The British New Testament Conference is meeting in Durham next week: 4-6 September 2008. I had the pleasure of being the local treasurer. I’m also giving a paper in the Hermeneutics section. It is basically a chunk from my introduction justifying my methodology of reading Paul in light of the Fathers. Here’s my abstract:
‘A Conversation between the New Testament and the Fathers: Expectations and Problems’
Patristic interpretation of biblical texts is gaining an increasing amount of attention from within the biblical studies guild (e.g., Bockmuehl’s emphasis on Wirkungsgeschichte in his Seeing the Word). Many studies in this area focus on the history of interpretation, starting with the biblical text and moving out from there to discuss how later interpreters have received the text. These are helpful studies, but they beg the question of whether we can frame the question of interpretation from the opposite direction. Can we have a heuristic exploration of NT texts by placing them in conversation with patristic writers? That is, can we start from the patristic writers and responsibly investigate the biblical text based on their interpretations? I initially explore a justification for this methodology within a historical critical context, but because of the limitations of THE historical critical approach, I then explore philosophical hermeneutics and theological interpretation as better models for framing the conversation. Within this discussion the issue of anachronism, or making the NT texts parrot later readings, is central. I argue that to counteract this problem we must allow each party to speak fully within the conversation. Thus, after listening to the patristic writers, we use their questions and constructions to interact with the biblical texts, but we also allow the texture of the biblical texts to speak for themselves. To conclude we will use Irenaeus’ interpretation of the Pauline conception of adoption as a working example.