Lord willing, tomorrow at this time I will groggily be going through customs in Edinburgh with my wife Angie. I finished the footnotes on my paper last night so I am ready to go. You can see the schedule and details of the conference, Hebrews and Theology, here. I'll looking forward to some heavy thinking, maybe.
Have I learned anything writing my paper (or at least duped myself into thinking I have)? The most satisfying thing about the paper for me was the opportunity to bring together several hermeneutical concepts of interest to me: Hans Frei's exposition on the difference between pre-critical and critical biblical interpretation, Roman Jakobson's basic conception of speech-acts (addresser, message, addressee, etc...), J. L. Austin's sense of "performative" speech that not only declares but "does" as it declares. You know, blah, blah, blah...
What do I think is most insightful about my paper?
1. The distinction between using the biblical text as (pre-modern) window on the past and the text as witness to truth. I think one sentence in my paper expresses Frei far more clearly than anything he ever wrote: "In a sense, the text disappears as the interpreter outside the text becomes a part of the world within the text and the world within the text is seen as the past of the world outside the text."
By the way, this is not in my paper, but I think I have finally understood the debate on 2 Timothy 3:16 for the first time. I wonder if it really should be translated, "Every God-breathed scripture is profitable for instruction, correction, etc..." If so, the verse is not questioning whether parts of the Old Testament are really God-breathed, which is how I took the debate previously. Rather, the word "scripture" simply means "writing" and of course there were many, many writings in the ancient world. So to translate the verse as a reference to "every God-breathed writing" is not to question the inspiration of parts of the Old Testament but to identify the Old Testament writings as an inspired subset of all writings.
I haven't studied up on this debate, but these thoughts occurred to me in the process of writing my own paper.
2. I suggested in my paper that the author probably located the scriptures (and I am now very intentionally using the plural rather than the singular that is our default given book packaging) within God's overarching word and the overarching story of salvation history. Ironically, the scriptures were no doubt the mine from which that word and story was mined, but the author conceived of them as the larger entities and scriptures as a subset of God's word and the story.
This I think is a primary difference between the pre-modern paradigm that has been the Wesleyan past and the fundamentalist culture of, say, Baptist churches. While we have used the Bible as the "playing field" and "meaning mine" of our thinking, we have conceived of these words as a part of God's larger word and story. We view the Bible through the lens of the story as we understand it. Fundamentalists tie more chains on the story by way of the biblical text. I haven't fully thought this distinction through, but I think it has some validity.
3. I argued that while the author considered the voice of God and the Holy Spirit to be the same voice, the speaking of the Holy Spirit tends to be used in relation to contemporary, new covenant speaking through texts. The Holy Spirit accordingly seems more linked to non-literal interpretations of the text aimed at the present.
4. Finally, I feel like I was able to get beyond some recent paradigm problems with regard to things like typology and allegory. I tried to crash the boundary between the text as example in relation to behavior (e.g., Esau, the wilderness generation, Abraham) and the text as "shadowy example" in relation to the Levitical system (e.g., 8:5). I rediscovered the existence of a book by Frances Young which deals with the topic: Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1997).
Well so much for my world. I may be able to post from St. Andrews...