Cart 0 Log In
SBL Press Bookstore
The Multivalence of Biblical Texts and Theological Meanings
Charlene T. Higbe, Brenna Moore; Christine Helmer, editor
Publication Date
November 2006


This important interdisciplinary collection, a sequel to the collection of essays in Biblical Interpretation: History, Context, and Reality, builds upon the latter work by exploring the relations between biblical texts and questions of the historical and metaphysical realities that play into the interpretation of these texts. This volume tailors the hermeneutical question to the issue of how theological meaning is identified among a plurality of different meanings that the same text presents. The key biblical-theological problem addressed by this objective is twofold: the historical analysis of a plurality of meanings given by one text, and the relation between theological interpretation and the evolution of the text toward this theological determination. Too often theological meaning is regarded as an imposition of an “alien” conceptuality rather than as a function of the text on at least one of its layers. Furthermore, theological interpretation tends to isolate one layer of meaning as the truth of the text without regarding the resonance of other layers in its interpretation. The essays in The Multivalence of Biblical Texts and Theological Meanings show how the theological perspective can account for the historical and semantic diversity of a text while also giving reasons for the selection of one layer as significant for making a theological claim. Theological interpretation is formed by an engagement with the historical perspective, while historical plurality is intimately related to theological consideration.

Christine Helmer is Senior Scholar in Theology at Harvard Divinity School. She is the author of The Trinity and Martin Luther (von Zabern) and co-editor of Biblical Interpretation: History, Context, and Reality (Society of Biblical Literature) and One Scripture or Many? Canon from Biblical, Theological, and Philosophical Perspectives (Oxford University Press). Charlene T. Higbe is a faculty assistant at Harvard Divinity School.

“The essays vary a great deal in length and in respect of how wide-ranging the discussion becomes but they each demonstrate ways in which theology can determine how a text is read and how the choice of reading strategies can determine theological outcomes. This volume will be of interest to those working on the reception history of texts, as well as those who seek to engage with others, in a pluralist world, about the theological meaning of biblical texts.”
— J. E. Tollington, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

“Working from the presupposition that biblical texts are ‘underdetermined’, this collection of essays aims to show how ‘historical and theological approaches are mutually reciprocal in the study of the relations between biblical texts and their theological meanings’ (p. 3). The book builds on the insights of its predecessor volume, Biblical Interpretation, History, Context, and Reality (2005), which had explored the relationship between texts and their claims about reality. Here, the view is taken that theological theories are formed in response to the inherent invitation of biblical texts to explore their textuality, their place in history and their referents. The belief that particular biblical texts generate only one theological meaning is challenged in a series of clear and well-argued essays. … While amply demonstrating the complexity of the relationship between biblical multivalence and theological meanings, the essays themselves are on the whole models of clarity and a pleasure to read.”
— Alison Jack, Journal for the Study of the New Testament


Introduction: Multivalence in Biblical Theology
—Christine Helmer

For the Love of Christ: Generic and Unique Elements in Christian Theological Readings of the Song of Songs
—David Carr

Fixity and Potential in Isaiah
—C. R. Seitz

The Term “Sacrifice” and the Problem of Theological Abstraction: A Study of the Reception History of Genesis 22:1–19
—Christian A. Eberhart

“Consider the Lilies of the Field…”: A Sociorhetorical Analysis of Matthew 6:25–34
—Lincoln E. Galloway

Luke-Acts and Negotiation of Authority and Identity in the Roman World
—Gary Gilbert

The Fall and Human Depravity
—John Barton

“Who Can Forgive Sins but God Alone?”: Jesus, Forgiveness, and Divinity
—Stephen T. Davis

Worship in Spirit and Truth: Louis-Marie Chauvet’s Sacramental Reading of John 4:21–24
—Kevin Mongrain

“… Who Proceeds from the Father”—And the Son? The Use of the Bible in the Filioque Debate: A Historical and Ecumenical Case Study and Hermeneutical Reflections
—Bernd Oberdorfer

Recovering the Real: A Case Study of Schleiermacher’s Theology
—Christine Helmer