Scripture and Its Interpretation

A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible


21. Scripture and Christian Ethics: Embodying Pentecost

Reviewing the Chapter

  1. What does this chapter mean when it contends that Scripture is ethics?
  2. What is the difference between this claim (that Scripture is ethics) and the common way of speaking about Scripture and ethics?
  3. According to the chapter, what are three reductive understandings of Christian ethics that make it difficult to understand the claim that Scripture itself is already ethics?
  4. What are three challenges to scholarly accounts of the relationship between Scripture and ethics?
  5. Since, according to this chapter, Christian ethics is not merely “moral decisions about right and wrong actions,” how should Christian ethics be understood?
  6. What is the meaning for Christian ethics of concepts such as “living exegesis” and “improvisation”?
  7. In what ways can Pentecost (narrated in Acts 2) be understood as scriptural embodiment?

Engaging a Central Issue

Respond to the following claim Brent Laytham makes in this chapter (pp. 358–59):

Locating meaning in the past and application in the present has two effects. First, it can allow for the claim of neutrality: both biblical studies and Christian ethics can be done entirely as description of what texts meant or how and why Christians act, without any commitment to the truth or goodness of what is studied. Second, seeking past meaning hermeneutically mediated for present application hides the reality that the church across time is Scripture’s true audience, called to be interpretation enfleshed, or living exegesis (as several chapters in this book put it).

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Did this chapter challenge any of your preconceived ideas about ethics? What new insights, and possibly also new questions, do you have?
  2. Which of the difficulties and challenges discussed in the chapter most affect your ability to see that Scripture already is ethics?
  3. How do you think students of Scripture/ethics should handle the scholarly challenges of specialization, particularity, and historical distance?
  4. How might some of the claims about Pentecost as scriptural embodiment help your church or other Christian community more faithfully embody the Decalogue, the Sermon on the Mount, Psalm 104, Genesis 1–2, or Ephesians?