Noted New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham has written two important works on the Bible and Mission. The most developed is his 2003 book Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World, which I posted about last week: Mission by way of the least in Luke. But prior to this he wrote a short essay entitled ‘Mission as Hermeneutic for Scriptural Interpretation‘, which he has made available on his website, along with a number of other Accessible lectures and essays.
The 1999 essay was presented in Cambridge as a Currents in World Christianity Position Paper. There are some very interesting points, which he expands on in the later book. I ask my students on the Reading the Bible Missionally module of Redcliffe’s MA in Bible and Mission to read both. At some points he differs from people such as Chris Wright, though at others he compliments them well.
Here are a couple of quotes to give you a flavour:
The title that was suggested to me for this lecture could be read in at least two ways, which are certainly not mutually exclusive. One could take it to mean that the church’s practice of mission is a form of scriptural interpretation. The Bible is the sort of text that calls for interpretation not only by means of more text but also by the practice of what it preaches. Could anyone really understand what it means to love enemies without doing it, or at least seeing it done? That the church’s mission in and to the world is the practice of the biblical text in which the text is constantly being interpreted is important, and we shall return to it at the end of the lecture. But it depends, I think, on the other possible meaning of my title. In this case the title refers to a missionary hermeneutic of Scripture, in other words a way of reading the Bible for which mission is the hermeneutical key, much as, for example, liberation is the hermeneutical key for the way of reading the Bible that liberation theology advocates. A missionary hermeneutic of this kind would not be simply a study of the theme of mission in the biblical writings, but a way of reading the whole of Scripture with mission as its central interest and goal. Of course, such a missionary hermeneutic could and should only be one way of reading Scripture among others, since mission itself is not the comprehensive subject of the whole Bible. But a missionary hermeneutic would be a way of reading Scripture which sought to understand what the church’s mission really is in the world as Scripture depicts it and thereby to inspire and to inform the church’s missionary praxis. Such a hermeneutic that reads the Bible with a view to mission should properly be developed in reciprocal relationship with the practice of mission as itself a practice of interpreting Scripture…
The biblical particularity of God’s own narrative identity is non-negotiable. But the effect of its encounter with other narratives is not uniform or predictable since they each have their own particularity. This is where the element of contextualization in a missionary hermeneutic is required. It is also the point at which missionary praxis turns out to be itself a necessary part of a missionary hermeneutic.