Thursday, June 30, 2005
The onion
What do we see when we look at Scripture? Are the pages of the Bible a mirror where we see our selves reflected back to us? Are they a telescope that show us what God looks like?

In my reading for my Romans class, something interesting I've picked up is that Romans 7 ("For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing.") is not autobiographical at all. I think every interpretation I've ever heard in the church talks about Paul's schizophrenic, inner turmoil. But I've now read three books now that purport this is not the case.

Both Augustine and Luther read Romans 7 and saw themselves in this narrative, and the rest, as they say, is history. The history of the interpretation of this text has never been the same, particularly since Luther. It was natural for these two towering figures to conclude that Paul himself had been their prototype in inner struggle. Yet in fact in Paul's clear and direct autobiographical remarks in his letters and in the indirect remarks in Acts, nothing of the kind is suggested. Perhaps it is time to stop reading Paul though the eyes of Augustine and Luther (Witherington 63).

Turns out that not only our own context colors what we see in the Bible, but what all the voices before us have seen as well.

Theologians have tended to assume that Paul was interested in, and speaking about, the same matters that interested them. They forgot that Paul was not simply another sharer in the Christian language but an original shaper of it... The history of theological interpretation has obscured Paul's meaning with layer after layer of subsequent significance discovered in or imposed on Paul's composition (Johnson 2).

I'd sure like to hope that what I see in the Bible is the character of God and the person of Jesus, rather than my own personal quibbles and foibles.

Don't forget to peel through all the layers of the onion that is our Bible.

posted by Peter at 3:45 PM
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