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Gospels and Creed

Gospels and Creed June 6, 2013

Richard Hays gave a wonderful lecture on the creeds and the gospels at the Trinity School of Ministry conference. A few highlights:

1) From Matthew, he pointed to the fact that people bow to/worship Jesus seven times in the gospel. This might be taken as no more than civil worship, except for Jesus’ citation of the law “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve” (4:10). The fact that Jesus later accepts worship indicates that He considers Himself worthy of worship. That is, the fact that Jesus accepts worship indicates that He knows Himself to be the God who only is to be worshiped.

2) Through examination of passages in the synoptics, he showed that the more closely one follows the Old Testament echoes and allusions in the gospel texts, the clearer Jesus’ deity becomes.

Again and again, the evangelists apply passages bout Yahweh to Jesus. For Hays, this fact puts a fresh gloss on Jesus’ claim in Luke 24 that the whole Scripture is about Him. That is true because Israel’s Scriptures as a whole are about Yahweh, and Jesus is Yahweh; He is, as the confused disciples on the road to Emmaeus say, the Redeemer of Israel. The more one reads the gospels in the light of the Old testament – the more one reads the gospels with the assumption of the unity of the Bible, the more one reads the gospels the way the fathers did – the more the continuity between the gospels and creeds comes to light.

3) Modern scholarship has attempted to read the gospels without and against the dogmatic tradition of the church hasn’t produced better readings of the gospels. Modern scholarship has instead produced fragmented and truncated readings. The creeds don’t predetermine what the gospels say; but the creeds do create a predisposition and a set of expectations about what the gospels will say. Those predispositions, Hays argued persuasively, actually produce better readings of the gospels than anti-creedal modernism.

4) Hays opened the lecture by noting his differences with NT Wright concerning the relationship of creed and Scripture. But in the end, he acknowledged that the creeds cannot substitute for the gospels and acknowledged that Wright has some valid points concerning the lacunae and limits of the creeds, especially as regards Israel’s Scripture and history as the essential framework for understanding Jesus. The difference between the two, Hays said, lies in Wright’s insistence on the primacy of historical analysis of the gospels, and Hays’s happy recognition that he interprets the gospels from within a creedal and liturgical context.


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