"The object of all good literature is to purge the soul of its petty troubles." ~ P.G. Wodehouse

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Importance of Historical Context in Exegesis

I am teaching Isaiah in the NT this semester and one of the books we are reading for the course is Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). In the third major essay, Peter Enns makes some comments on studying the Bible's historical context.

He states (p. 170-171): "My reason for fronting the issue of the NT hermeneutical context is not an attempt to place historical study 'over' Scripture somehow. Rather, I simply wish to acknowledge that God himself, in Scripture, has spoken in time and space, and we honor him by taking seriously those contexts in which he, by his wisdom, has chosen to speak. To engage in such historical investigation is not to suggest that God's Word is somehow a slave to historical circumstances, but it is a reminder that the Bible is not a heavenly treatise, hurled down to earth from an Olympian height, or a Platonic ideal kept at a safe distance from the human drama. Rather, God is the Lord of history, and Scripture is God's gracious revelation of himself and his actions in the concrete, everyday world of ancient Semitic and Hellenistic peoples. If, therefore, Scripture bears the marks of its common setting, that fact should have no small influence on how we understand Scripture's behavior--in this case, the NT use of the OT" (emphasis original).

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