Exercise on Incarnational Exegesis

Debates over the person of Christ did not happen in the abstract. Instead, bishops, preachers, and theologians traded interpretations of biblical texts. Naturally, Arians had their favorite texts, Adoptionists theirs, Nestorians theirs, and the like. Spend an hour with a Jehovah's Witness and you will find the same pattern: Each side, including Trinitarians, has its "go-to" pericopes, and we fire them at one another like ammunition.

The more adventurous attempt to show that their theology affords a better interpretation of their opponents' favorite passages, not just their own. This is what Jehovah's Witnesses try to do in 'spinning' John 1:1-18 in an Arian direction: they aim to demonstrate that John's prologue really argues that Jesus is a creature subordinate to the true God.

Paul is a master at this. Look at how in Romans 10 he goes to a passage, Deuteronomy 30:11-14, that makes a natural objection to his claim that the Torah is not an effective means of righteousness, and uses it to make his argument that the Torah announces the good news that is "the power of God for salvation to all who believe." Gutsy. And brilliant.

I want you to use your exposure to incarnational dogma and heresies and your exegetical skills to take a stab at this. You may not be as good at it as Paul, at least not at first. But it's always good to improve.

Choose a text that seems to make a strong case for a particular historic christological heresy. You may find examples of these in Allison, or in some other historical account on the web or elsewhere (say, Frances Young's The Making of the Creeds), or you may wish to find one yourself.

Make it a daunting one! The harder the better! Do it for Paul!

Then show how an orthodox interpretation of the person of Jesus Christ guides readers to a better interpretation of that passage in its context. Use Allison, the Oxford Companion, our WCC text, and even Barth and Baggley as you find them helpful. You may wish to do supplementary exegetical and historical research, but you do not have to consider that a requirement. However, I do expect to see signs that you understand the heresy and its impact on the interpretation of that passage.

Please keep your paper 3-4 pages, double-spaced, and follow the directions in my handout for writing papers. I want to see proper style, clear writing, a thorough answer to the question, and explicit citations of course materials.

(Back to Schedule)