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Spring 2021 · Vol. 50 No. 1 · pp. 28–43 

Like Goads and Like Nails’: Interpreting an Interpretive Model for Scripture Study

Gordon Matties

When I was young, my mother, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, told me that a woman in our congregation asked her if there might be unconfessed sin in her life. The woman’s not so hidden assertion raised questions about how to read Scripture. Over time, I needed to come to terms with the troubling possibility that my mother might have been at fault, or worse, that God caused her illness. In my sermon at her funeral, I pointed to the righteous Job, to the ambiguous uncertainties of Ecclesiastes, which asserts that bad things do happen to good people, and to Jesus, who refused to ascribe blame to the man born blind (John 9:1-3), even though Jesus suggested that the reason for his blindness was “so that God’s works might be revealed in him” (NRSV). 1

We do well to imagine a richer and fuller understanding of Scripture that fills out what we mean when we say the Bible is the word of God that testifies to the Living Word.

Although my mother never recovered, I am convinced that “God’s works” were revealed in her. But was the disease the agent of that {29} revelation? There are countless narratives, laws, proverbs, and letters in Scripture, where we find evidence for the view that people reap what they sow. But how do I decide that my rejection of retributive theology, as it pertains to my mother, should govern my approach to the whole Bible? Must I reject the proverb that affirms that the one who digs a pit will fall into it (Prov 26:27)? Must I reject the assertion that so-and-so did evil in the sight of the LORD and therefore was defeated by the enemy? Must I reject the suggestion that the “Amorites’ wrongdoing” (Gen 15:16 CEB) legitimates the genocide depicted in the book of Joshua?

Understanding how some texts challenge, revise, undermine, or reinterpret other texts helped me to develop a more nuanced perspective on the relationship between actions and consequences. I began to shape a more constructive way of reading the Bible.

Certainly, there are strategies that seek to harmonize or explain the diversity of perspectives in the Bible. But we need an interpretive approach that honors the Bible’s ancient character, its diverse perspectives, and its ambiguities without blending the Bible into a smoothie that tastes nothing like the individual ingredients. 2 Doing that will help us learn to read the Bible biblically. 3


That brings me to my response to the Interpretive Model and Method presented by Doug Heidebrecht and Mark Wessner at the Equip 2019 study conference. 4 Their presentations of the Model and Method are depicted by two diagrams (116): as a triangle (the Model) and as what looks like a Wi-Fi signal (the Method). 5 I will sometimes refer to these as two diagrams (Model and Method), but often I will treat them as overlapping, as though superimposing the Wi-Fi signal three-dimensionally on top of the triangle. I will begin with five affirmations, followed by critical reflections. My aim is to say something about each of the following, but not necessarily in order: the three angles of the triangle (Bible, Spirit, and Community) and the terms identified along the three sides of the triangle (Authority, Discernment, and Understanding). I will ask what it might mean to have placed Jesus in the center with lines radiating out from that center toward each of the three angles. Along the way I will reflect on the meaning of the four “stages” of the Method (Posture, Interpret, Apply, and Live). I will reflect on how the Model and Method might be misunderstood or misapplied without further nuancing its complexities. I will conclude this essay by attempting to clarify the (mostly) unarticulated question behind the Model: “What should the Bible be read as?” {30}

In all, I will offer what the editor of Ecclesiastes understands as both nails and goads (12:11 NRSV) in the hope that affirmation (nails) and critique (goads) can move the conversation about biblical interpretation forward to a small degree.


  1. The Model mirrors key aspects of Anabaptist hermeneutics: Jesus is the center of our faith, community is the center of our lives, and reconciliation is the center of our work. 6 The Model reflects those distinctives in at least three ways. (1) Jesus is at the center of the model, with lines radiating out to all three angles. Jesus brings Bible, Spirit, and Community together into a focal point that the presenters identified as the Living Word. That Word has interpretive priority over all three components of the triangle. (2) “Following Jesus” (in his work of reconciliation) is the overarching goal. 7 By placing “Live” at the top of the Wi-Fi lines, the Method assumes that embodiment is the proper outcome of interpretation. (3) The Model assumes that interpretation of Scripture is done both in and for the community of faith.

  2. The Model suggests a dynamic process. It is not a new “method.” It draws on hermeneutical wisdom found in almost any handbook on exegesis and interpretation of Scripture. But neither the Model nor the presentations reflect adequate critical engagement with the philosophical and theological literature on hermeneutics. 8 Nor does the Model reflect the complexity of the relational dynamics among text, author, and reader, or between interpretations and communities. 9 Even so, the Model affirms that the historical-cultural world behind the text, the literary world of the text itself, and the world of the reader are in dynamic conversation with one another, a conversation that is evident within the Bible itself. 10

  3. The Method presents a holistic approach that is not reduceable to a guaranteed outcome, nor does it eliminate interpretive disagreement. Interpretation will change as time and place require. Biblical interpretation is not simply a matter of technique, nor is it about mastery of either text or method. The Model integrates the written word with the active Spirit of God and the living community of faith in a holistic yet risky and unpredictable journey. {31}

  4. The most challenging aspect of the Method is the way it positions “Posture” at the beginning (if we can call it that) of the Wi-Fi signal that leads to Following Jesus in Life. This broad category has the potential to revolutionize what we understand ourselves to be doing when we interpret Scripture. It also has the capacity to undermine the idolatry of certainty that some evangelical biblical interpretation assumes ought to be the outcome of the process.

  5. The Model is simple and transparent. Its categories allow it to become the basis for healthy conversations, even when we disagree about our interpretations and their implications for life on the ground. That simplicity, however, raises questions and presents challenges that do not allow for easy resolution.


I will focus my questions and challenges on the inevitability of interpretive pluralism and on the need for recognizing that the interpretive process is always grounded in assumptions about what Scripture is and what we think we are doing with it.

  1. In the visual presentation of the Model, why is the “Authority” placed between “Spirit” and “Bible”? The small print suggests that “revelation” and “inspiration” bind Spirit and Bible together. We need to ask, authority for what purpose? Is it intrinsic authority or conferred authority? Does the revelation come through interpretation or by some other means? What is it that’s being revealed? And what does the introductory statement on the Model mean when it states that the Bible is “the authoritative guide for faith and practice”? What does “faith” mean? Is it mental assent to specific doctrinal statements? Or is it trusting allegiance, as Matthew Bates has recently argued? 11 And what kinds of practices must be authorized by Spirit and Bible? Would that include economic practices, as advocated by Luke’s Gospel? 12 Some have suggested that the Spirit would not contradict the Bible, and yet the Spirit seems to do that in the book of Acts regarding inclusion of the Gentiles and circumcision (Acts 15). What, then, is the role of the Spirit in facilitating and authorizing interpretation? The small print under the word “Spirit” states “illumination” and “transformation.” Just how does illumination work? And what kind of transformation is in view? What evidence might confirm what the Spirit is doing? Those questions will need to {32} be addressed as the process is put into practice. The separation of Model and Method, however, creates a problem unless the Wi-Fi signal diagram is superimposed over the triangle. In other words, all the “steps” (or “hermeneutical circle,” p. 119) belong to all the components of the Method triangle.

  2. For example, in the Wi-Fi signal situated above the triangle, we find the terms “Interpret” and “Apply” as separate steps in the interpretive Method. According to the Model triangle, interpretation and exegesis are subsumed within the function of “Understanding,” even though the explanation in the article itself affirms that Discernment is also necessary. Moreover, the authors assume that Understanding pertains to the ancient world of the author, and Discernment concerns contemporary application (118-19). They even say that Interpretation (“meant”) and Discernment (“means”) are separated by a “chasm” (118), an assumption that has been challenged in the discussion of hermeneutics in the last fifty years or more. At best, such distinctions help us realize that ancient texts are in fact ancient, and that they reflect ancient understandings that are not, and in many cases cannot, be our own. At worst, those distinctions reflect artificial assumptions about how readers and texts interact. They create an unfortunate and inaccurate distinction between subject (reader) and object (text). And they imply that we have adequate access to the mind and intentions of the authors.

  3. Within the Method, Application draws on two resources: Jesus and the Holy Spirit (120-21). Jesus brings “clarity” and the Spirit “guides” for the purpose of “discernment and application of the Bible’s meaning” (121). But the Method doesn’t say how. The interpreter(s) must decide what kind of clarity and what kind of guiding are in view.

  4. Two observations arise from that. First, the Model places Jesus at the center of the triangle, with lines radiating outward to each angle: Bible, Spirit, and Community. Second, both Jesus and Spirit are also mentioned in the explanation of “Apply” and “Live” (120-121). Spirit transforms character, perspectives, and values into the image of Christ such that we are empowered to follow Jesus and obey his commands. The challenge, of course, comes when we begin asking, for example, how “values” are defined, or which of Jesus’s commands are to be followed and how they are to be obeyed. The Anabaptist emphasis on {33} discipleship resonates with a Jesus center, but as the presenters made clear, Bible and Spirit (the bottom two angles of the Model) “testify” or “bear witness” to Jesus (the center). It is unclear whether Community, the topmost angle, also bears witness to Jesus, especially since Jesus appears to be filtered through “experience, tradition, and culture” (the small print under the “Community” angle of the triangle). It’s clear in the book of Acts, for example, that experience factored significantly in authorizing inclusion of the Gentiles.

  5. What, then, does “Jesus at the center” mean? Is that what’s often called a Christocentric hermeneutic? Is this the Jesus of the Gospels? Or the Jesus of the entire New Testament? Or the Jesus who becomes “the body of Christ”? Or the Jesus through whom a new creation is underway? Or Jesus in his roles of king, priest, prophet, sage, temple, and wisdom? Does it mean that biblical texts that do not speak of Jesus, or are not in some way analogous to him, should be set slightly to the side (e.g., the book of Esther)? Above all, if Scripture is God’s penultimate word, then what is the relationship between the text and Jesus, the living Word? And finally, what do we mean when we say that God speaks? Or that Jesus is the embodied Word? These are not incidental questions. In other words, to say that Jesus is the center is to raise a host of other questions, all of them good.

  6. The lines connecting Spirit and Community, and Bible and Community are described, respectively, by the words “Discernment” and “Understanding.” In small print, we see that discernment involves “prayer” and “conversation,” whereas understanding includes “exegesis” and “interpretation.” I wonder if it might be more helpful to blur the boundaries. “Discernment,” in the biblical tradition, is the pursuit of wisdom, which is not simply the domain of Spirit. “Conversation” is facilitated by wisdom in community, as nourished by the Spirit. But “understanding” is not some other category removed from prayer and conversation, or even from wisdom. If wisdom and discernment are about sorting out complexity, coping with diversity, and sharing our (interpretive) resources with one another, then splitting apart discernment and understanding is an unfortunate misunderstanding of the interpretive task and a false binary that draws on modernist epistemologies in unhelpful ways. {34}

  7. Under “Community” at the top of the triangle are three important words: culture, tradition, and experience. The presenters made it clear that culture, if not also tradition and experience, also belongs alongside the small print under the “Bible” angle because biblical writers wrote from inside a variety of cultural contexts as they sought to make sense of their inherited traditions. Biblical texts also reflect cultural assumptions and biases, some of which mirror the complexities of human expression, experience, and understanding. Biblical texts also reflect the process of traditioning, the handing on of oral and written sources, and the collecting and editing of sources. Ancient writers used the linguistic and generic conventions of the day to describe what they understood God to have done in their past. For instance, biblical writers and King Mesha of Moab shared a theology in which the divine participated in warfare (see also Jephthah’s assertion in Judges 11:23-24). Other texts, in both the Old Testament and the New, transpose the warfare motif into a new key for a new time, thereby revising the theology of divine participation in human history. 13 In other words, the categories of culture, tradition, and experience are not limited to the contemporary community of readers, but belong also to the ancient communities that gave birth to texts.

  8. Therefore “Posture,” the first line in the Wi-Fi curves of the Method diagram, assumes that the interpretive process begins with the reader and the community of readers acknowledging their time and place, including culture, tradition, and experience. 14 In this respect, the positioning of the two diagrams, Model (triangle) and Method (Wi-Fi signal) correctly connects Community (top angle of the triangle) with Posture (the first task of discernment in the Method (Wi-Fi diagram). We do well to be careful not to assume that fostering a posture of receptivity (119-20) be reduced to an amorphous notion of spiritual self-perception. Although we hope to be “receptive” in our attending to Scripture, we ought not to discount other possible postures from which we might approach Scripture. 15

  9. For example, one aspect of posture that bears noting is the insistence during the presentations to set aside a hermeneutic of suspicion of Scripture and to submit to the text. Might it be possible to reject the binary approach implied by that advice? After all, even Jesus was suspicious of some biblical texts. Negating the possibility of a healthy hermeneutic of suspicion {35} all too easily tends toward perpetuating pious platitudes and oppressions of the past. Moreover, receptivity does not guarantee good interpretation.

  10. No one disputes the role of culture, tradition, and experience, along with theological proclivities and interpretive frameworks and expectations, in shaping our posture toward the text (119-120). But each of those also bears a kind of authority, especially since the Spirit is present in the discernment and the understanding that is elicited from careful attention to both Spirit and text. The fact is, we do not read the Bible the way it was read one hundred or one thousand years ago. We live in a culture with different understandings of history, science, sociology, economics, gender, race, class, and more. A class- and race-conscious reading, through the lens of literary-critical sensitivities, informed by sociological analysis of both text and reading community, informed by gender awareness, allows us to see things in the text that might never have been seen before. Is our vision better? No, but it is different. And that difference carries its own sense of authority.

  11. And that raises a question whether the arts, humanities, and natural and social sciences (the last two added to the guide after the conference, p. 121) might also bear a modicum of authority. These disciplines are also the arena of the Spirit’s presence and work. The arts and sciences contribute to the discernment not only of Application but also of what we find in biblical texts themselves. If all truth is God’s truth, as has often been stated, then the Spirit’s presence in creation and Jesus’s embodiment in his followers (his “body”) also contribute to discernment and understanding. If “all things hold together in Christ,” and if in his life, death, and resurrection, all will be redeemed, then all things (and all sources of knowledge) participate in knowing God, ourselves, and our world, and in living as followers of the way of Jesus.

  12. I understand the importance of basic exegetical skills, but I question the implicit assumption that through proper interpretive method, along with attentiveness to the Spirit and conversation in the community, we will arrive at a consensus that clearly articulates a Mennonite Brethren biblical interpretation. Interpretive pluralism cannot be corralled by claiming consensus, even by claiming collaboration of the Spirit. Because of the complexity of how readers and texts interact, there can be no {36} discernment of what a text “meant” (interpretation, according to the model) or what a text “means for us” (significance, application) that can ever be finally certain. Even the framing of those rubrics as binary categories—with a “chasm” between “meant” and “means”—is itself problematic. Yes, there will be disagreement. And there will always be a variety of plausible interpretations. We do well, therefore, not to use consensus as a screen to filter out minority interpretations, including proposed and potential applications. 16 And we do well to let go of our addiction to being right, or to the assumption that certainty is the goal of biblical interpretation. Interpretation and application will always be a dynamic process that strives toward understanding as we seek to follow Jesus. 17

  13. The presenters of the Interpretive Model and Method sought to apply the model by illustrating how we might move from an issue to the text and back to life. Break-out groups were asked to bring the wisdom of Scripture to bear on an issue of concern in our time (my group dealt with cannabis use). The exercise assumed that the issues we face in our time and place have been addressed one way or another in Scripture. But just what might constitute “one way or another”? There are certainly many texts that have a bearing on how we might live. But there are also many issues that the text doesn’t address explicitly or even implicitly. 18

  14. This brings me to my final question: “What is the Bible to be read as?” This is the crux of the entire discussion. And related to that, “What is it we think we’re doing when we read it?” I suggest, along with David Kelsey, that the entire process of biblical interpretation—from the triangle of Bible-Spirit-Community (Model) to the Wi-Fi signal of Posture-Interpret-Apply-Live (Method)—is grounded in a prior construal about what the Bible ought to be read as, and the likewise prior construal about what we are reading the Bible for. 19 On the latter, the bold heading at the top of the Model and Method is clear: the outcome is “Following Jesus.” The presenters repeated numerous times that once interpretation has been done, and applications suggested, the most important work begins. All of that is commendable. But let’s return to the questions themselves and consider what they contribute to our Interpretive Model. {37}


The discipline of biblical interpretation, if it’s done for the church, must be done with some construal of what we understand by “Scripture” in the first place. David Kelsey articulated this perspective in 1975 when he suggested, “Part of what it means to call a text or set of texts ‘authoritative scripture’ is to ascribe to it some kind of wholeness or unity when it is used as authority.” 20 In other words, “Not the text as such, but the text-as-construed-as-a-certain-kind-of-whole is appealed to.” 21 The “wholeness” that is ascribed to Scripture “is a function of the singularity of the end to which the uses of these writings is said to be sufficient.” 22 Kelsey suggests that “wholeness” is not some kind of predetermined “unity” that glosses over or harmonizes the diversity of Scripture. He acknowledges that “in the actual practice of doing theology, every theologian who takes, not just (vaguely) ‘scripture,’ but (more particularly) ‘canon’ as his authority must decide just how his use of one ‘part’ of the canon is to be inter-related with his ‘use’ of other parts of the canon.” 23

Kelsey offers this delightful parable, in which a group of children gather to play a game in an empty lot. One of them says, “Come on, let’s play ball.” An observer will note that, whatever they do with the ball,

their decision about which game to play will involve ‘construing’ the ball in one way or another. . . . The ‘construals’ will depend on which sort of activity they take to have been invoked by the cry “Come on, play ball!” The decision about which game to play will determine among other things what the point is of the specific things done with and to the ball, by what rules it is done, and so what ‘scoring’ will consist in. 24

I believe that our work in biblical interpretation concerns, to cite Kelsey again, “what the task or point is of ‘doing theology’ ” in the first place. 25 Kelsey suggests, in addition, that our reasons for taking biblical texts as authoritative “always derive their force from a logically prior imaginative judgment” either about “the mode of God’s presence” or “about what it is to be a Christian.” 26 Or to put it another way, “what is studied in exegesis depends on a prior decision about how to construe and use the texts.” 27

In other words, no biblical text fully comprehends the trajectory of divine purpose. This means that there is much that is embryonic in Scripture, as Christian Smith puts it, much that may well be understood as needing to grow into more fully developed “insights and implications of what the gospel means.” 28 What’s required, suggests Smith, is a letting go of the notion that the Bible is a collection of “complete {38} and final teachings on every subject imaginable.” 29 What if we were to construe Scripture the way Kenton Sparks does, when he suggests that all of Scripture point us in the direction of the missio dei (mission of God), which is “to redeem the whole created order through the work of Christ and his church”? 30

What is the construal of Scripture assumed by our Interpretive Model? What should the Bible be read as? And what are we reading it for? These questions will shape the answers to all the others.

It’s not enough to say that we affirm the authority of Scripture. Authority is conferred, not simply intrinsic (i.e., drawing on biblical texts to assert the Bible’s authority). And conferred authority is based not only on what can be read in the text but on how it functions in the community of Jesus followers. Again, how the church has construed Scripture has changed over the centuries. So, is the Bible just whatever we make of it? Not exactly. The Bible makes sense to us because we’ve decided how and why it makes sense. It doesn’t make sense without applying some sort of criteria for what constitutes “making sense.” The same goes for explaining the Bible’s unity and/or diversity, how we factor in its writers’ participation in their ancient cultural world, and how we deal with the Bible’s own ambiguity on countless matters (e.g., on treatment of indigenous peoples in Canaan; on whether Nineveh can be redeemed or not; on whether Moabites and eunuchs can become part of the people of God; on whether LGBTQ people can be integrated into the church).


When I was very young and German was still spoken in my congregation, I used to hear the sentence, Es steht geschrieben. In contemporary vernacular it means, “The Bible says.” At its 1954 convention in Virgil, Ontario, the Canadian Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church accepted a statement on the viewing of television. In 1958 the Alberta Mennonite Brethren Conference petitioned the Canadian Conference to “orient itself anew and re-define its attitude in the light of the resolution accepted” in 1954. 31 Both recommendations were adopted by the respective conventions.

The 1954 document focuses on television as a tool of Satan, who is using “television to bring the world into the hearts and homes of believers.” The document identifies the various dangers television poses. The statement is grounded in practical wisdom, assumptions about social and gender roles, and a fear of losing “interest in spiritual things” and of a growing “superficiality in the spiritual life.” The statement ends by decrying the purchase and sale of television sets, along with a {39} theological assertion that such actions “cannot have been done with the full approval of the Lord.” Citing Romans 14:23 (the only Scripture text in the document), the statement concludes, “Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin” (KJV, passim).

The 1958 document underlines the concern that television will foster “the growth of worldly attitudes,” which will “lead to compromise and conformity to the world.” It seeks to bring Scripture to bear on the subject in a more deliberate way. Seven texts are cited in the hope that “an unbiased and prayerful study of the following quotations from the Scriptures will provide every believer with sure guidance in his attitude toward the use of television.” These short snippets will indicate where the weight of the texts is taken to be leaning:

  • “Love not the world . . . lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:15-17);

  • “The light of the body is the eye . . . But if thine eye be evil” (Matt 6:22-23);

  • “Moses saw that the people were naked” (Exod 32:25);

  • “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb 12:1-2);

  • “Be followers together of me [Paul]” (Phil 3:17);

  • “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12); and

  • “If meat make my brother to offend . . .” (1 Cor 8:9-13).

I use is taken as a shorthand for what David Kelsey has called “construal” of Scripture. A certain construal of Scripture lies behind the 1958 statement; it is not “unbiased.” The confidence that “sure guidance” will result from a posture of “prayerful study” resonates with the concerns about Posture in our Method. But that confidence does not consider the complexities of the interpretive Model and Method that our presenters offered us. Thanks to their work, we are most assuredly in a different place now than where we were in the 1950s. Aware as we are now of the Bible’s ancient character, diversity, and ambiguity, and the many ways inner-biblical interpretation informs us as to how changing perspectives over time are reflected in the Bible itself, we do well to imagine a richer and fuller understanding of Scripture that fills out what we mean when we say the Bible is the word of God that testifies to the Living Word of God (Jesus), who calls us, empowered by the Spirit, to follow him in life. Here is one way of construing Scripture that way: {40}

  1. The Bible is the charter document that the believing community through time has discerned and affirmed by the guidance of God concerning the vision of God’s cosmic creative and redemptive purposes.

  2. As readers enter its world, a community of character takes shape whose identity, vocation, and vision are refracted through changing social contexts, yet in continuity with the character and vocation of Jesus Christ.

  3. The Bible offers us ways of imagining and then improvising, through the empowering presence of God’s Spirit, the adaptable direction of God’s purposes into an uncertain future. This scriptural imagination is guided by the Bible’s ability to offer both a constructive and a critical word; it can be heard as a voice that speaks both for us and against us.

  4. The Bible is a witness to God’s purposes in various contexts by means of different modes of knowledge and in different kinds of documents.

  5. The Bible offers us patterns and models of God’s changing initiatives, as understood and refracted through the literary and theological conventions of the ancient world. God interacts faithfully and consistently for the purposes of cosmic restoration and reconciliation.

  6. We also find models of changing human responses to God’s recreating and redeeming initiative. These responses are always incomplete because they are culturally and socially informed, and fragmentary because of human proclivity to damage what God has made good.

  7. Scripture invites us not simply to imitate the past but to imagine the invitation of covenant relationship today in the context of our world and in the light of God’s vision for reconciliation and healing in the world.


  1. Other reasons provided to my mother included the common assumption that everything happens for a reason, or God doesn’t give us anything we cannot bear. On these arguments, see the fine book by Kate Bowler, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved (New York: {41} Random House, 2018).
  2. See Peter Enns, How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How an Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That’s Great News (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2019).
  3. See my article, “Slow Food: Feasting Sustainably on Scripture,” in A University of the Church for the World: Essays in Honour of Gerald Gerbrandt, ed. Paul Dyck and Harry J. Huebner (Winnipeg, MB: CMU Press, 2016), 211-30.
  4. “Interpreting Scripture Today: A Mennonite Brethren Model and Method,” Direction 49 (Fall 2020): 115-22. All following citations of this article will be noted by page numbers in the body of the article.
  5. As presented, the diagram appears as one, whereas the presenters indicate that it should be understood as two separate diagrams. As I understand the process of interpretation, it makes perfect sense for these to reflect a single diagram, since the Wi-Fi diagram flows directly out of “Community” at the top of the triangle. That way the diagram makes clear that Community is the context of interpretation.
  6. Palmer Becker, Anabaptist Essentials: Ten Signs of a Unique Christian Faith (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2017). See also Stuart Murray, Biblical Interpretation in the Anabaptist Tradition (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press; Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2000).
  7. With Jesus at the center, the church that interprets Scripture can “focus on the evangelion, the good news of Jesus Christ, as the Bible’s interpretive focus, center, and purpose” (Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible: Why “Biblicism” Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture [Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2011], 172).
  8. For example: John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Charles M. Wood, The Formation of Christian Understanding: Theological Hermeneutics (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1993); Peter J. Leithart, Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009); Stephen E. Fowl, Engaging Scripture: A Model for Theological Interpretation (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998); A. K. M. Adam, Faithful Interpretation: Reading the Bible in a Postmodern World (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006).
  9. For careful exploration of those complexities, see Merold Westphal, Whose Community? Which Interpretation? Philosophical Hermeneutics for the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2009).
  10. See, for example, Michael Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985).
  11. Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2017).
  12. See, for example, Christopher M. Hays’s Renouncing Everything: Money and Discipleship in Luke (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2016); and Luke T. Johnson, Sharing Possessions: What Faith Demands, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011).
  13. For development of those matters, see the following essays in my Believers {42} Church Bible Commentary, Joshua (Harrisonburg, VA; Waterloo, ON: Herald Press, 2012): “Conquest Accounts” (406-10), “Conquest and Land in the New Testament” (411-16), “Genocide and Sacred Violence” (430-33), “Herem, ‘Devoted to Destruction’ ” (433-34), “Mesha Inscription” (447-48), and “Theology of Warfare” (458-62).
  14. For a more detailed exploration of Posture, see Doug Heidebrecht’s article “Community Hermeneutics in Practice: Following the Interpretive Path Together,” Direction 49 (Fall 2020): 127-30.
  15. For reflections on experience that is not circumscribed by a predetermined “spiritual” or “correct” stance toward God, see Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013) and Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2015).
  16. Much more could be said about interpretive pluralism. See, for example, Stanley E. Porter and Matthew R. Malcolm, eds., The Future of Biblical Interpretation: Responsible Plurality in Biblical Hermeneutics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2013); and Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible. See also the article by Richard S. Briggs, “How to Do Things with Meaning in Biblical Interpretation,” Southeastern Theological Review 2, no. 2 (Winter 2011): 143-60.
  17. Some have suggested practices like improvisation or dramatic performance to describe the dynamic process of interpretation that strives for faithfulness in life. For an exploration of those practices, see my article “The Word Made Bitter: At the Table with Joshua, Buber, and Bakhtin,” in The Old Testament in the Life of God’s People: Essays in Honor of Elmer A. Martens, ed. Jon Isaak (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2009), 307-32.
  18. Whether or not Scripture can be appealed to in this random short list of issues is up for debate: Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID); the Jubilee year and contemporary economic practice; gun ownership and/or gun control; racism and police violence; LGBTQ inclusion/exclusion; Christian response to Indigenous land claims; quantum physics and the nature of reality.
  19. David Kelsey, The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975).
  20. Kelsey, 102.
  21. Kelsey, 103.
  22. Kelsey, 106. Italics in original.
  23. Kelsey, 107.
  24. Kelsey, 110.
  25. Kelsey, 111.
  26. Kelsey, 166.
  27. Kelsey, 200. For example, Karl Allen Kuhn suggests that we read the Bible well when we understand it as an ongoing conversation. See his Having Words with God: The Bible as Conversation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008). N. T. Wright suggests that reading the Bible involves imagining our way into an improvised future based on a careful reading of the “script” or drama in which we are the actors in a fifth, but unwritten final act in {43} God’s vision for restoring and healing a world gone awry. See his The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005). For a discussion of these construals see my essay, “The Word Made Bitter.”
  28. Smith, Bible Made Impossible, 170.
  29. Smith, 170.
  30. Kenton L. Sparks, Sacred Word, Broken Word: Biblical Authority and the Dark Side of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 140.
  31. The 1954 Statement was accepted by the Canadian Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church at its annual session in July 1954 in Virgil, Ontario, and printed in the 1954 Canadian Conference Yearbook (pp. 84-85). That statement was reprinted by Christian Press as “Danger in Television for the Spiritual Life.” The 1958 “Petition Concerning Television” was submitted to the national convention at its 48th meeting on July 5-9, 1958, in North Kildonan, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and printed in the 1958 Canadian Conference Yearbook.
Gordon Matties is Professor Emeritus at Canadian Mennonite University (Winnipeg, MB), having begun teaching at Mennonite Brethren Bible College in 1984. He studied at Briercrest College, University of British Columbia, Regent College, and Vanderbilt University (PhD). His Joshua commentary was published in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series (Herald Press, 2012). He has contributed to The New Interpreter’s Study Bible and The Common English Bible Study Bible.

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