British NT Conference 2008: Hermeneutics Seminar

I have just booked my train tickets for travelling to Durham on 4-6 September for this year's British New Testament Conference. Full details of the programme can be found on the website.� I am looking forward especially to hearing what Dale Martin has to say about 'Angels, Demons and Paul', but the lineup of plenary speakers (Martin, plus John Barclay, Eddie Adams and Loveday Alexander) looks particularly strong.

I am giving a paper in the Hermeneutics seminar, so for the first time in ages will not be attending the Paul seminar (I am planning to make up this deficiency by making SBL this year something of a Paul-fest).� Here are the abstracts for the hermeneutics seminar.� It is often a small group, but that makes for good interaction and often lively conversation.� Note that fellow bloggers Ben and Nijay are also presenting here.� My own paper is on Saturday morning which may require a certain restraint during the traditional Friday night festivities.

Session 1: Panel Discussion

Ben Blackwell (Durham University)
'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.

J.R. Dodson
'Personification and Citations'

Rather than introducing Old Testament citations with traditional
formulae such as "it is written" or "Moses says," Paul sometimes
employs personifications to recite an Old Testament passage instead.
While scholars like F. Watson and V. Robbins have written extensively
on categories in which to understand the utilisation of Old Testament
citations, the use of personification to introduce an Old Testament
passage does not fit precisely into any of their proposed groups. In
fact, to our knowledge, a category for speaking personifications does
not exist. Therefore, in this paper, after surveying recent discussions
on categories for Old Testament citations, we shall suggest that the
introduction of scripture by any inanimate object, abstract concept or impersonal being
should be referred to as a personification formula. We shall then look
at Paul's introduction of scripture through the mouths of Nomos and Dikaiosyne to demonstrate the distinctive affects and implications of a personification formula in contrast to more traditional ones.

Session 2:

Nijay Gupta (Durham University)
'Worship and Phronesis: Paul's Questioning of his Jewish Privileges and the Promise of a Cultic Hermeneutic (Phil. 3.2-11)'

Philippians 3.2-11 contains some of the most powerful expressions of
Paul's thoughts on Christian existence and, in particular, on his own
Jewish heritage and 'privileges' (see 3.5-6). Paul is willing to count
all of these things as liabilities in light of Christ (3.8). Though it
is true that, on a number of occasions, he endorses the 'transvaluation
of values', as one scholars puts it, it is difficult to align this
statement with Romans 3.1-2 where Jews apparently benefit from
circumcision and the possession of the law.

This paper argues that Philippians 3.2-11 is not about the
restructuring of values per se, but about the de-prioritizing of such
Jewish privileges as guarantors of true wisdom and phronesis. The
claims of Jewish privilege involved, in large part, having the law as
the path of true wisdom and the regulator of faithful worship. Paul
could find fault with the law as it exacted the wrong penalty on Christ
(see Gal. 3.13; 1 Cor. 2.8; cf. Rom. 2.20ff.). Thus, he makes explicit
that his devaluation of all things is directed towards the desire for
the 'knowledge of Christ' (γνώσεωσ Χριστοῦ [Phil. 3.8]; cf. τοῦ γν­ῶναι
αὐτὸν [3.10]). This desire to know Christ is, unsurprisingly, cast
within the cultic realm as Paul describes his converts as faithful
worshippers (λατρευῶ 3.3). Paul offers the promise of a cultic
hermeneutic where suffering and death are not shame and weakness, but
demonstrations of power (3.10-11), and devotion and faithfulness (see
2.17). For Paul, knowing Christ offers a transformation of phronesis
and the ability to recognize the one true God that is worthy of
worship.

Session 3:

Sean Winter (Northern Baptist College, Manchester)
'Interpretive Pluralism in Theological Perspective: The Contribution of Karl Barth'

The literature that is generally gathered under the heading of
philosophical hermeneutics continues to have significant influence on
contemporary (hermeneutically informed) biblical scholarship. However,
in recent years a number of scholars from both the biblical and
systematic fields have argued that the insights of philosophical
hermeneutics must ultimately be judged by appropriately dogmatic
criteria. Thus, while those who draw on the resource of philosophical
hermeneutics often affirm and even celebrate the fact of interpretive
pluralism, those who insist on locating interpretation within a
theological framework are often suspicious of such pluralism in the
light of the prior theological conviction that in the Bible: Deus dixit.

The theology of Karl Barth is central to this debate. In this paper I
argue that while it is correct, theologically, to locate our
understanding of interpretation within the wider dogmatic context of
God's communicative action, the notion that this rules out ideas such
as multiple meaning or valid interpretive pluralism is mistaken. I
suggest that a reading of Barth's discussion of interpretive work in Church Dogmatics
I/2 provides a way of understanding how the Word of God that the words
of Scripture mediate, in so far as it is both revelation and
hiddenness, divine and human, invites interpretation that is therefore
marked by provisionality and plurality. This condition is entirely
appropriate to the creaturely state of the interpreter. The reality of
interpretive diversity, when seen within the perspective of a theology
of covenant relations, is less a situation to be overcome and more the
very condition for hearing the Word of God today.