Thursday 15 September 2005

Theology and exegesis

A fellow Aussie, Michael Jensen, has raised the question of the relationship between theology and exegesis. This is perhaps the most urgent and most important question for contemporary theology. We might even describe the history of modern theology as a history of the widening chasm between theology and exegesis, with varied and repeated attempts to bridge this chasm.

Any solution to the problem has to take seriously the distinctiveness and relative independence of the two fields. Exegetes would be paralysed if they had to limit their investigations to the terrain sketched out by dogmatics; and theologians would be paralysed if they had to wait for all the exegetical problems to be cleared up before making a theological decision.

The two fields have interrelated but distinct tasks. As Karl Barth put it, the task of exegesis is to ask what the Bible says, while the task of theology is to ask what we must say on the basis of the Bible.

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