seized by truth 2

So far, I’ve looked at chapter one of Joel B. Green’s Seized by Truth: Reading the Bible as Scripture (here and here). I intend to shorten up the posts, partly because I seem to lack adequate time to do all the posts in the same lengthy manner as I have thus far.

Chapter two is titled, “Aims and Assumptions.” He concludes his first paragraph, “[Interpretation] is first a matter of what we bring with us to the interpretive task, in terms of our allegiances and commitments, our taken-for-granteds, and not first in terms or which methodological toolbox we carry.”

The natural next question is: “What aims and assumptions promote and guide our reading of the Bible as Scripture?”

The answer may be found in considering Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. Some of the highlights look like this…

1. Spirit: “The gift of the Spirit, together with its effects, demonstrates the central importance of what we might call charismatic hermeneutics.”

2. OT Scriptures: “Israel’s Scriptures give meaning to Pentecost at the same time that Pentecost shows how to embody the scriptural story.”

3. Genuine Community: “Acts 2 begins and ends with Luke’s report of the unity of the human community (vv. 1, 42-47), but this koinonia is not the consequence of political domination, and unity is not instituted at the expense of distinctions among human communities.”

With the aid of the interpretive power of the quotation from the prophet Joel, as a church, they “weave together Pentecostal phenomena, the story of Jesus, and the witness of Israel’s Scriptures. The result is a community generated by the Spirit, shaped by the proclaimed Word.”

From this look at a biblical example of biblical interpretation, Joel draws out three possibilities to help guide faithful reading of the Bible:

1. The status of the Old Testament as Christian Scripture. “A ‘Christian’ reading of the Old Testament has no need to assert the superiority of the New Testament over the Old, nor that they Old Testament requires the New as its hermeneutical key. Rather, Christians recognize that the Old Testament points beyond itself toward the fulfillment of God’s purpose at the same time that it narrates the expression of that purpose in creation and among those whom God has made his people.”  

2. The relation of Scripture to conversion or transformation. “What is conversion, but transformation of the theological imagination, which includes incorporation into the community of believers and concomitant practices?” And, with particular reference to Luke… “Scripture and Christian conversion become inseparably interwoven. [Luke’s] perspective is not grounded in a particular technique or pattern of conversion. …conversion as Luke develops it entails a reconstruction of one’s self within a new web of relationships, a transfer of allegiances, and the embodiment of transformed dispositions and attitudes.”

How does conversion take place? It entails “autobiographical reconstruction” and is “the process of embracing new patterns of thinking, feeling, believing, and acting–a process that centers on grasping the purposes of God and being written into the history of God’s engagement with Israel.”

3. The question: “What might it mean for us to read these documents as though they were addressed to us?” When we read the Bible as Scripture, we are not “reading someone else’s mail.” We are reading a Word addressed to us, for “to speak of the church, theologically, is to speak of its oneness across time and space.” So, “the essential character of the division between the world of the Bible and our own is not historical but theological.” We would rather become experts in analyzing and understanding Paul’s letters than feel the weight of his words upon us. The words are more comfortably kept at a distance, addressed to folks in that place at that time rather than to the church, which includes us. “What separates us from the biblical text is not ‘the strange world of the Bible’ as much as its unhandy, inconvenient claims on our lives.”

Joel asserts that we must enter into the “discursive dance” as “Model Readers” generated by the text itself: “Interpreters are invited to think with the Scriptures, not about them.” This is a key distinction, emphasizing participation rather than interrogation, it seems to me.


Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

2 thoughts on “seized by truth 2

  1. Great topics of discussion. Keep it coming!

    I want to comment in particular on guideline 1 for faithful reading of the Bible, the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. For me, I cannot really understand the human condition as it relates to God without understanding the history described in the Old Testament. It is the groundwork for Christ, as it shows us why He had to come and die for us.

    But it is also interesting to read the Prophets and see what direction we can receive relative to our current lives. I am terrible at remembering scripture, but I believe it is in Amos where the warning is issued to not be overly prideful in your nation, because the nation gets its strength from God. This to me speaks volumes. Yes, I believe in “God, Family, Country” in that order. But do I always remember that the country is here because God allows it? Forgetting that fact diminishes the importance of God in my life.

    Just the long way of saying I agree. The Old Testament should have as much impact on the lives of Christians as the New Testament.


  2. Thanks, Jay. It is amazing how the narrative of Israel in particular resonates with human experience in general.

    In that vein, see also my link to the Christian Vision Project essay “Lima Bean Gospel” for it emphasis on the importance of the particular love of God for Israel in the OT and through Jesus for the salvation of all peoples. Good stuff.

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