Monday 17 October 2005

Eternity, historicity, and the Bible

Don’t worry, I’m not resuming the series on the doctrine of Scripture! But I posted a comment on Michael Jensen’s blog which I wanted to reproduce partially here (I was replying to another comment, not to Michael himself):

Is there a stark contrast between human historicity and “eternal significance”? It seems to me that we need to resist exactly this contrast if we are to take seriously God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. God’s eternal being is not located somewhere above this world, but it is an event that takes place in the history of the man Jesus.

And this means that we should think about questions of “eternal significance” not by turning away from ordinary human history, but by turning towards history, i.e., towards the history of one particular Jewish man.

I think it’s also best to approach the Bible in the same way: the Bible’s message has “eternal significance” not in spite of its ordinary historicity, but precisely by virtue of its thoroughgoing historicity. If the biblical texts were somehow removed from the normal processes of social and cultural conditioning, then these texts would no longer be witnesses to God, i.e., to the God who happens in human history.

Anyway, my point in all this is that historical-critical approaches to the Bible are not only valid and important, but are theologically necessary if we are to be faithful to the Bible itself.


Michael Pahl said...

Thanks for these thoughts, Ben. This is much along the lines of my own thinking on the subject (you can see my post on the title of my blog for a general view of this). I'm convinced that a proper understanding of both the doctrines of inspiration and the incarnation demands critical historical study of the Bible, but also that means that the significance of Scripture is not nearly exhausted (nor merely exhumed) through traditional historical critical study. Or something like that... :-)

Eddie said...

History is our paying field, and it only makes sense that any meaning worthy or our knowing will be concerned with this world. I dont like to see the Bible as "revelation" because it evokes notions of eternal, timelessness, and abstract in my mind. I like to think of the Bible as "testament", that is, testimony to God's actions, peoples responses, his overarching plan for creation and our place within this plan.

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