Richard Hays’ Critique of the Critics

We can teach our students Greek and Hebrew. We can teach them logical fallacies to avoid and proper ways to diagram the text. However, we don’t want them to become cold-hearted “technicians” of the text. How do we teach our students in a way that fans the flame of their love for Scripture and the Godhead at the center of it, rather than forcing a dark veil of methodology to smother the flame?

With this concern in mind, I have decided to include a lecture on “Reading the Good Book with Faith, Hope, and Love” for my intro courses. What better source to turn to for guidance in the research for this lecture than Richard Hays? Have you read his outstanding essay, “Salvation by Trust? Reading the Bible Faithfully”? If not, it can be found online here. Here is a choice penultimate paragraph:

My concern that distrust may impede our reading of the Bible leads me to my final point. The real work of interpretation is to hear the text. We must consider how to read and teach scripture in a way that opens up its message and both models and fosters trust in God. So much of the ideological critique that currently dominates the academy fails to foster these qualities. Scripture is critiqued but never interpreted. The critic exposes but never exposits. Thus the word itself recedes into the background, and we are left talking only about the politics of interpretation, having lost the capacity to perform interpretations.


This is why theological interpretation of Scripture has made such an impact on scholarship recently. Scholars, young and old, abhor the drudgery that has become “Biblical Scholarship” and desire to move interpretation towards a constructive goal – wisdom, worship and mission.


3 thoughts on “Richard Hays’ Critique of the Critics

  1. I did not know that Prof Richard Hays is so cold-hearted in his approach. I think Hays’ works have much to do with readers’ spirituality. Today’s theological scholarship needs more of Hays. Theologians who are theologians indeed. Those who theology will not only affect the head but the heart. I think Hays is on the right track.

  2. I had the privilege of hearing him present this at the 1996 SBL Annual Meeting in New Orleans to a large crowd. I have attended at least 20 Annual Meetings through the years, and I believe that was the first and probably only time I ever witnessed a thundering, standing ovation in response to a paper or presentation.

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