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Reading the Bible with GiantsThe giants of yesteryear

We tend to think, being the clever modern folk that we are, that we know better than any previous generation what the Bible means. This book sets out to introduce 'Reception Theory', that is, the idea that the way previous generations have read and interpreted Scripture remains of value to us today.

The book is Reading The Bible With Giants by David Paul Parris (Paternoster, 2006. ISBN 978-1-84227-273-2). Its explanatory subtitle is How 2000 Years of Biblical Interpretation Can Shed New Light on Old Texts. It has more typological errors than any book I have read for years but, that aside, its message is sound and challenging.

The way a text is received and read down through history not only allows us to understand what the biblical text may mean, but allows us to do so in a fuller and more historically embodied sort of way than the historical-grammatical method makes possible. (p57)

If we accept that the Holy Spirit is living and active, leading and guiding the church today in its interpretation and teaching of the Bible, then we must also grant that the Spirit worked in the same manner with every previous generation. (p80)

How we understand the Scriptures is part and parcel of this broader historical trajectory into which we have been grafted by grace. We are on a journey to a full and appropriate understanding of the Scriptures; however, until we cross over from this age into the next we should view all of our interpretations as partial and provisional, open to correction and revision by those who will come after us. (p99)

Towards the end of his life Augustine wrote his Retractions (1.23.1), in which he reviewed his writings and recounted how he had changed his stance on numerous biblical and theological questions. (p195)  [I'm obviously in good company here; see my article Shifting Ground, about my own modified views on a variety of topics.]

Reading the Bible in conjunction with tradition serves as a preventative and remedial medicine against the attitude of claiming that we possess the definitive meaning of the Bible, or a passage within it. This is a cure that is sorely needed in many circles today. (p201)

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