Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Exegetical pressure, exegetical pressures and "Canonical Pressure"

(updated twice from note originally written in September '14. 16/04/2015)

"Exegetical pressure" (Holmes and others - Childs?) is - I am now convinced - not the right term in this whole debate. Of course I may be misunderstanding or not fully processing what Holmes means by this expression, exegetical pressure (hear him respond to questions at the end of his Fuller lecture), but when we see some of the early exegetical processes, I feel nothing short of shocked! It is the very foundations of biblical exegesis that are leading me to question which way does the “pressure” might lead us.

Well, the answer is... there probably is not one exegetical pressure, unless we redefine exegesis in a way similar to Holmes’ suggestion at the Fuller lecture. There are exegetical pressures, plural. Some believe they lead one way, and others another culminating in one general "pressure".

But there is a third way, expounded by Ehrman and others: the authors did not all believe the same thing about Jesus. A trinitarian will say, or at least in my view should say, that is fine, God revealed different aspects to different writers, and even to the same authors different aspects at different times (e.g. nearness of Christ's second coming for Paul in 1 Thessalonians) and it is the beautiful, painstaking, complementary and collective mosaic of revelation that results in such a wonderful finale. This finale thus harmonises these perspectives into a single portrait, approximating the extraordinary fourth-century creed. The unitarians have many texts that are in favour of distinction between God and Jesus in the New Testament writers' mind that do not require in my view quite the same mosaic approach or creedal layering.

But while the battle is being wrought, and different assumptions being accused, they all miss the great assumption that actually unites them, quite possibly into the one faith, although many would disagree with me on that.

This is the assumption:

At the end of the day, the bible must be cohesively uni-vocal on this issue of whether or not Jesus is God, there simply cannot exist a plurality of pressures.

I think we can give a name to this assumption: canonical pressure. Both camps share a wonderfully deep reliance on this assumption and yet often fail to spot their common ground.

Some of this was inspired from the rather engaging debate with Buzzard and White here, where this assumption is not even laid out.

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