Thursday, March 15, 2012

Did Jesus “Do What the Bible Says”? Some thoughts on Jesus, Biblical Formalism, and Problem of Indeterminacy

Did Jesus “Do What the Bible Says”? Some thoughts on Jesus, Biblical Formalism, and Problem of Indeterminacy  

Matt's Theoprudence blog  at the above link discusses two types of interpretation of Biblical text:  formalist and purposive.  The prime example that illustrates this problem of interpretation concerns Jesus healing on the Sabbath.  From a formalist approach, Jesus clearly broke the rule that prohibits work being performed on the Sabbath.  However, in one of the texts, it is said that he says that the Sabbath was made for mankind and not mankind for the Sabbath.  This implies that the rule is not absolute but has lots of wiggle room based on an inferred purpose of the rule.

Since early adulthood, in a break with my traditional conservative Reformation and Restoration Movement roots, I have come down on the purposive side of things.  I would give a hat tip to Professor Andy T. Richie for aid in starting me down that path.  He took us through the book of Matthew in the Life of Christ class my sophomore year at Harding.  How can one think otherwise after a close reading of the Sermon on the Mount?

For a humorous application of the formalist approach see my daughter-in-law's blog post here.  She is in law school and the interpretation of laws is somewhat important in that occupation.


Derek and Catherine said...

My blog post was pretty relevant to this post! Haha I was actually telling my dad about my legislation class, which studies all the themes and tools that courts use to interpret ambiguous legislation. He made the comment that some of the themes should be used in Biblical interpretation! If you're a purposive interpreter, then you would probably fall under the Legal Process Theory, Judge Allison! :)

Jason said...

Steve, this isn't germane to this post, but I wanted to ask if you've seen Tree of Life. If not, I think you'd enjoy it.

Steve said...

Jason, I had not noticed it, but after reading the synopsis on Wikipedia, I believe I would enjoy it. Will look into it.


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