”How do you get your systematic theology if it is not at first driven by understanding the language? In order to get your systematic theology, you first have to get to the meaning of the words. It cannot be the other way round for the obvious reason: it would imply that systematic theology is developed before you understand the meaning of the words in Scripture.”
Dr. Ian Hodge
Australian Theonomist and all round great guy
Dr. Hodge’s formulation is lacking my estimation. Language doesn’t come to us disassociated from a meaning that is driven by theology. Language is not a free floating independent category that can be worked out in terms of meaning without that meaning of the language being informed a-priori by some theology. What I am insisting here is that the search for meaningful language requires a theology of language, and if we must have a theology of language before we can rightly understand language then clearly there is some sense in which theology is prior to language.
In terms of the “meaning of the words in Scripture,” it seems fairly obvious that the different conclusions (and so different translations) that people come up with in terms of word meanings reveals that language is theology (worldview) dependent. People will have disagreement regarding the meaning of language and at that point we begin to see that theology is the reason for that disagreement on the language.
I would argue that the particulars (language) and the wholes (theology) condition one another at every step of the way. I do agree with you however that paying attention to the language is key.
We might say that language without theology is blind while theology without language is empty. They need each other and are equally ultimate.