Questions on Reading
Reading Time: 6 minutes

These notes are linked to previous notes previously rendered on this topic: Where’s the Meaning in a Text?

  • Literal
  • More-than-Literal (Typologism, Allegorism, Numerologism)
  • Text-Based
  • Theological
  • Lecto-Divina

Two types of types:

  • Innate: Types where Christian explicitly says there is a type.
  • Inferred: Types that are inferred

Each text has two authors: divine author and human author.

2. Diachronic and Synchronic Readings

Two types of text-based (Reading the text as an artifact without its matrix of origin): synchronic or diachronic.

  1. JEPD Theory, Documentary Hypothesis: Diachronic Reading
  2. Two types of Synchronic Reading
  • Redaction Criticism (Gospel Writers: sayings of Jesus, perhaps Q)
  • Final Form of the Text. (Concerned with Author)
    • A subset of this is ‘Canonical Criticism’. It will come back to this discussion later.
  • Final Form with Us (Reader-Response, ‘What do reader’s do to texts’?)1

Synchronic Readings come in two or three types

What is the relationship between divine intent and human intent?

  • Does the human author say things that God really does not want to say?

3. What is the nature of inspiration?

  • The New Testament says that Scripture is ‘breathed out’. Is inspiration with our present nuances of the word even the correct word?

While one-shot compositions may be feasible for some books (Philemon) — but much of the ScripturesThe sacred writings of Christianity: particularly the... are compiled into larger compositions, edited slowly over time. There was an ongoing-process of biblical composition.

There is no reason divine sovereignty and revelation can happen throughout the process of the biblical composition.

4. Question of Canon?

  • How did the concept of canon arise?
  • How did texts become canonical? (It’s not like there is a litmus test)
  • Even Christian Traditions have different (James A. Sanders is recommended as the best — can we speak of pre-canonical forms of texts?)
  • What is the relationship of text and canon? Such as ‘analogia fide’: unclear text is sorted by clear. It helps people functionally, but may allow people to throw certain texts out the window.
  • What do we do with theological diversity? (James vs. Paul’s view of Faith and Works). In the OT some texts see sacrifice as extremely important for the removal of sins, but other texts see obedience as better than sacrifice. 2
  • We know that biblical authors used sources. There is nothing innately wrong with diachronic reading.

The Bible seems to work in a point-counterpoint system.

5. Movement and Diversity. What about Movement in the Bible?


  • At first you have marriage between close family members in the founding of Israel.  Leviticus eventually says this is not fine (Lev. 18)


  • Humanities diet is originally vegetables right up to Genesis 9 (first vegetables, then meat as long as no blood)
  • Then in leviticus: only eat those with hooves and chew cud and with fish, only eat fish with scales and fins.


  • First no monarchy,
  • then monarchy,
  • then messianic monarchy.

Then Old Testament to New Testament.

  • How does OT relate to NT?
  • The church has been selective about parts to retain from OT.

6. What about Theological Diversity in the Bible?

  • Bible has tons of theological diversity
  • Quran has little to no theological diversity
  • Judaism always sees a hierarchy of commands.

For example,

  • Leviticus presupposes everyone is close to temple. But what happens when they move away?What parts of the Torah are portable? What parts can you practice wherever you are: circumcission, diet, Sabbath? You can go anywhere and practice that aspect, as well as read Scripture.
  • The OT is fine with keeping the core, and knowing what details are negotiable. Canon itself provides adaptability. It provides communities of faith adaptability to change to its environment.
  • Will it adapt or will it resist to environmental factors, things unforeseen, that conflict with our relationship as people of God? The concept of back and forth, tug-of-war?

What is Theological Diversity?

Three levels of Theological Diversity

  1. Things that every text, every writer agrees: Yahweh is Israel’s God and the only God to be worship — NT Christ is Lord and died, was buried, and rose again.
  2. Texts with different voices speaking in different ways about how to relate to God — sacrifice (Leviticus) or no sacrifice (Micah 6:6-8)? monarchy or no monarchy? was the wilderness period a honeymoon (Hosea)? or not Ezekiel (Eze. 16)? Mode of Creation? (Speaks by word in one set of texts, battles with Leviathan and such) Point-Counterpoint system.
  3. Then this layer is just texts that are simply difficult, very hard to see how they fit in the theological whole (Ecclesiastes — all of life is absurd; Levites concubine, Judges 17) Baptism on behalf of the dead?

What is the Relationship between OT and NT?

  • This is the question in biblical theology, ecclesiology, systematic theology?
  • Baptism replaces circumssion in the Infant Baptism paradigm. It posits the relationship between OT and NT. Reformed keep Sabbath and meet on Sunday. The church as the new Israel inherits the traditions of the OT.
  • Baptists do not want to replicate the institutions of the OT. Baptism is not the new circumcision. How does the NT work with the FT?
  • What is the relationship between Israel and the Church?
    • NT examples of using OT continously
      • Honor your father and mother is the first commandment with a promise.
      • 1 tim. 5:19 implies Deut. 17:6?
    • NT examples of using OT differently.
      • Isa. 7:14, Matt. 1-2
      • Hosea, ‘Out of Egypt I called my Son’, Matt. 2

What do we do with a text once we think we know what it means?

How do we appropriate a given text?

Issue 1: On the basis of experience, this is not something we can do — Lot-casting (Joshua 7, Prov. 16, Acts 1). The Moravians did this and got way off-track.

Issue 2: What do we do with cultural change? Some phenomena in Scripture leave us baffled as to what to do — Jephthah’s daughter, baptism of the dead, arranged marriages, slavery, gender-issues.

Issue 3: What about scope of application? When you read a biblical command, how far are your meant to take it? There is always implicit boundaries in any command? Many commands and demands, NT especially has a scope of command the speaker and hearers would have understood, but what are these borders?

(Sometimes Paul qualifies it, obey [a legitimate] government), while Peter says ‘we must obey God rather than men’. What does honor thy father and mother mean when you’re eight, sixteen, twenty-five, fifty years old. How does Amos 9 apply to the conversation of whether or not gentiles need to be circumcised? Acts 15.

8. Synchronic and Diachronic Readings.

Diachronic says you need to understand the stages that existed in a text in order to understand the text. And, diachronic readings understand authorial intent at every level — intent in all the pieces and intent at the final redactor who assembled them all, as well as any middle stages.

Synchronic is that you read it from its surface-level, the authorial intent at final level.

  1. What do the sensibilities of the readers do? Can you overturn the agenda of a text?
  2. Deuteronomy does not seem to care much about sacrifice
News Reporter
From Madison, Wisconsin. B.A. Biblical Studies: Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. M.Div. Student at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario.

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