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Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation (2)

Dale Allison reflects on the balanced approach of research. It is not merely listening to the old, it is not merely listening to the new; rather, why should we limit the treasure trove of sources? In "Reading Matthew through the Church Fathers", Allison says the following:

I am not the exegetical equivalent of a political or cultural conservative who prefers the company of the deceased. On the contrary, I eagerly go to the new books shelves of my library every week. I am simply urging that it is foolish to imagine that the part is somehow greater than the whole. Current exegetical work is part of a much larger body of literature, and why should we wish to limit the number of our teachers? The more the better. [130]

He continues to add:

When we do enlarge our horizon to take in the Fathers, our respect for them likewise enlarges. It is not just that we may find them theologically edifying or spiritually uplifting or homiletically useful but that their exegesis, even judged by our own very different interests and standards, sometimes hits a target that we have missed. The Fathers are of course full of bad judgments and dated opinions on all sorts of matters, and they were ignorant of all sorts of things now known, most notably perhaps the Jewish context to the New Testament writings. And of course they had prejudices we cannot tolerate. But then all this will likewise be the future's verdict upon us, and we like to think that we still have some useful things to say. I submit that it is the same with the church fathers, and that sometimes we may move forward by going backwards. [130–31]

Allison provides great balance and propriety when utilizing ancient and novel literature. Both are needed, both are useful, both are plagued with inadequacies.  But the Father's sometimes provide a richer vision and interpretation of the biblical text that, sometimes, modern and post-modern readers have missed.

Dale C. Allison Jr., “Reading Matthew Through the Church Fathers,” in Studies in Matthew: Interpretation Past and Present (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 130–31.

Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation (1)

Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation (3)

Ambrose of Milan, Pauline Authorship of Hebrews, and Biblical Theology