Can We Reproduce The Exegesis Of The New Testament? -- By: Richard N. Longenecker

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 21:1 (NA 1970)
Article: Can We Reproduce The Exegesis Of The New Testament?
Author: Richard N. Longenecker

Can We Reproduce The Exegesis Of The New Testament?

Richard N. Longenecker

* Delivered at Tyndale House, Cambridge, 7th July, 1969, as a special New Testament Lecture.

The New Testament’s use of the Old Testament is a topic of perennial concern to the Christian Church. And this is especially true today, what with (I) rising interest in the field of hermeneutics generally, and (2) new data from somewhat analogous materials as supplied by recent discoveries, particularly from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Such terms as ‘Midrash’, ‘Pesher’, ‘Sensus Plenior’, ‘Theological Exegesis’, ‘Corporate Personality’, ‘Typology’, ‘Fulfilment Motif’, ‘Gemeindetheologie’, and the like, have become rather fixed entities in current theological discussion, witnessing to the currency at hand.

Involved in any treatment of biblical exegesis in the New Testament are the dual issues of the descriptive (i.e. What exactly took place?) and the normative (i.e. How obligatory or relevant are such exegetical practices today? On what basis? How can they be employed?). It is with these two matters that this paper concerns itself, proposing first to elucidate the exegetical patterns within the New Testament in light of contemporary Jewish practices and then to deal with the question of the normative character of these practices in view of various suggestions offered today.

It is a recurring thesis of this essay that a great part of our problem in answering such a question as ‘Can we reproduce the exegesis of the New Testament?’ lies in (1) our failure to understand correctly the nature of pesher exegesis at Qumran and in the New Testament, (2) our inability to appreciate the circumstantial character of some of the exegesis in the New Testament, and (3) our uncertainties regarding the relation of the descriptive and the normative in the New Testament. I have therefore taken it upon myself to attempt some explanation of Jewish practices before dealing directly

with the New Testament itself, believing that only with such a background are we able to answer with any degree of precision such questions as ‘Ought we attempt to reproduce the exegetical practices of the New Testament?’ and. ‘Are we able so to do?’ Admittedly, space and time allow matters to be presented in only broad outline. Yet perhaps, even a cursory overview will be of aid in establishing some guidelines.

I. Exegetical Practices Of First Century Judaism

Three methods of interpreting the sacred text have come to characterize the three most significant hermeneutical divisions within Judaism in the period rou...

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