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Scot McKnight on Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Posted by on Feb 17, 2010 in biblical theology | 5 comments

Yesterday, I published a post called “Treier on Biblical Theology and the Theological Interpretation of Scripture.” There continues to be a discussion about the definitions of both “Biblical Theology” and “Theological Interpretation of Scripture” with some overlaps.

Today, Scot McKnight posted his own definition of the Theological Interpretation of Scripture in his post “Ancient-Future Interpretation 1“:

The theological interpretation of Scripture is to read individual passages in the Bible through the lens of one’s orthodox, community-shaped, and confessional theology. This approach is a desired approach. It’s the ancient approach. (italics in original)

What do you think of McKnight’s definitions? Any concerns or approvals?


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  1. 2-17-2010

    I’m curious as to why he says that it is 1) desired, and 2) ancient.

    His reference to “community-shaped” is potentially a very good thing, except that I’m not really sure what he means by the term.

    The problem, however, with both “orthodox” and “confessional theology” as lenses is that it encourages us not to think about what the text actually says, but what you have been told that it says.

    It seems to me that the preferable approach is to read scripture in community and work out with the community what, if anything, is being said to that community. Certainly historical interpretations can, and should, be given weight. But I don’t think we should ever just punt to “orthodoxy” or “confessions” without thinking through the interpretation for ourselves.

  2. 2-17-2010

    By the way, I have to confess that I get weary of people claiming that their approach is “ancient”. I think that if we are honest about our history, we find that interpretation of scripture has more often than not been either driven by political and societal factors or actually just nonexistent.

    Often those interpretations then became “orthodoxy”, and everything else has been judged by them.

    If we can accept that history is full of flawed approaches and interpretations, we are forced to our own point of humility in interpretation, and we can also learn from some of the mistakes of the past. This can only increase our chances of actually allowing the Spirit of God to speak for himself and us being in a position of hearing him more clearly.

  3. 2-18-2010

    Couple of things stood out to me.

    One, he uses the word “individual” for passages. I think it’s convenient to do this but not smart. Scripture tells a story so each individual piece has to be read in light of the whole.

    Two, when he begins with “one’s”, it appears to suggest that one essentially begins with what is already there, which feels limiting.

  4. 2-18-2010

    Whatever tradition you were brought up in or educated in becomes for you the “right” interpretation. Ancient, if you will.

    If you are a Catholic, you see things thru a Catholic lens that includes Mary and the saints.

    If you were a Reformed conservative you see things that way.

    If you are word of faith, charismatic, Lutheran, baptist, every theological issue you come up against will be beaten with the tradition hammer you hold in your hand because to you they all end up looking like a nail.

    That is the essence of why so may good theologians end up dead ended. They are unable to Expand their thinking outside of the construct they have lived in most of their lives. Matrix like. For the most part it’s not a heaven or hell issue.. If they are happy living there, they should be left alone. They aren’t ready to have their mind opened… nor should we try. Living in the construct offers the opprotunity to live free from having to wrestle with the issues.

    I wish we would approach theological issues with a man from Mars perspective. If a man from Mars looked at this and substantially only had the TEXT to work from and the understanding dynamic of the Indwelling Holy Spirit…. What does the Text say and what does it mean. That’s all. Nothing added, nothing taken away.

    Believe it or not, there are many who are good men who are offended at the idea that a person can approach theological issues and interpretations without a tradition to guide them.

    How will we ever get THE WAY across to a dying world if we burden down the singular and simple truths of the Good News with all our assumptions and theology boxes?

    We can’t.

  5. 2-18-2010

    Some ancient advice (unless, of course, the way of your people states it only applies to Ariel):

    Isa 29:9-16 KJV

    9Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.

    10For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.

    11And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:

    12And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

    13Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

    14Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.

    15Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?

    16Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?