Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Church's Book: Theology of Scripture in Ecclesial Context in the Work of John Howard Yoder, Robert Jenson, and John Webster
by East, Bradley Raymond, Ph.D., Yale University, 2017, 523; 10783446
Abstract (Summary)

Theological interpretation of Scripture has been ascendant in recent decades, and theologians and biblical scholars from a variety of backgrounds, areas of expertise, and ecclesial commitments have rallied around it. Increasingly, however, divisions are fraying the heretofore united front against historical criticism's dominance in academic biblical interpretation. This dissertation is an exploration of the reasons for these divisions. Its motivating thesis is that differences in ecclesiology lie behind disagreements about bibliology, which manifest in turn as divergences over theological interpretation. Prior to and operative within judgments about the nature, authority, and interpretation of the Bible stand judgments about the being, mission, and authority of the church. But the relationship between the two is not so linear as that. For the connections between them are direct and materially operative, and only more so when they remain implicit and therefore unexamined. Every account of the Bible both assumes and implies an account of the church, and vice versa: the lines of influence are reciprocal and circular. The Bible is always the church's book, the church always the community under the Bible's authority.

This dissertation responds, diagnostically and constructively, to this situation through engagement with particular figures. Specifically, it expounds one specific strand of bibliology influenced by the great Protestant theologian Karl Barth: the work, respectively, of John Howard Yoder, Robert Jenson, and John Webster. Each of these theologians is a contemporary Barthian of a sort, a student but not a disciple of the Swiss master. Given Barth's influence over the development of theological interpretation, this commonality is helpful both genetically (all three trace their thought to the–proximate–source) and substantively (their proposals share enough to make disagreement intelligible, and interesting). Moreover, Jenson, Webster, and Yoder represent, between them, the three great traditions of western Christendom: catholicism, the magisterial reformation, and the radical reformation. The specific ways in which their ecclesial commitments shape, inform, and at times determine their theological treatments of Scripture provide ideal examples of the phenomenon at issue in this dissertation.

Across five chapters, the project's principal aim is to demonstrate as well as examine the inseparable relationship between theology of Scripture and theology of the church. Along the way, the positions and proposals represented by Yoder, Jenson, and 'Webster come to light, and critical analysis of each highlights their respective strengths and shortcomings. In fulfilling these tasks the dissertation serves both as an initial reception of these theologians' bibliologies and as a critique of a feature–at times a problem–endemic to the current renewal of theological interpretation of Scripture.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Tanner, Kathryn
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 79/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Biblical studies, Theology
Keywords: Bible, Church, Hermeneutics, Scripture, Theological Interpretation, Theology
Publication Number: 10783446
ISBN: 978-0-355-70912-4
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