Interpreting The Gospels: The Landscape And The Quest -- By: Donald A. Hagner

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 24:1 (Mar 1981)
Article: Interpreting The Gospels: The Landscape And The Quest
Author: Donald A. Hagner

Interpreting The Gospels:
The Landscape And The Quest

Donald A. Hagner*

At the heart of the gospel is the bold assertion that in Jesus Christ eternity has intersected time. Christianity is unique among the religions of the world not only in proclaiming that God has acted and revealed himself in history but that God has indeed entered history in his Son. The fact that God has manifested himself in time and space—this itself the culmination of many centuries of anticipation and preparation in the history of Israel—constitutes the center of the Church’s faith. This sacred history (the incarnation and the complex of events surrounding it) has become the glory of Christianity.

The historical truth of the NT writings is therefore the sine qua non of our faith. Our stake in the historical veracity of these writings could not be greater. Yet if the center of our faith consists of historical events, and if the documents that record those events are themselves historical documents, then they demand to be studied as such. To understand and to appreciate fully the faith that we confess we must engage in historical study, which in turn—if ever we are to make observations, draw conclusions, or speak meaningfully about these matters—necessitates employment of historical criticism (that is, the making of historical judgments). This of course is where we evangelical scholars encounter a great obstacle. Because of the unfortunate bias of the historico-critical method against the supernatural, we cannot accept it as it is insisted upon by radical critical scholars.1 How can we accept the appropriateness of a methodology that begins with an a priori denial of the reality of the supernatural in history—the very center of the Biblical narrative? On the other hand, we cannot do without historical criticism if we affirm the historical nature of our faith.2 In fact, evangelicals must break a new path in honing an historical criticism that is not inimical to the supernatural but that is at the same time honest in grappling with history as his-

*Donald Hagnet is associate professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.

tory. Of course this is not easily done, nor can such a methodology provide quick and easy solutions to our problems. We shall have to learn to live with some ongoing tensions and uncertainties as well as learn to be tolerant of differences among ourselves. But some such middle way must be found if we are to avoid lapsing into a fundamentalist obscurantism on the one hand or a vapid liberalism on the other.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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