Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Exegetical Theology

First Advisor

James Voelz

Scripture References in this Resource

1 Corinthians 11:22; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-9; 1 Corinthians 15:3b-7; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Timothy 3:15-16; 1 Timothy 6:12-16; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 2 Corinthians 6:6; 2 Corinthians 7:12; 2 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Timothy 2:8; Acts 3:6; Acts 4:10; Acts 4:28; Ephesians 1:5,11; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 1:16; Leviticus 23:11; Mark 1:24; Mark 14:22-26; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Matthew 16:15-17; Matthew 26:26-29; Philippians 2:6-11; Romans 8:29-30; Romans 1:3-5; Romans 14:17; Romans 15:13,16; Romans 4:1,12; Romans 5:5; Romans 6:17; Romans 7:1; Romans 9:1


Postmodern linguistics and philosophy have challenged the possibility that an author, a text, or a reader of a text possesses or can possess complete objectivity. It claims that an "independent, objective, reason-driven reader" is merely a "communally dependent, subjective, presupposition-bound agent." Similarly, an author is regarded as subject who through the text merely expresses the perspectives he has acquired through his own, contextually-shaped experiences. Moreover, once created, a text is not to be regarded as an entity which bears its own intrinsic meaning; nor is a text the expression of an "original," authorial intent. Rather, a text is merely a "symbol" which receives its meaning and intention by means of the interpretative process. According to this understanding, the quest for the right or the wrong intrinsic interpretation of a text is regarded as destined to failure, if it is not simply illegitimate. Interpretation is itself the exercise of perspective governed by a subjective reader rather than by any "objective “meaning of the text.

If true, this postmodern claim calls into question the traditional Lutheran assertion that Holy Scripture possesses an intrinsic meaning granted by the Holy Spirit and as such is determinative for the Church's faith and life. There is a formal authority of the Scriptures which bestows, authenticates, and guarantees the subject matter (material principle) of the Scriptures. For this reason, Holy Scripture, according to its own nature and reality, is and can function as the sole norm for Christian faith and life. Furthermore, the postmodern claim implicitly compromises traditional dogmatic claims such as the perspicuity and sufficiency of the Scriptures. In addition, the distinction between the Scriptures as the norma normans and various creedal statements as normae normatae is rendered virtually meaningless, since subjective interpretation itself establishes the meaning of text.


This study will attempt to demonstrate that the idea of a "presupposition-bound “and "community (Church) influenced" text (regarded both in its writing and in its reception) is not hostile to the understanding of Scripture as articulated in Lutheran dogmatics. Rather, this paper will attempt to demonstrate that during the Apostolic period the primitive church considered a "creedal!" awareness crucial for the appropriation of God’s revelation in Christ as revealed in the Scripture and for the exposition of that revelation for the ongoing faith and life of the Church throughout the ages. In short, the apostolic writing of the Scriptures assumed and required a "creedal" content and context which was already present in the Church through liturgy, hymn, acclamation, confession, and the like.


The question of the relation between the text of Scripture and the community whose Scripture it is can be addressed as either a historical or as a systematic question. The questions of the relation between Scripture and tradition, the continuity of the Church, the formation of the canon, and the like would offer profitable entrees to reflections on the implications of postmodern hermeneutics for a Lutheran understanding of Scripture. This paper, however, will proceed by way of an exegetical inquiry. As the entry point of our discussion, we will focus on four Pauline passages which scholarly consensus acknowledges as containing traditional, pre-Pauline material. That is, Paul adopts and uses material which lies at hand and is apparently already in use in the primitive Christian Church. The four passages from the epistles of Paul which will be considered are Rom. 1:3-5, 1 COL ll:23-26, 1 COL 15:3-9, and Philippians 2:6-11. In each case, the study will summarize the evidence which demonstrates the traditional, pre-textual character of the passages. Then the study will summarize the scholarly discussion concerning the function which Paul gives to these pre-Pauline traditions within his epistles. The study will also discuss the most likely application of this traditional material within the life of the primitive Church.

The survey will show that Paul used prior traditions almost exclusively in rhetorically powerful and thematically crucial contexts of his letters. The use of this traditional material is not merely ancillary or illustrative. Paul cites this material as authoritative argument or as a summary conclusion for the issue at hand. Moreover, in trying to uncover the likely Sitz im Leben of this traditional material in the Church, our discussion will test the hypothesis that Paul most probably used traditions which he drew from significant and constitutive realities in the life of the Church, such as sacraments, communal worship, teaching and witnessing (up to the point of martyrdom).Scholars have distinguished five possible circumstances that contributed to the creation and the distinct shape of the formulae of faith:
I. Baptism" and the catechumenate;
2. corporate worship, liturgy, hymns, preaching;
3. exorcism;
4. persecution;
5. polemic against heretics, apologetics.
Of course, a certain creedal formula may have a Sitz im Leben in more than one of the above.

The exegetical findings will serve as the basis for the hermeneutical discussion of the second part of the study. In this part of the study we will explore the idea of the intrinsic inseparability of the Scripture (both in its composition and its reception) from the life of the Church and its creedal awareness. We will consider three major claims: (1)a creedal perspective was not derivative from the Scripture but was already present within the early Church milieu; (2) the Scripture itself partakes of this perspective and so is not "objective" according to the standards of modem reason; (3) when any reader interacts with the text of Scripture, he must possess the relevant creedal standards and be attentive to those realities of the Church which provide the rules, the referents, and the criteria by which the text itself wishes to be understood. To collaborate and illustrate our discussion we will adduce appropriate and relevant material from the ecumenical creeds, Lutheran confessional writings, and the works of Irenaeus, Chemnitz and other significant church thinkers.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.