the Bible: Moving from Scripture to Theology.
the Bible regard capital punishment as the appropriate penalty for certain
crimes? Does Scripture really teach that women should not be allowed to
teach in the Church? If you were seeking an honest answer to questions
like these, then this is the book you should read. The volume is a
collection of lectures by I. Howard Marshall, with responses from Kevin
Vanhoozer and Stanley Porter, a theologian and a biblical scholar
respectively. Prof. Marshall is Emeritus Professor of New Testament
exegesis and Honorary Research Professor at the University of Aberdeen,
and he was my doctoral thesis supervisor at the same institution. This
book will not only offer the rationale for your own answers but also
criteria for how to go about it.
book shows how an experienced exegete (he has taught New Testament for
more than 40 years) wrestles with major issues that the Church faces
today. In his first lecture Marshall emphasizes the important role of
evangelical scholars who are committed to both “the academic study of
Scripture within a confessional framework” and “Christian witness in
the contemporary world” (p.12). According to Marshall, evangelical
scholars have made significant contributions in the areas of hermeneutics
and exegesis, but more progress is needed with the problem of moving from
the Bible to the contemporary world. That is, “how do we appropriate the
message of the Bible so that present-day readers may apply it to
themselves and the problems that they face?” (p.33). He concludes his
first lecture by noting that we should not choose the path of classical
‘liberalism’ or the route of ‘fundamentalism.’ He means by the
former “the peeling off of those aspects of biblical teaching about
Christian faith and ethics that are held by many people today to be
incompatible with a so-called scientific worldview and an
‘enlightened’ understanding of morality.” With the latter Marshall
sees the need “to ask whether . . . fundamentalism is a defense of a
postbiblical traditional interpretation rather than a willingness to go
back to the text and to be led by it” (pp.31-32).
his second lecture Marshall outlines two current approaches to Scripture.
One approach “asserts that what Scripture teaches remains essentially in
force today although some teaching may have been given in a
situation-specific and culture-specific form, whereas the other allows
that there can be and is development beyond scriptural teaching in
theology, ecclesiology, and ethics” (p.55). He gives some examples of
both approaches to ethics, worship and doctrine and shows that our
doctrinal statements in fact go beyond the express teaching of Scripture.
He then boldly seeks to “establish principles that are rooted in the
statements and the practice of Scripture that will enable us to make
progress in framing interpretative procedures and guard us against invalid
interpretations and false conclusions” (p.48). Marshall tries to show
that there is the need for a principle to guide and govern development
beyond Scripture and he sees this as the duty of evangelical biblical
scholarship and his ultimate motivation behind his three lectures.
having shown that there is development of doctrine within the Bible
itself, Marshall makes the crucial move. He asserts that
“the closing of the canon is not incompatible with the nonclosing
of the interpretation of that canon” (p.54). If “the closing of the
canon did not bring the process of doctrinal development to an end,” as
he attempted to show in his lecture, then “the question of the
interpretation of Scripture remains open” (p.54). The key is then to go beyond
the Bible biblically.
his third lecture Marshall explores the actual process of development
within the Bible itself by considering in turn the interpretation of (a)
the Old Testament by the New Testament writers, (b) the teaching of Jesus
by the early church, and (c) the apostolic tradition by the early church.
He finds in the early church the development controlled by various
principles that provide us a model for contemporary interpretation: “the
shift from the old covenant to the new covenant; the shift from the
liminal period to the early church; the facing of new situations, new
currents of thought, new errors, and the like” (p.79). This leads him to
conclude that developments in doctrine are inevitable even after the
closing of the canon.
evangelical Christians may be puzzled by, if not uncomfortable with,
Marshall’s labelling of Jesus’ teaching as “undeveloped” or
“elementary” (p.64) or some other points when he explains development
in the early church, but I invite you to fully interact with his arguments
offered with great care and persuasiveness.
Here we see an evangelical biblical scholar wishing to go ‘beyond the Bible’ without leaving the Bible behind. In this series of three lectures Marshall makes some creative and important proposals to help contemporary Christians just do that. I truly recommend this book to you all.
Chapel on 29 Dec was taken by Dr Aquila Lee. Dr Lee read Gen 17:1-16 and
spoke about the confirmation of the covenant that God made previously with
Abraham. Circumcision has an important significance as an external sign
that separates those who belong to God from those who do not. We as God's
people need to show that sign by keeping a lifestyle that is holy and
separated from that of the world, those outside of the covenant.
Chapel on 5 Jan will be led by Dr Quek Swee Hwa.
Blessed Birthday to…
Agnes Ng 03/01