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→3# In keeping with the purpose of this Text-Reader Series this volume of essays on biblical interpretation from Anabaptist-Mennonite perspectives seeks to make a helpful resource available to the seminary classroom. As the table of contents indicates, the essays represent four areas of investigation and contribution.

The first eight says identify major emphases in Anabaptist biblical interpretation. One of the puzzles which these essays raise in my mind is the chicken and the egg question: did the commitment to obedience precede and enable distinctive views on the relation of the Testaments, ethical Cristocentrism and believers baptism or did these insights come first and then lead to obedience unto death? Or, did their view on the spirit and the Word lead to these distinctive insights and positions? Or, did larger historical developments—the "fulness of time"==produce this particular mix of factors?

Essays 9 and 10 focus on developments between the sixteenth century and present Mennonite experience. These essays show that the Bible continued to hold an important place in Mennonite thought and life, but also that a shift occurred in the early twentieth century, at least in MC quarters: the Bible itself, its inspiration and authority defined in specific, fundamentalistic categories, became an object of the belief system. More work needs to be done on this entire time period, especially on the seventeenth-nineteenth centuries.

The third section of essays represents current endeavors of Mennonites to evaluatively reflect on both method and authority. These essays tackle the big issues: how might Mennonites, informed by Anabaptist patterns of biblical interpretation, respond to and possibly utilize contemporary scholarship (Lind)? Is a hermeneutical bridge between the first and twentieth century really needed (Enz)? And if so, by which route, a la Janzen's description of the proposed varieties? What is the historical-critical method and what does it do—how does it work (Brunk)? What are its philosophical presuppositions and how should they be evaluated (Miller)? Further, what are its strengths and weaknesses, and in what directions is biblical scholarship currently moving (Swartley)? And finally, in view of the tendency of such methods to emphasize diversity within the canon—even apparent contradiction at the propositional level, what does the authority of Scripture as canon mean (Yoder)?

→4 The fourth group of essays then addresses the important practical issue: what is the function of Scripture in the teaching-preaching ministries of congregational life? As one bears in mind these purposes of scripture, discriminating perspectives emerge for evaluating issues raised in part III.

My Afterword seeks to identify points of continuity and change in the 450 year history, focusing especially on contemporary trends in biblical interpretation. Some proposals for priority of emphasis are put forward for the purpose of stimulation and testing, both in the circles of this book's readers and by the congregations they serve.

The Bibliography is not complete; it calls attention to selected important articles. I made some effort to show the history of the hermeneutics discussion among the Mennonite college Bible and seminary faculties. I am grateful for these endeavors and the permission to use in this collection essays arising from these occasions. I am especially indebted to the council of Mennonite Seminaries for papers given at the 1977 LaGrange Consultation (chs. 3, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, and 20) and to the Mennonite Quarterly Review, ed. John Oyer, for permission to use articles from its April 1966 issue, lectures presented originally at Bethel College in 1964 as the Menno Simon Lecturs (chs. 5, 6, 7, and 8), and its October 1967 issue, papers presented at the Goshen Biblical Seminary Alumni meeting in 1966 (csh. 2 and 10). I thank the MQR also for the article (July 1967) appearing here as chapter 9, presented originally to the Mennonite Seminary in Montevideo in 1965. I express appreciation also to Direction for use of the article (from Val. 6, No. 2, 1977) appearing here as chapter 4 (though now in revised form), to Herald Press for permission to use Lind's essay (ch. 11), published in the Guy F. Hershberger Festschrift, Kingdom, Cross and Community (1976), and to publisher H. D. Tjeenk Willing for permission to photo-produce Dyck's article as published in the J. A. Oosterbaan Festschrift, De Geest in het gelding (1978).

I thank the authors whose essays have made this volume possible. Thanks go also to Charmaine Jeschke, Carol Martin, Rachel Stoltzfus and Mary Swartley for editorial assistance and proofreading, and to Carol Martin, Rachel Stoltzfus, Emilie Seitz and especially Sue Yoder for typing and related tasks in manuscript preparation.

Willard Swartley, Editor
March, 1984.


§ This essay was published in Essays in Biblical Interpretation: Anabaptist-Mennonite Perspectives, ed. Willard M. Swartley (Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 1984), pp. 3-4. Copyright © 1984 Institute of Mennonite Studies. All rights reserved. Published online by permission of Institute of Mennonite Studies.

# These numerical notations indicate the page breaks in the published book. When citing this essay, please cite the appropriate page number(s) in the published book.