Hermeneutics: Theology & History

I've been engaged in a convo with my pal Jake regarding my previous post, "History and Theology Go Together Like..." Conversations with Jake are always fruitful, despite the fact that we disagree. Jake is certainly a minimalist when it comes to historical biblical events (though he seems to define this differently than me; as of now, I do not know how though). His minimalist view comes from his commitment to theological hermeneutics. However, like many, I feel that Jake has gone too far. Certainly, there are a number of issues at play here: epistemological, philosophical, theological, etc. What follows in this post is a brief explanation of what I feel to be a hermeneutic that is both historically and theologically sensitive and respectful.

Four quotes are in order here (and by no means do I assert that I agree with "everything" each of these persons say by virtue of one quote from them). Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, here they are:

1. "Any study of the Old Testament that does not begin with its character as a witness to God's action in history is condemned to sterility because it does not take account of the facts." --Von Rad, God at Work, 154-5

2. paraphrased: 'Any fictionalizing tendency that may be present in interpretation must always be subordinate to the backward historical reference.' --Francis Watson, Text and Truth, 33

3. paraphrased: 'The distinction between chronicle and history is that where a chronicle is a mere recording of events without any attempt to find a relationship between them or meaning in them, history seeks to tell about unfolding events all the while explaining them.' --Hegel, World History, 12

4. "It is a mistake...to presume that the Biblical writers, in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament, were not concered with history and that they set out to construct a religious mythology, or that they chose, as communicative strategy, to couch essential spiritual or rational truths in the form of a fictional historical narrative. There can be no doubt that the writers of the historical narratives in the Bible intend to refer to the prior historical reality...We may say, therefore, that the Bible is a theological account of history...That it is a theological account, employing categories peculiar to its own concerns, does not render it illegitimate as history--any more than a political or economic history should be called into question just because it is shaped by and seeks to explain the course of history according to a strictly defined interest." M. A. Rae, Behind the Text, 283

The point of these quotes is to assert the following: The writers of the biblical documents were concerned with actual historical events and the fact that they happened. Though they told them from different (and same) persepectives, in no way deems them faulty or untrustworthy historical accounts. As Von Rad asserts, any hermeneutic that does not start here is to be taken lightly. Thus, from my view, there does exist a positive, healthy relationship between history and theology. A hermeneutic that lets the narrative be the mediator between the two is a hermeneutic worth embracing and seeking. It is not the narrative world in and of itself that is important but also the fact that the story is historical (I'm not speaking of things like parables here) and that it really took place; God acted in history. Thus, it is when we employ a hermeneutic that allows the story to act as mediator between event and text (along with the Holy Spirit and the Great Cloud of Witnesses) that we are on the proper path to doing faithful interpretation.

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