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Humility as a Hermeneutical Virtue: Karl Barth on Faith and Miracles

“For Christian faith,” Francis Watson observes, “truth is textually mediated.”[1]

 Such a statement is risky, for describing anything with an adverb like “textually” can invoke discussions concerning the interpretive nature of all reality and the roles which texts play in our comprehension of this reality.[2] Connected to the Christian faith, “textually mediated truth” may suggest notions of the church as a socio-linguistic community and the significance of Holy Scripture as an enduring and normative literary feature of ecclesial life and practice.[3] To his credit, Watson bypasses all of these options and opts for a directly theological explanation: this is a statement about divine activity and its relation to the text we call Holy Scripture. More specifically, this is a statement about the Truth, the Word become flesh, the manner in which God communicates with his people, and the particular location of these texts within this communication. As Watson observes, “These texts are foundational to the life of the church … on the grounds that in them we encounter the particular life upon which the communal life of the church is founded.”[4]

If Watson is right, then Christians are, by definition, those whose lives are bound to this text. They are people engaged in a movement of perpetual return to the words of the prophets and apostles with the hopeful and unwavering expectation that this is where they will hear God speak the words of life. The consequence of portraying the Christian life as this sort of textual existence is that training in reading (and hearing) Scripture must form a basic part of discipleship. The importance of this requirement is noted by Stanley Hauerwas who is concerned that people “read the Bible not as Christians, not as people set apart, but as democratic citizens who think their ‘common sense’ is sufficient for ‘understanding’ Scripture,” and that such a practice leads to a distorted interpretation of these texts.[5] Hauerwas not only highlights the fact that readers engage Scripture with varying presuppositions, but also draws attention to the obscuring effect these presuppositions have when they are not informed by the divine-human fellowship at the heart of the Christian community.[6] The fundamental issue is one of alienation. Christians who read the Bible within a framework which is foreign to the Christian content implied by Watson’s assertion of the textually mediated life of faith, inevitably undertake something intrinsically alien to what is demanded by their Christian faith.

This brings us to the basic contention of this article: positively stated, as disciples of Jesus Christ, the one who has elected to communicate through the words of the biblical text, a particular approach or manner of reading is required when we read and interpret Scripture. In order to discern this approach, a more precise account of Scripture’s location in the context of God’s self-address is necessary. Once we know what Scripture is, the concomitant responsibility of the disciple who engages this text becomes clear.

While this responsibility could be expounded in a number of ways, I am particularly interested in the exclusion of pride from the practice of Bible reading. Following Karl Barth, pride is the attempt to play “the role of a being which is superior to the world and his fellows, to himself and his destiny, even to his relationship with God, so that he can survey and penetrate and master and control all these things.”[7] Such self-interest functions as a perverting filter for the Word God wills to speak and so, in contrast, disciples must forsake their pride and read Scripture humbly. It may be observed that humility is by no means unknown in lists of hermeneutical virtues. However, it tends to be treated in a way that is one step removed from concrete exegetical decisions.[8] What I am suggesting in this article is that humility in interpretation functions as an exegetical constraint. It guides us away from particular interpretive conclusions, namely, those which encourage any sort of self-assured procurement of divine promises. The second part of this paper examines how this interpretive stance affects exegetical results by instructing our reading of particular passages. The example chosen is Barth’s analysis of the relationship between faith and miracles. This relationship is constantly in danger of succumbing to an interpretation corrupted by pride due to the temptation to misconstrue Jesus’ repeated pronouncements that “your faith has made you well” as encouragement for human self-assertion.[9]

An unpalatable implication of this claim immediately presents itself. Is it not a rather un-humble method to approach the Bible, having predetermined what it can and cannot say? This is a legitimate concern but may be laid to rest with two observations.

First, the proposal is not so much concerned with determining exegetical results beforehand. Rather, it is attempting to articulate the space within which these results should be sought if these texts truly are servants of God’s utterly gracious and merciful speech to us. In this way, humility functions like the rumble strips that prohibit a car from veering off the road by droning loudly but do not control how fast or in which direction the car should be driving.

Second, we proceed on the presupposition that theology functions as a service to the church’s reading of Scripture. John Webster captures this astutely:

Dogmatics seeks simply to produce a set of flexible accounts of the essential content of the gospel as it is found in Holy Scripture, with the aim of informing, guiding and correcting the Church’s reading. Dogmatics attempts a ‘reading’ of the gospel which in its turn assists the Church’s reading.[10]

If Webster is right, then the task of theology is to provide a faithful set of lenses through which we, as disciples, might be instructively oriented to the divine depths of these texts. In effect, this article is an attempt to describe how a theology of Scripture assists our reading of the biblical witness in this fashion.

Scripture within the Divine Economy

A good place to begin with is Webster’s statement that “we need to figure out what the text is in order to figure out what to do with it,” and the ensuing proposal that “we determine what Scripture is by understanding its role in God’s self-communication to creatures.”[11] Comprehension of the nature of Scripture, of what Scripture essentially is, presupposes a basic familiarity with the God who addresses his people and whose communicative activity establishes the context within which Scripture has its particular role and function. Three features of the divine identity and activity can be briefly enumerated according to the logic of the Christian confession in order to aid us in discerning the character of Scripture.

First, God is the one who reveals himself to his creatures. This statement condenses the confession that God is the agent of the creature’s knowledge of himself; both objectively and subjectively God teaches his creatures to know him. Objectively, God gives himself as an object to be known by his creatures in the person of his Son. Commenting on John 1.1, Calvin writes:

He calls the Son of God ‘the Word’ simply because, first, he is the eternal wisdom and will of God, and secondly, because he is the express image of his purpose. For just as in men speech is called the expression of the thoughts, so it is not inappropriate to apply this to God and say that he expresses himself to us by his Speech or Word.[12]

However, God does not remain distant and wait for his creatures to fulfil a corresponding act of knowing in response to the presence of his Word. On the contrary, God comes to his addressees in the person of the Holy Spirit and realises knowledge of himself in the human realm. “The Spirit,” as Calvin says, is “the inner teacher by whose effort the promise of salvation penetrates into our minds, a promise that would otherwise only strike the air or beat upon our ears.”[13] The consequence of construing human knowledge and perception of God in this way is that it remains firmly grounded in God’s self-presentation and activity towards the creature. This suggests that knowing God is an intrinsically relational affair. It is constituted by God’s presence in his dynamic livingness. Furthermore, this is a presence which not only inaugurates and sustains a fellowship between God and his creatures but also imparts knowledge so that this fellowship is not silent but one of conversation.[14]

This leads directly into our second observation: God’s acts towards us are reconciliatory acts. As just mentioned, God’s self-gift to his creatures in which he mediates knowledge of himself is inseparable from the fellowship God desires with us. However, the humans God encounters in this movement are those corrupted by their own self-destructive tendencies, not least of which is their proud grasping after God’s own control and power. For such creatures, to know God in fellowship necessarily entails the overcoming and removal of this creaturely opposition and defiance, an eventuality which humans have no capacity to occasion. Nevertheless, in his gracious might and goodness, God has already condescended in the person of his Son in order to reconstitute our wretched humanity by bringing it to perfection and converting it to himself.[15] God’s contemporary self-address proceeds as the summons to participate in this reconciliation and therefore as speech that creates fellowship between God and human beings. More specifically, the event in which God’s Word spreads abroad the good news that sin, because it is forgiven, can no longer hinder covenant partnership is not merely the conveyance of information. Rather, because God calls us back to himself precisely in this impartation of knowledge, God is also at work here overcoming our persistent obstinacy, and kindling relationship. As such, God’s acts of communication are exercises in covenant restoration; acts which re-establish the divine-human communion we have destroyed.

Our third feature brings us to the specific place of the biblical texts within the revelatory and reconciliatory divine economy we have been describing: God’s saving activity occasions the production of the biblical testimonies with the express purpose of establishing a record through which this divine address can be heard. As David Demson has made so clear, the identity of Jesus Christ includes the gathering, upholding, and sending of his disciples so that they might be the means of Christ’s self-manifestation to the church:

Unsubstitutably ingredient in his coming, intercession, and manifestation are Jesus’ appointment, calling, and commissioning of the apostles. This was the manner of his relation to men and he required of these men that they perform their appointment, calling, and commissioning. And by way of their performance, he appoints, calls, and commissions many and requires of many that they identify themselves by this relation to him.[16]

There is an important balance to be maintained here. On the one side, the very human words of the prophets and apostles are not illegitimately imbued with divinity. This path would not only compromise the humanness of the witnesses but would also render the mystery and miracle of God’s speech in these words inert by making it automatically, and therefore not graciously, present. On the other side, these texts are not abstracted from the sphere of God’s activity. Rather, these words are those which are ordained and sent so that God’s Word of revelation and reconciliation may be spoken and heard in the ministry of God’s servants. The biblical authors are God’s ambassadors who advance as “an embassy of God’s eloquence.”[17]

To summarise these three features: God, as the one who imparts knowledge of himself to humans and graciously engages his wayward creatures in covenant fellowship, has elected the very human words of Scripture to serve as a vehicle of his communicative presence. Thus, we can comfortably affirm Webster’s definition of Scripture’s role in the divine economy: “The text of the Bible is an instrument of divine action, a means through which the viva vox Dei speaks to the congregation of faithful believers in the course of the history of salvation.”[18]

Reading the Bible Humbly

If it is really in these words that we have to do with God’s self-communication, albeit only as “the miracle of God takes place in this text formed of human words,”[19] then this compels a very specific approach to the text. A theological account of this path could proceed in a number of directions. Reading could be characterised, for example, as “a listening with attentiveness to the one who explains his word,”[20] or described in terms of a readiness to respond to the claim and summons of this Lord.[21] The particular aspect of this activity to which I want to draw attention is foregrounded in a rather striking quote from Barth about what should be expected when we read Scripture:

The content of the Bible, and the object of its witness, is Jesus Christ as the name of the God who deals graciously with man the sinner. To heed and understand its witness is to realise the fact that the relation between God and man is such that God is gracious to man: to man who needs Him, who as a sinner is thrown wholly upon God’s grace, who cannot earn God’s grace, and for whom it is indissolubly connected with God’s gracious action towards him, for whom therefore it is decisively one with the name of Jesus Christ as the name of the God who acts graciously towards him. To hear this is to hear the Bible – both as a whole and in each one of its separate parts.[22]

What this observation so wonderfully conveys is the construal of Bible reading as an episode in the history of reconciliation. Taken together with our description of Scripture in the previous section, it illuminates that reading Scripture is an activity which risks an encounter with the Word, who not only exposes and judges sinfulness but graciously overcomes our faults by renewing creatures so that fellowship may resume.

However, if as Barth avers, this is a history in which the sinful creature does not deserve and cannot earn God’s gracious gift of fellowship which is so desperately needed, then it follows that the encounter between God and his creature mediated through the scriptural texts cannot culminate in any exercise of human pride. On the contrary, such a consequence is unreservedly forbidden. Drawing on the gracious condescension of God’s Word to us in Scripture, T. F. Torrance expresses this point lucidly:

It comes to us in the limitation and imperfection, the ambiguities and contradictions of our fallen ways of thought and speech, seeking us in the questionable forms of our humanity where we have to let ourselves be questioned down to the roots of our being in order to hear it as God’s Word. It is not a Word that we can hear by our clear-sightedness or master by our reason, but one that we can hear only through judgment of the very humanity in which it is disclosed and to which it is addressed and therefore only through crucifixion and repentance. It is because the Word of God comes to us in this way that either we are offended at it and reject it in order to cling to ourselves, or we believe in it through a decision against ourselves and so hear it by committing ourselves to its action upon us.[23]

Accordingly, reading the Bible as a disciple is bound up with the refusal to be a proud reader, with “the abdication of vainglorious man from his vainglory.”[24] Conversely, this practice requires reading with humility. This may be defined as the disciples’ refusal to claim something for themselves, their abnegation before God, a withdrawal and surrender to the fact that as proud sinners, they are totally bankrupt in the presence of a gracious God.[25]

This disposition has concrete implications because it generates a broad delimitation that guides exegetical work. If Scripture is as we have described above – the words in which we encounter the Word who slays and makes alive – then we cannot be satisfied with a reading that terminates in self-assertive grasping. We might say that any reading which bolsters any sort of self-interest, and as such is nothing more than a disguised attempt to repeat Adam and Eve’s mistake by usurping God’s position as a gracious Lord, is simply excluded from the reading possibilities of a Christian disciple.

To summarise, the ordering of our reading to God’s speech as it encounters us in Scripture includes recognition of and conversion from our idolatrous attempts to justify ourselves through our Bible reading. The outcome of our reading, as an episode in the fellowship between God and humanity, cannot be yet another creaturely bid for freedom from the Creator that corrupts our serviceableness in the covenant. Rather, it must culminate in a humble submission to the God who wills to be gracious to his creatures.

Barth on Faith and Miracles

This discussion of Bible reading in terms of discipleship and the necessity of humility acquires critical significance when we turn to the phrases in the Synoptics – on the lips of Jesus no less! – that seem to depict a person’s faith as the agent of a healing miracle. The confusion these texts produce about the relationship between faith and miracles is fairly straightforward to document. On one hand, a “common sense” reading of these texts discovers here ideas about human control and priority bound up with the exercise of some human capacity called faith. Indeed, it is difficult to deny that this is precisely what these texts are proclaiming, namely, that the controlling factor in whether or not the miracle eventuates is faith – does the individual have enough faith for a miracle to eventuate? On the other hand, the divine-human fellowship which Scripture is purposed to mediate refuses this sort of ascription to human ability. We are always radically dependent on God. It is here that Barth provides a helpful way forward.

Barth is similarly troubled by these verses and the relation they seem to indicate between faith and miracles. Exploring his exegetical reflections and his articulation of this relationship is instructive, for he is not interested in dismissing these words or explaining them away. Instead, Barth is committed to reading them humbly, that is, in a way which directs us to our gracious Lord in whose presence no proud human pretension can persist. For his discussion, we turn to a subsection entitled “The Royal Man” in §64 of the Church Dogmatics.

In this subsection, Barth offers an extended reflection on the eruption and actuality of the kingdom of God in the mighty word and deed of Jesus Christ among his people. That the Synoptic Gospels can occasionally attribute these mighty acts of divine power to human faith, occasions a clarification of the relationship between faith and miracles. Barth begins by observing that the New Testament does not present a uniform picture of this relationship. This is evident through reflection on the story of the man born blind in John 9 which clearly exhibits a movement from miracle to faith and worship.[26] Here, faith plays no role in Jesus’ miracle and does not even enter the story until the very end; faith is much more a response, rather than a cause. The “mighty action of [Christ’s] pity ... in face of this little piece of human misery,” can in this story only be ascribed to the overflow of God’s grace as the event that indisputably precedes this man’s faith. Texts such as this should prevent overhasty accounts of the relationship between faith and miracles in which faith is a necessary presupposition.[27]

Difficulty arises with texts that speak of a faith which almost induces miracles: “Your faith has made you well.”[28] Barth exemplifies humility at this point by reacting against any interpretation that might accredit salvific potency to human faith. It is God who saves and heals his creatures; it is not the achievement or realisation of some innate capacity which humans can wield at will. Indeed, the identification of salvation or healing as the act and work of faith can only result in an intolerable contradiction by undermining the confession of Christ as the one and only saviour.[29] “Is it not Jesus,” Barth asks, “and in what He says and does God, who saves man both in the general and the concrete sense?”[30] What is instructive here is the starkness of what we have described as the practice of humility in reading Scripture. For Barth, as one seeking to hear the name of Jesus Christ in these words, any notion of human authority or contribution that would subvert God’s grace as truly gracious is excluded from interpretive possibilities. This is manifested above all in Barth’s rejection of Luther’s translation of this verse, “Your faith has helped you.” Barth dismisses this interpretation because it alludes to a partial cooperation of the person in the occurrence of the miracle, even though Luther did not intend this.[31]

How then are we supposed to understand these verses which seem to attest some sort of pre-eminent and controlling role for human faith in relation to miracles? Barth’s answer to this question begins with an attempt to delineate the character of faith which the New Testament speaks about when it says in no uncertain terms things such as, “O woman, great is your faith. Be it done for you as you desire,” (Matt 15:28) or, “According to your faith be it done to you,” (Matt 9:29) or, most explicitly, “Your faith has made you well” (Mark 5:34). Barth proceeds by examining the pericope that compares faith to a mustard seed, observing that faith is characterised here as that “which is minimal and insignificant from the quantitative standpoint (in respect of its physical intensity or power of external manifestation), but distinguished by a definite quality even in this supreme littleness.”[32]

In order to ascertain the unique quality of faith which stands in such a positive relationship to the prospect of a miracle, Barth turns to the story of the two blind men who called out aloud to the Son of David for mercy as Jesus passed (Matt 9:27–31). This story, according to Barth, gives us a concrete indication of the content of faith by virtue of Jesus’ question, “Do you believe I am able to do this?” (Matt 9:28). Barth vigorously sets about dismissing any sense that this is a call for a sort of philosophical affirmation, the acceptance that Jesus is simply the bearer or agent of a higher power which may or may not be called God. Rather, Barth notes that the blind men have addressed Jesus as the Son of David and plea for mercy. As such, “they turn to Jesus as the king of Israel, beside whom there can be no other … It is a cry in which they recognise and confess the Son of David and therefore the God of Israel and His fulfilled promise, taking Him seriously and claiming Him for their own need.”[33] The question Jesus asks, then, is an enquiry as to whether or not these men really believe that the one whom they address is the embodiment of God’s faithfulness to his people, and whose purpose and goodness encompass the banishment of misery and blindness.

In light of this passage, Barth argues that the peculiarity of faith in the New Testament miracle stories is its situated quality: faith subsists only within the environment of God’s fulfilment of his promises to Israel as the particular human movement that responds to this reality. But this suggests that, as an intrinsically derivative and responsive act, faith “is only secondarily described as a disposition or attitude or act of man. It is this, but the decisive thing is that it also reaches behind this whole sphere to a primary thing from which it proceeds as a human action.”[34] Faith lives from this primary thing – God’s presence with his people. It does so because the divine movement which faith answers bestows this capacity to respond, by furnishing the objective conditions for fellowship between God and humanity:

When we are told in these passages that men believed, this means that they stood in this relationship, which is only secondarily a matter of mind or will or disposition but primarily a matter of being. They belonged already to Jesus the Deliverer because they were already found by Him, because before they knew Him, they were recognised by him.[35]

Indeed, Barth observes, “it is in virtue of this that they believe. The act or work of faith derives from their being.”[36] Faith, we might expand, is the freedom to throw oneself upon the mercy of the faithful God of Israel, a freedom given in and with the fact that, in an act of free and unmerited grace, this one is preveniently present among his people as saviour.

Two images Barth uses may help to communicate this point. The first is that of a shoot which springs up from a root and the second is that of an iron bar which is moved by a magnet.[37] In both illustrations, the second thing, while something distinct from the first, is sustained or kept in movement by and in response to the first. In the same way, faith is a reality that is not independent but dependent on God’s being with human beings. What is vital then for Barth’s understanding of this path from faith to miracle is that faith is only attributed its saving and healing agency with a view to its utter dependence on and orientation to the preceding activity of God. In this sense, one could describe these texts which speak of faith’s agency in miracles as an instance of synecdoche in which faith, while authentically a part of this movement, is only properly understood as a part that represents the whole. Faith exists in this capacity because it is generated and sustained by God’s gracious and prior gift of freedom. Barth prefers to talk about this in terms of anticipation. In the freedom of faith which is the anthropological counterpart to God’s grace, human beings are given a genuine part in the occurrence of a miracle by being permitted to anticipate its happening. Ultimately, however, they can only anticipate in this manner because they themselves are anticipated:

The real truth is not that they themselves anticipate the miracle, but that they are anticipated by Jesus who performs the miracle, by the God active and revealed in Him. And He anticipates them by making them free for the faith in which they can move forward with irresistible steps to the miracle, or rather to the One who performs the miracle.[38]

In this way, Barth is insistent that the responsive nature of faith be retained when interpreting these verses. Everything would be obscured if we abstracted faith from this context and “looked at the secondary means, at the human action of faith as such, at its mental fulfilment, thus regarding and admiring and broadcasting this aspect of faith, the believer himself, as the one who accomplishes the divine act, as his own saviour.”[39] It is the situatedness of faith, its origin in the generative grace of God, that the sayings attest. Precisely as such there can be no intrusion into the relationship between faith and miracles of concepts of faith that are really covert attempts at self-justification or futile ventures to seize God’s power. Faith, by Barth’s definition, cannot proceed, it only follows. Indeed, he notes, “the way from faith to miracle would close at once—indeed it would never be open—if the power of faith were desired and claimed as a power in which man had the capacity to do just as his desire or fancy led him.”[40] Such dreams of self-aggrandisement are excluded from the outset for Barth because the identity of the one who says, “Your faith has made you well,” requires that we listen to him humbly. Barth therefore concludes:

The reference is not to the human action of faith as such, but to it only in relation to its origin and goal, it does not ascribe to faith any possibilities or capacities that men might imagine or desire for himself in the service of others, or that he might ever try to assume in a burst (or better perhaps a spasm) of self-inspired credulity. It ascribes to it the true force in which Jesus Himself acted: the force of the kingdom of God drawn near.[41]


Ultimately, the goal of this article has been to offer a suggestion about how we should be thinking about discipleship in relation to the biblical texts if it is the risen Christ who encounters us in these words. Specifically, I have suggested that such discipling involves encouraging Christian disciples to read the Bible humbly, in a way that does not culminate in their coronation as lord or king even if their dominion is only over a very small part of life. Such a practice is required because of the peculiar location Scripture possesses within the divine economy. That is, as followers of this Lord we are set in an ordered realm, one in which the communicative presence of God is active and powerful through the words of Holy Scripture. Because Scripture acquires its true function in the context of the divine Word’s saving and intelligible address, an address that does not only impart knowledge but graciously establishes fellowship with wayward sinners, a posture of humility before these texts is obligatory. Such a practice is well evidenced in Barth’s reflections on the biblical texts which speak of a relationship between faith and miracles. Filtering these texts through humble lenses means that this relationship cannot be one which attributes to the Christian some sort of sovereignty over God’s power but must be perceived in terms of God’s gift of anticipation. These texts are not occasions for self-betterment, but, as the rest of Scripture, remove the need for proud grasping because they direct us to the one who has already given us everything.

Michael Bartholomaeus is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Otago in New Zealand under the supervision of Christopher Holmes. Michael’s research interests the theology of Karl Barth, the intersection of theology and preaching, and the theological interpretation of Scripture. He currently lives in Adelaide where he works as the Postgraduate Ministry Coordinator for Tabor.

[1] Francis Watson, Text and Truth: Redefining Biblical Theology (London: T. & T. Clark, 1997), 1.

[2] See James K. A. Smith’s effort to introduce Derrida’s assertion of the ubiquity of interpretation to the church: James K. A. Smith, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (Grand Rapids: BakerAcademic, 2006), 31–58.

[3] An influential form of this perspective can be found in George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1984). See also George Lindbeck, “Barth and Textuality,” Theology Today 43, no. 3 (1986): 361–76.

[4] Watson, Text and Truth, 1.

[5] Stanley Hauerwas, Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America (Nashville: Abingdon, 1993), 15.

[6] See John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 36.

[7] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Thomas F. Torrance, 4 vols. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1956-75), IV/1, 433. [Hereafter CD]

[8] For example, see the following discussions which affirm humility as a hermeneutical virtue: Uche Anizor, Kings and Priests: Scripture’s Theological Account of its Readers (Eugene: Pickwick, 2014), 205–9; Richard S. Briggs, The Virtuous Reader: Old Testament Narrative and Interpretive Virtue (Grand Rapids: BakerAcademic, 2010), 45–69; Jacob L. Goodson, Narrative Theology and the Hermeneutical Virtues: Humility, Patience, Prudence (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015), 167–72; Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “Imprisoned or Free? Text, Status, and Theological Interpretation in the Master/Slave Discourse of Philemon,” in Reading Scripture with the Church: Toward a Hermeneutic for Theological Interpretation, ed. A.K.M. Adam, et al. (Grand Rapids: BakerAcademic, 2006), 51–93.

[9] In the NRSV, this phrase can be found in the following places: Matt 9:22; Mark 5:34; 10:52; Luke 8:48; 17:19. The underlying Greek phrase, hē pisitis sou sesōken se, also occurs in Luke 7:50 and 18:42 but is rendered by the NRSV as, “Your faith has saved you.”

[10] John Webster, Holiness (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 3–4.

[11] John Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” Anglican Theological Review 90, no. 4 (2008): 735.

[12]John Calvin, The Gospel According to St John: 1 – 10 (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1996), 7.

[13] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, 4 vols. (London: SCM, 1960), III, 1, 4.

[14] Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” 738.

[15] Thomas F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 73–77.

[16] David E. Demson, Hans Frei and Karl Barth: Different Ways of Reading Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 94. Italics in original.

[17] Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” 740. Demson presents this balance as follows: “Belief in inspiration is the belief that the New Testament texts arise out of and ever cohere in this gathering, upholding, and sending of the apostles by Jesus – they are exponents of it. Belief in inspiration is belief that Jesus actually gathered, upheld, and sent these men and continues to gather, uphold, and send many by making these many participant in the threefold chosenness of the apostles. There is a distinction, but no gap, between the text and what it describes in this regard. There is a distinction in that Jesus, and not the text, executes this threefold choosing of many, but there is no gap in that what Jesus does and what the text describes him as doing are one, for Jesus ever utters his own Word as the Word of the appointment, calling, and commissioning of many.” Demson, Ways of Reading Scripture, 109.

[18] John Webster, “Hermeneutics in Modern Theology: Some Doctrinal Reflections,” Scottish Journal of Theology 51, no. 3 (1998): 330.

[19] CD I/2, 532. The emphasis in this quote is Barth’s own as found in Karl Barth, Die Kirchliche Dogmatik, 4 vols. (Zürich: Evangelischer Verlag, 1932-67), I/2, 591. [Hereafter KD] Throughout my article I have restored Barth’s original emphasis through the standard use of italics and noted this alteration by means of a reference to KD.

[20] Murray Rae, “Theological Interpretation and the Problem of Method,” in Ears that Hear: Explorations in Theological Interpretation of the Bible, ed. Joel B. Green and Tim Meadowcroft (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2013), 20.

[21] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935-1937, ed. Mark Brocker and H. Gaylon Barker (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013), 427.

[22] CD I/2, 720.

[23] Thomas F. Torrance, Divine Meaning: Studies in Patristic Hermeneutics (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), 8–9.

[24] CD IV/1, 619; KD IV/1, 690.

[25] CD IV/1, 619.

[26] Miracles which precede faith can also be found in Matt 12:9–14; Luke 7:11–16; and John 5:1–15.

[27] CD IV/2, 237.

[28] Matt 9:22; Mark 5:34; 10:52; Luke 8:48; 17:19.

[29] CD IV/2, 240.

[30] CD IV/2, 240; KD IV/2, 266.

[31] CD IV/2, 240. Thus Barth would likely be uncomfortable with comments such as that of Alan Culpepper’s: “Jesus assured Bartimaeus, ‘your faith has made you well.’ Faith itself has healing power.” R. Alan Culpepper, Mark (Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2007), 362.

[32] CD IV/2, 233; KD IV/2, 259. Augustine connects the potency of the seed to its smallness: “What made it great? It became the greatest from the smallest, that is, from humility....Like a grain of mustard seed, which is all the hotter, the more fervent, for being so minute.” Augustine, Sermons 51 – 94, vol. III, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century (New York: New City, 1991), 323.

[33] CD IV/2, 235; KD IV/2, 260.

[34] CD IV/2, 240; KD IV/2, 266.

[35] CD IV/2, 235–236; KD IV/2, 261. Cf. M. Eugene Boring, Mark: A Commentary, TNTL (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006), 160.

[36] CD IV/2, 241; KD IV/2, 266.

[37] CD IV/2, 241.

[38] CD IV/2, 243; KD IV/2, 269.

[39] CD IV/2, 241.

[40] CD IV/2, 242.

[41] CD IV/2, 242. From this perspective, Adela Collins comment that the bleeding woman “was able to heal herself by the power of her faith,” is rather troubling. Adela Yarbro Collins, Mark, ed. Harold W. Attridge (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), 284. Cf. François Bovon’s warning about this easily misunderstood phrase. François Bovon, Luke 1:1 – 9:50, ed. Christine M. Thomas (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002), 338.