Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Hermeneia's Hermeneutics

Hermeneia - A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress) utilizes a common preface for all its volumes, written by Frank Moore Cross and Helmut Koester, in which it is said:

"The editors of Hermeneia impose no systematic-theological perspective upon the series (directly, or indirectly by selection of authors). It is expected that the authors will struggle to lay bare the ancient meaning of a biblical work or pericope. In this way the text's human relevance should become transparent, as is always the case in competent historical discourse" (emphasis added).
Could someone explain to me the logic behind the words in italics?

5 comments:

mike aubrey said...

hmmm, i had never thought about that before. i have no idea.

Andrew Compton said...

Didn't Schliermacher describe the goal of the interpreter as being to know the author better than the author knew his or herself?

It seems like the line gives precedence to the notion that the historical (read: human) authors' original meaning is the only meaning. So much for a canonical or inner-Biblical meaning . . .

Perhaps more importantly, the line seems to hold to the modernist/Cartesian commitment to the scientific method . . .

Brueggemann seems to have wise words here: "The gains of historical criticism are immense, and no informed reader can proceed without paying attention to those gains. What has not been noticed is that such scholarship is not as innocent as it imagined itself to be. Thus the Cartesian program, fully embraced by much of biblical scholarship, was not as innocent, objective, or decontextualized as it supposed itself to be, for this scholarship made easy, common cause with certain modes of power that it left unchallenged. As Hans-Georg Gadamer has argued, the Enlightenment has 'a prejudice against prejudice.' It cannot tolerate intellectual or theological claims and affirmations that urn against its thin objectivism, which is itself an acknowledged intellectual, theological claim" (Theology of the Old Testament, pg. 14).

Anyway . . . there's my 2 cents!
:)

Reformed Baptist said...

In the words of South Park:

Systematic theology is bad.......umm kay!

Tim said...

Logic, you demand logic? Why the covers are so minimally maximalist that surely it is looking an expensive gift horse in the mouth to also demand mere logic...

Gobbledegook rocks!

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks guys, it's always a pleasure to get up in the morning, switch on my lap top espresso in hand, and read a bunch of responses to my post!

Mike,

I think a lot of people don't think about the mechanism by which something becomes 'relevant'. In one sense it's an odd thing to think about, we just do it. But I think when one starts making the kind of ideological claims made here by Koester and Cross (i.e. systematic theology is kept out of the picture, pure historical analysis somehow automatically enabling 'relevance' without theology/ideology), especially when these claims are dressed up as simply something that 'happens', a voice of protest needs to be raised. This brings me to Andrew's relevant quote from Brueggemann ...

Thanks for the quote Andrew: perfect! An example of “power” being hidden here is the claim that systematic theology is necessarily, in the nature of the thing, obfuscating and that if one does historical analysis – somehow independent of preconceived ideology! - then the facts (naked, uninterpreted?) will somehow become relevant in and of themselves. The claim is all the more insidious as it presents their position without further ado, as if that is so obviously the way things are that no philosophical justification is required. Talking about Gadamer, here's a related quote from him:

“The historical critique of Scripture that emerges fully in the eighteenth century has its dogmatic base, as our brief look at Spinoza has shown, in the Enlightenment's faith in reason” (Truth and Method, p. 182). “Enlightenment critique is primarily directed against the religious tradition of Christianity – i.e., the Bible ... This is the real radicality of the Modern Enlightenment compared to all other movements of enlightenment: it must assert itself against the Bible and dogmatic interpretations of it” (272).

Tim, R.B: precisely.