Patience as Hermeneutical Practice: Christ, Church, and Scripture in John Howard Yoder and Hans Frei

Hershberger, Nathan, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Ochs, Peter, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Jones, Paul, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

Christian reading, if shaped by the cross and resurrection of Christ, is patient—a patience that consists in openness to the strange, continuing work of God in the words of Scripture. In the following pages, I trace this theme through Yoder’s ecclesiology and exegetical practice, Frei’s historiography, hermeneutics, and Christology and end with a reading of a resurrection encounter in the gospel of Luke. Yoder’s reading of the New Testament and his articulation of the role of Scripture in the reform of church communities will serve as the springboard for my account of patience. But Yoder’s ecclesially-focused readings of Scripture test the limits of the patience I find in his work. Next, Frei provides not only a helpful historical analysis that clarifies the difficulties in Yoder, but also an account of the presence of Christ to the reader that thickens and broadens Yoder’s emphasis on discipleship as integral to the interpretation of Scripture. In pursuit of the hermeneutic identified by Yoder and clarified by Frei, I conclude these pages with a reading of the Emmaus road story from the Gospel of Luke in order to articulate a way Christian communities might understand the presence of Christ to Scripture, and to their reading of it. The purpose of this final reflection—and this work as a whole—will not be to demonstrate the results of a “correct,” or “purely” patient hermeneutic, but rather to explore, complicate, and gesture towards what it might mean for the reading habits of Christian communities to be formed by the cross and resurrection of Christ. To be patient in this way, after this example, is not to possess a certain virtue, much less a certain method, but to be constantly engaged in—as Chris Huebner has argued—a series of dispossessions, a readiness to be challenged, overruled, and judged by the many words of Scripture as they point to that one “Word of truth so exceedingly strange that we nailed it to the cross.”

MA (Master of Arts)
discipleship, Scripture, Anabaptism, John Howard Yoder, discernment, ecclesiology, hermeneutics, patience, pacifism, theology, Hans Frei
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