Exegesis as an Act of Love

Some rough thoughts on exegesis and hermeneutical patience…

“Exegesis is the farthest thing from pedantry; exegesis is an act of love.” Eugene Peterson

It seems to me the common appeal to biblical ‘principles’ for whatever issue (ie, ‘biblical’: womanhood, manhood, politics, diet, leadership, business, etc) tends to not only cut the heart out of the gospel as the narrative or story of Jesus (not easily reducible to principles, bullet points, or spiritual ‘laws’) but also position us (even if unwittingly) as raiders of the text as we search for ways to ‘apply’ the Bible to our lives. This is exegesis as an act of power.

Unfortunately, the bulk of Bible study resources/curriculum, the latest book by celebrity mega-church pastors, and ‘Christian Living’ resources merely perpetuate this reality. A steady diet of these resources shape those who use them (individuals AND churches) in both ‘thin’ (co-dependent, co-opted, consumer, individualist, therapeutic) ecclesiologies and dreadfully poor hermeneutical habits.

Let us recover exegesis/hermeneutics as an act of love.

Eugene Peterson says, “[Exegesis] is loving the one enough who speaks the words to get the words right. It is respecting the words enough to use every means we have to get the words right. Exegesis is loving God enough to stop and listen carefully to what he says. God has provided us with these scriptures that present us with his Word. Loving God means loving both what God speaks to us and the way God speaks to us. … Lovers savor the words, relishing every nuance of what is said and written.”

We need to form communities (ie, ekklesia) gathered in conversation with one another around the written word under the cruciform authority of the Living Word and who are willing to slowly listen, and to listen well, to the Spirit speaking in the Biblical text. We need to be willing to be trained/formed in hermeneutical patience.

Hermeneutical/exegetical patience is an act of (triune) love…