Pericopal Theology

October 4th, 2012| Topic: aBeLOG, Pericopal Theology | 2

Pericopal Theology

A couple of months ago, I had written about the importance of the pericope in preaching. (By “pericope” I mean the manageable chunk of the biblical text employed in a sermon—i.e., a preaching text.)

And several weeks ago, I had talked about the world in front of the text, God’s ideal world, segments of which are portrayed by individual pericopes. Together the integrated composite of such segments from all the pericopes of Scripture composes the canonical picture of God’s ideal world in front of the text. To the demands of this world, believers are bidden to accede. Each week, God’s people are called to abide by the precepts and priorities and practices of a given segment of that world detailed in the particular pericope of that week’s sermon.

One sees this even in folk tales. Take the one about the dog that found a bone; on its way home with its booty, it happened to cross a bridge over a stream, and as it looked into the water it spotted “another” dog with a bone. Well, greed takes over, it barks at the “second” dog, and it thereby loses the bone it had. While the story deals with dogs, bones, bridges, streams, and reflections, it is really about not being greedy. The folk tale paints an ideal world for readers, a world in which a critical precept is that contentment will prevent loss—a world in which one practices the prudence of contentment. In essence, this world is the thrust of the text; this is what the text is about; and this is what the tale’s author would want readers to catch and respond to.

Let me take this notion a step further. Coming back to the inspired text of the Bible, I propose that this segment of the world projected by the biblical pericope is the theology of the pericope inasmuch as it portrays God and the relationship he intends to have with his people. It is a world wherein God’s precepts operate, God’s priorities are supreme, and God’s practices are enacted.

Thus pericopal theology by definition is the theology specific to a particular pericope, representing a segment of the plenary world in front of the canonical text that portrays God and his relationship to his people. This entity functions as the crucial intermediary in the sermonic move from text to application, respecting both the authority of the text and the circumstances of the hearer.

Each individual quantum of pericopal theology—i.e., the theology of a particular pericope—calls for alignment to the demands of God as propounded in the projected world. And as one does so, the various aspects of Christian life, individual and corporate, are progressively and gradually—one pericope at a time—brought into alignment with the will of God for the glory of God: this is the goal of preaching.

We proclaim Him,
admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom,
so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power,
which mightily works within me.
Colossians 1:28–29

Thus each sermon on a particular pericope is God’s gracious invitation to mankind to live in his world. And as they do, week by week, pericope by pericope, God’s people progressively inhabit his ideal world more and more. In a sense, bit by bit, sermon by sermon, God’s kingdom is coming to pass on earth!


  1. Scout October 4, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Excellent articulation/definition of some crucial issues. The importance of pericopal theology has been the major gap in recent theological training. Walter Kaiser called attention to this gap in “Toward an Exegetical Theology.” You have shown what is missing and why that missing link/concept is so crucial. Thanks, friend.


Share Your Thoughts

Copyright © 2012 Homiletix  |  Blog theme by ThemeShift customized by Gurry Design  |  Full sitemap