Hays on Figural and Theological Interpretation

Richard Hays gave a fine defense of figural and theological interpretation of the OT at an ETS session. He argued that the NT writers read the OT in the light of the resurrection, and saw the resurrection of Christ as the climax of the history of Israel, a climax foreshadowed along the way in various ways. Several things were of particular note:

1) He compared liberal scholars to the Sadducees, and argued that both had problems because they are literalists. The Sadducees were literalists who lacked theological imagination.

2) Hays argued that the NT gives us warrant to explore the OT looking for prefigurations of the resurrection and Chris that are NOT explicitly mentioned in the NT. In short, the NT writers are the model exegetes, not some strange exception to “real” exegesis.

3) He intriguingly pointed to Acts 2 to show that the resurrection gets embodied in Christian practices. The text says that the apostolic community was testifying to the resurrection “for there was no one who had need.” Sharing one’s goods is an economic manifestation of resurrection life operative in the world.

4) Hays explicitly said there was room for allegorical interpretation, but suggested that we pursue skillful, wise, and artful allegory rather than “wild and crazy” allegory.

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