Revelation, Scripture and Church : Theological Hermeneutic Thought of James Barr, Paul Ricoeur and Hans Frei book cover
1st Edition

Revelation, Scripture and Church
Theological Hermeneutic Thought of James Barr, Paul Ricoeur and Hans Frei

ISBN 9781138311824
Published May 11, 2018 by Routledge
252 Pages

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Book Description

How does God's involvement with the generation of Holy Scripture and its use in the life of the Christian church figure into the human work of Scripture interpretation? This is the central question that this book seeks to address. In critical conversation with the influential hermeneutic programs of James Barr, Paul Ricoeur and Hans Frei, Topping demonstrates how God's agency has been marginalized in the task of Scripture interpretation. Divine involvement with the Bible is bracketed out (Barr), rendered in generic terms (Ricoeur) or left implicit (Frei) in these depictions of the hermeneutic field. The result is that each of these hermeneutic programs is less than a ’realist’ interpretative proposal. Talk of God is eclipsed by the terminal consideration of human realities. Topping argues for the centrality of doctrinal description in a lively theological understanding of Scripture interpretation for the life of the church.

Table of Contents


1 Revelation and Biblical Interpretation: Divine Disclosure and the Constitution of Faith

James Barr: Cumulative Tradition and Its Soteriological Function

Paul Ricoeur: Manifestation and the Hermeneutic Constitution of Faith

Hans Frei: Apologetics, Christology and Anthropology

The Birth and Shape of Modern Doctrines of Revelation

2 The Bible as Holy Scripture: Construal and Authority

James Barr: The Bible as Faith-Structured Classic Model

Paul Ricoeur: The Bible as Polyphonic Intertext that Names God

Hans Frei: The Bible Read ‘Literally’

3 The Church and the Bible Critically Read

James Barr: Critical Biblical Research and the Listening Church

Paul Ricoeur: Suspicious Hermeneutics and Submissive Communities

Hans Frei: The Critical Primacy of Sensus Literalis


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'...the great strengths of Topping’s book are its understanding of the thought of Barr, Ricoeur and Frei and its perceptiveness in detecting where dogmatic claims have been overridden by hermeneutical concerns... Topping’s book is mandatory reading for both biblical interpreters and Christian hermeneuticians.' – Theology Forum

'Revelation, Scripture and Church is a beneficial work for all those concerned with the validity, use, and interpretation of the Bible. Topping provides a useful outline of some of the most significant positions in contemporary hermeneutics and their outworking in the life of the Church. In particular, Topping’s treatment of Barr is excellent. Topping is also to be commended on his commitment to freeing the hermeneutics of the Christian community and academy from the spirit of our age, and pointing us back to the saving God who is alive and active in his special community and world through his words and Spirit.' – Journal of Theological Studies

'This well-researched monograph of three main proponents of Christian hermeneutical approaches to the Bible (Barr, Ricoeur, Frei) is a welcome addition to the literature on theological interpretation. ... The book's clear strength is the detailed, close readings of these figures; it is an informative, nuanced foray into their respective hermeneutics of Scripture.' – Religious Studies Review