Full Text for Essays in Hermeneutics, part 1

arnurnr~tu mqtnlngital :SntdJJly Continuing L EHRE UNO WEHRE MAGAZIN · FUER E v.-LuTH. HOMILETIK THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY· THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY Vol. XIX August, 1948 No.8 CONTENTS Page The Universal Priesthood and the Pastor. R. R. Caemmerer .. _ .... _. 561 Is Doctrinal Unity a Luxury? Th. Engelder ....... _ .. _._. ___ ...... _ ... _ .. ___ . 583 &says in Hermeneutics. M. H_ Franzmann .... __ . _____ ......... _. __ . ___ ._._ .. ___ .. 595 With Reference to the Formula of Absolution. W_ G. Polack-. ___ 606 The Nassau Pericopes .. -.. ___ ... __ .. __ ... _._._ .... _. ___ .. _._. __ _____ ._. ___ . __ ._._ .. __ 610 Miscellanea ._. __ . __________ . ________ . ___ ._. _______ __ . ___ . ____________________ . _____ . _____ _ G18 Theological Observer __ __ _________________ _____ __ .. __ . _. __ .. ___ ._. ___ ... ___ ._._ .... ____ ._ ... __ ._ 631 Book Review _ __ . _____ ._._ .. ___ ._. ___ ...... _._. __ . ____ ._. ___ . ___ . __ . __ ._. __ . _______ 633 Ein Prediger muss nlcht allein wei- den. also dass er die Schafe unter- weise, wle sle rechte ChrIsten sollen sein, son dern auch daneben den Woel- fen wehren., dass sie die Schafe n1cht angrelfen und mit falscher Lehre ver- fuehren und Irrtum elnfuehren. Luther Es ist kein Ding, das die Leute mehr bei der Klrche behaelt denn die gute P redlgt. - Apologie, Arl. 24 If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? -1 Cor. 14:8 Pu1.lIished by The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod CONCORDIA PUBLISIDNG HOUSE, St. Louis 18, Mo. pBIN'DD IN C'. s. A. Essays in Hermeneutics By M. H. FRANZMANN NOTE. - This and the succeeding articles are designed to serve as guidelines for the writer's course in Hermeneutics at Concordia Sem- inary. They are to be viewed, therefore, merely as a summation of time-honored and time-tested hermeneutical materials. They are, of course, to be supplemented by lectures and by practice. I should like to express especial indebtedness to L. Fuerbringer's Theological Her- meneutics, Terry's Biblical Hermeneutics, and Torm's Hermeneutik des Neuen Testaments. My debt to Luther is so great and so obvious in what follows that it need hardly receive special notice. Since these ar- ticles are to be the first steps toward a textbook on Hermeneutics, it was thought that they might interest a wider circle and might benefit from the suggestions and criticisms of our brethren, which are herewith in- vited. INTRODUCTORY Hermeneutics is that branch of theology which sets forth the principles that are to guide us in the interpretation of Scripture; in other words, it is the theory of exegesis, or in- terpretation. For the Lutheran theologian hermeneutical questions are anything but academic questions. Our life as Christians and as a Church depends on the Word; and since the Word is the ultimate authority, the Church of the sola Scriptura dare not be indifferent to the manner of its interpretation. "We be- lieve, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard ac- cording to which all dogmas together with all teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament alone, as it is written Ps. 119: 105: 'Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet and a Light unto my path.' And St. Paul: 'Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, let him be accursed.' Gal. 1: 8." As long as these solemn and stately words of the Formula of Concord are taken seriously in the Lutheran Church, there should be little need to vindicate the place of Hermeneutics in the theological curriculum. In thus asserting the sole authority and power of Scrip- ture, our Confessions are but reverting to the convictions of the Church catholic, which confesses in the Nicene Creed: "And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the Prophets." And the Confessions are also speaking the [595] 596 ESSAYS IN HERMENEUTICS distinct accents of Luther, whose utterances on the sole au- thority and sole power of the Word are a veritable fiorilegium of fresh and bracing theological thought on this point. For him the Word and the Word alone is the place where, and the means by which, man meets God: "W 0 Gottes Wort nicht ist, wohnt Gott nicht, man baue ihm ein Haus, so gross man wolle." Man cannot see Him outside the Word: "Gottes Wort muss uns zu Huelfe kommen, um Gatt recht zu treffen, dass man ihn hoeren, sehen, greifen, fassen und erkennen moege." "Allein durch das Wort kann Gatt ergriffen werden; stellt man sich recht zum Worte, dass man es liebt, und meint es von Herzen, so wird Gatt auch geliebt." Without the Word there is no road to heaven; to essay to establish a private road thither is insolence: "Es soIl sich niemand unter- stehen, mit Gott zu handeln ohne das Wort, oder sich einen sonderlichen Weg gen Himmel zu bauen." For there and only there, in God's Word, is Christ to be found: "Gatt hat uns kein ander Mittel gegeben als sein goettliches Wort, darin man aHein Christum hoert." By it and it alone is the Holy Spirit given: "Gatt will den Heiligen Geist geben durch das Wort; ohne das Wort will er es nicht tun." Over against the claim of this Word neither the "harlot Reason" nor "experi- ence" has any claim whatsoever; that is the will of the Holy Ghost who by that Word does His work: "Der Heilige Geist will die Wahrheit so angebunden haben, dass man Vernunft und aIle eigene Gedanken und Fuehlen hintenansetze und allein an dem Worte hange." There is indeed no choice: "Das Wort Gottes reisst uns von allen Dingen, das nicht Gott ist." There is the same sharp either-or here as in all God's dealings with man: "Wenn bei uns Gottes Wort nicht ist, so sind wir im Reiche des Teufels und sind junge Teufel und Teufelskinder. Also sagt der Herr Christus auch zu Petro, da er widerriet, dass er nicht in Judaeam ziehen sollte: Hin- dere mich nicht, du Teufel. Aber wer Gottes Wort hat, der ist ein junger Gatt." "Wer Gottes Wort hat, der ist ein junger Gott." The Church that has the Word is impregnable; the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And 'it is the sole business of Hermeneutics to see to it that we really have the Word that spells our life. Positively, Hermeneutics is to lead us into Scripture in such a way that its perpetually fresh and in- ESSAYS IN HERMENEUTICS 597 finite life may be constantly open to us and in progressive abundance be ours. (Luther: Dass man das Wort studiert und lernt, soIl nicht allein ein oder zwei Jahre waehren, denn es ist Gottes Wort, welches unendlich. ist.") Negatively, Hermeneutics can provide a defense against the two gravest dangers that ever threaten the Church of the Word: satiety and the perversion of Scripture. Satiety can arise when Exegesis is permitted to degenerate into a sort of Dogmatics in reverse, a procedure that does disservice to both Dogmatics and to Exegesis; for the pleasant and salubrious pools of Sys- tematic Theology cease to be so when they cease to be fed by the living waters of Exegesis. A sound Hermeneutics can provide defense against the wresting of Scripture, too, against' error and falsification; for it can make us critical of men's interpretations of Scripture and will constantly drive us back into Scripture and so place us, again and again, under the influence of the Spirit, who leads into all truth. If this be deemed a high claim for a humble subbranch of theology, it should be remembered. that the claim is made only on the basis of the fact that a sound Hermeneutics keeps us with, and so under, the Word. It is hard not to quote Luther again: "Der Herr haelt dich mit seiner Hand, so lange du sein Wort hast." And: "Gott kann und will Geduld mit uns haben, wenn wir am Worte festhalten." THE NATURE OF SCRIPTURE It is, or should be, a truism that the principles governing the interpretation of a document ought to be derived from, and in keeping with, the nature of that document; that, for instance, poetry be interpreted as poetry with due regard for the nature and conventions of that literary genus; that a novel be interpreted as a novel and not as a chronicle or a tract for the times. Accordingly, the principles that are to guide us in the interpretation of Scripture must be derived from the nature of Scripture itself. 2 Pet. 1: 21 may serve to indicate the nature of the documents that are the object of Biblical interpretation: "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." In Scripture God is speaking by men, has spoken by men, "at sundry times and in divers man- ners ... in times past." The oracles of God are not a book fallen from heaven; rather, God spoke through men at a 598 ESSAYS IN HERMENEUTICS certain time, in a certain place, and in certain language. "Men spake" - that is one aspect of Scripture, the aspect that it shares with every other document ever written. The other aspect lies in the fact that here God spoke through men, and in this aspect Scripture is unique. We have in Scripture God speaking once, at a certain point in history, by men; and God speaking once and for all. We might, then, picture the inter- preter approaching the sacred text through three concentric circles: the circle of language, the circle of history, and the circle of theology, or of Scripture. The first two of these circles are a recognition of the fact that in Scripture God spoke once in the tongues of men at a certain point in history. The third circle is a recognition of the fact that in thus speaking God has spoken once and for all; that Scripture is a unity by virtue of the one Spirit that inspired all the books of the canon. It is a recognition also of the implications of Scripture for us, of the fact that Scripture is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." That these three circles are distinct in analysis only and must inevitably interlink and interlock in practice should be understood at the outset and will become more obvious as we proceed. I. THE CIRCLE OF LANGUAGE Wiewohl das Evangelium durch den Heiligen Geist gekommen ist und taeglich kommt, so ist es doch durch das Mittel der Sprachen gekommen, muss auch dadurch behalten werden. - Luther. It was Matthew Arnold, I believe, who said that a man who knows only his Bible will not even know that well. There is a modicum of truth in that, especially in so far as it applies to the language of the New Testament. The cry of the practical-minded for an exclusive concentration on the Greek of the New Testament, to the exclusion of the "heathen," may be prompted by zeal for God, but it can hardly be called a zeal according to knowledge. The long way round is the shortest way home, here as so often. One does not learn the full potentialities of a language from one book; and with- out a feeling for the potentialities of a language, its tones and overtones, the one book is not fully grasped either; the mind's hold remains slippery and partial. Our fathers builded wisely when they designed a broad base of secular Greek, upon which to rear the tower of specialized knowledge of New Testament ESSAYS IN HERMENEUTICS 599 Greek; we shall do well to think long and hard before sub- stituting a six-easy-lessons procedure for their four hard years. Within the circle of language, we may treat, first, words in isolation (etymology and usage), and then words in rela- tion to one another (grammar, context, figurative language). ETYMOLOGY As regards etymology, we shall do well to remember that it is, in most cases, an excellent starting point in the study of a word, but usually no more than that. Exegesis of the word-picture variety usually sins in the direction of over- reliance on etymology. How insufficient etymology alone is for the interpretation of a word may be seen in the case of words with no recorded usage, where there is nothing but etymology to go by, words like EJUouawc:; in the Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer, where etymology alone has led to such Babelish confusion of interpretation as "daily," "supersubstan- tial," "of tomorrow," "necessary," "of the future," and "of the future kingdom." In the case of hapax legomena and of newly formed compounds (e. g., {}EoIlU'Ia%l'oc:;, 1 Thess. 4: 9) etymology renders a substantive service. But commonly it is useful chiefly as fixing the concrete sensuous basis upon which usage has built the structure of actual meaning and connotation (e. g., a'UvaVl'LAa[.t~aVEl'aL, Rom. 8: 26; note that the usage as observed in Luke 10: 40 is the more helpful). We dare not forget that the vast majority of the New Testament words have behind them hundreds of years of history, especially the epoch-making history of God's inscripturated revelation of Himself (LXX), the incarnation of the Son of God, and the coming of the Holy Ghost. USAGE In regard to usage, it is important to be clear on the na- ture of New Testament Greek. It is, first of all, non-literary Greek, the spoken language of the people. That does not mean that it is vulgar (in the derogatory sense) or illiterate Greek; it does mean that "the Holy Ghost spoke that language in which the largest possible number of people could under- stand Him" (Moulton). And it means that the documents of non-literary Greek, the papyri, ostraka, and inscriptions, are invaluable for establishing the connotations that New Testa- ment words had for their first readers; that books like Moul- 600 ESSAYS IN HERMENEUTICS ton and Milligan's Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Illus- trated from the Papyri and Deissmann's Light from the An- cient East, as well as dictionaries like Bauer's, which take cognizance of non-literary usage, should be on the shelves of every New Testament exegete. There can never again be talk of a Biblical Greek in the old sense, or of a "language of the Holy Ghost." But that is not the whole story. There is also the ever- present possibility of Sem:itic influence. The authors of the New Testament were, with one exception, bilingual and prob- ably thought in Aramaic. And the influence of the Septuagint, all-pervasive and incalculable, must always be reckoned with. Especially in religious and ethical concepts the Greek Old Testament is the immediate and living background to the New Testament vocabulary. The context, especially the immediate context, will also play an important role in the determination of usage. Any great new event brings with it new words and fills old words with new meanings (one need but think of the effect of two world wars and of atomic fission on our present-day vocabulary), and the event that marked the turning point of the world's history was no exception. And so, in the last analysis, the whole of the New Testament must help deter- mine the meaning of its parts; this is the so-called Herme- neutical Circle, the working from the part to the whole and back again from the whole to the part. Practically, this points to the importance of having a wide knowledge of the whole Bible, especially the Greek Bible of both Testaments: for the 'interpretation of any part of it; and it underlines the value of the concordance, which enables us to focus and bring to bear that knowledge without undue consumption of time or the danger of omitting anything essential. Usage works in various ways. As we trace the develop- ment of meaning, we note that in New Testament usage some words deepen in meaning; for example, the Greek ElQYjvYJ has, by way of the Septuagint, taken on the richer and more in- clusive sense of the Hebrew shalom. Other words are re- valuated, as the word xO