The hermeneutical question and the relation of kerygma and history are probably the major problems to be resolved if New Testament theology is to move beyond the Bultmannian consensus. Bultmann is correct in asserting that the basic problem is hermeneutics, because Protestantism cannot exist apart from the principle of the authority of Scripture. How do we interpret a historical document so that it is relevant for our life? We may agree that there is such a thing as a Vorverständnis (a pre-understanding), an interest and a question which impel us to come to Scripture. But we cannot, as Bultmann does, narrowly define what this must be, and ignore the complexities of the Church’s conviction that the Bible is Holy Scripture. Awareness of a “pre-understanding” does not allow the privilege of interrogating Scripture as though the only questions worth asking were already known. The fundamental concern is to say to the Bible, “Teach me.” It was not the business of Jesus to answer questions but to ask them. Existential theology is arrogant in assuming that philosophy knows what the right questions are. Unless we are willing to face the questions the Bible puts to us we cannot claim that it is the authority which we formally confess it to be. The Bible is a means of grace and God is able to speak to us through it in spite of as well as because of whatever Vorverständnis we may bring to the text. It is not possible to bring a Vorverständnis as to what the action of God must signify or wherein it must be distinct from the action of man or the events of nature. To so define the possibilities of the action of God in terms of existential philosophy before we ever come to the Bible is to assume a restrictive and arbitrary superiority over ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more