Monday, October 21, 2013

Elizabeth Morgan on Holy Scripture as fundamental category of Systematic Theology

In her presentation, Ms Morgan focused on the question of how the Holy Scripture is available, especial with respect to the question of the Middle of the Holy Scripture.

The theme is the middle of scripture, which is treated from various theological disciplines, and from various interests--canonical, polemical for exclusion of old writings, unification of OT and NT (possibly via the middle of the OT then as a precondition.

The main systematic sketch is the one proposed by Ingolf Dalferth, who defines
Jesus Christus ist die externe Mitte der Schrift.
Identification of categories of that conceptual framework pile, and figuring out functions and definitions. This plays into practical efforts as well, for example, in the selection of pericopes within the EKD.

The term middle of Holy Writ because it has organizing influence and is a rhetoric figure, possibly even a tropos.

The middle itself is related to medium. Historically it was called centrum scripturae, the midpoint of the circle, possibly even the Archimedian, but is only attested for with Johann Gerhard (Loci Theologici), who claims to have this from Luther (though we have no record for that).

Alternate terms such as Evangelium, Kanon and Wort Gottes are all related to this term, but the specific details are complicated to explicate.

"Schriftprinzip" is itself a very late term, from the 19th century; the principium primum is the term that Luther employed.

Martin Kähler argued that the "eklektische Rezitation einzelner Bibelbelege" was not sufficient to fulfil the principium primum.

Scripture comes from the Latin scriptum, which is both the line and the act of writing, as well as the writ. But there is an oscillation between the singular and the plural; the Greek plural byblia becomes a singular in the biblia. "katas tas graphas" is translated as "gemaess der Schrift" in Luther's translation.

Scripture becomes the principium cognoscendi of the theology, which means it also becomes the norma normans.

Dalferth wants to see scripture inseperably tied to church and interpretation.

Sola Scriptura is the key with Luther. There are additional solae, specifically adding Christus, gratia and fide. But Luther does not provide the four as a block. The English tradition has a fifth, from Bach, where the glory of God is emphasized. What about verbo (which Jüngel suggested in reaction to the 19th century criticism) and experientia

The function of writs in the early protestant orthodoxy is expressed in five functions, namely auctoritas causativa, auctoritas normativa, sufficientia, Claritas and Efficiata.


  • Maybe the christological focus of Luther became the middle of the scripture focus in the reprocessing.
  • Systems of thought get worked out in later phases, though Luther may not have had all the bits and pieces put together, but that does not deny the prevent them being present.
  • The question of the OT needs separate treatment, and a focusing of the terminology needs to happen sooner rather than later.
  • Exposition present middle and scripture rather separately, but they are theologumena already and maybe cannot be treated helpfully without that context.
  • There is a common reformatorical pattern here, that can be found in Zwingli and Calvin as well.
  • Lectio continua does not require a middle of the scripture in the same way.
  • The positioning of scripture and tradition is key here, the role of the wildcard, which the middle can accept. 
  • Maybe the organization of the pericopes should be the umbrella of the whole effort.
  • Check Morphologie des Luthertums in the two volumes for details on the construction of the sola complex.
  • Spickermann's publication of a new biblical theology.
  • Problem of the lack of literature and littera as terminology.


  • Maybe the term is an exclusionary term, not an organizing term? 
  • Maybe you only need a middle if you have a historical canon that is actually heterogeneous?
  • Shouldn't there be just one sola?

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