“Realgeschichte:” Old And New In Interpretation -- By: Lewis Foster

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 28:2 (Jun 1985)
Article: “Realgeschichte:” Old And New In Interpretation
Author: Lewis Foster


“Realgeschichte:” Old And New In Interpretation

Lewis Foster*

To understand Scripture one must travel the road of interpretation. In this journey, however, the large number of routes and the variety of starting points and destinations tend to confuse rather than assist the traveler. This study attempts to take into account variant schools of interpretation from this century and also to suggest another approach, hopefully to help (1) in understanding the meaning of the Scriptural record, (2) in strengthening the assurance of its trustworthiness, and (3) in enlivening the communication of its truths for our generation.

Objection may well be raised that too many roads have already been laid out and that still another is out of the question. In reply one needs to point out that in our century negative criticism has so dominated the pages of scholarly Biblical studies that the attention of conservative as well as liberal scholars has become absorbed in controversial fringe areas and that the heart of Biblical teaching has been skirted rather than emphasized. The beliefs of the early Church have replaced the words of Jesus. Interest in literary genre has curbed excitement over the content of the message. Form and structure has allowed the frame to cover rather than enhance the setting of the picture.

The proposal given in this study to help meet our present dilemma is a barest beginning. It is an outline and in no way a full treatment. This is more of an effort to point in a direction than to lay out a road. The only reason suggestions are given in as concrete a form as they are is in the hope that others will agree to the direction and lay out roads far better than envisioned here.

At the outset a review of the network of twentieth-century approaches to NT interpretation is necessary. This will be helpful in several ways: to show the shifting areas of emphasis, to trace the variant courses and goals pursued, and to note various points that will reappear in the present proposal as well. Once one begins to travel from his starting point toward a specific destination, at some point or another he finds himself crossing the paths of all the different schools—even those of such radical scholars as Schmiedel, Bultmann and Marxsen,1 or of liberal exegetes such as Burkitt, Cadbury and Kümmel,2 as well as of rabbinic

* Lewis Foster is professor of NT at Cincinnati Christian Seminary in Ohio.

authorities like Zeitlin and Sandreel,3 not to neglect conservative representatives such as Ramm, Mickels...

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