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Darren Sarisky: Theology, History, and Biblical Interpretation

Given what this reader is about, there are a few questions that are worthwhile to put to each of the twenty chapters in the text. First, it is important to discern what the author is saying about interpretation and the realities that underlie it. Is there anything in the reading that the author explicitly says about the reader, or is it implied by him or her? Of any putative statements or suggestions, which of them are theological in nature? Which ones are based in history? Does the author use both historical and theological language? Once it becomes clear, Sarisky says, what the author is saying, it becomes possible to evaluate their positions. There are some broad trends in the texts that Sarisky points out. For example, the readings that derive from previous to the twentieth century, seem almost inclined to view the relationship between history and theology in hostile terms, whereas the writers from the twentieth century seem more inclined to seek resolution between the two, or even a synthesis of them. While the reader as a whole focuses on how historical and theological factors enter into the account of reading texts, there are a number of subordinate themes also present within Sarisky’s reader. For example, many of the contributors explore which methods of interpretation apply to the Bible. A few contributors are even rather enthusiastic about using a particularly powerful method of study. Other contributors do not think this is a wise move, and think it is impossible to hear the Bible as a living voice. Yet further contributors are not exercised by one method or another. A second underlying theme is the significance of modernity for theological claims. Some contributors contend that the arrival of modernity shows previous configurations of theology to be outmoded. Bultmann’s classic statement to the effect that we cannot use electricity and medical doctors while at the same time believe in the spirit world of the New Testament comes to mind. A third subordinate theme is viewing the Bible as relevant for past and present. Some contributors see it exclusively as a past act of communication, whereas others view it to speak to people today. A fourth minor theme regards Judaism’s relation to Christianity.

Cursorily, this reader covers everyone from Benedict de Spinoza, David F. Strauss, Soren Kierkegaard, Ernst Troeltsch, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, and Pope Pius XII. Moreover, the reader includes representative selections from Gerhard Ebeling, Henri de Lubac, Krister Stendahl, Brevard S. Childs, David C. Steinmetz, Ulrich Luz, Jean-Luc Marion, and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. Additionally, selections will be found herein from Jon D. Levenson, Alvin Plantinga, Paul Ricoeur, James Barr, and John Webster.

This text is designed to reach multiple audiences, though it is my contention that it will be best received within the Academy. Because of the breadth and depth of the material chosen by Sarisky to include in this text, it will appeal to systematic theologians, those involved with biblical scholarship, as well as those dealing with Jewish and Christian history. Sarisky provides introductions to each reading, and these introductions are clear and concise. Sarisky has done students and their teachers a great service by making such a broad range of major contributions to this debate available within a single volume.

Reviewed by Bradford McCall

 

Publisher’s page: http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/theology-history-and-biblical-interpretation-9780567459800/

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Category: In Depth, Summer 2016

About the Author: Bradford L. McCall, B.S. in Biology (Georgia Southwestern St. University, 2000), M.Div. (Asbury Theological Seminary, 2005), grew up on a cotton farm in south Georgia. A graduate student at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Bradford has particular interest in teleology, causation and early modern philosophy.

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