the ‘primary hermeneutic of Jesus and the Apostles’”, and then conclude that their hermeneutic is not the “issue” is nonsensical. Bridges seems to justify his stance with the points made earlier in a., b., and c.; he then recommends that I “take a gander at Carson and Beale”. Fair enough, so this morning I turned to Beale, who wrote:

The conclusion of those who see the New Testament use of the Old Testament as non-contextual is that twentieth-century Christians should not attempt to reproduce the exegetical method of the New Testament writers, except when it corresponds to our grammitical-historical method…But it is not necessary to claim that we have to have such inspiration to reproduce their method or their conclusions. The fact that we don’t have the same “revelatory stance” as the New Testament writers only means that we cannot have the same epistemological certainty about our interpretative conclusions and applications as they did. Exegetical method should not be confused with certainty about the conclusions of such method, since the two are quite distinct. (G.K. Beale, “Positive Answer To the Question”, in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts, ed. G.K. Beale, p. 399.)

Amen Dr. Beale! I am truly left wondering if Bridges and Hays have actually read one of the authors they recommended…


Grace and peace,

David

6 comments:

Interlocutor said...

Hi David,
I'm not sure if you read the link Steve referenced in one of his replies - http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/02/grammatico-historical-exegesis.html - but in the comments discussion there he does seem to promote that the Apostles used GHM based off Carson/Beale's work which I believe came out pretty recently - "If you consult a work like the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Beale & Carson, eds.), you will see that apostolic exegesis conforms to the GHM." Whether he means they used it *exclusively* I'm not sure, presumably so, but he does add by saying we all use GHM in interpreting everything else, and that any alternative such as allegory or whatnot makes no sense given we would not apply that to interpreting the fathers or church decrees. And that non-GHM methods lead to completely unverifiable interpretations, so why even bother.

That's an understandable position, but I sympathize with some of the commenters who suggested that approaching an inspired text in exactly the same way as an uninspired text is not required by default or perhaps the best idea. That does seem reasonable to me, given Scripture's divine origin. But that does have issues as the tbloggers have pointed out in various posts on hermeneutics.

Btw, I was surprised you hadn't heard of the dustup Enns caused with his book from WTS and other scholars - but if you don't browse too many Reformed blogs I could see how you might not have heard about it.

Interlocutor said...

Actually, given any non-GHM approach(es) to Scripture, would you not say that necessarily entails an abandonmnent of Sola Scriptura in favor of an ecclesiastical hermeneutic? Although, even the RCC (and her theologians) allows for and promotes use of the GHM of course, so I guess it becomes a question of to what extent non-GHM methods should be used to interpret scripture.

David Waltz said...

Hi Interlocutor,

Thanks for responding to my post; you wrote:

>> I'm not sure if you read the link Steve referenced in one of his replies…>>

Me: I did. The original post was largely an excerpt from Waltke’s An Old Testament Theology.


>> in the comments discussion there he does seem to promote that the Apostles used GHM based off Carson/Beale's work which I believe came out pretty recently - "If you consult a work like the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Beale & Carson, eds.), you will see that apostolic exegesis conforms to the GHM.">>

Me: I do not have Carson/Beale’s recent work Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, but I do own well over a dozen scholarly works devoted to the subject (almost all by Protestant scholars). From my readings, I must differ with Steve’s assessment—i.e. that apostolic exegesis conforms to the GHM—this is not to say that the GHM is totally absent from their exegesis, but rather, that the GHM was not their primary hermeneutical method. I also do not mean to imply that the GHM has no place in OUR understanding of apostolic exegesis, but rather, as Beale points out in the essay I quoted from in my opening post, that post-apostolic exegetes should attempt “to reproduce their method”.


>>he does add by saying we all use GHM in interpreting everything else, and that any alternative such as allegory or whatnot makes no sense given we would not apply that to interpreting the fathers or church decrees. And that non-GHM methods lead to completely unverifiable interpretations, so why even bother.>>

Me: The above is why I still maintain that apostolic exegesis is basically irrelevant to Gene’s and Steve’s hermeneutical method. Yet, once again, Beale disagrees with them here (at least in his 1989 essay that I quoted).

As for GHM and the church decrees/councils/catechisms/etc., we now enter into the realm of why I believe such documents are ‘clearer’ than the Scriptures—an Arian may argue whether or not the Scriptures clearly teach the doctrine of the Trinity, but he cannot do the same with the Nicene Creed, or with the Westminster Confession of Faith…


>> Btw, I was surprised you hadn't heard of the dustup Enns caused with his book from WTS and other scholars - but if you don't browse too many Reformed blogs I could see how you might not have heard about it.>>

Me: I am trying to get ‘caught up’ on the apparent firestorm Enns’ book created. The following SITE has proved quite useful in facilitating this goal.

At the present, it seems to me that most of Enns’ critics are not disagreeing with him on apostolic exegesis, but rather, that they sense his book has moved away from the position that the Bible is inerrant—do you see this the same way?


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello again Interlocutor,

You posted:

>>Actually, given any non-GHM approach(es) to Scripture, would you not say that necessarily entails an abandonmnent of Sola Scriptura in favor of an ecclesiastical hermeneutic?>>

Me: Hmmmm…need to think that over. For the meantime, I would say it involves the abandonment of nuda scriptura, but maybe not necessarily sola scriptura; for remember, from the beginning, the early adherents of sola scriptura taught that one needed to start with the regula fidei in order to properly understand the Scriptures.


>>Although, even the RCC (and her theologians) allows for and promotes use of the GHM of course, so I guess it becomes a question of to what extent non-GHM methods should be used to interpret scripture.>>

Me: Agreed.

Grace and peace,

David

Chris said...

>>Actually, given any non-GHM approach(es) to Scripture, would you not say that necessarily entails an abandonmnent of Sola Scriptura in favor of an ecclesiastical hermeneutic?>>

Or a spiritual hermeneutic.

Interlocutor said...

Chris,
By spiritual, are you referring to the internal witness of the holy spirit? That's true enough and certainly crystallizes the issue with non-GHM methods - how is any interpretation verifiable then outside the system producing the interpretation (such as the person claiming the HS, or the church - scripture can essentially become a "wax nose")? However, GHM doesn't get one off this hook necessarily either, as many SS proponents of perspicuity claim that understanding only applies to believers/regenerate; the unregenerate still would fail to grasp certain truths even using the GHM.