the weblog of Alan Knox

Treier on Biblical Theology and Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Posted by on Feb 16, 2010 in biblical theology | 5 comments

‘Biblical theology’ has long influenced modern theological method, especially Protestant, as both boon and bane. Its role has been seen as either pivotal or problematic in the attempt to construe the Christian Bible as scripture with unified teaching for the contemporary church. The attempt to unfold biblical teaching as having organic unity, related to an internal structure of theological concepts, is frequently perceived as a failure, a has-been that leaves us only with fragmentation – between parts of the Bible, between academy and church, church and world, clergy and laity, and between various theological disciplines. Today a new movement is afoot, often labelled ‘theological interpretation of scripture’. Some of its adherents define this practice as distinct from, even opposed to, biblical theology. Others treat the two practices as virtually coterminous, while perhaps contesting what ‘biblical theology’ is typically taken to be in favour of
new theological hermeneutics. Much of the difficulty in defining the relationship, then, stems from lingering debates about what biblical theology can or should be. The rest of the difficulty is perhaps rooted in the dilemma of any interdisciplinary efforts: how to breach unhelpful sections of disciplinary boundaries without redefining territory so nebulously that no one knows where they are. (Daniel J. Treier, “Biblical theology and/or theological interpretation of scripture?” Scottish Journal of Theology 61.1 (2008), 16)


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  1. 2-17-2010

    One thing that gets so easily overlooked in all of these types of discussions regarding how to interpret scripture is that there is so, so much in scripture that is very plain to understand. And yet, we don’t even bother to follow those instructions.

    For example, take the teachings of Jesus. Yes, he admitted to speaking in parables to cloud the truth for those who did not want to hear the truth. But if we are seeking the truth, he promises us that we will receive truth, so the parables shouldn’t be a problem to us.

    But beyond the parables, there were many things Jesus said that were not hidden in parables. Things like “love your enemy”, “turn the other cheek”, etc. Yet we can’t even read those at face value without people trying to tell us that it doesn’t really mean what it says.

    Maybe we should begin with all the clear stuff and watch the other stuff unfold in the process. Then we don’t have to get hung up on which method of interpretation we’re using.

    Maybe, just maybe, we should be pursuing a Spirit-led interpretation, rather than a particular “method”.

  2. 2-17-2010


    I struggle with this command “give to all who ask and turn none away”. Dude, that is very, very hard, not to mention really loving your enemies would soon turn us all into pacifist. Someone said it is hard to kill people you love.

  3. 2-17-2010

    Lionel, not sure if you’re pulling my leg or not. :) But just in case you’re serious, why do you think it’s so hard to “give to all who ask” or to “love your enemies”?

    We make these commandments difficult in our mind because we allow our culture and our religious environment to convince us that it’s ok to hate our enemies by redefining “love”.

    Or we convince ourselves that the person asking for something probably just wants it for all the wrong reasons, and so we justify our rejection of their request. How many times have you heard, “Don’t give ‘them’ money. They’ll just spend it on alcohol and cigarettes”?

    When people claim this country is a “Christian nation”, and yet this nation vows to hunt its enemies down and torture and kill them, it definitely muddies the waters on the notion of loving our enemies. Wouldn’t you agree?

  4. 2-17-2010

    I was serious Steve and it relates to your statement about the abuse. I do appreciate your comments and take them to heart as they have been packed with wisdom for me at least.

  5. 2-18-2010

    Lionel, if you find any wisdom in my comments, I’m grateful. I sure don’t have a lot of answers, but I do enjoy thinking “out loud” about a lot of these issues. And I’m doing everything I can to let Jesus live this stuff out through me in my everyday life.

    The one thing I can say for certain, though, is that the yoke of Jesus is light, as he told us it was. And once we begin living his words and letting him live them through us, it actually becomes a lot easier than we can imagine. It’s only our messed-up human self-centered approach to life that tells us it is too hard to even try.