Jun 18, 2010

Theology and Exegesis

"If theology dominates our exegetical work, the qualities of individual texts tend to fade into the larger picture of a theological system. If we follow this approach too long, our exegesis can become little more than the servant of our preconceived notions. No room is left for discovery; texts simply confirm what we already believe.

"On the other side, however, we can give exegetical work too much precedence over theology. For a variety of reasons, many evangelicals insist that interpreters must keep the influence of theology to a minimum. As good as this viewpoint may sound, it opens interpreters to significant danger. Ignoring the guidance of theology does not free us from the influence of theological preconceptions; they will always be present. But ignoring theology can cut us off from well-formed theological preconceptions.

"So it is that theology and interpretation must inform each other. Fresh investigation of the Bible often challenges the theological structure of the church. We always want the test and evaluate theology according to our examination of particular passages of Scripture. But theology protects us from misconstruing individual texts. It constrains our interpretation by shedding light on the passage at hand. Interpretation and theology are mutually dependent; they must inform and control each other."

Richard L. Pratt, Jr.,
He Gave Us Stories: The Bible Student’s Guide to Interpreting Old Testament Narratives (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1990), 84.

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