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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Comments by Ulrich Luz on Reception History

Studies in MatthewIn his book Studies on Matthew, Ulrich Luz has five essays at the end of the book that address questions of interpretation, and the primary interest with most of these is Reception History or how has the Bible been understood throughout the centuries. The following is a longer quote that I found thought-provoking from his essay entitled "The Significance of the Church Fathers for Biblical Interpretation in Western Protestant Perspective". The essay was originally published as "Die Bedeutung der Kirchenväter für die Auslegung der Biblel. Eine westlich protestantische Sicht", in : James D.G.d Dunn, Hans Klein, Ulrich Luz, and Vasile Mihoc (eds.), Auslegung der Bibel in orthodoxer und westlicher Perspektive, WUNT I/130 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), pp. 29-52.

"...we are reminded by the patristic interpretations that behind the plurality of voices in the Bible itself and behind all the interpretations there is an interpretative community of which we ourselves are part, that is: the Church. For me the importance attached by the Eastern churches to patristic interpretation is a significant hermeneutic indicator of how fundamental the Church as interpretative community is for the reading of the Bible. I emphasize this as a Protestant, well aware that the Church as interpretative community carries little weight with us. Many of our clergy tend to preach their own Word of God; many of our theologians would like to see their own theology as gospel. Many of our exegetes, glad not to have an ecclesial magisterium set over them, are content with their own authority. I insist however that interpreting and understanding the Bible is a community process, and that in the end the Church and not the individual is the interpreting subject. This does not mean I am seeking to restrict or standardize interpretation. As a Protestant, regarded by most Christian churches as being outside the 'true' church right up to the twentieth century, it is not for me to say where the limits of what God will recognize as 'church' are. I am also aware how important it is that many people read the Bible and regard it as their heritage without having any desire to belong to a church. For me any theological 'canon within the canon' which narrows down and standardizes, no longer allowing itself to be questioned by the wealth of the Bible, and a magisterium which decrees what correct interpretation of the Bible is, without allowing itself to be qualified and corrected by the Bible, are not true to the gospel. As a Protestant exegete I want to give the biblical texts the opportunity to say all that they have to say, even if it goes against us and our churches." (pp. 305-306)

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