Symposium Introduction


Ephraim Radner
Olivier-Thomas Venard
Angela Parker
Bo H. Lim
John Behr



Divine Scripture in Human Understanding addresses the confusing plurality of contemporary approaches to Christian Scripture—both within and outside the academy—by articulating a traditionally grounded, constructive systematic theology of Christian Scripture. Utilizing primarily the methodological resources of Bernard Lonergan and traditional Christian doctrines of Scripture recovered by Henri de Lubac, it draws upon achievements in historical critical study of Scripture, studies of the material history of Christian Scripture, reflection on philosophical hermeneutics and philosophical and theological anthropology, and other resources to articulate a unified but open horizon for understanding Christian Scripture today.

Following an overview of the contemporary situation of Christian Scripture, Joseph Gordon identifies intellectual precedents for the work in the writings of Irenaeus, Origen, and Augustine, who all locate Scripture in the economic work of the God to whom it bears witness by interpreting it through the Rule of Faith. Subsequent chapters draw on Scripture itself; classical sources such as Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine, and Aquinas; the fruit of recent studies on the history of Scripture; and the work of recent scholars and theologians to provide a contemporary Christian articulation of the divine and human locations of Christian Scripture and the material history and intelligibility and purpose of Scripture in those locations. The resulting constructive position can serve as a heuristic for affirming the achievements of traditional, historical-critical, and contextual readings of Scripture and provides a basis for addressing issues relatively underemphasized by those respective approaches.


Reviews and Endorsements

“This book is a rich meditation on the theology of scripture. Its thoroughness, variety of interlocutors, clarity of expression, and irenic results make it suitable for undergraduate and graduate courses in doctrine or biblical interpretation. The substantive contributions it makes to the constructive articulation of scripture make this rewarding reading for systematic theologians and biblical scholars as well.” —Jonathan Platter, Reviews in Religion and Theology

“Erudite and brimming with ethical sensitivity, Gordon’s Divine Scripture in Human Understanding develops a systematic theology to help contemporary readers better understand the nature and purpose of scripture, how it shapes the Christian imagination, and how it gives rise to new understandings of God’s saving work in human history. . . . Although Gordon repeatedly stresses the indefinite article in his book’s title, insisting that his work represents merely a systematic theology of scripture, this act of humility sells his work short. For those seeking to reconcile a Christian view of holy writ with contemporary advances in philosophy and science, or with the seemingly infinite number of methods and interpretations that have only multiplied with the advent of digital communication, Divine Scripture is quite possibly the most important work on the subject in decades.” —Joshua Smith, Reading Religion

“Joseph Gordon here undertakes the demanding task of setting out a detailed account of a Christian doctrine of Scripture in the fullest context of systematic theology. Through six closely-reasoned chapters, he situates Scripture with relation to formal doctrinal teachings, to the manifest material properties of Bibles, to questions of meaning, to the development of doctrine, to ascribing divine characteristics to material entities—to any number of other relevant topics. . . . [A] commendable achievement. . . . Gordon’s project brings a markedly fresh perspective to problems that sometimes seem as though they have been done to death.” —A. K. M. Adam, Modern Theology

“[T]his volume reflects the impressive depth and breadth of Gordon’s reading. The great strength of this volume is synthetic, systematic pulling together of various positions and arguments into a systematic theology of scripture. . . . [Divine Scripture in Human Understanding] does extraordinarily important synthetic work.”  —Steven E. Fowl, Scottish Journal of Theology

Divine Scripture in Human Understanding delivers on its promise. It is, in fact, a systematic theology of the Christian Bible in Lonergan’s refined sense of systematics. It advances multiple conversations at the same time (biblical studies, systematic theology, hermeneutics, patristics, and even studies of Henri de Lubac . . .). It is a major contribution to Lonergan studies.” —Ryan Hemmer, The Lonergan Review

“Joseph Gordon’s first book . . . achieves something truly impressive. For Divine Scripture in Human Understanding is straightaway a major contribution to the fields of biblical interpretation and the doctrine of Scripture, combining influences and areas of research in novel and sometimes unique ways.” —Brad East, Anglican Theological Review

“On the whole, Gordon makes an important contribution in this work to thinking about questions of revelation as well as to Lonergan studies. As a systematic theology of the Bible, it is impressive precisely because it makes clear systematic arguments. Indeed, the work proceeds outward from the Bible to articulate a theology of God, human beings, and God’s self-communication to people through revelation.” —Daniel Rober, Horizons

Divine Scripture in Human Understanding is Joseph K. Gordon’s attempt to offer a theology of Scripture that is both theologically compelling and also attentive to the nuances of human history. . . . Gordon’s work is successful in what it sets out to do. It is technically precise, extensively researched, and gracious in tone.” —Cole William Hartin, Journal of Anglican Studies

“This wide-ranging, informative, and readable study . . . offers the reader ‘a systematic theology of the Christian Bible,’ intended to assist contemporary Christians in the ‘perennial challenges’ of ‘[d]etermining the function and role of Scripture in Christian life and thought and articulating the precise parameters of interpretation of the Bible.’” —Jeffrey Peterson, Christian Studies

“Due to the trenchant work displayed by Gordon, his theology of Scripture is required reading for any scholar doing work on the nature and purpose of Holy Writ and it is worth wrestling through and interacting with for the serious student of theologies of Scripture.” —Thomas Haviland-Pabst, Criswell Theological Review

“Gordon uses a wide range of sources from the patristic thinkers to the present day to make arguments that will resonate with and challenge readers across denominational lines. . . . Scholars of systematic theology and biblical studies will find this book essential reading for the ways that it speaks to both theological doctrines about the nature of Scripture, and the practical implication of these beliefs on those who read Scripture in faith.” —Aaron Klink, Religious Studies Review 

“[It] is possible that this is the book that we need at just this time, helping us to read the Bible with both learning and integrity[.] . . . This is a book to be read by anyone who has an interest in knowing how to read the Bible in the context of religious faith.” —Nicholas King, The Heythrop Journal

“[R]ichly compendious . . . deep, wide, and rewarding” —Matthew Z. Vale, Nova et Vetera

Divine Scripture in Human Understanding has the potential to greatly aid the ways in which Scripture is used and understood in theological debate, especially in those communities that are more biblically oriented. Its sophisticated discussion of the actual history of Scripture within an overall context of divine providence undoes any attempt at fundamentalism. The book is accessible to nonspecialists, but will be of greater value to those who are seeking professionally to understand their own performance in relation to questions such as ‘What do we mean by biblical theology?’ and ‘Is biblical theology just exegesis?’” —Neil Ormerod, Australian Catholic University

“‘Christians need to learn how to read, hear, and meditate on Scripture in a Christian manner.’ This substantial and important book spells this out, in the form of a systematic theology of the Bible, in dialogue with the church fathers and with Bernard Lonergan and Henri de Lubac. It sets Scripture in a trinitarian context and makes a strong case for its inspiration and authority.” —John Barton, Oriel and Laing Professor Emeritus of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford

“Joseph K. Gordon’s approach to the perennial question for Christians of how to read Scripture—how, that is, to understand its contents, its modes of discourse, its spiritual authority, and its historical contingencies in the light of theological tradition and practice—is subtle, deft, and penetrating. The result, moreover, is a volume at once remarkably comprehensive and delightfully concise. Students of theology will profit from it immensely, but so will accomplished masters of the craft.” —David Bentley Hart, University of Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study

“This remarkable book offers a thoroughly trinitarian approach to a systematic theology of Holy Scripture, rooting it in the rule of faith, in constructive appropriation of premodern understandings of Scripture to address postmodern paradoxes, and in absolute honesty about modern historical consciousness and awareness of the contingencies of textual transmission, of biblical diversity, and of linguistic indeterminacy. It affirms that, as the useful instrument of divine pedagogy, Scripture proves capable of perennially transforming human lives. Thus what we have here is a wonderful corrective to bibliolatry which substantiates the indispensable and vital connection between the Word of God incarnate and the Word of God inscribed.” —Frances Young, Edward Cadbury Professor Emerita of Theology, University of Birmingham

“Joseph Gordon offers a sophisticated, creative, and compelling account of the human-divine character of Scripture, and of Scripture’s instrumental role in the divine economy of human transformation for participation in the life of the Triune God. Gordon’s treatments of the rule of faith as hermeneutical necessity, the soul (reinterpreted for our context) as the subject of transformation, and the theological significance of the Bible’s concrete, diverse instantiations inform his overall project in fresh ways. This is an important volume that deserves the careful attention of both biblical scholars and theologians.” —Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, St. Mary’s Seminary & University

“God may not have a context, but Scripture—God’s inscripturated word—certainly does, and the major contribution of Gordon’s study lies in its careful unpacking of the role that various historical contexts have on its authors’ and readers’ categories of understanding. As an added bonus, Divine Scripture in Human Understanding contains one of the clearest descriptions of Bernard Lonergan’s unique approach to theology’s task of faith seeking textual and traditioned understanding for today that I have yet come across.” —Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology,

“If we are to live in light of Scripture, it is imperative to discern what it is and how it functions. In Divine Scripture in Human Understanding, Joseph Gordon answers essential meta questions about the Bible, convincingly locating Scripture in the redemptive economy of the three-in-one God. This is a gift to the church.” —Matthew W. Bates, Quincy University, OnScript

Let us notify you when this symposium starts!