Intertextuality and Tradition

Doug Chaplin asks, ‘Is “the Bible alone” an oxymoron?’ Intertextuality in the Bible, foreward and backward, comes with the concept of canon, canon being the Holy Spirit’s will as expressed in the Church – that and the providential work of God in the historical process of writing the holy Scriptures, since God in eternity knows his own counsels.

As far as sola Scriptura goes, I’ll go with the magisterial reformers: it takes a community, the body of Christ where the Holy Spirit’s present in fullness, to understand the Scriptures rightly. Isolated individual interpretation, even with an apparently responsible hermeneutic apparatus, will ironically privilege the reader even when the system ostensibly places primacy on the intent of the human author. Instead, it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us that the Lord’s purpose be seen in the Church, to whom Scripture’s been given. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

We accept that the Christ, our Lord, gave no bullshitting exegesis. We assume a tradition of interpretation that’s grown out of Jesus’ and the apostles’ interpretation of the Old Testament in light of God’s powerful work in history. We acknowledge the finitude of individual understanding, and even of the Church’s understanding (otherwise, how can theological development even be accepted?), even as we affirm Scripture’s perspicuity. Knowing the continuity of God’s presence, however, we trust tradition – including responsible scholarship – over subjective experience of Scripture.


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