Jonathan Edwards As Multi-Dimension Bible Interpreter: A Case Study From Isaiah 40-55 -- By: Andrew T. Abernethy

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 56:4 (Dec 2013)
Article: Jonathan Edwards As Multi-Dimension Bible Interpreter: A Case Study From Isaiah 40-55
Author: Andrew T. Abernethy


Jonathan Edwards As Multi-Dimension Bible Interpreter: A Case Study From Isaiah 40-55

Andrew T. Abernethy*

* Andrew T. Abernethy is lecturer in Old Testament at Ridley Melbourne Mission and Ministry College, 170 The Avenue, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia.

“Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”1 Did Jonathan Edwards live out this resolution that he made as an idealistic twenty-year old? More than twelve hundred collected sermons, over five hundred “notes on Scripture,” in excess of fifty-five hundred observations along the canon, and his other theological writings reveal a lifetime commitment to the Bible.2 It is surprising, then, to hear a similar refrain by scholars:

It is a real irony and curiosity, then, that his Biblical interpretation has received so little attention.3

Despite this early recognition of the centrality of the Bible in Edwards’s life and thought, subsequent disciples and scholars focused more attention on other aspects of his biography and theology. Only in recent decades has this oversight begun to be corrected.4

Three hundred years after Edwards’s birth, and half a century into what some have called the Edwards renaissance, few have bothered to study Edwards’s extensive exegetical writings.5

Though these sentiments still ring true, this void is receiving more attention of late.6

There are two notable emphases in recent work on Edwards’s interpretive practice. First, previous labels for defining Edwards’s exegetical method, such as spiritual or literal, typological or Christological, do not do justice to Edwards’s diverse handling of Scripture.7 In one recent work on the topic, David Barshinger argues that it is better to categorize Edwards’s methodological complexity within a broader, descriptive label: “redemptive-historical.”8 This accommodates the variety of methods and themes Barshinger identifies in his work on Edwards and the Psalms. Notably, this descriptive label is theological in nature, pushing for the recognition that Edwards had a great concern for redemptive history, not sim...

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