2010 Hermeneutics: Theory & Practice

Session 1

'Whom he raised from the dead.' Making sense of Paul's declaration of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead in 1 Thessalonians

Paul's first declaration that God has raised Jesus from the dead comes in 1 Thessalonians 1.10, 'whom he raised from the dead.' However, it could be argued that in its immediate context this announcement has little to say to a Greco-Roman world that denied and belittled the very possibility of the resurrection of the body. Within the pastoral context of the Thessalonian church there was a pressing need to offer an interpretation of this historically pivotal event that was both rational and made sense culturally and historically. Taking up Charlesworth's definition of resurrection as 'denoting the concept of God's raising the body and soul after death (meant literally) to a new and eternal life (not a return to mortal existence),' we shall, in a brief span of relevant Old Testament and Pseudepigraphical literature examine those texts that may have inspired Paul's own understanding of the meaning and purpose of the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Further, we shall offer a proposal that demonstrates that this understanding of resurrection – as articulated in 1 Thess 1:9-10 – is specifically geared to the Thessalonians' own situation and culture, encouraging them in their radical shift of lifestyle out from under the traditions of imperial Rome.

Session 2

Dr Alison Jack (University of Edinburgh)

Parables and Pedagogy: Reading the Good Samaritan in a School Setting

This paper will consider current and potential readings of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in schools. The imminent introduction of the "Curriculum for Excellence" in Scottish schools offers a space in which the Academy, school teachers and pupils might interact. Focusing on this popular parable, the paper will explore ways in which this might prove fruitful for all concerned.

P. Kelly Hernández (Princeton Theological Seminary)

Tender Care or Stringent Abuse?: Matthew 23.37 as a Multivalent Symbol

This paper aims to re-imagine the avian imagery employed in Matthew 23.37. Jesus identifies himself as what seems to be a tender and nurturing mother bird. However, the proceeding woes discourse shows that the context in which one finds this image can hardly be called tender. Jesus' rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees is severe, as he makes threats of desolation and abandonment. In light of this backdrop, the traditional understanding of Jesus as a caring and nurturing mother will be questioned. By surveying the multivalence of avian imagery throughout the ancient world more broadly, and the Hebrew Bible and other early Jewish/Christian literature more specifically, this paper will evaluate readings of Jesus the mother bird as either a loving or abusive mother. Against the trend of determining a single or dominant function of an image, the paper posits a way forward in the interpretation of Matthew's use of symbolic language and imagines the impact this has on those communities which regard the gospel as scripture.

Session 3

Wesley Hill (Durham University)

Israel as the Church or Israel as Israel?: Romans 9.1-5 in Karl Barth's Römerbrief and Church Dogmatics II/2

The prefaces to Karl Barth's Epistle to the Romans highlight Barth's desire for his commentary to be judged as a genuine piece of biblical interpretation. Likewise, in the preface to the second volume of his Church Dogmatics, Barth suggests that the viability of his reworking of the Reformed doctrine of election stands or falls on its strength as a reading of Scripture. Recent interpreters of Barth have rightly attempted to take seriously his desire to be assessed as a biblical interpreter and begun efforts to engage his theological exegesis accordingly. Building on some of this (largely methodological) work and pressing beyond it to look at a specific textual test case, this paper will 1) sketch Barth's reading of Romans 9.1-5 in The Epistle to the Romans, 2) compare the reading there to the later treatment of the same text in the Church Dogmatics II/2, and 3) suggest a model for understanding Barth's exegetical efforts that avoids both dismissing as well as unqualifiedly praising him as a biblical interpreter. The concept of the 'double agency' of biblical text and theological interpreter will be offered as a heuristic model for plotting Barth's widely differing readings of Romans 9.1-5 on a spectrum of various realizations of the semantic potential of the biblical text.