Books and Culture’s recent interview with Richard Hays has been making the rounds. The interview is interesting in itself and covers topics on Hays’s background and some of his academic work.
Hays is one of the better models for theological reading and I found one aspect of the interview illuminating on him as a scholar.
…once I got into biblical studies courses in seminary, I was both fascinated by the subject matter and puzzled by the ways I found a lot of biblical scholars approaching the text: in many cases, they seemed less interested in the wholeness and message of the text than in trying to excavate some hypothetical prehistory of the text.
My response to that has left its stamp on most of my work as a New Testament scholar. I’ve been attempting to interpret the Bible with the sensibility of someone trained as a literary reader of texts and, through that kind of reading, to recover the powerful and surprising messages of Scripture.
This is an excellent quote from Richard Hays on hermeneutics after exegeting 2 Cor 3:1-4:6 in Echoes of Scripture, ch. 4:
The meaning of Scripture is enacted in the Christian community, and only those who participate in the enactment can understand the text. Consequently, the transformation of the community is not the presupposition but also the result and proof of true interpretation. Where God’s spirit is at work, the community (“we all”) is being transformed into the image of Christ and liberated to see, when they read Scripture, that the old covenant prefigured precisely this transformation. (Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, 152)
The quote sums up a number of what I consider to be essential characteristics of a biblically grounded hermeneutic:
- Textual – A Christian reading of the Bible pays attention to the words, sentences, paragraphs and books of the Bible in detail (this is not explicit in the quote but it is from the context of the entire chapter)
- Pneumatological – A Christian reading of the Bible is rooted in a recognition of the Spirit’s inspiration of the text and in a reliance on the Spirit for understanding (illumination)
- Christotelic – A Christian reading of the Bible understands that the purpose of the Scriptures is not only to reveal Christ but to transform his church into his image through the Spirit
- Communal – A Christian reading of the Bible takes place in the context of the community of the faithful, the church
- Transformational – A Christian reading of the Bible is not only concerned with information but with transformation, namely into the image of Christ
- Holistic – A Christian reading of the Bible regards both the Old and New Testaments as the true, complementary, and complete revelation of God through Christ that are to be read in the above ways
Am I missing anything else?