Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Grammatical Historical Theological Exegesis

Many exegetes contend for the grammatico-historical method of biblical exegesis, but I am convinced that such an approach comes up lacking. Herman Bavinck rightly insisted that the Scriptures should be read theologically. If the historical aspect of exegesis uncovers identifies the audience and their sitz im leben (life situation), and if the grammatical aspect of exegesis uses the tools of grammar and literary analysis to find the human author’s intention, then the theological aspect of exegesis recognizes that there is only One Author of the Bible. God is the Auctor Primarius; therefore, the Scripture must be interpreted as the expression of one mind.

According to Louis Berkhof, there are several considerations in theological exegesis:

1. The Bible is a Unity. History reflects two kinds of errors: antinomian and nomistic. The antinomians (such as Marcion) rejected the abiding authority of the OT. The nomists on the other hand (such as Baxter) understood the NT to be a new law (nova lex) of exactly the same character as the OT. The proper view is that the OT and the NT form a unity with the same doctrine of redemption: same Christ, same way of justification, and impose the same moral obligations. At the same time, revelation is progressive, such that the New is in the Old concealed but the Old is in the New revealed.

2. The Bible Sometimes has a Mystical Sense. Clement and Origen wrongly defended the view that insisting that every text has a mystical sense. Others have wrongly denied that there is any mystical sense in Scripture at all. But, the mystical interpretation is most appropriate in typological interpretations, prophecy, and in the Psalms. For example, the NT interprets several passages of the OT messianically, showing that whole categories of related passages should be interpreted in like manner. Ephesians five says that marriage is a mystery that throws light on Christ’s relationship to the Church. The physical nation of Israel is a type of Christ and of His spiritual people, etc.

3. The Bible has Implied Senses. When a mere man makes a statement about what he believes, certain implications may follow from his statement by irresistible logic, even though he may not believe those implications because he has not himself seen them. But, the Word of God is different. Because God is the author of Scripture, he knows all of the implications of what he says. Therefore, necessary implications of Scripture must be regarded as the Word of God. Christ himself affirmed and utilized the implied sense of Scripture by countering the Saducees’s denial of the resurrection with text, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” deducing from it by good and necessary implication that there is a resurrection.

Louis Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation (1950; reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1994), 133-166.

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