In The Art of Reading Scripture, Ellen Davis and Richard Hays bring together a superb collection of scholars who offer some great essays on the theological interpretation of Scripture. The book is the result of the studies of a group known as “The Scripture Project” and includes nine theses on the interpretation of Scripture:
- Scripture truthfully tells the story of God’s action of creating, judging, and saving the world.
- Scripture is rightly understood in light of the church’s rule of faith as a coherent dramatic narrative.
- Faithful interpretation of Scripture requires an engagement with the entire narrative: the New Testament cannot be rightly understood apart from the Old, nor can the Old be rightly understood apart from the New.
- Texts of Scripture do not have a single meaning limited to the intent of the original author. In accord with Jewish and Christian traditions, we affirm that Scripture has multiple complex senses given by God, the author of the whole drama.
- The four canonical Gospels narrate the truth about Jesus.
- Faithful interpretation of Scripture invites and presupposes participation in the community brought into being by God’s redemptive action–the church.
- The saints of the church provide guidance in how to interpret and perform Scripture.
- Christians need to read the Bible in dialogue with diverse others outside the church.
- We live in the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of the kingdom of God; consequently Scripture calls the church to ongoing discernment, to continually fresh rereadings of the text in light of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in the world.
A few thoughts:
First, we need to be careful about what we mean by construing Scripture as a “coherent dramatic narrative” informed by the rule of faith. The rule of faith must not be understood as an unquestioned rule in our interpretation of Scripture if we are to avoid falling into ideology and theological imperialism.
Second, 3 and 8 seem to be in tension. If it is an article of faith that we cannot understand and the Old Testament apart from the New its going to be hard for us to read the Old Testament in dialogue with Jews.
Third, the meaning of “continually fresh rereadings of the text in light of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in the world” seems illusive. How exactly is this sort of discernment supposed to function hermeneutically?
Fourth, these theses would be better served by explicit mention of the God as Triune, and Jesus as the center of the biblical narrative in speaking about Scripture telling the story of “God’s action of creating, judging, and saving the world.”