Full Text for The Presuppositions of the Historical-Grammatical Method as Employed by Historic Lutheranism (Text)

THE SPRINGFIELDER October 1974 Volume 38, Number 4 The Presuppositions of the Historical-Grammati,cal Method as Employed by Historic Lutheranism T I-iE HIS'TOI.cd what the theologians clescribed as "Scriq~t;r.ll-~z Scsiptz~rawi. i~stcrpri?tntz.tr."'" The Old Testament fre- ' quu~ tl!: receives clarification, RS to j ts Gotl-intended meaning, froni thc New. 13y 1-irtuc of thc valiclit.>. of this prcsr~pposition .t.rillich :is cn~ploycd its all inter1x-etati.i:~ principle, the Biblical interpreter uses parallcl passages to unclerstand given passages. This rule is also ~~seful in (lealing with darlc passages or those that arc susceptible of rnore than one inc.aiiing, because to our age therc are factors un1iritually discernetl" (I Cor. 2 : 14). &la11 hv nature is alienatecl fro111 God; his life is ternled by the i\postle "enlhity against Gotl," ant1 no amount of education and learning can change that conditio11 in an unregenel-ate espositor. U~~lcss the csegcte is born froin abovc, thc 13ible will remr~in a sealed book. 'l'o 'li~nothv Paul V:I-ote: '(Co1~sidc.1- \.i;hnt I say, and the Lord give thee ~~ntlerstantljng in all things" (2 Tim. 2 : 7). 'Tlic gift of the Spirit is necessary for the i~iterpretation of thc Ijible. j~tst as thc Spirit ~~iust convert a person, so He must open the heart to accept and helicve thc 14Jord of God. 'Thus the Formula of (1onc:o~:d tlcclarcs : "I-Tc opens thc i 11 tellcct and the heart to uncler- stand tE~c SCI-ipturcs ancl to heed the TT'ord, as i,vc rend in Luke 24: 45, 'Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.' "'I' 'This guiclancc of thc 1-Ioly Spirit does not Incan that the inter- 131-ctes can tlepart from the literal sense of the Bible and is given a new and different -meaning than that set forth in the ~vorcls of Scrip- turc, or that t.1~ csl3ositor neecl not fo1lo.t~ a sound historical and grammatical ii~terpretation of the text of the Scriptures, but it xneans that the Spirit: of Truth aids the interpreter to grasp thc God-intended meaning of the tout. Othel-1%-isc this .trlould amount to enthusiasm or Schzt?aer~~~.crei ."-I Despite thc clearness of the Scriptures on this matter, Colwell ~FJ-otc: "The stutlent who uses the Ilistorical method of interpreting the Bible relies upon no supcrnntural aids."15 Again the same scholar said: "T1.x plea for somc sl>ccial cndo~vment as a prerequisite for biblical studv seems rather-out of place in s~ich areas as textual criticism and the st~~d\- of Biblical languages.""' To expect an un- converted intlividual ailequatclF to interpret the Scriptures or an!- part thereof is as unreasonal~le as to suppose that a hlincl person can appreciate a sunset, or some deaf persol1 respond to the nlusic of the great master^:'^ 'Thc sl~il:itual lnii~d 1.11~); be said to 11c the Itey that adequately unlo~.lis the trc.asurc house of God's riches contained in the 'R70r-. 1' The Sl~irit: principle is in harinony with othcr principles of Biblical and Lutheran intcrpretat.ion. rTI~e Holv Spirit, the ultimate ilurhol- of the Books of the Old and New 'T'cstahena, works through Lam and Gospel upon all those who hear' and read thc written reve- lation of Cmd:'" 15. It is an inlportant presupposition of the historical-grammat- ical methotl as cinploycd by 1,utlierans that the Holy Scriptures are "for tcacliing, for rcfntation, for correction, itnd for train- ing in I-ightcousncss, so that the inail of God inay himself be complete, and ccmpletely equipped for every good work."" 0ncludecI uncler this presupposition is what Robert l'reus has callect the "eschatological lxinciple."'' 'The Bible has an cschotologicnl burclen, expressed in Romans 15 : 4: "l\7h:tteve~: nias written in former ~RVS was ~vritten for our instructicm, that bv steadfastness ancl by encburagemcnt of the Scriptures we might ha~le hope." 'I'hc Formula of Concord in .coi~~menting on this particular passage asserts: "BLI~ this is certain 'that an\ interpretation of thc Scriptures which weakens or even ? removes this comfort and hope is contrar)- to the Hal, Spirit's \vjll and intei~t [A4ei~il.~~igl I~OO'TNO'TES 1 . L. Bcrlthof, 1')-il~ciples of Biblical lrttel-prctntiolz (Siicrcd No..rncrrzcut,ics) (Grand Rapids: Baker Rook House, 1950), p. 27. 2. Rcrnard Ramm, I'rotcstrz~zt Biblical I~~tcrprctntiotz (Grand liapids: 13akcr Hook House, 1970), pp. 48-51. 3. Raymond F. Surburg, "The Significance of Luther's Hermeneutics for thc Protestant Refornmtion," Cor~corrlirr Theological Monthly, 24 :24 1-261, April, 1953. 4. Cf. Jamcs D. Wood, ?'he I~lterpretutioi~ of tJzc Bible (London: Gerald Duck~vorth, 1958); Frcdcrick W. Farrar, Ifistor?. of 177tcrpvctotio1z (Lon- don : hIacmillan and Co., 1886). 5. E. C. Blackman, Biblical I~~tcrpt-ctntion (London: 1ndependcl.lt l'rcss, 1957), pp. 65-1 58; Henry Preserved Smith, Essays ill Biblicrrl Intcrprc- taticlz (Boston: Marshall Jo11cs and Company, 1924), pp. 3 3-1 67; Georgc Holley Gilbert, lnterprctatiorz of the Bible. A Slzort Historv (New York: The Nlacmillan Company, 1908), pp. 1-292. 6. Farrar, 011. cit., 1'17. 127-1 58. 7. Cf. BibZia Sacra Jzrxtrr Vulgrrtrrm Clcw7.entinn7n (Komac-l:orni~ci-l'xisiis: Typjs Societatis S. loannis Evang., 19 56), pp. is-xii. 8. Ramm, op. cit., pp. 98-51. 9. Ibid., p. 5 1. 10. Farrar, 017. cit., p. 27'7. 11. Surburg, 027. cit., p. 212. 12. Ramm, op. cit., p. 55. 13. Cf. Farrar, 027. cit., p. 325ff. 14. Ralph A. Bohlmann, Prirlciplcs of Biblical Intel-prctation iu tlzc L7~thcrrzl1 Co~zfessior~s (St. Louis : Concordin l'uhlishing House, 19 68). 15. Milton S. Tcrry, Biblicrrl Herrnewcutics. A Trcntise 012 thc Iwtcr.pl-c,tation of the Old and N~UJ Testanlcnts (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1890), p. 70. 16. Ranlm, op. cit., pp. 5 5, 58. 17. As cited by Ramm, op. cit., 13. 54. 18. Dr. &I. lieu, Lzither and the Scriptzrres (Colum1)us: 'The Wartburg Press, 1944), pp. 13-48; Rupert E. Davies, The Prob1c-r.n of Authority itz the Corzti7zc~ztal IXeformer-s (London: Epworth Press, 1936), p. 107. 19. Henry Preserved Smith, Essays in Biblical Ilztel-pretntion (Boston : Mar- shall Jones Company, 192 l), l?. 80. 20. Kamm. 08. cit., n. 53. , . , % 21. Farrar, op. cit., p. 327. 22. C. A. Rriggs, History of the Strrdy of Thcology (Ncw York: Charles Scribncrs and Sons, 19 16), 11, p. 107. 23. As cited by Ramm, op. cit., p. 53. 24. L. Fuerl)ringc.r, Thcologicul Hennencutics (St. Louis: CPH, 1924), pp. 4-8. 25. ]bid., p. 3. 26. A. RrrkeIey Micltelsen, Interpreting the Bible (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Ecrdn1;ms Pablishing Conlpany, 1963), pp. 99-337; Charles Augustus Rriggs, Gcncrul Introduction to the Study of Holy Scriptures, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Boolc House, 1970, reprinted from revised cdition of 1900), pp. 293ff. 2'7. L. E'uerbringcr, op. cit., pp. 14 (par. 28), 30 (par. 29 tSr 30), 1,. 17. 28. Ibid., p. 16. 29. lbid., p. 15; Wm. Dallman, W. H. T. Dau and Th, Engelder, Walther. nnrl tlzc Chzrrch (St. Louis, CPH, 1938), pp. 124, 125. 30. Bohlmann, op. cit., pp. 99-100. 3 1. IbirE., p. 108. 32. Tappert, op. cit., p. 8. 33. Frcctcrick Grant, Ar2 lntrod~~ctiorz to New 'Tcst(1~rzc~7t Thoztgl~t (Ne~t. York: Abingdon l'ress, 1950), p. 75. 34, 1-iobert David I'reus, "How is 'The Lutheran Church to Interpret and Usc thc Old ;111d New Testaments?" The Ltrtheran Synod Quurtcrly, 14:23- 24 (Fall, 19'73). 35. ll?id., p. 23. 36. I'reus, op. cit., p. 29. 37. 'Holsten E:agcrbcrg, Die Tlzcologic dcr lzrthcrischen Behcnnt~zissclzl-iften twn 1529 his 1537, trans. Gerhard I