Thursday, October 25, 2012

C Hassell Bullock's terrible christology

Unfortunately christology is not a strong point for Old Testament scholars (evangelicals are by no means excluded). The following snippet is taken from my review of C. Hassell Bullock's work on the Psalms for the Encountering Biblical Studies series:

One point of criticism that must be ventured against Bullock’s book on the psalms is its overemphasis on the historical principle. As he explains on page 183, “History is very important to god, and any vision of a future that supersedes history is unrealistic.” Accordingly: “The historical element remains the control that draws a circle around the interpreter and restricts him or her within a method that does not permit a mere reader-response hermeneutic” (p.15). So convinced is Bullock of this hermeneutical rule that he relegates the figure of Jesus to a “messianic” concept that barely figures in the Psalms at all (cf. p.183). For anyone who believes what the New Testament (the Word of God!) has to say about Jesus and his relation to the older writings, this will not do. The gospel of John quite simply calls Jesus YHWH (8:58; cf. 1:1, 1:18, 10:33, 12:41, 20:28). Since this is true, it follows that when the Psalms speak about YHWH, they speak about Jesus. The whole of the Psalter becomes then a proclamation of the being and doing of Jesus the Christ, quite apart from messianic expectation (although this figures too, and that far more prominently than Bullock is embarrassed to admit). By stressing history at all costs, Bullock stands on the verge of making the Son of God and his gospel a contingent principle (“the idea of the Messiah arose out of the debris and ashes of history scattered over the hapless eras of Israel’s past…” from p.183). Such naturalistic thinking does not square well with what the scriptures teach, and it verges on blasphemy. History will ever remain in thrall to the Christ who is the “alpha and the omega… the beginning and the end” (Rev.22:13).

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