Here’s Wes’ comment: “When you get the chance I'd love to hear your interpretation of Benner's statement which you quoted above: "[Scripture is] a living Word--always alive and active, always fresh and new." Particularly I'm curious in what you understand Scripture to be "always fresh and new." "Alive and active" makes good sense in light of Hebrews 4.12, but the second set of descriptors seems almost to posit a discontinuity or disjunction between what Scripture "meant" and what it might now "mean." I have a couple of ideas forming, but I'd appreciate your comments.”
Benner unfortunately doesn't expand his thoughts explicitly concerning the “living Word” as “always fresh and new” and doesn’t come anywhere near the conversation concerning “what it meant” and “what it means.”
Here are some thoughts of my own . . . so take them for what their worth. I think “what it meant” and “what it means” is an unfortunate dichotomy introduced or at least popularized, I believe, by Gabler in the 18th Century when he distinguished biblical theology (biblical studies) as a descriptive and historical discipline from Dogmatics (systematic theology) as a didactic discipline. There are several reasons I think the distinction is unfortunate.
1) Latter biblical writers in the OT and the NT use in new and fresh ways portions of the Scriptures that, if we’re being technical, were not addressed to them i.e., they we’re not the original recipients. This is clearly seen in the OT prophets’ use of the Torah. In fact, the laws God gave Moses and Israel on Mt Sinai in Exodus are re-given and re-contextualized in Deuteronomy. The Torah of God is dynamic, not static. It is always as new and as fresh as the situations which confront the people governed by Torah are new and fresh.
2) I think speech-act theory helps immensely. For those not familiar at all or are a bit rusty on speech-act theory, it in essence notes that an author uses locutions (words, sentences, rhetorical structures, genres) to embody an illocution (his intention to do something with that locution—bless, promise, instruct, assert) with a perlocution that anticipates a certain sort of response from the reader (obedience, trust, belief). I think the intention of a text at the illocutionary level transcends time and cultural boundaries and is not strictly bound by its locution (the historical and cultural manners and techniques ancient Hebrew and Greek speaking authors of Scripture used to initially communicate God’s message). In that way the illocution (the message) will have new and fresh perlocutionary force. It will do something new and fresh with every reader because it was not intended solely for its original audience. Each new reader of the Text stands in a different time and place from every other reader and thus understands the perlocutionary force of the Text’s illocution in new and fresh ways. In this way the Text means what it has always meant, however, the response from readers will differ and vary according to the particular contexts, struggles, and joys that face them. Don't take me wrong: faith will always be faith, trust will always be trust, obedience will always be obedience, but they will take on different shapes and forms with every new reader or community or generation of readers.
I’m still working through this and I know there are some things to be cautious about, so I'd greatly appreciate any pushback.