Holy Scripture, part 1

Holy Scripture, part 1

In Holy Scripture (Cambridge University Press, 2003), John Webster gives a dogmatic sketch of what Holy Scripture is, an ontology, in the triune economy of salvation:

It is, on the one hand, to depict these texts in the light of their origin, function and end in divine self-communication, and, on the other and, to make recommendations about what kinds of responses to these texts which is fitting in view of their origin, function and end. ’Holy Scripture’ is a shorthand term for the nature and function of the biblical writings in a set of communicative acts which stretch from God’s merciful self-manifestation to the obedient hearing of the community of faith (5).

In this context the expression Holy Scripture “refers primarily to a set of texts, but importantly and secondarily to its divine origin and its use by the church” (5; cf. 5–41). The term, in other words, encompasses a complex set of relationships between biblical texts, divine revelation and faithful reception. For Webster, however, the particular order of the relationships is crucial. The text by which the church are called to obedience is a servant of God’s reconciling revelation, that is, the biblical texts and their reception are “subservient to the self-presentation of the triune God” (6). In this sense, many recent accounts of scripture contain, to use Webster’s phrase, a slight dogmatic disorder. The authority of scripture is quite often expounded as a set of relationships between the biblical texts, their prehistory, other texts and the communities who heed them as authoritative. In trying to eschew any notion of authority being a property of the text (discussions in light of recent theories of meaning), theologians tend to get preoccupied with other matters and to an extent bracket out the texts relationship to God’s revelation.

Webster' account of scripture is commendable in two ways: it is robustly trinitarian putting the question in its right context of the economy of salvation; and it firmly positions scripture in relation to revelation, which is also put in the context of the economy of salvation, without making scripture the epistemic guarantee as in much inerrancy debates, that is, scripture is not first a question about epistemology but about the Spirit's formation of a people to be a sign and witness of the in-breaking new creation. 

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Av Kalle Carlstein

Kalle Carlstein är doktorand i Nya testamentet vid Uppsala universitet.

Kalle Carlstein is a Ph.D. student in New Testament exegesis at Uppsala University.