Wednesday, May 25, 2011

C.F.D. Moule on "the vital and decisive distinctiveness of Christian exegesis"

G.K. Beale's apologetic attempt to distinguish Jesus' approach to Scripture from that of the "wild and crazy" Essenes is worth comparing to C.F.D. Moule's more nuanced analysis:
"While it is undeniable that Christians applied the same arbitrary and artificial devices [as ancient Jews] and, again and again, used scripture in a merely 'vehicular' manner, the incentive for their choice of passages and their interpretations of them was the discovery that, in a historical and 'three-dimensional' way, Jesus actually implemented and achieved in his person, and represented the culmination of, that relation between God and man which is the basic theme of scripture. This genuinely historical and 'three-dimensional' approach to scripture--the lines of divine-human relations converging on Jesus--which has only become deliberate and conscious in 'modern' thought, is, nevertheless, implicit in ancient Christianity . . . . The 'vehicular' uses of scripture, common to both non-Christian and Christian exegesis, thus became in Christian exegesis only a symptom of something much profounder and deeper--something that the modern historian, whose approach is 'three-dimensional' not 'two-dimensional'*, can recognize as valid and supremely significant and quite distinctive." - C.F.D. Moule, The Birth of the New Testament (3rd ed.; Harper & Row, 1982), 87-88. 
*By contrast, in much typical Jewish interpretation, "it is broadly true no attention is paid to the original meaning or to historical perspective. The whole is treated in [a] . . . flat, two-dimensional way" (80).

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