LWF Hermeneutics Conference Discusses the Gospel of Matthew

Mr Bruk Ayele Asale speaking at the Hermeneutics Conference. Photo: LWF/ I. Benesch
Mr Bruk Ayele Asale speaking at the Hermeneutics Conference. Photo: LWF/ I. Benesch

Addressing issues relevant to our contemporary context

(LWI) Forty-four biblical scholars and theologians from around the world are meeting at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 4-10 September 2014 for the third Lutheran World Federation (LWF) International Hermeneutics Conference.

Based on the Gospel of Matthew, the conference aims to create space for a shared reading of the Bible among Lutheran scholars on the road to the Reformation anniversary in 2017.

Presenters have framed issues informed by global and local contexts ranging from matters of healing to caring for the environment and interfaith relations as a lens through which to read the Gospel of Matthew, said Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, LWF Study Secretary for Lutheran Theology and Practice.

“In each case, their perspective is informed by the reading of Scripture and attention to their own life situations. In conversations it has become clear how profoundly our contexts shape our perceptions and how crucial it is for us to listen to one another,” Mtata added.

Scripture Transforms Contexts

As Mr Bruk Ayele Asale of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) remarked, “Martin Luther and the other Reformers addressed the issues of their time on the basis of the eternal Word of God. The Word of God is dynamic, as they made clear. Like Luther and the Reformers we need to address the issues relevant to our contemporary context, using the dynamic Word of God, which is the same then, now, and forever.”

Mtata of the LWF’s Department for Theology and Public Witness (DTPW), noted that  the Lutheran scholars focused both on the extent to which context can inform the way in which Scripture is read, and that how Scripture is read can and should also transform  context.

“This emphasizes the critical role and significance of dialogue,” Mtata said.

Referring to the biblical scholar Mercedes Garcia Bachman, Brazil based theologian Dr Felipe Gustavo Koch Buttelli stated that “the plurality of voices and interpretations is exactly what constitutes the identity of our plural Lutheran communion, which still confesses the One Faith, but differently.”

Bear a Common Witness

Mtata emphasized that as participants continue their deliberations, they are deepening their affirmation that while such contextual sensitivity is central to the appropriation of the Scriptures today, there remains a need to find shared interpretive resources informed by the Reformation.  

“This will not put an end to particularity shaped by context but rather strengthen the Lutheran communion in its efforts to bear a common witness to the world in areas that are of concern to all, and to increased solidarity on issues that are peculiar to some,” Mtata said.

 According to Prof. Bernd Oberdorfer,  it is “the permanent task of theological hermeneutics” to draw attention to the tension between particularity and universality “in a reflected and responsible way.”