Posted by: Billy Marsh | July 15, 2008

Quotes on Christ and Scripture (III)

Recovering Theological Hermeneutics ~ Jens Zimmermann

Recovering Theological Hermeneutics ~ Jens Zimmermann

As the beginning of my first year or “stage” (as Dr. Lee said I should envision it) of the Ph. D. approaches, I’m sifting through various books, looking for material that pertains to what I want to write on and study for my dissertation, which right now is in a bare-bones state and consists of investigating the relationship between Christology and hermeneutics/interpretation. One of the works I’m slowly (an understatement) reading through this summer is Recovering Theological Hermeneutics by Jens Zimmermann. It has proven to be a very rich read, and a wonderful resource for me in the future. So I’ve selected a few quotes to submit to you and to catalogue for myself of some of his observations on the Reformers, Puritans, and Pietists on how to understand and interpret the Bible. These are some very profound words from premodern theologians and I have enjoyed seeing their commitment to God transcend their respective disciplines. Sometimes I get the feeling in contemporary works that the author is more in love with his discipline than necessarily the Savior. However, it is almost impossible to read men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, or John Owen when they are speaking on the specifics of interpretation and ever walk away from their comments without feeling like you know and the love only a fraction of the amount that they do. In reading these quotes listed below, some of the names may be unfamiliar. But don’t worry, though I would commend you to search out who these men were, you can still get the full grasp of what they are saying without reading their biographies.

Luther sees Christ as the basic literal-spiritual meaning of the biblical text. To begin with Jesus the Christ as “the fundamental meaning and utterance of the holy scripture became Luther’s basic hermeneutic principle” (Ebeling, Luther, 105). Thus Luther can see both letter and spirit (or law and gospel) at work in the Old Testament (62). ~ Chapter 2 – “In the Beginning Was the Word: The Incarnational Hermeneutics of Martin Luther (1483-1546)”

Thus just as he was for Luther, the subject matter and unity of the biblical text is Jesus the Christ. He is the hermeneutical fulcrum, the beginning and the end of interpretation. Without Christ, the Bible cannot be properly understood, and if the reader has received Christ, the Bible will reveal nothing to him but Christ and that through Christ. According Flacius, Christocentric hermeneutics distinguishes the true Christian from the traditionalist, on the one hand, and the enthusiaists, on the other. It is the office of Christ to open the scriptures to the reader and illumine the heart (John 16:13), and in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and the knowledge of God (Col 2:3). In short, Christ not only provides but is the necessary preunderstanding for Flacius’s hermeneutics: “If we turn to Christ, the veil is taken from our heart and also from the scriptures themselves, not only because we are now illuminated by the spiritual light, but also in our hands, namely, the Lord Jesus himself with his sufferings and his good deeds” (83). ~ Chapter 3 – “Puritan and Pietist Hermeneutics”

Christ’s redemptive act on the cross, which restores humanity to its original purpose of being in communion with God, is the central hermeneutical focus for Franke. Christ he writes, is the core or kernel of scripture, and since Christ is a person, a true understanding of scripture must involve a relation to that person. In another place, Franke restates the centrality of Christ for biblical interpretation by saying that “inasmuch as Jesus is the very soul of scripture and the way by which we have access to the Father he who, in doctrinal reading, does not fix his eyes on him, must read in vain” (123). ~ Chapter 3 – “Puritan and Pietist Hermeneutics”

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