Saturday, June 03, 2006

10 Commands for Exegesis

I read at least one non-Lutheran magazine (actually, I read lots of non-Lutheran magazines, a list of which is fun in its own right. I'll list in a separate post and invite you to list further suggestions). Leadership magazine, an offspring publication of Christianity Today, had this list of hermeneutical commands which I borrow:

I. You shall not make for yourself an idol out of Scripture.
II. You shall honor the Scriptures as sufficient.
III. You shall remember the meta-narrative and keep it wholly.
IV. You shall not neglect the context.
V. You shall honor the church as guardian of the Scriptures.
VI. You shall not ask questions the text doesn't want to answer.
VII. You shall remember form and content are inspired by God.
VIII. You shall not covet the professor's knowledge.
IX. You shall exegete your culture and not merely the Scripture.
X. You shall remember the simplest interpretation is usually correct.

I invite commentary and analysis of these commands. My comments: #1 is correct, although many people in the communities I live make Scripture an idol in this way, by seeing it as so holy that they never touch it. As to #2, I'm not sure what it means. #3 is humorous and wise. #6 is true but difficult. #5 and #10 stand somewhat in contradiction. #7 isn't given much though in our churches, the "art" of Scripture being more attended in the academy than in the parish.

I could keep commenting, adding my own, etc., its a pleasant way to pass the afternoon, but for the time-being, have at it, all readers and non-readers of the Bible. What commands do you follow or break when reading or not reading the Scriptures?


  1. "Sufficiency" appears to be an evangelical term for the final authority of the Scriptures in matters of faith and life, vs. tradition or new revelation. Search "sufficiency Scripture" and you'll get a bunch of links.

  2. Chip, thanks!

    Translation: You shall honor the Scriptures as THE handbook for life.

    So, commandment #2 stands in some tension with #3, #4, and #7, all of which recognize the development of doctrine via tradition already built into the Scriptures as we have them.

  3. I agree with you that 2 is in conflict with 3. It certainly is not a Lutheran "the Gospel contained in the Scriptures is the Word of God" hermeneutic.

    I think 3 is very difficult because so few of our hearers even have a passing acquaintance with the meta-narrative. This may or may not be the failure of the three-year lectionary, with which we seem to be stuck. But in order to include the meta-narrative, it almost seems as if you have to devote half the sermon to it, therefore ensuring that everybody will zone out.

    We used Harry Wendt's Crossways materials to try and get some of the grand sweep of Scripture across, but it is difficult to remember on a Sunday morning without it right in front of you. This would be the only reason I would even consider the idea of video screens. None of this movie-clip junk, give me a map and a time-line. But then are we spending the sermon teaching, rather than proclaiming the Gospel?

  4. The cool thing about screens is you can use them without necessarily talking about them. So, for example, if you wanted to provide maps and timelines, you can put them up on the screen during the sermon, but you wouldn't have to talk through them. If they were good illustrations, they would speak for themselves in relation to the sermon- same goes for art.