07 December 2009

Bockmuehl: Inalienably Theological

[I]n dealing with the New Testament's inalienably theological subject matter there can be no objetive history--and certainly no neutral historian. . . .

[T]he historically situated New Testament documents themselves in fact give no encouragement whatever to the idea that a quest for history 'behind' the texts promises access to their 'real' meaning and significance. True enough, the authors deliberately allude to events outside their narrative and sometimes bring the gospel into explicit relation with wider economic or political developments that can be usefully explored. But the story they tell is inalienably theological. Their vested interpretation of the events is never an optional extra, a kind of religious topping sprinkled on a phenomenological sundae that could just as easily be consumed without it. . . .

[A]fter a quarter century of reflection on often genuine gains, it may now be permissible to ask if the study of the New Testament primarily as literature, narrative, or rhetoric will not inevitably turn out to be a somewhat impoverished exercise. . . . [T]he texts . . . do not present themselves as concerned with either literature or rhetoric. To view them primarily (rather than en passant) in this fashion is rather like using a stethoscope to examine a lightbulb: it can be done and does produce unfamiliar results, but it offers an analysis that does justice neither to the object nor to the instrument.

--Markus Bockmuehl, Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study (Baker 2006), 45, 47, 48-49

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