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Interpreting the New Testament

Webster Response Assignment


Student: Karina Loayza

ASSIGNMENT WEBSTER RESPONSE


We need to start our discussion with a definition of exegesis as the task of determining and
stating as accurately as possible the meaning of some document or part of thereof1. In our present
discussion this document under scrutiny is the Holy Scripture, this distinction about the subject
adds to our definition that exegesis is the defining activity, or the practical task, of theological
reason2. Thus, we could establish that there is a vital relation between the task of exegesis and
theology as one of crops-soil, so we should examine first and foremost the soil from where the
crops take their nutrients.
By discussing Websters insights about theology we will be in a good position to answer whether
or not the influences of exegetical self-understanding are fruitful. Webster goes on to say that the
office of theology is to be part of the churchs responsibility to guide the believers in their
reading of Holy Scripture, and this office has the following consequences: First, theology has a
pastoral responsibility over the Church, regarding the provision of godly instruction in order to
conform the believers to the image of Jesus Christ. In this sense, we can notice that the heart of
theology is a shepherds heart preoccupied for nurturing his flock with good pasture and not a
scholars heart seeking for knowledge and wisdom. Second, the guiding of the Church in the
reading of Scripture needs to be by exemplifying submission to Holy Scripture as Gods Word.
Regarding this, Webster has much to say but we can summarize his discussion by saying that
Scripture is Gods Word because it is Gods servant for the accomplishment of His Redemptive
Plan, that it has been sanctified by God in order to be a divine instrument of His revelation to
humankind. By locating the doctrine of Scripture as part of the doctrine of God, as Webster
proposes, we would have a much better starting point for the task of exegesis because we need to

1
2

Filson, Floyd. 1948. Theological Exegesis. Journal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Oct., 1948).
Webster John, Holy Scripture: a Dogmatic Sketch (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003) pp.135

Interpreting the New Testament


Webster Response Assignment
Student: Karina Loayza

approach Scriptures not as masters of the Word but as pupils, nor as critics but learners in its
school3. Third, Holy Scripture is the center of theology not a subdivision within it, which means
that all theological work is directed to the reading of Scripture. Again, regarding this Webster
has an interesting view because he prefers the term reading rather than interpretation. Now
this has a repercussion of our understanding of exegesis which has interpretation as an aspect
of his work. But we need to indicate that by using the term reading, Webster is trying to
change our attitude in our approach to the text. Interpretation, he says, gives much more
attention to the interpreting subject as that through which the text become relevant, in other
words, that it is by giving clarity to the text that it becomes alive. If we follow Websters lead we
need to incorporate our reading of Scripture within the economy of Grace of God, as an event
part of Gods revelatory self-giving to us4. In this faithful reading, the work of the Holy Spirit
is present, we are not on our own capacities and skills, and these are at the same time are
sanctified to be instrument of the economy of Grace. Finally, the rhetoric of theology is shaped
by its end, which is no other that the edification of the Church by means of reading of Scripture.
In contrast to classical theology which aim was to make true Disciples of Christ, modern scholar
theology has often adopted much of the standards of modern intellectual discourse5. Moreover,
regarding written instruction of Christian theology, Webster calls out attention to the content of
more classical commentaries which is reflection upon major biblical texts 6, in contrast to modern
theology which its content is free reflection upon the linguistic, historical and literary
information. We would do well if we examine our aim in doing exegesis of the biblical text.

J. Calvin, John Calvin to the Reader in J.T. McNeill, ed. Quoted in Webster John, Holy Scripture: a Dogmatic
Sketch. pp. 77.
4
Webster John, Holy Scripture: a Dogmatic Sketch. pp.87
5
Ibid. pp. 131
6
Ibid. pp. 132
3

Interpreting the New Testament


Webster Response Assignment
Student: Karina Loayza

What is the center of our arguments, not only in our exegetical work but also in our teaching?
We should declare along with Paul, that those who are not called by God seek signs and wisdom,
but we preached Christ crucified.
After examining the call of this kind of theology in the midst of modern scholar theology, and
after going back in time to listen to older saints which minds were Christocentric and their hearts
were pastoral, we need to take a stand in our position about who is going to be the real authority
in our exegetical work: Our interpretation as the final judge, or God as he reveals to us through
His Word. It is not an easy stand, and we agree with Webster, that it will take a share of the
embarrassment and censure which accompany its exile7. I think we need to be aware of the
influences we may have in our exegetical work, but also we do need to converse with others who
are standing in a different place than we are, in order to be a beacon of hope holding fast to the
teaching of the apostles and preaching Christ crucified.

Ibid. pp. 135