Saturday, September 12, 2009

Canonical Context is the King's Servant

It is generally acknowledged that "context is king" in the interpretative enterprise. That is to say, extracting meaning from a text is accomplished well really only when the context is duly heeded. But I wonder if the canonical context is considered as it ought to be, not least given the theological awareness of divine intentionality in inspiring a canon of 66 books, 39 of which were penned before the coming of Christ, 27 after.

What I mean is this. As God's revelation unfolds and plays out (including inscripturated revelation and incarnate revelation), there is more context for understanding texts. So "thicker" or "fuller" meanings are possible and even probable and intended (though not necessarily intended by the human author). The wider and fuller context provided by the whole canon, and particularly by Christ's coming, makes plainer, clearer, brighter, and fuller where texts were heading according to divine intentionality, that is, as they were given by God to address not only the immediate context but also to speak beyond it in fuller and brighter ways. So increased and fuller and brighter understanding is precisely due to the enlarged and brighter context of the whole canon. Giving a proper place to the canonical context and divine intentionality of texts may help with some of the muddles in hermeneutical debates about use of texts and authorial intent.

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