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Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul Paperback – January 27, 1993
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It is Dr. Hays thesis that we can better understand the writings of Paul if we first understand his hermenuetics. And for Paul, that means that he reads consistently the Christian experience through a lens that has been crafted by a fine honing of knowledge from the Hebrew Scriptures. It is in the pulling up of Hebrew Scriptures that preceded or follow the obvious linkage with a particular Pauline passage that we find the most meaning Hays argues.
His writing is compelling, understandable and, yes , persuasive. I would commend this book to anyone who is trying to understand Paul and what he means. This is of particular valuable in developing a biblical understanding of the theological implications of Romans 9-11.
The effect is almost always surprising; sometimes one wonders at Paul's subtlety; at other times one asks whether it is really Hays' ingenuity that has conjured up an echo that did not occur to Paul. As it turns out, it does not matter. Hays argues that to limit the interpretation of scriptural echoes to what Paul intended is to create artificial limitations and restrict the hermeneutical freedom which Paul himself employed. For one thing, "what he intended is a matter of historical speculation;" for another, "Scripture generates through Paul new figurations." The implicit point is that a modern interpreter of Paul can learn from him how to read Scripture imaginatively, yet faithfully. This is treated at length in the fifth and last chapter of the book. Before then, in the first chapter, Hays reviews different approaches to Pauline hermeneutics and proposes his own, taking leads from literary-critical discussions of the "phenomenon of intertextuality." The following three chapters are a tour de force of riveting interpretation. If I have to single out one major theme among several - and which Hays works over and over from different angles - it would be that Paul understood Scripture (i.e., the OT) as prefiguring the church; it was neither annulled nor superseded, but pointed to the gospel as proclaimed by Paul. Hays speaks of the transforming power of Scripture rightly understood. "The meaning of Scripture is enacted in the Christian community, and only those who participate in the enactment can understand the text." He passionately pleads the same point in the page before last, a fitting conclusion to an insightful and original work: "Community in the likeness of Christ is cruciform; therefore right interpretation is cruciform. ... Any reading of Scripture that requires of us something other or less than this is a false reading."
This remarkable book has not gone unquestioned by other scholars, and has generated lively debate among Paul's interpreters. Who should read it? There is more than a hint that Hays was writing for the academic community; but non-professionals familiar with biblical (or literary) studies can read it with profit and a sense of fulfillment. All readers must bring to it an energetic and open mind.
This is a great work.
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