Goldsworthy on the Role of Biblcal Theology in Hermeneutics

From Graeme Goldsworthy’s latest book Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, 262:

“The major hermeneutic role of biblical theology is to determine the theological meaning of the parts and the whole. It cannot do this without determining the structural matrix of revelation. It thus helps prevent the short-circuiting of texts and reminds us of the centrality of the gospel as the interpretive norm. Readers short-circuit texts when they ignore the structure of biblical revelation and treat all texts as being essentially on the same level and in the same relationship to the contemporary reader.”

5 thoughts on “Goldsworthy on the Role of Biblcal Theology in Hermeneutics”

  1. That’s a fascinating quotation. I wish I knew what he was talking about! I’m sure the first 261 pages of the book give it more context.

    The last phrase really interests me: “Readers short-circuit texts when they…treat all texts as being essentially…in the same relationship to the contemporary reader.”

    What suggestions does he give for correctly relating the text to the contemporary reader? This is very much my struggle here in Latin America, where the contemporary setting is very different from the US context. How does the ancient text speak to this context, and how does my context affect how I read the text?

  2. Gary,

    By the last line of the quotation I think Goldsworthy means that because of varying distances between the contemporary reader and the original readers with respect to historical/cultural context and more importantly redemptive/historical context, there are differences in how texts should be understood. In other words, because of our position in the new covenant, on the other side of the cross, a text in 1 Samuel does not have the same relationship to us as one in Galatians. Because the former was given during a different period in redemptive history, we cannot simply draw straight line of application to us today. We must first follow the connection between a passage in 1 Samuel to the gospel, and THEN to us today. There is less distance to cover from Galatians to us to today, because we are in the same period of redemptive history, though differences in historical/cultural context must be accounted for.

    I hope that makes sense. It seemed clearer in my head than I think I have expressed it here in my response.

    As for your question re: contextualization, the next chapter in Goldsworthy after the one from which I quote is on contextualization. Overall it is good, but it remains pretty theoretical and may not give you some of the specifics you might hope for.

    I think this book would be helpful for you in your context and in light of our previous discussions as to what you are doing re: biblical theology. It is worth picking up.

  3. Yeah, it’s the specifics that I’m wanting. I’m sold on the “theory,” but it’s tough to put into practice, and still do justice to the text.

    So many books, and so little time.

  4. This has been the major criticism of Graeme’s book – no “specifics”. It is a bit unfair considering the aim of the book and the corpus of his writings.

    To understand a bit more of the specifics on his hermeneutical theory, his books Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture and According to Plan are a good place to start. His book on prayer is certainly a case-study on how his hermeneutic plays out on a theme.

    Probably the best place to go is his book Gospel and Wisdom. It is on the wisdom literature of the OT. He does a good job detailing how the wisdom literature doesn’t have the same relationship to the contemporary reader as many take it – especially the book of Proverbs. He shows how a Christ-centered hermeneutic forms that relationship and gives a faithful and substantive meaning to the wisdom books.

    Goldsworthy’s works have helped me greatly understand the idea of how often evangelicals short-circuit texts. Moreso, the first two works mentioned above show that the OT is not the only place where this relationship is miscontrued. The books of Acts is a hotbed of mis-application if we don’t recognize its special place in salvation history.

    “Once we recognize what is not repeatable about the Pentecost experience, we are in a better position to understand what remains as part of the Christian experience [today]”. (According to Plan – 214, US edition)

    But, I am still with Gary in that I continually need to see this Christ-centered hermeneutic modeled in faithful preaching. That is the only way to grasp the essence of it.

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