Breaking open the text – A reflection on Chris Wright’s missional reading of Jeremiah

Author: Dr Brian Russell is Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary (Orlando campus) He is currently writing a book on a missional approach to biblical interpretation that will be published in 2010 by Wipf and Stock. He blogs regularly on issues of mission and biblical interpretation:


In my own faith journey as a biblical scholar, Chris Wright’s scholarship has nourished me. Under his influence, I have moved to embrace a missional hermeneutic as the means to hearing more clearly the Word of God. It is a privilege to offer a response to his lecture, ‘Prophet to the Nations’: Missional Reflections on the Book of Jeremiah.
Chris Wright demonstrates aptly the richness of a hermeneutic centered in mission. In conversation with George Hunsberger’s paper, Proposals for a Missional Hermeneutic: Mapping the Conversation, Wright applies three of Hunsberger’s summary points (1. Missional Framework of the biblical narrative, 2. The missional purpose of the texts, and 3. The missional locatedness of the readers) to the text of Jeremiah and proposes a fourth angle – the missional cost to the messenger. Wright’s lecture contributes to our theological and ethical understanding of the message of Jeremiah.
The ultimate test of any hermeneutic is its ability to make sense of the text that it purports to be interpreting. Wright’s missional reading breaks open Jeremiah in fresh ways that allow us to encounter the prophet’s words within the contexts of Israel’s role in God’s mission, Jeremiah’s audiences’ situation, and Jeremiah’s own life as a person called to serve in the prophetic office. The power of Wright’s engagement with Jeremiah is enhanced by the amount of text that he deploys in the course of the lecture. This demonstrates that a missional reading of Jeremiah is not a matter of “proof-texting” but a map to the entirety of the text.

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