Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Participatory Biblical Exegesis

From the introductory chapter of Matthew Levering's Participatory Biblical Exegesis: A Theology of Biblical Interpretation (University of Notre Dame Press, 2008).

“Participatory biblical exegesis locates the linear-historical details within a participatory-historical frame, a frame established by God’s creative and redemptive work in history. Such exegesis is ongoing whenever people presume that a biblical text about Jesus is about the Jesus whom they worship in the Church, or whenever people suppose that the local churches founded by St. Paul have a real analogue today. It is ongoing whenever people pray, receive the sacraments, or ask forgiveness in the context of the reading and teaching of Scripture, It involves an understanding of historical realities, of our place in the history of salvation, that comes naturally to the believer. Yet it is one whose justification has largely been lost and needs reclaiming.” (6)

“As traditionally understood, the spiritual sense of Scripture serves to go deeper into the infinitely rich dimensions of the biblical realities.” “I hold that the literal sense itself possesses the resources for bridging past and present, because of the literals sense’s conjoined linear and participatory dimension. The literal sense of the divinely ordained realities present and active in linear history (for instance, covenantal Israel, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Eucharist, the Church) possesses a participatory-historical dimension, since these diachronic realities expose how human time, already metaphysically participatory in God, shares ever more deeply in the infinite wisdom and love of divine action...I am aware that all the talk of metaphysics (participatory and nominalist) and its exegetical implications may put off both biblical scholars and theologians, for whom such discourse may be an undiscovered country or an outmoded theory.” (7)

“...interpreters must seek in and through Scripture the realities to which Scripture points. Yet these realities can only be sought in and through the words of Scripture, in and through the messiness of human history, into which linear-historical research can attain such valuable insight. For its full flourishing, participatory biblical exegesis thus requires not merely theological and metaphysical insights into God’s work of creation and redemption, but also historical-critical procedure of hypothesis and verification, as well as literary analysis. These approaches give insight into the full fabric of the texts’ richly human aspects, which are both participatory- and linear-historical. The integrity of linear-historical research does not require bracketing the participatory reality of God’s presence and action in history.
     In short, historical reconstruction that recognizes that historical reality is not solely linear, but rather is both linear and participatory (in the triune God’s creative and redemptive work), will be illumined both by linear-historical data and by participatory-historical ecclesial judgments about the divine realities involved.” (13)

“When the participatory dimension of reality is lacking, either anthropocentric readings of Scripture or, conversely, theocentric readings that deny the human dimension altogether, take over. By contrast, in participatory biblical exegesis one can integrate conceptually divine and human agency. On the one hand, everything comes from the triune God, the one in whom all finite things participate (metaphysically and Christologically-pneumatologically). For biblical exegesis, this means that the Bible is not ultimately about human beings, but rather about the triune God...On the other hand, the participatory relationship means that God’s action and human action are not in competition. In Scripture, the centrality of God’s teaching does not displace the human writing, editing, transmission, and interpretation of biblical texts, that is the human aspects of the text. These human aspects, of course, are not solely linear-historical. The task of appreciating the linear-historical “Messiness” of the biblical texts requires engaging the human aspects in their participatory-historical dimension.” (14)

“Once one understands reality as participatory-historical (providential and Christological-pneumatological) as well as linear-historical, what aspects of patristic-medieval biblical exegesis might once again be found valuable within contemporary biblical exegesis? Let this question stand as an overarching concern of the present book.” (16)