Christological Exegesis [for Trinitarians]
by J.R. Daniel Kirk
posted August 22, 2011
At the Colloquium on Theological Interpretation this weekend, the issue arose as to whether hermeneutics that strives to be Christian hermeneutics should be Christological or Trinitarian–or whether saying one means you’re doing both.
I argue for Christological rather than Trinitarian. And no, they are not the same thing. Though Trinitarian exegesis will have some Christ in it, and Christological exegesis might lead you to say Trinitarian things about God, in practice they are two different ways of reading the Bible.
The primary reason I attempt to read with and develop a Christological hermeneutic is that the story of Jesus is the hermeneutical grid for reading scripture that the NT writers articulate when they tell us what the scriptures are about.
Whether it’s Luke saying that the suffering, resurrection, and exaltation are what scripture is all about (ch. 24) or John’s Jesus telling the Jewish crowds that the scriptures in which they think they have life testify about him (John 5) or Paul’s declaration that the crucified and risen Christ who is Lord over all including Gentiles (Rom 1) or 1 Peter’s claim that the prophets spoke of the Messiah’s coming suffering and glory–the NT’s Bible-reading hermeneutic is to see that the scriptures tell the story of the suffering and exalted Messiah.
In other words, to read the Bible Christianly is to read it as a story of the crucified and risen Messiah–to read it as an indication of what God is going to finally do within the story to save and deliver God’s people.
The challenge with Trinitarian readings is that they read to insert into the story the Triune identity of God. This means both that:
(1) the Bible becomes less about the story unfolding on its pages than the God who is “out there,” and that,
(2) the person in whom the story is finding its resolution [(Jesus)] is less importantly Israel’s Messiah and more importantly God incarnate.
While the narrative of the suffering servant tells us a great deal about Israel’s God, it does so through the story of the crucified and risen Messiah. In fact, I would argue that we know what we are saying about God is true because when God is read aright God, too, is interpreted through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
That is to say, we do not read the story of Jesus through our prior understanding of God, but we understand God through the revealed story of the saving work of Christ.
A good theology will understand God’s identity as tied to and shaped by the Christ event. Mike Gorman can say that Paul discovers that God himself is cruciform: the interpretive key is the story of Jesus.