Biblical Reasoning: Christological and Trinitarian Rules for Exegesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2022), by R. B. Jamieson and Tyler R. Wittman, is garnering significant praise. Fred Sanders calls it as “profound study,” a “master class,” and “triumph.” Scott Swain refers to it as a “profoundly learned, instructive, and helpful work” and believers that it is “a book of generational significance.”
Biblical reasoning, according to the late John Webster, is
the redeemed intellect’s
reflective apprehension of God’s gospel address
through the embassy of Scripture
enabled and corrected by God’s presence
and having fellowship with him as its end.
Jamieson and Wittmena’s biblical reasoning “rule-kit” involves a set of theological principles and their corresponding exegetical rules.
- By principle they mean “a doctrinal commitment, a constituent element of the catholic Christian faith.”
- The corresponding rule “turns an aspect of that principle into an exegetical guideline and guardrail, ‘operationalizing’ a theological principle for exegetical purposes.”
Think of it this way:
- the principle is the grammar of Scripture—the source of how various parts of Scripture speak about God and Christ.
- the rule is how Christians are to read Scripture with the grain of its own grammar—exhibiting guidelines that are intrinsic to Scripture itself.
The following chart lays out their seven principles and ten rules.
The first three rules are essential foundation and background; the last seven help readers to identify in Scripture the identity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in ways that fit with the the first three.
|Principle 1: Holy Scripture presupposes and fosters readers whose end is the vision of Christ’s glory, and therein eternal life. Biblical reasoning must be ordered to this same end.|
|Principle 2: Everything Scripture says about God is part of God’s meticulous and wise pedagogy, by which God adapts the form of his wisdom to educate finite and fallen creatures so that we might see his glory. Biblical reasoning fits within this larger context of divine teaching.|
|Principle 3: Scripture is the inspired, textual form of Christ’s teaching in which he is present to his people across time and space, leading us toward wisdom.||Rule 1: The Analogy of Faith
To rightly respond to God’s pedagogical pressures in his Word, read Scripture as a unity, interpreting its parts in light of the whole and understanding the whole as a harmonious testimony to God and his works.
Rule 2: Pedagogical Pressure
To understand the theological grammar and syntax of Scripture, read Scripture in such a way that you learn how its various discourses both form and presuppose a larger theological vision.
|Principle 4: God, who is the creator of all things ex nihilo, is holy, infinite, and unchangeable. Since God is qualitatively distinct from all things, he therefore differs from creatures differently than creatures differ from one another.||Rule 3: God-Fittingness
Biblical discourse about God should be understood in a way appropriate to its object, so read Scripture’s depictions of God in a manner that fits the canonical portrait of God’s holy name and his creation of all things out of nothing.
|Principle 5: The one true and living God is eternally Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, distinct in their relations to one another and the same in substance, power, and glory.||Rule 4: Common and Proper
Scripture speaks both of what is common to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and of what is proper to each person, reflecting the conceptual distinction between the divine nature and the divine persons. Biblical reasoning discerns this distinction, upholds it, and contemplates the Holy Trinity in its light. Therefore, read Scripture’s discourse about God in such a way that its twofold discourse—the common and the proper—is recognized and employed, rather than in a way that collapses the two ways into one. In this way, we learn to count persons rather than natures.
Rule 5: Inseparable Operations
The external works of the Trinity are indivisibly one, just as God is one. Whenever Scripture mentions only one or two divine persons, understand that all three are equally present and active, undertaking the same actions in ways that imply their relations to one another. In this way, learn to count persons rather than actions.
Rule 6: Appropriation
Scripture sometimes attributes to only one divine person a perfection, action, or name common to all three, because of some contextual fit or analogy between the common attribute and the divine person in question. Read such passages in a way that does not compromise the Trinity’s essential oneness and equality.
|Principle 6: One and the same Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, exists as one person in two natures, without confusion or change, without division or separation.||Rule 7: The Unity of Christ
The eternal, divine Son is the sole subject of everything Jesus does and suffers. Christ is one person, one agent, one “who.” Therefore, in reading Scripture’s witness to Christ we must never divide Christ’s acts between two acting subjects, attributing some to the divine Son and others to the human Jesus as if there were two different people.
Rule 8: The Communication of Idioms
Since Christ is a single divine person who subsists in both a divine and a human nature, Scripture sometimes names him according to one nature and predicates of him what belongs to the other nature. Scripture ascribes divine prerogatives to the man Jesus, and human acts and sufferings to the divine Son. So read Scripture in a way that recognizes and reproduces this paradoxical grammar of christological predication.
Rule 9: Partitive Exegesis
Scripture speaks of Christ in a twofold manner: some things are said of him as divine, and other things are said of him as human. Biblical reasoning discerns that Scripture speaks of the one Christ in two registers in order to contemplate the whole Christ. Therefore read Scripture in such a way that you discern the different registers in which Scripture speaks of Christ, yet without dividing him.
|Principle 7: Within their unity and equality, the three persons exist in relations of origin: the Son is eternally generated from the Father, and the Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son.||Rule 10: From Another
Scripture often attributes to the divine persons ordered relations and actions that do not compromise their unity and equality, but only signify that one person eternally exists from another: the Son from the Father, the Spirit from the Father and the Son. Read Scripture in a way that recognizes and upholds these ordered relations of origin.
R. B. Jamieson and Tyler R. Wittman, Biblical Reasoning: Christological and Trinitarian Rules for Exegesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2022), 239–41. Used by permission