Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Contemporary Exegesis

I have a final exam tomorrow in one of my classes. That's right, a final! We'll be done with this class on Weds, have a week off, and start another one the week after. Strange schedule.

First, I'll write about an article entitled, "Christ in Contemporary Exegesis: Where We Are and Where We Are Going" by Klemens Stock. He begins by outlining a few trends in exegesis:
  1. The gap between the "historical pre-paschal Jesus" and the "Post-Paschal Christ" is getting smaller. Exegetes are recognizing the problem with both extreme positions. Bultmann, at one extreme, thought the Jesus of history had nothing to give to us. All that matters is the saving act of Christ. On the other hand, we have Jeremais, who thinks that the only important thing is finding details about Jesus according to the historical-critical method and focusing on them. Bridges are starting to be built which recognize the "implicit Christology" present all through the Gospels. You cannot separate Jesus from Christ!
  2. The search for the "historical Jesus" continues.
  3. There is growing discontentment with the historical-critical method. Why? a few reasons. Let me list them... First, the method only offers hypotheses, it does not give people the bread of life. It does not help anyone make a decision about how to live their life in the footsteps of Christ. Secondly, the method is divorced from praxis, and turns the study of Christ into a cold, academic one. Third, the attempt to interpret Scripture from the point of view of depth psychology has not been very fruitful. [don't ask me what that means]
  4. There is a desire to reclaim the "Jewishness" of Jesus. These interpretations tend to dismiss other aspects of Christ as inventions of Paul.
  5. New approaches affect how we see Christ. Ex: Historical Impact (history of exegesis), Rhetorical analysis (text as a whole), Methodological Reflection (H-C method is critique, analogy, correlation- look at the problems with them).

Next, Stock gives us some guidelines for exegesis, assuming that we want to find Jesus, whole and entire and in Himself.

  1. Do less violence to the text. Just as we can see the effects in nature when we approach it with our own purpose and make it bend to our wills, Scripture needs to be approached in such a way as it is allowed to speak.
  2. Respect the Gospels as unique sources. Realize that you cannot separate Jesus of Nazareth from His followers. Christ preached a new way of life, a community. He did not display concern that His words and actions be written down as they went along; rather He was concerned about building a community. The Gospels are testimonies of faith, and this does not make them any less true. They are an inseparable weaving of what Jesus said and did and the effect that He had.
  3. Continue the historical work. We must respect the age of the text and the tools needed to understand it. This includes looking at literary form, language, intellectual background, context, authors & intentions, addressees & situations, and past interpretation of the text.
  4. Use the whole as a reference point. To illustrate this point, Stock presents the case of the Gospels of John and Mark. Do they point to the same person, even though one presents us a "High Christology" and one is less clear? (yes- look at the whole of Mark's Gospel and you will find implicit affirmations of the things John explicitly teaches us)

Basically, to find the real Jesus Christ, you must trust that God wants to speak through Sacred Scripture, that He can do that, and that He will help.

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