A Tale of Two Textual Traditions

Recently I’ve drifted through Jaroslav Pelikan’s odd little book, Interpreting the Bible and the Constitution (mostly reading this material while on airplanes in the last week). I say odd, because while Mr Pelikan makes a lot of interesting connections between the hermeneutical traditions behind the extraction of meaning by the Church from the Bible and the legal community from the Constitution it is hard to see what to do with the connections thus made.

One such striking observation made by Mr Pelikan are in some of the parallels between their traditions. One such interesting parallel is that today academic theology and academic legal thinking no longer actively orders its study to serve the practice of its attendant organs (as it once did). Specifically, academic legal writing and thought is not directed at aiding and influencing the practice of practical law and theology is not aimed at producing insights for pastoral application.

Another thought which struck me concerned the divisions in the modern church on the other hand … and the Civil War and other political organs of power which prevent similar divisions from occurring in the Union. Modern evangelicals and protestants deride and dismiss the hierarchical structure of the Eastern and Roman churches and particularly point to efforts to keep ecclesiastic and theological unity within those churches. However, those same people applaud the civil war and stand firmly against separatist movements within the nation.

Mr Pelikan does occasionally amuse himself (and the reader) by tweaking the reader’s expectations. Allusions to liturgical trappings … are found to allude not to Church at times but to the rite and rituals (and dress) of the law courts.

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