The appeal for “The Centrality of Christ for the Interpretation of Scripture” is a Marcionite heresy that violates the principle of tota scriptura. God’s counsel is contained in the entirety of Scripture. There is not a canon within the Canon. It is an elementary principle of hermeneutics, as offered by Schleiermacher, that interpretation of the whole is dependent upon interpretation of the part and interpretation of the part is dependent upon interpretation of the whole. This is just one of many hermeneutical circles.
One of the first lessons to be learned about hermeneutics is that all hermeneutical thinking is circular. I do not speak of a “vicious circle” but something that more resembles a spiral. There is no such thing as an “interpretive center.” In order to be capable of hermeneutical thinking, you need to be able to identify and understand hermeneutical circles.
One of the most challenging hermeneutical circles to contemplate is that our interpretation of the biblical text is dependent upon our interpretation of extra-biblical reality and our interpretation of extra-biblical reality is dependent upon our interpretation of the biblical text. By way of example, Luke’s express reference to Hermes and multiple allusions to Hermes demands that the reader examine the extra-biblical writings about Hermes in order to fully understand what Luke is saying. It is as if Luke places a footnote in his text that states, “For more information about Hermes, see the Homeric Myth to Hermes written between the 8th and 6th centuries BC.” It is as if Luke incorporates the Homeric Myth to Hermes, with which he no doubt is familiar, into the biblical text.
This hermeneutical circle becomes even more challenging to contemplate when we consider that God’s foreknowledge of your idiosyncratic and special needs has shaped His superintendence of the writing of the biblical text. Your life has been incorporated into the biblical text. The narratives, such as David’s gazing upon Bathsheba, the sister of Lazarus expressing hurt toward Jesus, and Peter’s sudden fear standing upon the water, do not speak merely about ancient historically-situated persons but also about you and me. Gadamer’s placement of truth in a fusion of horizons becomes easy for an interpreter of Scripture to accept when the horizons of the biblical author and reader are regarded as one and the same.
But to regard Scripture as no different than Greek mythology or nothing but a mirror in which we see ourselves is to rest content on a particular dot on the hermeneutical circle. Instead of resting content on that particular dot, we should continue movement along the hermeneutical circle with the expectation of spiraling to greater understanding. As we move along the hermeneutical circle, we appreciate that the biblical text is special and that there is distance in geography, time period, worldview, language, and culture that separates us from the ancients and impedes to some extent our understanding of what they wrote. But even that appreciation requires refinement that occurs as we continue our movement along the hermeneutical circle.
To urge that the “centrality of Christ” be the “methodological principle” for interpreting the biblical text is to rest content on a dot along the hermeneutical circle. Such urging is hermeneutical error. Given that Scripture is superintended by God for humanity, one can just as easily urge that the centrality of the human being be the methodological principle for interpreting the biblical text. That God in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount offered propositional truths and commands to historically-situated peoples is not a dispositive argument that we accept and adhere to what He communicated. Law set forth in the biblical text is not necessarily a body of thought floating in the divine ether that God transmitted to humanity but also a response to the conduct of a historically-situated people. Divine law is as much a reflection of those to whom the law has been given as it is of the Lawgiver. Accordingly, what is exceedingly relevant in our decision to keep the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus is an appreciation of the commonalities we share with those to whom The Ten Commandments and the words of Jesus were offered. This hermeneutical circle–the relation between God and humanity–cannot be fully comprehended and appreciated by the proposed fallacious rule of interpretation.