The Utility of Christianity
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After adding a few words about hope, he shows, in conclusion, that faith, hope, and love are graces essentially necessary for him who would understand and explain aright the Holy Scriptures. He first defines what a sign is, and shows that there are two classes of signs, the natural and the conventional. Of conventional signs which are the only class here noticed , words are the most numerous and important, and are those with which the interpreter of Scripture is chiefly concerned.
Trajectories through Early Christianity - Baylor University Press
The difficulties and obscurities of Scripture spring chiefly from two sources, unknown and ambiguous signs. The present book deals only with unknown signs, the ambiguities of language being reserved for treatment in the next book.
The difficulty arising from ignorance of signs is to be removed by learning the Greek and Hebrew languages, in which Scripture is written, by comparing the various translations, and by attending to the context. In the interpretation of figurative expressions, knowledge of things is as necessary as knowledge of words; and the various sciences and arts of the heathen, so far as they are true and useful, may be turned to account in removing our ignorance of signs, whether these be direct or figurative.
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Whilst exposing the folly and futility of many heathen superstitions and practices, the author points out how all that is sound and useful in their science and philosophy may be turned to a Christian use. And in conclusion, he shows the spirit in which it behooves us to address ourselves to the study and interpretation of the sacred books.
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BOOK III The author, having discussed in the preceding book the method of dealing with unknown signs, goes on in this third book to treat of ambiguous signs. Such signs may be either direct or figurative.
In the case of direct signs ambiguity may arise from the punctuation, the pronunciation, or the doubtful signification of the words, and is to be resolved by attention to the context, a comparison of translations, or a reference to the original tongue. In the case of figurative signs we need to guard against two mistakesi.
The interpreting literal expressions figuratively; 2. The interpreting figurative expressions literally. The author lays down rules by which we may decide whether an expression is literal or figurative; the general rule being, that whatever can be shown to be in its literal sense inconsistent either with purity of life or correctness of doctrine must be taken figuratively. He then goes on to lay down rules for the interpretation of expressions which have been proved to be figurative; the general principle being, that no interpretation can be true which does not promote the love of God and the love of man.
On Christian Doctrine
The author then proceeds to expound and illustrate the seven rules of Tichonius the Donatist, which he commends to the attention of the student of Holy Scripture. BOOK IV Passing to the second part of his work, that which treats of expression, the author premises that it is no part of his intention to write a treatise on the laws of rhetoric.
These can be learned elsewhere, and ought not to be neglected, being indeed specially necessary for the Christian teacher, whom it behooves to excel in eloquence and power of speech. After detailing with much care and minuteness the various qualities of an orator, he recommends the authors of the Holy Scriptures as the best models of eloquence, far excelling all others in the combination of eloquence with wisdom.
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He points out that perspicuity is the most essential quality of style, and ought to be cultivated with special care by the teacher, as it is the main requisite for instruction, although other qualities are required for delighting and persuading the hearer. The eight essays that comprise this volume seek a wholesale redefinition of the task of New Testament studies, as well as illustrating this newly conceived task. Robinson and Koester claim that the New Testament cannot be read apart from other early Christian literature and that the regnant designation of "canon" is misleading because it obscures the essential fluidity of early Christianity.
Robinson and Koester not only question the artificial limits of the New Testament as a whole, but also the utility of the most commonly accepted forms Gattungen that constitute the New Testament. In the end, even the labels "orthodoxy" and "heresy" should be abandoned—along with an outmoded belief that orthodoxy preceded heresy and formed the center of Christianity. From its birth, Christianity was pluriform, and what later came to be known as "orthodoxy" and "heresy" were only two of many equally legitimate trajectories running through Christianity.