Friday, May 22, 2009

Tradition and "The Purpose of Exegesis"

The appeal to tradition was actually and appeal to the mind of the church. It was assumed that the church had the knowledge and the understanding of the truth, that is, the meaning of the revelation. Accordingly, the church had both the competence and the authority to proclaim the gospel and to interpret it. This did not imply that the church was above the Scripture. She stood by the Scripture but, on the other hand, was not bound by its letter. The ultimate purpose of exegesis and interpretation was to elicit the meaning and the intent of the Holy Writ, or rather the meaning of the revelation, of the Heilsgeschichte. The church had to preach Christ, and not just the Scripture.

The use of tradition in the ancient church can be adequately understood only in the context of the actual use of the Scripture. The Word was kept alive in the church. It was reflected in her live and structure. Faith and life were organically intertwinded. -- Georges Florovsky, Chapter 8, "The Function of Tradition in the Ancient Church"; Eastern Orthodox Theology, Daniel B. Clendenin, ed. (Baker Books, 1995) (emphasis mine)

The highlighted text made me stand up straight when I read it this afternoon. It was one of those "whoa, did I just read that?" moments. That the ancient church was to preach Christ didn't surprised me. But Florovsky's bit about preaching Christ and not just Scripture had me interested. How much of what we do as Christians is just preaching Scripture in a rote fashion, out of context to what it was ultimately exposition for, namely Christ crucified and risen. Without it one can do all the proof-texting one wants and, with apologies to the Bard, "it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

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