Does this mean that we can abandon it and have complete interpretive freedom? Definitely not. In the next section, Daley lays out what the interpretive framework of the early church was. They:
- Saw the hand of a provident God in Scripture, and they interpreted historical texts in light of that.
- Read the Bible as a unified narrative
- Interpreted the Bible using 'the Rule of Faith,' or as some put it today, interpreting within the framework of creedal orthodoxy (a la Kent Sparks). Core theological truth could not be denied, but there was much freedom regarding the interpretation of individual passages of Scripture.
- Recognized the diversity of Scripture, but at the same time saw the story of the Bible as being coherent, thus in their view, the Bible never contradicted itself.
- Primarily focused on the scriptural rather than the historical meaning of the text, meaning a focus on what the Bible meant to them in their time, not just in 'application' of the text, but its theological meaning. The more pious interpretation was favored.
In the final section, Daley asks if historical criticism has any roll to play in our understanding the Bible as Scripture. He says it still does and that its roll, 'must be to free readers from the same destructive literalism that Origen recognized as the basis of most false interpretation of the Bible - taking the apparent face value of a text so seriously, so much in isolation from the rest of the cannon, that we invest it with a meaning at odds with both its probably original sense and its traditional Christian application' (p. 87). I think this point is helpful. The historical critical method is seen here as being more defensive than anything else. It helps guard us from going in an unfruitful direction.
Daley then concludes with a plea to interpret the Bible along the lines of the ancient Christians, for the sake of the church. Biblical scholarship is not an end in itself, it has a roll, to feed preaching, to feed the feeding of the church, and that must remain our central concern.
As much as I want to agree with Daley, I must ask, though, if the 'Rule of Faith' is a good rule. But perhaps that should be the subject of another post on another day.