Sunday, January 11, 2015

The End of Reading Backwards

I've now finished Richard Hays' new book. I'm glad to own it and to have read it. At 100 pages, it's definitely worth a read. It's a book I would want to refer to when thinking or teaching about the christology of the Gospels, and to some extent about the OT in the NT.

The last chapter offers a review of previous chapters and some concluding observations. I found this paragraph interesting:
For my own part, if I must declare my own sympathies with respect to the canonical Gospel writers as readers of Scripture, I find John the most problematical and Mark the most theologically generative in a postmodern era where direct speech about God is not a simple matter. And--candidly--I'm still trying to puzzle out what I think about Matthew. A good argument can be made, however, that if we had to choose just one of the Gospels as a hermeneutical guide for the long haul, Luke offers the most adequate load-bearing narrative framework for the church's reading and proclamation of Scripture. (pp. 102–3) 
The final thing here is a list of "ten ways that [the Gospels] might teach us how to read Scripture" (p. 104). Here is the list, though I omit much of Hays' exposition of each point.

  1. "A Gospel-shaped hermeneutic necessarily entails reading backwards, reinterpreting Israel's Scripture in light of the story of Jesus." 
  2. "More specifically, Scripture is to be reinterpreted in light of the cross and resurrection." 
  3. "Similarly, the Evangelists' diverse imaginative uses and transformations of the OT texts summon us also to a conversion of the imagination." 
  4. "For the Evangelists, Israel's Scripture told the true story of the world." 
  5. "It is important to emphasize that the Evangelists' retrospective reinterpretation of Israel's story is in no sense a negation or rejection of that story." 
  6. "The Gospel writers approach Scripture as a unified whole, but their reading of it is not undifferentiated." (He means that each Evangelist has his favorite parts of the canon.)
  7. "With regard to the question of canon, it is probably worth mentioning something I have been assuming throughout these lectures, though not directly arguing: the Scripture employed by the Evangelists is, on the whole, the Greek Bible (LXX)." (Hays seems not to mean that this has any canonical implications--i.e., which books the Evangelists accept as scripture--but that it does have implications for the text of scripture to be used by the church. This point is one that I would like to discuss further with Hays.) 
  8. "Because the Evangelists are so deeply immersed in Israel's Scripture, their references and allusions to it are characteristically metaleptic in character: that is, they nudge the discerning reader to recognize and recover the context from which the intertextual references are drawn." 
  9. "And now I come at last to the central substantive thesis that has emerged for me with increasing force the more I have tried to work my way into learning from the Evangelists how to read Scripture. The more deeply we probe the Jewish and OT roots of the Gospel narratives, the more clearly we see that each of the four Evangelists, in their diverse portrayals, identifies Jesus as the embodiment of the God of Israel." 
  10. "Finally, the Evangelists consistently approach Scripture with the presupposition that the God found in the stories of the OT is living and active." 

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