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Letters to the editor
This page is intended as a forum for discussing New Testament theology and implications of the coming of the kingdom of God in this age. How should our lives and churches express the presence of the age yet to come?
Each letter to the editor only represents the views of its author. Letters are included to facilitate critical thought, not to imply endorsement. How to post your own letter
The first letter to the editor
... I often use a method [of biblical interpretation] that can be called "kerygmatic criticism." "Kerygma" is the Greek word in the NT for "proclamation." "Criticism" is the academic term for analysis, for making informed judgments. In brief, kerygmatic criticism attempts to discover the "proclamation value" of a biblical text for its original ancient audience, and through redemptive-historical analysis, to determine the present proclamation value of that text for the contemporary audience. Here's something of how it goes, in thirty questions, a listing that is suggestive rather than exhaustive:
begin with the basic literary-historical-grammatical issues:
What is the text, the basic literary unit to be studied?
What is its genre?
What do we know about this genre?
Who wrote this book/literary unit?
What do we know about this author?
To whom did the author write?
What do we know about these original recipients?
What do we know about the events/circumstances surrounding the writing of this book/text?
What is the main event/issue/idea communicated in this text?
What are the subordinate events/issues/ideas communicated in this text?
How do these events/issues/ideas as communicated in this text contribute to the total message of this literary composition/book?
Which translation(s) best represent(s) this text?
Then I move to the more
What are the pastoral concerns addressable in this genre?
What are the main pastoral concerns of this author?
What are the main pastoral needs of these original recipients?
How does the author address these pastoral concerns in the writing?
What does this author want these original recipients to
understand/believe/do, as a result of this message? (=ancient kerygma)
What did these recipients understand/believe/do as a result of this message?
I move to the redemptive-historical level:
Where are this author and these original recipients situated within redemptive history?
What are the characteristics of this location within redemptive history?
How does this text contribute to the total message of divine revelation within this location in redemptive history?
What elements of this message are situationally-specific or culturally relative?
What elements of this message are enduring, transculturally normative, the will of God for these recipients? (kerygma)
What relevant concerns do other biblical texts bring to bear upon this normative message? (total biblical context)
Then I move to the application level:
Where do I/we/the church/the world today stand in relation to the redemptive-historical situation of this text?
What are my/our/the church's/the world's pastoral needs, in light of this text?
What has the church understood/believed/done in the past in its attempt to love and obey God, in response to this text? (confessional theology/doctrinal theology/historical theology)
What should I/we/the church/the world today understand, believe, or do in response to this transculturally normative message from God in this text? (=contemporary kerygma)
What am I/we/the church/the world now doing in response to this message from God in this text?
What have I/we/the church/the world yet to do in response to this message from God in this text?
As you can see, the list attempts to take you from the original text, through historical-grammatical and redemptive historical analysis, all the way to contemporary meaning and application. I tried to make the questions as general as possible while still giving positive direction, and applicable to any number of genres, whether in OT or NT...
Byron G. Curtis
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies
Beaver Falls, PA 15010
[Editor's note: This letter originated as an email reply to a question about biblical-theological hermeneutics.]
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