Rebuke – Of the most important theological divides that separate Islam and Christianity, one of the maximum tough to pin down is the denial of the crucifixion of Jesus in Muslim culture. Though the assertion that Jesus did now not die on the cross appears in only a part of one difficult verse inside the Qur’an (Q4:157, see below), scholars agree that the majority view within Islam is this verse “affirms categorically that Christ did no longer die on the go and that God raised him to Godself.” In reality, the rejection of the crucifixion has “emerge as a kind of shibboleth of orthodoxy,” accordingly presenting a vast project for Muslim-Christian engagement.
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Rebuke – This dogma isn’t always, but, with out its difficulties: it calls for rejection of the broad scholarly consensus that the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth outdoor Jerusalem beneath the oversight of Pontius Pilate is an inedible historical reality; it traces exegesis of different elements of the Qur’an and looks to rely upon strained exegesis of one verse; and it has spawned a huge range of frequently speculative and contradictory reasons. But does the Qur’an itself virtually deny the resurrection?
Such is the query this text tries to reply. By reading the textual facts and interpretive records, it will likely be argued that the belief that Jesus turned into now not crucified truly stems from an anti-Jewish polemical passage that was misinterpreted along both Shi’a and Sunni lines and cemented via medieval orthodoxy. In different words, it isn’t always the Qur’an itself that for sure denies the crucifixion, but the students defending Islamic orthodoxy.
We will continue in 3 steps: analyzing the Qur’an’s view of Jesus’ dying in itself; outlining 3 options within Islamic way of life that attempt to give an explanation for why the denial of the crucifixion have become dogma; and offering an alternate explanation for the long-standing sturdiness of this denial within Islamic concept. This 0.33 step will perceive the foundation purpose of the controversy—scriptural exegesis as opposed to dogmatic lifestyle—which in turn will activate reflections on Christian-Muslim engagement as well as similar “in-residence” tensions within our own Christian traditions.
The Qur’an’s Teaching on Jesus’ Death
Given the primacy of vicinity given to the Qur’an in all Islamic schools, the logical place to begin is to observe the textual data inside the Qur’an that has led to this denial of the crucifixion. Two elements of the query have to be outstanding but now not separated: what does the Qur’an say about Jesus’ demise in well-known, and what does it say approximately the crucifixion specifically?
Can Jesus, as a Messenger of Allah, Actually Die in Principle?
Rebuke – The antecedent query to that of the crucifixion is whether or not the Jesus offered within the Qur’an should surely die a normal human loss of life to begin with. Within Islamic interpretation, there are two competing traces of thought: (i) given Jesus’ increased reputation as Prophet, Messenger, and Messiah (which, by the way, the Qur’an does now not pretty define without a doubt), he couldn’t honestly die however as an alternative “become raised frame and soul to heaven,” in which he met Muhammad for the duration of his Night Ascent; or (ii) Jesus, just like Muhammad and other prophets, will—or already did—die from natural causes. Most pupils agree that four verses deal with the opportunity of Jesus’ demise:
Q3:55—God stated, ‘Jesus, I will take you back and lift you up to Me: I will purify you of the disbelievers. To the Day of Resurrection, I will make individuals who follow you superior to folks who disbelieved. Then you will all go back to Me and I will choose between you concerning your variations.
Q3:a hundred and forty four—Muhammad is only a messenger earlier than whom many messengers have been and gone.
Q5:117—[Jesus said,] I become a witness over them at some stage in my time amongst them. Ever considering the fact that You took my soul, You by myself have been the watcher over them: You are witness to all things.
Q19:33—[Jesus said,] Peace become on me the day I turned into born, and may be on me the day I die and the day I am raised to lifestyles again.’
A few observations can be made about this option of verses. First, Q3:144 shows that no longer best is it possible for Messengers of Allah to “skip away” however, in truth, some have done so. Second, Jesus appears well privy to the opportunity that his time on the earth will cease. In Q5:117, he speaks of a distinction between the time he become among humans and the time whilst Allah took his soul; likewise, Q3:55 speaks of Allah’s elimination of Jesus to heaven. Scholars are divided over the translation of these verses, however, due to the difficulty of the verb tawaffa in every.
It can be taken 4 methods: “purpose to die,” given its standard use within the Qur’an; Allah’s act of raising Jesus, body and soul, to heaven even as bypassing dying; some form of soul-sleep that was now not dying; or the termination of Jesus’ time in the world without reference to physical loss of life in any respect Third, verse 19:33 possibly resolves the conundrum by way of indicating that Jesus expected a literal, bodily death.
Taking inventory of the exegetical alternatives, the maximum natural answer to the query posed is “Yes”: on the complete the Qur’an does not explicitly deny the possibility of Jesus’ demise in precept (regardless of his unique popularity) but, rather, strongly implies “that he can die a ‘normal biological loss of life’” similar to any other Messenger.
Was Jesus Crucified on the Cross?
Rebuke – If Jesus may want to in precept die, the focal question will become whether or not crucifixion—as attested in the Gospels and affirmed by way of historical pupils—become the motive. The locus classicus of the talk is Q4:157, for which numerous translations are supplied underneath:
Haleem—[Jews] stated, ‘We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God.’ (They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it turned into made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed approximately him are full of doubt, with no information to observe, best supposition: they truly did now not kill him.)
Sahih International—And for his or her saying, ‘Indeed, we’ve got killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.’ And they did now not kill him, nor did they crucify him; however any other changed into made to resemble him to them. And indeed, individuals who vary over it are in doubt approximately it. They don’t have any expertise of it besides the subsequent of assumption. And they did not kill him, for sure.
Yusuf Ali—That they stated (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’; – however they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it became made to seem to them, and people who vary therein are full of doubts, without a (certain) knowledge, but handiest conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him now not.
This notoriously difficult verse is the best connection with the crucifixion in the Qur’an, and the apparent denial of the crucifixion is, as is obvious in Haleem’s and Ali’s renderings, a parenthetical announcement editing the number one clause speak me of the Jew’s claim of killing Jesus. The underlined portion represents the fundamental exegetical task of the verse. The passive verbal word shubbiha lahum (“brought about to seem”) is a hapax legomenon (acting best once in the Qur’an) that has generated numerous interpretations which may be grouped along primary understandings of the verb.
The most commonplace interpretation, regularly known as the “substitution theory,” takes the implied item of the verb to be Jesus himself: specifically, it changed into now not Jesus who changed into crucified, however someone who “seemed” like him to the Jews and was killed in his vicinity (e.g., the Sahih International rendering).
This principle continues that the Jews intended to crucify Jesus, and a ancient crucifixion indeed occurred, however Allah controverted the Jews by way of putting Jesus’ visage on any other person who, in the end, took his place at the pass. Islamic exegetes have generated a plethora of possible identities of the individual that bore Jesus’ photo and replaced him at the move: a passing Jew, a Roman soldier, Judas Iscariot, Simon of Cyrene, or one of the apostles consisting of Tatanus, Sergius, or Peter. In brief, the substitutions analyzing, that’s the most famous among Muslims these days, is “that a person changed into, in reality, crucified, but it became not Jesus.”
A much less common but exegetically valid concept holds that the verbal word “is carried out no longer to Jesus, however to the occasion of the Crucifixion.” That is to say, the implied object of the verb is the act of crucifixion itself, suggesting that no one actually died on the move, however as an alternative it only “seemed” to take area, as a result fooling the Jews into thinking they had correctly killed Jesus (e.G., the Haleem and Yusuf Ali translations). Proponents of this reading shift the emphasis in the path of vindicating Allah’s protection of Jesus from struggling an unnatural, violent demise on the arms of his enemies, the Jews. The occasion of the crucifixion changed into a mirage.
Notably, each of those exegetical alternatives allow room for distinction of opinion regarding whether Jesus could (in idea) or truly did die a physical death; in which they agree, of course, is denying the possibility that, even supposing Jesus as Messenger and Messiah should die, he simply did not die thru crucifixion on the palms of the Jews.
Three Explanatory Frameworks for the Denial of the Crucifixion
Rebuke – The previous cursory summary captures the orthodox function inside each Sunni and Shi’a traditions, which interpret the Qur’an as rejecting Jesus’ crucifixion at Calvary outright (at least in a few shape). We will see underneath that some voices within Islam in latest years have started to question this dogma. But before doing so, let us discover why this mainstream Islamic creed has been so chronic. How has the doctrine been so “sticky” over time? Three frameworks may also provide a part of the reason behind the doctrine’s entrenched fame.
Docetism and the Person of Jesus
A commonplace clarification supplied by means of outdoor observers (now not always Islamic “insiders”) focuses within the impact of Christian heresies on Muhammad and his contemporaries. It is often found that Q4:157 has a substantive Docetic experience to it, whereby “Jesus’ suffering best ‘regarded’ (dokein) to be physical however had, in fact, more of an apparitional high-quality.” Some pupils stumble on comparable notions elsewhere inside the Qur’an, and plenty of argue that various Christian sects maintaining unorthodox Christological views have been lively within the Arabian peninsula for the duration of Muhammad’s day and probably influenced him, such as Monophysites, Julianists, Gnostic Basilideans, Nestorians, and other businesses.
If authentic, the have an effect on of such institution (or groups) upon early Islam would possibly explain the Docetic/Gnostic tenor of Q4:157, whereby Muhammad and his followers might also have believed that such an apparitional crucifixion changed into, in truth, “perfectly consistent with the early and apparently massive Christian perspective” that they had encountered. In different phrases, Muhammad idea his coaching at the crucifixion changed into the Christian teaching as properly—unaware that it changed into a version of “Christianity” deemed heretical.
Rebuke – There is a prima facie attraction to this explanation. However, the main problem with the Docetism theory, as many students have determined, is that Docetism and other Gnostic strands emphasize Jesus’ absolute divinity and deny his actual humanity (Jesus handiest “regarded” human), while the bulk of the coaching of the Qur’an and Hadiths—even though Muhammad became in a few way prompted with the aid of such organizations—emphasizes precisely the opposite, namely, denying Jesus’ divinity and maintaining his humanness.
The Relationship of Allah to Jesus as Prophet
Rebuke – A 2d clarification focuses on the Qur’an’s teaching about Jesus’ function with respect to Allah. There is a “super selectivity with which the Qur’an describes and approves of Jesus Christ.” Jesus is referred to in 15 Suras and 93 verses; while this isn’t trivial, Abraham is referred to over 240 times and Moses over 500 instances. The Qur’an affirms a few simple information approximately Jesus life, consisting of his virgin birth, ethical righteousness, reception of the Injil (gospel), and various miracles.
However, even within the presentation of supernatural activities surrounding Jesus, the Qur’an takes a reasonably subdued position that assigns little if any theological significance to them. Islam locations the emphasis no longer on the special nature of Jesus but on the running of Allah; numerous literary gadgets in the Qur’an are used time and again to “decrease the function of Jesus in beginning and sporting out the miracles” and onto the strength and permission of Allah.
Against this backdrop, it is argued that Muslim interpreters have maintained the denial of the crucifixion out of a combination of a disinterest in reconstructing the historic Jesus (terrible issue) and a robust desire to make a theological assertion approximately Allah (tremendous element).
The declaration is absolutely this: Allah will no longer allow his enemies vanquish his selected Messenger. The denial of the crucifixion is a denial of the electricity of mankind to overturn Allah’s will; the Jews can not kill Jesus due to the fact Allah is the remaining responsible actor who will determine while and whether his anointed Messenger will die In brief, if all people will positioned Jesus to dying, it’s miles Allah—now not the Jews—for he has promised to vindicate his prophets;
if Jesus have been crucified, Allah would be contradicted. While this production rightly attracts upon key topics pertaining to the qur’anic theory of Jesus, it tends to downplay the high fame positioned on Jesus and the naked truth that many Messengers, which includes Muhammad, have indeed died—and regularly brutally.
Islamic Conception of Salvation
Rebuke – A 1/3 method locates Islam’s trenchant denial of the crucifixion in its attempt at “undermining the construct of redemption.” On this view, by using calling into query whether or not Jesus absolutely died on the move at all, Islamic scholars have severed the hyperlink among the crucifixion and the redemptive significance assigned to it via Christianity. Given the Qur’an’s denial of Jesus’ divinity as well as its usually bad stance towards the biblical idea of human depravity or authentic sin, Islam does no longer train a idea of atonement, that’s glaringly tied up in the occasion of the cross for Christians.
Thus, now not simplest is the crucifixion of a Messenger of Allah (even a special one like Jesus) stereologically pointless in Islam, it would clearly contradict the general coaching of Islam concerning the nature of salvation; “considering Islam has no such doctrine [of redemption], any such loss of life never would take area. In other words, the denial of the crucifixion is a sort of doctrinal Occam’s Razor: it serves no reason, so it’s miles rejected. Though it’s miles normally the most compelling alternative, the hassle facing this explanatory framework is that it assumes the Qur’an has soteriology in view in four:157, which won’t, in truth, be the case.
Constructing a Possible Explanation
Rebuke – If the previous explanatory frameworks are insufficient to account for why traditional Islamic teaching so strongly clings to the denial of the crucifixion, what may also account for it? As a few Islamic students have all started to well known, the place to begin can also lie in “exegetical atomism,” that is, “analyzing qur’anic verses in isolation.” This approach has dominated Islamic scholarship from its earliest days, and generations of interpreters have for that reason built a doctrine denying the crucifixion based totally entirely on the exegesis of a unmarried part of a debated verse, without paying attention to its context.
In different phrases, the crucifixion has grow to be heresy in Islam due to insufficient hermeneutics. A extra nuanced method to Q4:157 shows that the unmarried text that looks to reject the crucifixion surely won’t virtually achieve this at all, but thru non-contextual interpretation it has been appropriated by way of Shi’a and Sunni traditions to serve competing doctrinal agendas.
Exegetical Context of Surah four: Jewish Polemic
Rebuke – The broader context of the important thing passage suggests that the maximum sound reading of Q4:157 is that it functions as a polemic against the Jews, now not as a denial of a historical fact approximately Jesus or doctrine of Christianity. If the exegetical window of four:157 is increased, one reveals that the encompassing verses strongly accuse the Jews—who, as is well known, are handled via the Qur’an pretty harshly in a few cases, and with some mutual respect as “People of the Book” in others—of diverse forms infidelity:
four:153 Worshipping the golden calf—“Even after clear revelations had come right down to them, they took the calf as an item of worship”
four:155a Breaking the covenant—“for breaking their pledge”
four:155b Rejecting revelation—“for rejecting God’s revelations … for saying ‘Our minds are closed’”
four:155c Murdering prophets— “for unjustly killing their prophets”
4:156 Slandering Mary— “they disbelieved and uttered a horrible slander against Mary”
four:160 Various wrongdoings— “for the wrongdoings carried out with the aid of the Jews, We forbade them sure true things”
four:161 Financial abuse— “for taking usury once they had been forbidden to accomplish that … for wrongfully devouring different humans’ belongings”
The complete passage is a sharply-pointed rhetorical onslaught in opposition to the faithlessness of the Jews, concluding for this reason: “those of them that reject the truth [Allah] has prepared an agonizing torment” (4:161b).
The verse approximately the crucifixion, then, forms a key part of broader attack on the multitude of sinful acts committed by way of Jews, culminating in their rejection of Jesus himself, which turned into forbidden: “there’s not one of the People of the Book but ought to consider in him before his dying” (4:159). In other phrases, four:157 indicts of the Jews for their try to crucify Jesus, to benefit victory over him, and to repudiate him as their particular Messenger from Allah.
If this is authentic, how must the important thing verb shubbiha lahum (“induced to appear”) be taken? Verse four:142, which introduces this series of condemnations of hypocrites who disobey God (which includes the Jews), affords the exegetical key:
“The hypocrites attempt to misinform God, but it’s miles He who reasons them to be deceived.” In light of the encompassing verses, a straightforward analyzing of 4:157 turns into obtrusive: the Jews have claimed to controvert Allah with the aid of crucifying Jesus, but Allah has deceived them into questioning they’ve received, while in truth they stand condemned. In other words, given the focal point of the complete passage, “the Crucifixion [is] one instance of Israelite infidelity. …
The Quran intends to guard Jesus from the claims of the Jews. … Whether or not Jesus died is honestly no longer the matter handy.” Put in a different way: the difficulty in Q4:157 isn’t always the historicity or non-historicity of the crucifixion in any respect. That is surely now not the point of the passage. Rather, the crucifixion episode is but any other manner wherein Jews (consistent with the Qur’an) have rebelled towards God; they notion they gained, however they had been deceived. Whether or no longer the crucifixion certainly happened in Jerusalem isn’t always the focus of the passage in any respect.
Such a re-studying does justice to the context of the Surah and resolves a nagging ancient query: if Muhammad did in reality make the amazing historical claim that Jesus turned into no longer, in fact, crucified on the pass (which, consider, is extensively conventional amongst secular historians and which changed into the supply of lengthy-status war among Christians and Jews for six centuries before Muhammad), “this sort of progressive account—if any—might be well remembered and well preserved.” But in truth the opposite is the case; Muhammad left behind only a part of one ambiguous verse to that impact.
In reality, as pupils have begun more and more to recognize the pitfalls of conventional Islamic “atomistic” hermeneutics, some have argued that the Qur’an is ultimately silent or, at least, ambivalent concerning the actual historicity of the crucifixion. Consider 3 scholarly samples:
Over the ultimate thirty years, scholars have determined that the Qur’an does no longer without a doubt reject the idea that Jesus changed into located on the go and died there.
The that means of verse 157 is first-rate understood now not as a declaration of ancient fact about Jesus however, rather, as a rebuke of the Jews. The working hermeneutic here is to situate the denial of crucifixion in the Qur’an’s negative attitude toward the Jews; this permits an interpretation that shifts our attention faraway from what came about to Jesus inside the direction of what the Qur’an says approximately the Jews.
The underlying subject of the set of ayas in which the connection with the crucifixion verse is situated relates especially to the condemnation of disbelief (kufr) and has little bearing on the dialogue of the historicity of the crucifixion.
These observations match pretty logically with the Qur’an’s trendy lack of interest in supplying the “historic Jesus” and its pervasive remedy of Jesus as broadly speaking an argumentative prop for elevating Muhammad (among different things).
Thus, the Islamic dogma that emphasizes the denial of the crucifixion can also have arisen from the overly slender hermeneutical approach used by the bulk of traditional Islamic commentators—an technique which turns into specially problematic whilst coping with a verse that hinges on an ambiguous hapax legomenon. A extra contextually sensitive analyzing of the key verse makes clean that what’s in play isn’t always a denial of a ancient crucifixion but a polemical assault on folks that sought it. What, then, has given such an interpretation its staying electricity?
Sectarian Conflict: Shi’a vs. Sunni Eschatology
Rebuke – I endorse that the primary reason the denial of the crucifixion attained creedal repute relates to eschatological conflicts “related to the sectarian milieu wherein Islamic doctrine advanced.” While the Sunni Hadith by no means absolutely mentions the difficulty of the crucifixion in any respect, the Shi’ite Hadith “explicitly denies that Jesus become crucified.” The cause at the Shi’a side in all fairness apparent. As Shi’a doctrine evolved (specially the Twelver strand),
Jesus quickly have become associated with the Twelfth Imam (Madhi), and both men will play prominent roles in their go back on the end of the arena. The denial of the crucifixion, and the related view that Jesus did not die in any respect but turned into raised without delay to heaven, became a really perfect in shape with the Shi’a idea of occultation: both Jesus and the Twelfth Imam have remained alive in a nation of hiding, looking ahead to the second one coming. Sunni eschatology,
But, insists that there might be no other Madhi, that the Twelfth Imam is a fable, and that Jesus himself is that this single eschatological discern: “Jesus became the Sunni answer to the Shii … and his preservation from dying changed into accordingly emphasized.” In brief, both major divisions of Islam have made use of the denial of the crucifixion to aid their competing eschatological doctrines which, somewhat sarcastically, in the end rely upon the same critical guideline: Jesus, as an eschatological redeemer discern, couldn’t undergo the humiliation of loss of life through crucifixion.
Fortress Mentality of Orthodoxy
Once the atomistic analyzing of Q4:157 became firmly integrated into the eschatological framework of either division of Islam—irrespective of the incorrect underlying exegesis—it became nearly impossible in exercise to question. Though only a single qur’anic verse mentions the crucifixion, and even though any further references in the commonplace Hadith and Sunna are pretty uncommon (and absent altogether on the Sunni aspect), the interpretive tradition of commentators (tafsir) from the Middle Ages onward has been an implementing force in shaping how Muslims examine the Qur’an. One should describe it as interpretive inertia: “over successive centuries the dialogue of the crucifixion in the Islamic way of life … evolved to deal with the doctrine of denial in a way which obscured the neutrality of the authentic Qur’anic role.”
Rebuke – Even as alternative techniques were voiced, they have got had little effect on both mainstream (conservative) scholarship or the common Muslim, for the “majority of traditional pupils in all sects of Islam aren’t inclined to question medievalist constructs.” Given the inherent priority Islam places on upholding the customary traditions, generic tenets are rather tough to change; medieval exegesis, however flawed, has a conditioning effect on all subsequent scholarship. There are risks in assaulting the fort of orthodoxy. Consequently, “the point is that tafsir, no longer the Qur’an, denies the Crucifixion.”
Conclusion and Reflections
Rebuke – Factoring in all of the information, the denial of the crucifixion inside Islam in the long run appears to have evolved as follows: competing critiques existed approximately the opportunity of Jesus’ earthly, bodily death; a single qur’anic textual content ambiguously describes how Allah might confound the Jews into wondering that they had succeeded in crucifying Jesus, as a part of a larger polemical attack in opposition to Jewish unbelief; Shi’a and Sunni students inside the Middle Ages appropriated this verse to assist their own views of Jesus’ function inside the eschaton; and this medieval rejection of the crucifixion has tested difficult to dislodge.
This assessment of a stronghold doctrine within Islam raises some crucial questions referring to how Christians should interact with the Qur’an and Muslims. Whose model of Islam ought to be taken into consideration normative? How need to a Christian engage with a topic if the Qur’an leans in a single path, whilst orthodox dogma is calcified in every other?
Does one facet with the Qur’an or with the students? How have to Christians sensitively navigate the tension between what seems to be the coaching of a given qur’anic verse and a cherished function that a Muslim friend could have been taught for years? How would possibly Christians best searching for inroads into the Muslim worldview via analyzing the Qur’an with fresh eyes and respectfully asking questions that might lead a Muslim buddy to do the same?
Moreover, the juxtaposition of scriptural teaching with dogmatic subculture mentioned right here ought to spark off all Christians to pause and mirror on areas inside our personal theological device (Reformed or otherwise) wherein such tensions may be at play. In essence, the Qur’an says one aspect, but through a series of interpretive maneuvers made by way of those who were attempting to shield a positive position and hold that position in any respect charges, an misguided interpretation became the overwhelmingly general orthodoxy. This can show up in Christian circles, too. We can research at the least three matters from this discussion.
First, with recognize to the doctrinal “fort mentality”: we must be ever-willing to observe our very own questioning (or that of our church, seminary, preferred theologians, and so forth.) to determine if there are any areas wherein we’ve got developed a view that won’t be exegetically bulletproof (and can, on near inspection, be certainly unfaithful to Scripture), however which we implicitly deal with because the “litmus take a look at of orthodoxy” against which every body else is measured. Are there any doctrines, mainly secondary ones, for which extra charity is wanted towards folks that definitely interpret matters otherwise?
Second, with recognize to “atomistic” exegesis: we have to try as excellent we can to interpret any given biblical text in a manner this is devoted to its local context (the encompassing verses of the passage) and its broader context (the message of Scripture as a whole). If our exegesis of a single verse militates towards the apparent feel of other passages—as with Q4:157 as opposed to different passages on Jesus’ demise within the Qur’an—we ought to possibly rethink our exegesis.
Third, with appreciate to “scripture” versus “dogma”: we need to paintings very tough faithfully and soberly to ensure our exegesis and doctrinal formulations mutually inform one another in a healthy, balanced way. Within the Reformed subculture we reject the view that scriptural exegesis and systematic theology are somehow polarized. We try, instead, to floor our systematic theology in sound exegetical work, while concurrently admitting that a central function of “sound exegetical work” is the shaping have an impact on that theology (church fathers, confessions, Reformed covenantal theology, and so on.) has at the very undertaking of interpreting scriptural texts.