Literary Lawlessness?


or Understanding Apostolic Wine Science

Scholars talk about identifying the “apostolic hermeneutic,” which sounds intimidating. The reason for this phrase is that according to the commonsense rules of interpretation, the apostles are merrily delinquent. They quote many Old Testament texts, rip them out of their historical contexts and claim they are fulfilled in Christ.

Our problem is that the apostles are neither hacks nor mystics. They are authoritative. Some rightly explain that the apostles are just seeing Christ prefigured in the Old Testament Scriptures, which they are, but this explanation is too vague. God’s Word is meticulous.

The apostles lived and breathed the Old Testament. They were familiar with its historical and literary patterns and Jesus’ allusions to it. We can deduce this because they themselves employ these throughout the New Testament. Thus, it was no big deal to refer to an Old Testament event and see its fulfilment in the work of Christ because Jesus deliberately followed the same patterns, not only in the structure of His ministry but also in His carefully prepared sermons.

Although the Bible’s literature often appears disorganised to us, it has in fact been extremely carefully crafted. Yet, for the last hundred years or so, many scholars have treated the Scriptures as a shoddy, primitive jumble. Analysis of the Bible’s literary structures has proven these scholars wrong. It has shown that this Book is infinitely smarter than we are. 

The apostles—like their Lord—had acquired a taste for the deep things of Scripture. [1] They had moved from the milk and bread to the wine. The apostles seem to us to be breaking the rules because we have never seen this game played before!

We have been harsh critics of an art we neither understand nor appreciate. These men of God quoted the Bible in the way C. S. Lewis constantly and deftly alluded to ancient literatures. It was in their blood and at their  fingertips.

So, our pathetic JEDPs are like adolescent beer swillers jeering at the studied subtleties of the full-bodied gents at the wine fair. Unlike Matthew, Peter, Paul and John, we have no interest in clarity, nose or finish. [2]

“and how from childhood you have been acquainted
with the sacred writings” –
2 Timothy 3:15

[1] See also The Perils of Deep Structure.
[2] See also So You Think You Know the Bible

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