A Brief On Beale’s Intro in “We Become What We Worship”

I’m looking forward to Andrew’s next post, but since he and his wife are enjoying the presence of a new baby girl (congrats!!), I’ll attempt to fill his void with something he and I recently discussed: G. K. Beale and hermeneutics.  For now, I’ll do a small trek through Beale’s intro in We Become What We Worship (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008).

In the intro, Beale basically lays his hermeneutical cards on the table for the reader to see.  Here’s my summary.

1) Scripture is divinely inspired – it is “all God’s Word.”

2) God’s “authorial intentions communicated through human authors are accessible to contemporary readers.”  We can’t exhaust them, but they can be sufficiently understood.

3) Scripture is organically progressive: Beale uses Vos’ metaphor of the OT as a seed and the NT as the plants growing and flowering from that seed.

4) He combines “grammatical-historical exegesis with canonical-contextual exegesis.”  This means that  he utilizes literary and historical context as well as other allusions in Scripture to the passage being studied for interpretation. Scripture interprets Scripture is included here, Beale affirms.  The allusion from one text echoed in other subsequent texts is sometimes called “intertextuality” in scholarly circles.

There are a few other helpful notes by Beale concerning his methodology, but I want to “camp out” very briefly on intertextuality.  Beale notes there are minimalists (those who are leery of seeing allusions or literary connections, and if they see them, they hesitate to find any interpretive significance to a possible allusion).  There are also maximalists: those who are quite open to finding, exploring, and using allusions and letting the allusions shape interpretation.

Of course there is a tightrope to walk here, and Beale makes note of it.  Here are some reasons for maximalists to be careful (I’m using Beale’s examples here).  1) Eisegesis – one could read too much into an allusion.  2) All proposed intertextual allusions/connections have “degrees of possibility and probability.” 3) “Weighing the evidence for recognizing allusions is not an exact science but is a kind of art.”  He later says it does involve some “guesswork.”  4) He again uses the terms “possible” and “probable” when discussion allusions.  That is, the interpreter cannot always be certain that there is an allusion.  5) If there is an allusion, we cannot be sure if the author of later Scripture was “unconscious of making the reference” or “not necessarily intending” the reader to catch it. 6) The interpreter has to guard against reader-response types of “multiple meanings” and also allegory.

So far, I fully concur.  Also, to note, Beale labels himself in the “maximalist camp.”  However, he does admit that he may tip towards eisegesis, for which the reader will have to forgive him.  He says he is aiming for objectivity while expressing his thesis (that idolaters resemble the idols they worship) from texts that he thinks prove it. “At times this thesis becomes a lens through which to see some passages in a way not otherwise seen.  Therefore, eisegesis may happen in this book, but I have tried to be aware of this pitfall and have tried to step around such dangers in order not to domesticate the evidence.”

Beale then urges the reader  – even if he/she disagrees with certain interpretations – to at least appreciate the general approach and be both loving and cautious while reading, as he attempted to be cautious while interpreting.

I still agree thus far, but a few times in the intro it felt as if Beale was not exercising as much caution as he emphasized (see list above).  Perhaps there is a[n] “[over]confident maximalist” and a “cautious maximalist.” The latter seems what Beale wants to be, while he admits he may slide into the former.

Interesting stuff.  Of course my verdict is still not in; I’ll continue through the book and write more later.  Let me end by saying the introduction was lively and stimulating, well worth the read, as Beale usually is.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

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