Here an Apostle Speaks . . .

John Webster, commenting on the proper response to the claims of a text like Heb 1:1-4, a text that claims God speaks definitively in the revelation of "one who is Son," a direct address that challenges those who encounter it:
Theological interpretation is an undertaking in the sphere of reality marked out by the speaking presence of Word and Spirit, a sphere in which God has ordained that there should be apostles who through Holy Scripture confirm to the church what they have heard (cf. Heb 2.3). The letter to the Hebrews exists in this sphere, the sphere of the apostles who partake in the history of revelation as its witnesses and ministers, and the sphere of the interpreters who participate in the history of revelation as its addressees and hearers.
The biblical writings present themselves as forms of divine discourse. This also implies that the hearers of this discourse are encountering a word from God. If this is the case, then readers of a writing like Hebrews are compelled to respond in one way or another.
Overtaken as we are by such apostolic witness, we surely find that one way of proceeding has been irrevocably barred from us. We are no longer entitled to take up a position vis-a-vis what is said, to handle it as a possible but not inescapably necessary object of our acknowledgment. Still less are we free to peer behind it and give ourselves a satisfactory account of its background and genesis, or to transcend it by conceptual translation.

Here an apostle speaks, and what is said transcends and encloses us.

It also transcends and encloses our exegetical and dogmatic labours, which will remain disordered until directed by the confession that in these last days God has spoken to us by one who is Son.
This situation thus impacts the type of reader required to respond rightly to this revelatory word.
The historical, literary, and speculative virtues of exegetes and dogmaticians are therefore subordinate to spiritual graces: faithfulness to the apostolic gospel, attentiveness, perseverance, charity in debate and humility under correction, openness to the gifts of God, a desire to serve the church.

—John Webster, "One Who is Son: Theological Reflections on the Exordium to the Epistle to the Hebrews," in The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology, 70, 93-94.

I think we might summarize Webster's last point in this way:

As Christian Scripture, the letter to the Hebrews is an address from God designed to impact the believing community. All readers and interpreters (much more teachers!) must therefore engage it within the community of the churches and for the purpose of hearing a word from the Lord if they ever want to understand its meaning and fully experience its theological force.

January 3, 2015


Popular Posts

Why did Jesus have to heal the Blind Man Twice in Mark 8?

In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus encounters a blind man in Bethsaida. To heal the man, Je…

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Historical Theology w/ Madison Grace

In this episode, I talk with my friend Dr. Madison Grace about Dietrich Bonhoef…

"The Gospel" as the Unifying Theme of Theology and the Rule of Faith for the Churches

Mike Bird ends his articulation and apology for the structure of his systematic…