Epistemology and Logic in the New Testament

Douglas Kennard

 

 

The latest book by Douglas Kennard (professor of NT and Philosophy of Religion at HGST) has just come off the press for the new year: Epistemology and Logic in the New Testament. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2016. Thesis: The universe of the philosopher and that of the biblical exegete rarely cross the same landscape and rarely share the same methodologies. This book is an attempt to bridge this rift.

Each of the biblical contributors provide a vivid testimony. Each chapter engages rabbinic language and thought forms utilized by the biblical author, especially the chapters on Jesus, Paul, and Hebrews. All the chapters explore aspects of Jewish-Christian midrash, re-appropriating Old Testament quotes and narrative in a new performative pesher manner to present Jesus as the Christ. Therefore, there are prominent roles for inspired biblical revelation, mystical vision, dream or audible divine voice, which all possessed a significant authoritative place in Pharisaic-rabbinic Judaism and Alston’s mystical empiricism. Biblical epistemologists are extensively engaged in this book but they tend to approach the field though word studies of “knowledge” rather than philosophical categories. That is, the biblical thought forms tend to be more Jewish than Hellenistic. However, the Lukan historiography extensively engages Hellenistic Greco-Roman historiographic method and the concept of “witness” to explain the historical precision and why writing began mid-first century instead of upon Jesus’ departure.

The biblical contributors express an oral stage of engaging Christianity from within a properly basic communal faith system of a Christian-rabbinic worldview. This approach includes a communal application of common sense realism. This non-foundational realism was carried on in communal oral tradition as was practiced among synagogue and the rabbinics, communally resilient tradition over generations. When multiple interpretations occur concerning miracles, an epistemic dualistic non-foundational Lockean epistemology emerges where miraculous signs contribute to the authority of the testimony conveyed by the individual or group. Occasionally, this Lockean approach adds an internal transformation much as Jonathan Edwards modified Locke to set forth his religious affections. These religious affections are often caused by God to fund a divine virtue epistemology. At times these authors try to confirm whether their readers are authentic in the narrow way and when this occurs the Edwardsian religious affection is appropriated through Peircian pragmatism. This internal knowledge with its self-referential confirmation for a personal relationship participates within the range of filial knowledge.

 

David Capes, Academic Dean of HGST says the following of this volume: “Few New Testament scholars are able to range effortlessly into the philosophical depths, but Doug Kennard is one who can and does. Working from the emerging consensus, namely, that the matrix of early Christianity is second temple Judaism, Kennard reconstructs the epistemology of Jesus and some of his earliest followers. He does so by taking seriously their ways of knowing through Scriptural exegesis, mystical visions and auditions, witness, and history. There is something here for both philosophers and exegetes. Well researched. Well documented. Highly recommended.”

 

Peter Davids, editor of Word Biblical Commentary says the following of this volume: “Kennard has written a unique book, so much so that one cannot think of another like it. One wonders if the stars will ever align again so that someone educated in both epistemology and biblical studies will try to carry on this important conversation? If not, this will indeed be a one-of-a-kind fruit of the mature thought of a scholar giving us a unique lens through which to look at the gems that form the New Testament.”

 

Article on HGST’s Official Blog