Adriani M. Rodrigues, Ph.D. student (Theological Studies) at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI presented his research paper with the title: "The Authoritative Hermeneutics in Irenaeus and Tertullian". The following exposition summarizes his paper, rendering the main points of his findings.
Adriani Rodrigues pointed to the fact that between A.D. 90 and 150 the Scriptures were interpreted with an approach called "functional hermeneutics" (David Dockery), which basically means that the text was applied to the reader's own situation wihtout giving attention to the original situation and context in which and for which it was written. Heretical movements however (many of them labeled today as gnostic movements) led to a closer analysis of Scripture interpretation. Who has the right to interpret Scripture and how should it be done? Gnostics were convinced that salvation can just be achieved when one has access to a certain secret teaching, which was passed down orally from the apostles and found in a hidden form in the Bible. Consequently, "only those who knew how to read the Bible in a certain way could gain access to this knowledge" , and thus, to salvation. With that said, the hermeneutical approach used so far was of no help against gnostic movements. Rodrigues argued that during this time the transition from a functional to an authoritative hermeneutics took place, mainly in and by the writings of Irenaeus (c. 115-202) and Tertullian (c. 160-225). To describe their approaches was the subject of his paper.
The Authoritative Hermeneutics in Irenaeus
Irenaeus was very much concerned with the right interpretation of Scripture and tried to develop an approach that differed from the allegorical approach that was used so far. According to Rodrigues, there have been two main concepts that marked Irenaeus' method: a) the notion of the rule of truth/faith and b) the role of tradition.