Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The 'Jesus' Hermeneutic

This post has a soft connection to the earlier post that asks, "Where's the Inspiration," which addressed my discouragement when reading scholarship and finding little trace of the doctrine of inspiration in the discussing such methods as redaction, namely the use of the OT in the New.

I am currently reading Kenneth Litwak's Echoes of Scripture in Luke-Acts.  I have been impressed, though I have not agreed at every turn, by how many well rooted hypotheses he has taken on in this study.  It takes some, well let's say, chutzpah!
Particularly interesting is his rejection of the schools of 'proof-from-prophesy' and 'Promise-Fulfillment,' rallying the help from Rebbecca Denova (1997), among others, and taking on most poignantly Darrell Bock and Martin Rese, in reference to their respective, yet similar according to Litwak, methods. 
While taking on these two schools of thought on the OT use in the New, Litwak employs Joel 3:1-5 in Acts 2 as a test case.  Along the way Litwak notes,
"This means that when Peter stands up with the eleven in Acts 2.14, he speaks and declares prophetically by the Spirit.  This implies that Peter's act of interpretation is based upon a 'charismatic hermeneutic.'  It is the Spirit who guides Peter into this new reading of Joel 3.1-5a in light of what God has done in and through Jesus.  The assertion in Lk. 24.45 that Jesus opened the disciples' minds to understand the Scriptures stands tightly connected to Jesus' statement that the scriptures speak of repentance being preached to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem and that the disciples will testify of Jesus they have received power from high...So when Peter addresses the crowd in Acts 2, he does so, in fulfillment of Jesus' promise, as a Spirit-inspired witness, who interprets the Scriptures of Israel.  Peter is doubtless reading the Scriptures the new way that Jesus gave his disciples."
Litwak says one thing here: there is a new hermeneutic in the church post-ascension.  He calls it a 'charismatic hermeneutic' or 'messianic hermeneutic.'  I like 'The Jesus Hermeneutic' better - that's simply what it sounds like to me.

When I first read his claim that Peter was giving a 'revisionary reading' of Joel 3, I had pause; everyone should!  Good things rarely follow such expressions.  But, I find Litwak's understanding and explanation of the text refreshing in that he, first, does his homework. That is, there is clear interaction with the relevant primary texts of the Second Temple period, and the OT and NT.  Additionally, he interacts with the relevant secondary sources, even those outside the biblical studies disciplines.  So Litwak cannot simply be a conversation killer.  The homework is done and presented.  Second, and given credibility in broader scholarship by the first, he accords the Spirit and Jesus their proper place in the interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel in the NT writings.  Jesus "opens the minds" of those on the road to Emmaus with a new hermeneutic and the Spirit inspires a new interpretation, and both of these revelations still work within the relevant cultural sitz im Leben as is expected from the organic nature of God's normal means of communication; hence the use of Jewish interpretation methods (Pesher and Midrash) and Paul in Acts 17 quoting the poets and using no Scripture overtly. 

Today I read a review of I.H. Marshall's NTT.  This comment gets to the point I have been feeling when reading, reading, and reading, and finding little evangelical affirmation of inspiration - even from evangelicals:
In understated but readily discernible ways Marshall writes as a believing Christian.  While this is viewed as quaint or gauche by some in the discipline, Marshall is clearly not afraid of what they will think or say about his views...Marshall's aim seems to be for (student) readers to be encouraged in the direction of Christian faith rather than confused or put off by it.
 Well said, and applicable to the writing of Litwak, and previously Michael Shepherd.  Both are models to be followed, at least in this case.


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