The theological art of scriptural interpretation: Lessons from von Balthasar

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This paper first describes the context into which the thoughts of Hans Urs von Balthasar appeared, principally those works of Schlier and Rahner with their distinctive approach to "biblical theology". It will then look at Balthasar's contribution to the Catholic multi-authored volume Mysterium Salutis of 1967, before moving to consider some thematic elements in his Herrlichkeit (translated as Glory of the Lord). These include the notion of the pressure of Divine Glory coming to be focused in Jesus and then through him into the New Testament and then onwards into Christian reflection. Moreover, it is important to understand "covenant" as more than something written but rather as that which drove action within earthly history, which subsequently and consequentially took literary expression in the canon. Also, the continuity of the New Testament with the Historical Jesus and the importance of a form which need not be static (Israel, Jesus Christ, canon) are important emphases. There is accordingly a brief account of Balthasar's 1976 reflections on the relationship between biblical exegesis and dogmatics. The paper will conclude with a consideration of the related questions of "canon" and "theological encyclopaedia". It will argue that the bible needs to be heard more than "made use of" in theology, that it at least includes teaching that is properly called "doctrinal", rather than seeing it as mere question-raising in the manner of fundamental theology, with too much respect being paid to anthropological and existential issues.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScripture and Theology
Subtitle of host publicationHistorical and Systematic Perspectives
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783110768411
ISBN (Print)9783110768268
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2023


  • Biblical Theology
  • Covenant
  • Divine Glory
  • Dogmatics
  • Exegesis


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