Rethinking "History" for Theological Interpretation

Faced with a series of challenges at the hands of critical theorists, the historical-critical paradigm has changed little while continuing to reassert its dominance in the field of biblical studies. Thus, e.g., for John Barton, “...the preferred description of biblical criticism [is] the ‘historical-critical method’” (2007). For many in NT studies, the alternative has been narrative criticism — or, as James Dunn labels it, a “flight from history” (2003). Unfortunately, though, this interest in narrative has generally proceeded with the same history-theology dichotomy characteristic of the historical-critical paradigm. I urge that historical inquiry grounded in the suppositions and principles of the historical-critical paradigm is no friend to theological interpretation of Scripture, and that Heikki Räisänen is correct when he insists that historical criticism cannot be correlated with any theological concerns apart from the historical attempt to describe early Christian religion. I argue that recent work in the philosophy of history redirects the way we think about “history” and NT “texts” in ways that are integral to the work of theological interpretation of Scripture.