I’ve been trying to take advantage of the winter break between classes (with varying degrees of success) to make a dent in the ever-growing “must-read” reading list. I did manage to get through Francis Watson’s Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith the other day. (For those who aren’t familiar with the book, a quick summary is that Watson is arguing that Paul interprets the Old Testament in light of his “discovery of the tension-laden dynamics of the scriptural narrative itself” and that this “dissonance is both uncovered by the gospel and resolved by it, since its theological function is to testify to the gospel” [24].)

Anyway, I thought I’d share a couple of more general, summary quotes from Watson’s book:

…the Pauline reading of scripture is a reading in black and white. It finds in scripture only darkness and light, and the darkness is human and the light is divine. The boundary between the two is sharply defined. In scripture, God divides the light from the darkness, and – taking no interest in the various shades of grey or of other colours that appear as day turns to night or night to day – God pronounces this arrangement to be good. Scripture, Paul might say, is to be read in black and white because scripture just is black and white. Admirers of the various shades of grey or of other colours will not feel at home in these texts. (168)

For Paul, the old and the new are characterized by two different accounts of divine agency. Fundamental to the old is the divine act of inscription. What is inscribed, however, is prescription: a series (or two series) of demands, formulated either positively or negatively. The addressee of these demands is directed towards his or her future conduct, which must either conform to them or transgress them. No third option is available….The new is characterized by a quite different divine action: the raising of Jesus from the dead and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Human well-being (“life”, or “righteousness”) is brought about by a divine fiat no less unilateral than the one that originally called forth light out of darkness: “it is the God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts with the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor.4.6)….In place of prescription there is creation: not the outline of a required though hypothetical human praxis, but the realization of light and life as the true goal of human existence. The divine writing issues a series of demands, whereas the gospel announces the dawning of the saving action of God. That is the fundamental contrast between the old and the new. (312-3)