When Listening to the Gospel

Back in June, I briefly commented on my basic hermeneutical principle: The Hermeneutics of What Hath God Wrought.

What has God done, or what has he promised to do, in the story of Jacob and Israel that culminates in Jesus the Messiah? This is the key hermeneutical question I ask every text of the Holy Bible . . .

When listening to the gospel being read from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, then, I might ask myself these questions as I listen to the text:

  1. How is Jesus bringing God’s promises to Abraham and the patriarchs to their fulfillment?
  2. How is Jesus consummating Israel’s cultic life by which it lived out its relationship to God in the tabernacle and the temple?
  3. How is Jesus fulfilling the intent of the law given through Moses?
  4. How is Jesus executing his role as righteous king and conqueror as David’s royal son?
  5. How is Jesus bringing Israel’s wisdom tradition to its perfection?
  6. How is Jesus fulfilling the moral and eschatological vision of Israel’s prophets?
  7. How is Jesus bringing the story of creation to full fruition as the new Adam?

Some of these are questions about Jesus’ relationship to God’s covenants given through Adam, Abraham, Moses and David. Some are about the great streams of tradition within the God’s word: royal, priestly, prophetic and wisdom. Elements of promise, judgment and salvation are implicit in most of them.

Not every gospel text addresses every question, but most texts speak to at least one of them. The better I learn to listen, the more connections I see. As I listen to the text, these questions open up new insights. I hear the text as I never heard it before. Most of all, the questions keep me focused on the central question of all eternity: what has God done in Jesus?