Read my notes on Chapter Four: A Letter From Christ here.
Paul’s Readings of Scripture
Hays boldly says that “for Paul, original intention is not a primary hermeneutical concern. […] Eschatological meaning subsumes original sense” (p.156). Paul “reads Scripture primarily as a narrative of divine election and promise […] the Torah is neither superseded nor nullified but transformed into a witness of the gospel” (p.157).
One problem with this is that hermeneutical freedom becomes a license to misinterpret. Hays offers principles and constraints within Paul’s own practice. “The hermeneutical foundation for his reading is the conviction that the Law and the Prophets bear witness to the gospel of God’s righteousness, now definitely disclosed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Messiah” (p.161).
Hays references Thomas M. Greene’s four “strategies of humanist imitation” (p.173-4):
- Sacramental imitation
- Eclectic Imitation
- Heuristic Imitation
- Dialectical Imitation
For Hays, “Paul’s fundamental reading strategies are profoundly dialectical” (p.176).
Paul’s Letters as Hermeneutical Model
Three questions to consider regarding the appropriateness of Paul’s readings of Scripture (p.180):
- Are Paul’s specific interpretations of Scripture materially normative?
- Are Paul’s interpretive methods formally exemplary?
- What are the appropriate constraints on interpretive freedom?
Hays says “yes” to both 1. and 2.
These are Hays' constraints:
- If we learned from Paul how to read Scripture, we would learn to read it primarily as a narrative of election and promise, as a witness to the righteousness of God" (p.183).
- … we would read it ecclesiocentrically (p.184).
- … we would read it in the service of proclamation (p.184). “Exegesis gives us critical distance from the text; preaching thrusts the text’s word directly into our faces. The word is near us, and it demands a response.”
- … we would read as participants in the eschatological drama of redemption (p.185).
- … we would learn to appreciate the metaphotical relation between the text and our own reading of it (p.186).
An important reminder about the purpose of interpreting scripture “True interpretation of Scripture leads us into unqualified giving of our lives in service within the community whose vocation is to reenact the obedience of the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us” (p.191).