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Recognition of a Canon within a Canon

The fourth key feature of Goldingay’s hermeneutical framework is his belief in a canon within a canon.[1] What is this canon within the canon? If the creeds are not the interpretive filter in exegesis, then what is to be used? Is the interpreter to use Torah? Is he to use earlier revelation?

Unfortunately, Goldingay does not specify. In fact, he believes that “the inner canon may be identified with a particular book or section or material such as Exodus or Romans or Jesus’ parables, or with the ‘New’ Testament over against the ‘Old,’ or with the books that were the earliest to gain uncontroversial recognition in the canonical process, or with a key theme, etc.”[2] Moreover, “This inner canon may function as the real locus of normative authority, or as the locus of deepest insight, or as the aspect of the canon that is directly binding, or as the center and focus of the formal canon and thus the key to its interpretation, or as the part or aspect of the formal canon that is especially important to a particular community.”[3] Goldingay, then, is less interested in the what of the outer canon, but on the how of this outer canon’s function.

Goldingay, though, is less clear than one might hope with regard to the usage of this inner canon. He claims a canon within a canon and then merely provides one requirement for limiting its usage. He writes, “So there is a canon within the canon. This does not mean the outer canon ceases to be canon; we must not make the canon within the canon into the canon.”[4]

So,Goldingay is willing to accept any inner canon so long as it does not replace the outer canon. As a later analysis of Goldingay’s hermeneutic will demonstrate, one of Goldingay’s greatest weaknesses is his willingness to incorporate nearly any hermeneutical method into his own. He is willing to accept feminist, masculinist, liberationist, canonical, historical-critical, and traditional interpretations. This willingness to incorporate different methods is related to this openness with regard to the what of the outer canon.

Old Testament is Significant in Its Own Right

The fifth key feature of Goldingay’s hermeneutical framework is his conviction that the Old Testament is significant on its own. [5] In other words, the Old Testament does not need the New Testament to be significant. This is both a strength and a weakness of his hermeneutic.

Goldingay writes,

“Old Testament theology treats the first part of the canon as significant in its own right. It does not reinterpret or reevaluate its theological insights in light of the New Testament. Specifically, it does not reinterpret Old Testament texts in light of the way the New Testament uses them. The New Testament’s use of Old Testament texts has no necessary significance for what Old Testament theology does with these texts.”[6]

With regard to the significance of the Old Testament, Goldingay is certainly not wrong. The Old Testament saints were not given an insignificant text. However, Goldingay, as will be demonstrated later, takes this notion too far. In fact, in recent years, Goldingay has begun even to undermine the significance of the New Testament for Christians.[7] Goldingay, then takes a commendable principle too far.

[1] Goldingay, Key Questions, 264.

 [2] John Goldingay, Models for Interpretation of Scripture (Toronto: Clements, 2004), 105.

 [3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 266.

[5] Goldingay, Key Questions, 267.

[6] Ibid., 267.

[7] John Goldingay, “Do We Need the New Testament?” Stone-Campbell Journal 16 (2013): 235–248; Idem., Do We Need the New Testament? Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself (Downers Grove: IVP, forthcoming).

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