I’m enjoying James Thompson’s commentary in Hebrews. His summary of the author’s use of scripture in ch. 2 captures nicely the relationship of the historical-critical method to theological interpretation of the Bible.
The historical-critical reading of scripture has been an invaluable instrument for the reading of the Bible, for its insistence on discovering the meaning of a passage in its original context often prevents arbitrary readings and provides a common method for interpreters from a variety of religious traditions to examine the same texts. While few today question the validity of historical-critical exegesis, many interpreters now challenge the view that a text has only one meaning, insisting that the meaning of a text depends on the questions we ask. Interpreters increasingly recognize that the meaning of a text is not exhausted by our attempts to hear the word in its original context. Early Christians maintained that what had occurred in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was of such importance that it transformed their entire biblical story, becoming a lens for reading all of scripture. The author of Hebrews read scripture through his knowledge of the plot of the entire narrative. Thus the meaning of the text was not frozen with the original readers but took on additional meaning when interpreters read it in light of the entire plot. With the faith that Jesus was the Messiah, the ultimate king, the author gave a messianic interpretation to the royal psalms. Because of his faith that the exalted Christ was equal to God, he read passages praising God as references to the one at God’s right hand. The author neither claimed to interpret the passages in their original context nor spoke of them as predictions fulfilled in Christ. As a preacher, he read scripture on behalf of the community in order to find a word for his own time. He anticipated the later church as it interpreted scripture on the basis of the church’s faith in Jesus Christ. Thus the author’s method of interpreting scripture through the eyes of faith is not a practice to be jettisoned but a model for interpretation within a community that asks not only what scripture once meant but also what it means for those who week its guidance in the present (p. 59, emphasis mine).
I like how Thompson acknowledges the value of both methods. This is important because methodological plurality allows the church constantly to hear God’s word afresh and ever-more clearly.