Hans Frei's Typology of Christian Theology: A Comparative Look at the Islamic Tradition

By Ibrahim, Yasir S. | Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Hans Frei's Typology of Christian Theology: A Comparative Look at the Islamic Tradition


Ibrahim, Yasir S., Journal of Ecumenical Studies


Introduction

Types of Christian Theology by Hans W. Frei (1922-88) (1) investigates the various attitudes of Western theologians and philosophers toward modern Protestant theology. (2) Frei chose variables by which he categorized the writings of these thinkers into types. This essay first analyzes Frei's typology, locating some of these variables and demonstrating how they work within the Christian tradition. Types of Christian Theology. Then, it finds some parallels to Frei's types in the Islamic tradition, specifically in modern articulations of theology and interpretation of scripture. In this comparative study, it will become clear that some of the variables used by Frei apply to the Islamic case as well and that Frei's typology, despite its Christian-specific formulation, can be of great value in the study of the spectrum of positions in Islamic theology and textual interpretation, provided that its specific intra-Christian formulation is taken into account.

Objections against the Comparative Study of Christian and Islamic Theologies

The objection might be raised that a typology formulated within a specific religious tradition can hardly be transferred to another. Granted, the development of theology and of the interpretation of scriptures is different in the Christian and Islamic traditions. Despite the differences and particularity of each tradition, however, the Islamic and Christian traditions have striking similarities in the development of their modern theologies and scriptural interpretation. In both traditions certain texts were canonized and believed to be inspired by God, and these texts formed the basis for praxis within certain communities. Then, in a later period, dogmatic and theological formulations were debated and then fixed according to the dominant "orthodox" tradition. Some of these debates were related to the theory of interpretation and the levels or senses of scriptural meaning. In the Middle Ages, in both traditions, the multiplicity of senses became a major issue in scriptural interpretation. Some exegetical works such as those provided by Sufi interpreters of the Qur'an and those of the Bible stressed the multiplicity of levels of meaning and gave primary weight to the ones that were beyond the literal, such as the spiritual or the allegorical. Such figures as Catholic philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274 C.E.), (3) Muslim theologian and jurist Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328 C.E.), (4) and his Syrian student, Qur'an exegete Abri al-Fida' Ibn Kathir (1301-1373 C.E.), (5) played a major role in establishing the primacy of the literal sense of meaning over the others. (6)

Thus, in the premodern period, there was a consensus among the "orthodox" tradition in both cases on the dominance of the literal sense of meaning as a hermeneutic principle in the process of interpretation of scripture. Frei, in his The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative, mentioned that, after the Reformation, Protestant biblical interpretation stressed the primacy of the literal sense according to a realistic historical view, but later criticism shifted this literal understanding to refer to "what the original sense of a text was to its original audience," forging a new, realistic reading. (7) In the Islamic tradition, since the early formulations of the classical period, the literal sense was given primacy over the mystical (or spiritual) sense. The literal sense of meaning was fixed to refer to "what the word or a phrase refers to according to the Arabic usage in the early centuries of Islam." (8) Frei referred to a similar movement toward the primacy of literality in the Christian interpretive tradition as the direct reading of the "plain" text. (9) Using other senses of meaning in scriptural interpretation in both traditions became permissible only in special cases--for example, the case in which the context would make a literal understanding collide with a basic theological principle. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hans Frei's Typology of Christian Theology: A Comparative Look at the Islamic Tradition
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.