The rise of modernity, especially the European Enlightenment and its aftermath, has negatively impacted the way we understand the nature and interpretation of Christian Scripture. In this introduction to biblical interpretation, Craig Carter evaluates the problems of post-Enlightenment hermeneutics and offers an alternative approach: exegesis in harmony with the Great Tradition of Christian interpretation. Addressing the growing gulf between academic hermeneutics and the preaching ministry of the church, Carter proposes major reforms to our theory of biblical interpretation in order to bring our theory into line with our practice. He argues for the validity of patristic christological exegesis, showing that we must recover the Nicene theological tradition as the context for contemporary exegesis, and seeks to root both the nature and interpretation of Scripture firmly in trinitarian orthodoxy.
Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition will be useful in hermeneutics, biblical interpretation, and theology courses.
“The allegorical approach views the text as having more than one meaning, but not an unlimited number of meanings and certainly not mutually contradictory ones.” (Page 6)
“What is modernity? Modernity is a cultural pathology caused by the breakdown of the Great Tradition and the rise of neopaganism in Western civilization.” (Page 85)
“One thing it must mean is that the role of philosophy in hermeneutics must be secondary to theological description rooted in special revelation. Theology must shape the philosophy that shapes hermeneutics.” (Page 31)
“The Great Tradition was a three-legged stool made up of spiritual exegesis, Nicene dogma, and Christian Platonist metaphysics.” (Page 111)
“Theologians and pastors of the Great Tradition had (1) Christian Platonist metaphysical assumptions (which they believed were exegetically justified), (2) a method of spiritual exegesis (which they believed was the same as the way the New Testament apostles interpreted the Old Testament), (3) a social location within the believing community of faith (to which they saw themselves as accountable), and (4) a set of doctrines (contained in the ecumenical creeds) that were very different from the doctrines of the Enlightenment.” (Page 14)
The rediscovery and celebration of patristic exegesis continues apace and across a wide ecumenical spectrum. Craig Carter offers here a robust, readable, and bracing defense of a fundamental truth: patristic exegesis offers not only a ‘method’ for reading but a theology of Scripture. Following this insight Carter develops a theology of Scripture rooted deeply in the Nicene doctrine of God and poses a stark challenge to all who would separate the reading of the text from our theological confession.
—Lewis Ayres, professor of Catholic and historical theology, Durham University
This book is both highly relevant and disturbing, as prophetic words often are. Carter gives a critical assessment of the problems besetting hermeneutics in the twenty-first century in biblical studies departments, including the seminary. He argues that such study has left the father’s home of rich exegetical tradition (the fathers, the creeds, the Reformers), where it had feasted on the banquet of Scripture, and has wandered off into a barren wasteland of historical criticism, where it dines on the bones, fragments, and husks of the ‘assured results’ of scholarly study. Carter warns that the recent discipline of theological interpretation will not accomplish a return to the father’s house unless it has the right metaphysical equipment. This book is brilliant, incisive, prophetic, witty, extremely well written (I could hardly put it down), and desperately needed. I heartily recommend it!
—Stephen Dempster, professor of religious studies, Crandall University
Every academic in the fields of Bible and theology needs to read this book. So many books attempt too little and say even less. This one swings for the fences and hits a home run.
—James M. Hamilton Jr., professor of biblical theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“A timely intervention into the contemporary conversation. Carter has obviously been listening very carefully for some time to the major voices, and he now makes his own contribution: a strategic renarrating of the standard account of premodern exegesis. A stimulating and accessible account of how to carry on reading the Bible theologically.”
—Fred Sanders, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University
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