At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Turns out I have internet access here. In transit I read the Enns book, Inspiration and Incarnation, which UPS had delivered to my house earlier in the afternoon. It's a bit short and sketchy, written for a lay audience, but the thesis holds promise. Enns discusses three types of difficult passage: those which have parallels in older Ancient Near Eastern literature (e.g. the Flood story, a version of which is found in the Gilgamesh epic); those which seem inconsistent either with other parts of the OT or with known historical fact (e.g. 1 & 2 Chronicles' rewriting of the historical account in 1 & 2 Kings along the lines of a theological agenda); and NT readings of the OT which seem exegetically fanciful by modern evangelical hermeneutics. Enns argues that these passages seem problematic to us only because we are anachronistically judging the truthfulness of the Bible by modern standards of objectivity and factuality. The analogy Enns draws between Inscripturation and Incarnation is helpful here. Just as the divine nature of Christ becomes incarnated in a human nature limited by conditions of time and place, so the theological message of Scripture is inscripturated in literary forms particular to the ancient near east. It would be as inappropriate to expect Genesis to be a scientific account of cosmology, or Chronicles to be strictly neutral historiography, as it would be to expect Jesus to be a blue-eyed, blond Aryan.

I was particularly interested in the examples of New Testament writers uncritically accepting extrabiblical Jewish interpretative traditions, which seems to me to be a problem for the Protestant tenet of sola scriptura. To follow the lead of the Apostles, it seems that we should accord creedence to the commonly received extrabiblical Christian traditions, e.g. perpetual virginity and sinlessness of the BVM. This isn't something Enns discusses though.


Blogger Felix said...

Your last paragraph seems to assume that "sola scriptura" (1) is the same thing as Biblical literalism, and (2) precludes historical analysis or criticism.

I was under the impression that the Protestant reformers who emphasised "scripture only" were trying to rid Christianity of extra-scriptural dogmas and pronouncements issued (or invented) by the Roman church in the middle ages and Renaissance, and wished instead to base their beliefs on the original source-text as closely as they could determine it.

Thus it seems to me that a sincere "sola-scripturalist" has more reason than anyone else to rigorously study the textual history of the Bible, wheras someone who believes in continuing institutional revelation has little reason to do so. After all, if scriptures are to be supplanted by whatever the head of the church says today or tomorrow, why bother determining what they said in the first place, or how they came to be in their current form?

8:54 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

Wow, a comment!

Just to clarify: it's not textual criticism that I think is inconsistent with sola scriptura, it's the fact that the New Testament writers don't seem to follow the principle. Here are some Jewish traditions that the NT writers adopt, according to Enns:

--"Jannes and Jambres" as names of Pharaoh's magicians (2 Tim 3:8).
--The description of Noah as a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5).
--The claim that angels disputed over Moses' body (Jude 9).
--The claim that God gave the Law through the intermediary of angels (Gal. 3:19; Acts 7:52-53; Heb. 2: 2-3).

I guess a Protestant could say that, being inspired, the NT writers could discern which extrabiblical traditions were valid, an ability denied the post-apostolic church.

Pablo will set us straight, though, right?

10:21 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home