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Divine Eloquence and Human Transformation

Rethinking Scripture and History through Gregory of Nazianazus and Hans Frei

By Ben Fulford

Publication Year: 2013

Key to a theology of scripture and how theology functions in relation to the interpretation of Christianity's religious texts is the important issue of faith and history. Seeking to address a critical problem in theology and the interpretation of scripture raised by modern historical consciousness, Ben Fulford argues for a densely historical and theological reading of scripture centered in a Christological rubric. The argument herein uncovers a pattern of triune action and presence in the rhetorical use of Christian sacred texts, one which draws readers into fuller participation in the shaping of history in Christ. Tracing the problem through the modern theological heritage, the author turns to a comparative account of theologically patterned reading represented by patristic theology in Gregory of Nazianzus and postliberal theology in its pivotal founder, Hans Frei. The book addresses the challenge of historicity and historical consciousness, argues for the relevance of pre-modern approaches to scripture, and offers a fresh and extensive account of two salient figures from the early and contemporary tradition, thus enacting a theology of retrieval as a resource on a present issue of vital importance.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Series: Emerging Scholars

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The writing of this book has been a lengthy affair, and I have incurred many debts during its long gestation.
The research and writing of the thesis from which this book has been developed was made possible by awards of a Crosse Studentship from the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, by a Domestic Research...

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pp. 1-14

The contemporary movement in theology that seeks to recover ways of understanding and reading the Bible as Christian Scripture has, in large part, been constituted over against a captivity of the Bible to the hegemonic claims of historical criticism.1 These claims are often taken to delimit the ways in which meaning can be found in biblical texts and to be destructive of Christian...

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1. The Theological Interpretation of Scripture and the Question of History

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pp. 15-50

The questions raised for theology by modern historical consciousness go to the very heart of Christian faith and its core tenets. For that reason they are of profound import for the doctrine of Scripture and the practice of reading Scripture theologically. Yet although the issue of history is often recognized in connection with the claims of historical criticism, these deeper questions rarely...

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2. God, Christ, and History in Gregory of Nazianzus

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pp. 51-78

For Troeltsch, the closely interwoven web of immanent historical causes—natural, psychological, and personal—precludes recognition of divine intervention in history or the attribution of any particular historical event with absolute significance. Gregory of Nazianzus lived many centuries before the development of the modern historical consciousness that Troeltsch was...

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3. The Reshaping of History: Jesus Christ and the Baptized Life in Gregory of Nazianzus

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pp. 79-106

In the previous chapter, we saw how Gregory’s account of God, creation, humanity, and the divine economy begins to sketch a premodern model that helps us think about how to respond to Troeltsch. However, central to that account are two events that seem to run directly counter to the intuitions of historical consciousness and their implications for theology, as Troeltsch...

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4. Distributing the Word: Holy Scripture and the Preacher in Gregory of Nazianzus

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pp. 107-136

Gregory’s account of divine action in history allows him to understand Scripture theologically as the product of God’s saving activity and its instrument, serving as the medium of Christ’s pedagogical presence, without abstracting it from the historical continuum. Because the presence of Jesus Christ as teacher and divine wisdom is by the Spirit’s inspiration at the heart...

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5. From Letter to Spirit

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pp. 137-158

All the features of Gregory’s theology of Scripture have hermeneutical implications, which Gregory tends to explain in the Pauline terms of letter and spirit, used by so many early Christian exegetes. To do so means recognizing the pedagogical force of the text by following the movement enacted in Christ and the Spirit from the letter of the text to its spirit. Here the hermeneutical...

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6. The Rhetorical Deployment of Scripture in Gregory

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pp. 159-190

Gregory never wrote a separate work on biblical interpretation, as Origen and Augustine did. Instead he left us his finely wrought oratory suffused with Scripture, surely intending his use of Scripture there to serve as instruction for future generations. For Gregory, the mediation of scriptural pedagogy was primarily an oratorical affair, a matter of persuasion and formation of...

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7. History, Biblical Narrative, and the Shaping of Identity in Hans Frei

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pp. 191-230

Hans Frei belonged to a vaster, more complex world than Gregory’s, one removed from late antiquity not only by time but by enormous technological, scientific, economic, social, and cultural change. These changes contributed to the formation of a sense of history of whose significance for theology Frei was acutely aware, having committed himself to working in a modern secular...

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8. History and Holy Scripture in Hans Frei

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pp. 231-272

Frei’s theological account of history requires a theology of Scripture, and he supplies one, or at least the outline of one. Despite being criticized for not being theological enough about Scripture, for prioritizing theories of narrative or the church as a social entity over a dogmatic account of the Bible, his central concerns with the identity and presence of Jesus Christ led him to say...

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9. Conclusion: Divine Eloquence

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pp. 273-282

In all our attempts to repair Christian theology in the relatively hospitable climate afforded by some educational contexts in recent years in the latemodern West, and in all our efforts to reappropriate the wisdom of the premodern past in service of that reparative labor, it is important that we do not lose sight of the scale of the challenges raised to theology by modern thought. Ernst...


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pp. 283-296

Index of Subjects and Names

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pp. 297-301

Back Cover

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p. 315-315

E-ISBN-13: 9781451469608
E-ISBN-10: 1451430914
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451465488
Print-ISBN-10: 1451465483

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Emerging Scholars