Hermeneutics And The Theological Task -- By: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
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Hermeneutics And The Theological Task1
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Biblical interpretation is one of the most determinative fields of study for the theological task. Any improper moves made in the interpretive mission immediately affect the results obtained in theological construction. All too frequently such a dictum has been given lip service, but other concerns have in actual practice been given pride of place, and often with devastating consequences. Biblical interpretation, however, is no cure-all and an open sesame for all of the ills of contemporary theology. In fact, hermeneutics involves both an exegetical and a theological component if it is to be carried through to its completion. The exegetical part of the interpretive process includes grammatical, syntactical, philological, historical, and literary aspects. All of these functions are well known and usually result in our being put in touch with the individual segments of the thought of the writer being analyzed. But these pieces of the puzzle need to be related to the whole structure of a writer’s thought. It is at this juncture that the theological component of the hermeneutical endeavor comes to the forefront and usually introduces the often abused concept of “The Analogy of Faith.”
I. The Analogy Of Faith
Analogia fidei is a concept that has many advocates but few who carefully define it. Henri Blocher2 has carefully marked out four distinct meanings for the concept of the analogy of faith: 1) the traditional one as set forth by Georg Sohnius (c. 1585):3 “the apostle prescribes that interpretation be analogous to faith (Rom 12:6), that is, that it should agree with the first axioms or principles, so to speak, of faith, as well as with the whole body of heavenly doctrine”; 2) the “perspicuity” of Scripture definition, as championed by Martin Luther, in which the sense of the text is to
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be drawn from the clear verses in the Bible and thus issue in the topically selective type of analogia fidei; 3) the thematically selective understanding of the analogy of faith, as defended by John Calvin: “When Saint Paul decided that all prophecy should conform to the analogy and similitude of faith (Rom 12:6), he set a most certain rule to test every interpretation of Scripture”;4 and 4) the view held by the majority of Protestants, which may be described as a more formal ...
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