Something that the whole movement being spawned by N.T. Wright and company is failing to emphasize (and in fact is undercutting) is the reality that theology has in biblical exegesis. As Christian interpreters, we do so from a certain vantage point; we, along with the rest of historical orthodox Christianity affirm that God is Triune, and that He has Self-revealed in hypostatically unioned person, His Son, Jesus Christ. Neither one of these bedrock conceptual realities about the Christian God are something that can simply be read off of the pages of Scripture; nevertheless, this reality is the ultimate one that shapes all of the writings found in the Holy Scriptures. And it is this reality, at a fundamental level, that tenses the way we interpret and think as Christians; and yet it is not something that is contingent, per se, upon recovering or reconstructing history, it is contingent on who God is. Every Christian affirms this reality about who God is, and thus it behooves us to be consistent in our hermeneutical thrust; viz. in the way that construct our hermeneutical posture. The history of second Temple Judaism certainly offers enlightening insights into the text of Scripture, but to pretend as if these insights are definitive and ultimate and terminal relative to the reality of the Gospel needs to be re-considered; because really, all of the history is contingent and given meaning by something and someone else.
The following is a repost that I wrote that was seeking to illustrate how it is that all Christians do theological exegesis; and I use the Trinity to illustrate this.
Inner Logic is an important concept to realize when approaching Scripture and its interpretation. These two words actually signify another way of saying theological exegesis; yet I find that many in my own tradition of “Evangelicalism” shy away from such thinking when it comes to Biblical interpretation. There is this unspoken (but often spoken) belief that when we interpret scripture that it is simply a staightforward exercise (of course the multitudinous interpretations of scripture put this belief to death quickly). The irony of this perspective is that so many of our Essential Christian Beliefs are grounded in anything but straightforward exegesis. Let me provide an example:
One of the bedrock, touchstone foundations of Historic Christian Belief is the doctrine of God known as the Trinity. Of course nowhere in the Bible will we find the nomenclature of Trinity; in fact one of the so called church Fathers, Tertullian, coined the term Trinitas very early on in the Churches’ genesis; here’s what J. N. D. Kelly says:
. . . He, too, is a ‘Person’, so that the Godhead is a ‘trinity’ (trinitas: Tertullian is the first to employ the word). The three are indeed numerically distinct, being ‘capable of being counted’. . . . Thus Tertullian can state: ‘We believe in on only one God, yet subject to this dispensation, which is our word for economy, that the one only God has also a Son, His Word, Who has issued out of Himself . . . which Son then sent, according to His promise, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete out of the Father’; and later in the same context he can balance the divine unity with ‘the mystery of the economy, which distributes the unity in Trinity, setting forth Father, Son and Spirit as three’. (J.N.D. Kelly, “Early Christian Doctrines,” 113)
I mention this to further substantiate that the language of Trinity, itself, is indeed foreign to the text of scripture; in fact as Kelly notes it came from a church Father. What I would like to further add, in flow with the context of this post, is that while the language of “Trinity” may be foreign to the text of Scripture; indeed, the grammar or concept is not. This brings us back to the language of inner logic or theological exegesis. In other words, how did Tertullian and the other church Father’s come to conclude that God is not only one (de deo uno); but in fact He is three (de deo trino) in one and one in three? Simple they read scripture, and discerned that when they read the Apostle Paul, for example, that there was an unstated theological concept about God that Paul was assuming in order to make benedictions like this:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” ~II Corinithians 13:13
As you engage the rest of Paul’s writings (like all of II Corinthians for example) there is this constant assumption that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are at work in salvation. This is what discerning the inner logic leads to; i.e. key and fundamental doctrines upon which the Christian faith hangs — starting in the early church and into the present.
So there is more to scripture interpretation and exegesis than engaging in exegetical and syntactical analysis of the Koine Greek of the New Testament; there in fact is an inner logic that holds the text of scripture together. It is the theologian’s job to discern and lay bare this “logic” and work out the implications of that “inner logic” for the church and all of her exegetes. The Trinity is just one example of working out the inner logic of scripture; all of Scripture actually hangs together on Christo-logic, but this is discussion for another post.
I hope folks realize the depth embedded within the scriptures themselves; if you do you will be set up to enjoy the richness and freshness that scripture has to offer.