Alright, having walked through chapter 3 bit by bit, let’s dive into chapter 4 of Joel Green’s Seized by Truth: Reading the Bible as Scripture, “Methods.”
All this emphasis on the role of spiritual disciplines and practices, involvement in a worshipping community, and the aim of Scripture as the formation of Christian community might have some people thinking that an emphasis on the role of prayer, worship, and Christian living as key to genuinely hearing the Word of God in the reading of the text. But this is definitely not the case and Green says so in chapter 4: “If anything, a concern to read the Bible as Christian Scripture significantly raises the bar on what is and must be expected of the church” (p. 103). Our practice of interpretation still involves those practices that have too long been used to the exclusion of practices of faith–language study, historical study, understanding of rhetoric, literary study, cultural analysis, etc. To raise up the role of faith is not to diminish the gifts of the scholarly enterprise. Rather, it is to reframe them and redirect them into the service of faith.
Green begins by “mapping the terrain.” Interpretive strategies coalesce around three basic options: (a) behind the text, (b) in the text, and (c) in front of the text. Focusing behind-the-text locates meaning primarily in “the history that gave rise to the text” (p. 105). Concentrating in-the-text brings “into focus the qualities of the text itself, its architecture, consistency, and texture” (p. 105). Approaching in-front-of-the-text places the spotlight on the reading communities of the text. So, which of these is most faithful? Green says, “‘All three’ while placing interpretive priority on the text itself” (p. 106).
Next, Green sketches interpretative questions and concerns under the broad headings of (a) the text, (b) the cotext, (c) the context, and (d) intertext. This is the “Close Reading of the Text” that we learned in his seminary courses. Concerns and questions raised within each of these broard headings look like this (using his terms throughout for clarity and accurate repesentation):
(a) The Text: textual criticism, genre and form, determination of boundaries (an interpretive unit of text), internal development and arguement, and the “about-ness” of the text
(b) The Cotext (surrounding text): situation of the text in larger presentation, important words/motifs
(c) The Context: sociohistorical setting, cultural conventions/cues, the interface of contexts (how does this text intersect its context and how does it “stand in tension with the world it addresses” (p. 129))
(d) Intertext: citations and echoes (quotes or allusions to other passages in Scripture), intercanonical echoes, text and creed (how do the ancient creeds–Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed for example–contribute to understanding this text?)
Finally, instead of honing an excellent linear application of methodology, Green insists that an organic approach that emphasizes the cultivation of sensitivites in our reading is key, with issues of method and strategy well in hand, but not leading the parade.
Green offers this important admonition (at the beginning of the book): “reading the Bible as Christian Scripture is a craft that pleads for the life-long apprenticeship of its artisans” (p. 104). The picture he lays out certainly reinforces that plee.