Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jesus the focus of Scripture?

There was a discussion on the biblical studies list regarding the interplay between exegesis and theology that was quickly and decisively stamped out by the list owner/moderator. The list rules are that only issues related to biblical studies can be discussed but issues of faith and theology need to be left out - not that they are bad or inappropriate, just inappropriate for this list as with the insertion of faith and theology - the waters of biblical studies get muddy real fast. And probably, the calvinists would come in and take over like they do on other lists.

The discussion had surrounded what entails proper biblical exegesis - set faith aside and let the text speak for itself then let faith be shaped by exegetical study - other felt theology has to be a part of the process - others felt theology is shaped and responds to the process. One participant had outright called the intrusion of theology into biblical studies "nonsense."

Before I understood some of this, I wrote:
Here is the sad thing about "exegesis" - folks often (especially on this group list) exit Jesus right out of the discussion and consider him irrelevant. It is either the Christ of history or the Christ of faith - why is he not both/and?

It is sad that those who actually have the audacity to believe that Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the historical one, is also the Christ of faith, the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Everlasting God, the Alpha and the Omega, the One who was dead and is alive forevermore - can't really participate in the list as for some on the list - believe disqualifies the argument and makes it nonsense.

When one asks what the Bible is all about - it is about Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who is, in the words of John R. W. Stott, the center of history, the focus of Scripture, and the heart of the Church's mission in the world.

But I guess that is all nonsense.

To this the list moderator/owner replied:
Because, Brian, one is a confession of faith and one is a historical datum. You and I and others may or may not hold to the one. The other, though, can be discussed here. There are lists elsewhere which do what you recommend. And they are free to do so. But here, for our purposes, faith claims have no privilege.

I know a number of persons who hold quite strong faith positions who participate regularly. They simply play by the rules.

If the Bible were only about Jesus, we would only adhere to the Gospels and a few other snippets in the NT. The OT would have to be utterly abandoned. In sum, then, what you commend to our adherence is marcionitism. And appealing to Stott as an authority not only doesn't work- it doesn't prove anything at all.

That last line hurt mainly because I think John Stott is a biblical scholar and theologian par exellance, and in my opinion, as an Anglical scholar, he far and away, outshines a certain Bishop of Durham. But according to the list owner/moderator an appeal to John R. W. Stott is a non-appeal and non-answer.

So, the appeal to John Stoot aside, is Jesus the focus of Scripture?

In reply to the list owner/moderator's last paragraph above I sent this:
I think the historical Jesus himself would disagree with this assertion. Luke shows us in his Gospel Jesus' discussion with two men on the road to Emmaus (one was named Cleopas) (Lk 24:13-27; esp v27) that in fact, "Moses and all the Prophets" (ie: the OT) point to the historical Jesus (from his birth to his death and resurrection, even his ascension). So, I think it is fair that in pursuing understanding of the historical Jesus one would indeed need to include large portions of the OT texts. Also note John 5:39 where Jesus says the Scriptures "bear witness about me" (ESV). These Scriptures are none other than the Hebrew Scriptures.

It did not make it onto the list -probably because by the time I sent the reply the topic was shut down.

Am I off? Is Jesus the focus of Scripture or is he not?



At 4:49 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Brian, I think the moderator was right to shut down an off topic discussion. But he was wrong to accuse you of being Marcionite.

I would be worried if you said that all Scripture was about Jesus, as some come near to saying. The danger with that is that the Old Testament is reinterpreted as all about him, Psalm 2 and Isaiah 7:14 becomes about Jesus and not about people known to their authors, etc. But you are right that Jesus is the focal point of all Scripture, because the parts which are not specifically about him prepare the way for him or prefigure him in one way or another.

Perhaps this quote from GK Chesterton applies to that list.


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