brent laytham on scriptural interpretation

“the heart of scriptural interpretation is the Christian life itself”  

– in Laytham’s Spring 2007 Journal of Theological Interpretation article, “Interpretation on the Way to Emmaus: Jesus Performs His Story”

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2 thoughts on “brent laytham on scriptural interpretation

  1. I like that statement, as a kind of theological soundbyte. It echoes 1 John 2:3-5, where we are told that we truly know Christ when we do what he commands.

    But my question is this: How does we know what constitutes an authentic Christian life without some standard of biblical interpretation in some sense transcending the embodied life itself? I don’t mean transcending in a way wholly separate from the life, but certainly greater than the sum of its parts. That issue is important for mainline churches today, especially, where people of good will often claim to be living authentic Christian lives, in faithfulness to the gospel, while other people of good will in the same communion claim that their outlook is not faithful to the gospel at all. How to adjudicate?

  2. Thanks, Andrew, for the comment. Where you are pressing is an important point, especially–as you say–in the mainline churches, but really for the whole Church. I think the larger context of the article would have helped had I shared a little bit of context instead of pulling out the best “sound-bite” length snippet.

    In the context of the whole article, I think it is clear that Laytham gives room for the biblical witness to transcend that embodied life. His point (and I think it would have been more clear had I brought forth a longer quotation) is that although commentaries in literary form (and I would extend it to the various arts as well—Rembrant, Charles Wesley, etc) are vitally important as standard forms of biblical interpretation, the work of interpretation isn’t done until it is made manifest in the Christian life.

    There’s another part of the article (well worth the read I might add if you have access to the inaugural issue of the JTI) in which Laytham speaks of the Emmaus passage in Luke bringing to light that not only is Jesus the interpreter of Hebrew Scripture par excellance, he is its chief interpretation. If that is true, what else could the “heart of Scriptural interpretation” be but that very life of Christ embodied in communities of disciples reconciled to God and restored to holiness?

    Your question remains, “how to adjudicate?” however. Perhaps in other words: “who’s to say who’s right?” I don’t think we can escape the intersection of Spirit, Word, and Community. But the Community must privilege the Word and must share a deep humility before the Spirit for that to have much validity. I fear that it is on these two points where we very often falter most.

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