In working through some of these questions, I have found the following paper by Adela Yarbro Collins to be most helpful in that it aids the reader to think methodically through a veritable maze of options:
(Presidential Address delivered to the New England Region
of the Society of Biblical Literature, 22 April 2005.)
In her conclusion, the divine Adela states:
“Theological warrants should never be used to justify historical claims. Those, however, who aim at a theological interpretation need not, and probably should not, begin with the results of historical analysis of the texts. What is needed is a wholistic approach that construes the text in terms of the interpreter’s philosophical and theological premises or in terms of whatever conceptual framework takes the place of such premises. Theological interpretations that avoid contradicting the results of historical study, however, are likely to be more persuasive than those that do.”
Working one’s way up to this last paragraph is enormously satisfying, and I wholeheartedly recommend this piece to all interested in exploring the intersection of historical study and theological interpretation.
Every bit as demanding as Collins’ paper (and therefore also every bit as satisfying) is Richard Muller’s discussion under the headings “History, Canon and Criticism,” “The Old Testament,” “The New Testament,” and “Biblical Theology” in chapter 2 of his masterful book, The Study of Theology: From Biblical Interpretation to Contemporary Formulation (Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation 7; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), pages 62-96. There is much more to unpack in these 34 pages by a “dabbler at best” (p. 17) in Old and New Testament studies than in far more ambitious works by specialist in those fields. [N.B.: Muller’s book is also available in the very sensibly priced one-volume edition of this series: Moisés Silva (ed.), Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996).]
1 Christopher R. Seitz, “The Canonical Approach and Biblical Interpretation,” in Craig G. Bartholomew et al. (eds.), Canon and Biblical Interpretation, Scripture and Hermeneutics Series, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 104.