[Dear HR Readers: please forgive the delay in posting. I have been directing most of my writing energy to completing the manuscript for ‘TheoMedia,’ my latest book project. Almost done… just almost. Below is a piece that I was hoping to include in the manuscript, but I am afraid it will have to be cut due to space. So here is a “deleted scene,” if you will.]

 

I am not very handy with technology stuff, but from what I can gather, for a technological update to enable a device or program to deal with new situations and scenarios, something internal must be adjusted and tweaked (or something new purchased).

In contrast, the working assumption for the church’s hermeneutical endeavors is that the Bible maintains integrity and sufficiency as an authoritative medium regardless of time’s passage, even in a high-tech digital age.

But unlike our screens, the pages of the Bible lack a “refresh” icon. So the Bible’s wisdom and theological vision must be appropriately interpreted for new situations and scenarios that emerge along time’s onward march. Though we have a “static” textual corpus it is given “dynamic” properties though the church’s varied traditions of interpretation.[1] To read Scripture like a script is to take a static document and enact it in a particular, contemporary context.[2]

Before the closing of the canon, the process of Scripture’s expansion and development could be understood to some degree as a process of updating and upgrading. Editorializing was certainly a part of the ongoing tradition of Scripture. And new material was gradually added which affected, to varying degrees, how the previous material was understood. As the corpus of sacred texts was enlarged, the older content was not erased or dragged to the “trash” file. It was just interpreted in light of the additions.

We especially see this hermeneutical process at work when early Jewish Christians tried to make sense of Jesus in light of their sacred texts. The Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension necessitated a Christological re-appropriation of all previously penned Scripture.

In other words, the early Christians—Jewish and soon also Gentile—were faced with a hermeneutical crisis. This was perhaps their most urgent question: are the sacred texts of Israel compatible with the Person and work of Jesus?

Rather than ordering an entirely new media product fresh off the shelves to satisfy their need for a sacred corpus tidily conducive to Christology, they opted for hermeneutics. They opted for a vigorous discipline of re-reading their old media in light of the Word becoming flesh, and then dying, rising, ascending, and eventually returning. The media announcement of the Gospel has become a primary hermeneutical lens for the church’s understanding of Christian Scripture. We read through Jesus:

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. . ..” (Heb 1:1-3)

The finality and sense of authority perceived in the word of Christ (and the need to preserve that finality and authority as heresies grew) led to the official closing of the canon. Ever since, the New Testament’s testimony to Jesus has been deemed sufficient for interpreting not only all the Scriptures, but also all new situations in life.

So the content of Scripture is theologically competent to guide us into futuristic, high-tech horizons without a cutting edge update. But we do need fresh, Christological interpretation of our ancient, sacred texts that tenders wisdom as we live in a society ever searching for the next and the new.



[1] I am borrowing the terms “static” and “dynamic” from Heidi A. Campbell in her description of Jewish understandings about the Hebrew Scriptures in When Religion Meets New Media, (Media, Religion and Culture Series; London: Routledge, 2010), 88.

[2] Again, see Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine, A Canonical Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2005), 115–85; the chapter “Theology as Dramaturgy,” is also helpful on this point (243–63).

One thought on “Technological Upgrades and Christological Hermeneutics: Is the Bible Sufficient for a Digital Age?

  1. Great points. It seems like Paul’s letters bring a lot of interpretive light to both the Old Testament and the life and teachings of Christ. His understanding of the Jewish Bible and subsequent time spent learning about the life of Jesus was what God used to complete the written story.

    What I’m suggesting is that the story of God in the Scripture is largely self contained and I would caution too much interpretation of the OT and life of Christ beyond that of Paul and the other apostles. Perhaps we should spend more time trying to understand the NT interpretations of the OT and Christ.

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