“Apply the whole of ourselves to the text; apply the whole of the text to ourselves!” J.A. Bengel (1687-1752)
Bengel worded it as an exhortation. • With us as the active agents in the interpretive process.
However, what if we write it this way, Apply the whole of ourselves to the text; And the text will apply itself wholly to you!
This becomes more of a promise relying upon an outside agent, the Holy Spirit. • The Bible ceases to be an object that we take hold of…rather the Word takes hold of us. • We bring questions to the Bible…and the Word in turn interrogates us.
Hermeneutics: A Study of Two Horizons First Horizon: What the text meant in the original historical setting Second Horizon What the text means in our contemporary setting
Hermeneutics: A Study of Two Horizons Genuine interpretation requires a fusing of the ancient and modern horizons where the meaning of the ancient text helps interpreters come to new understandings of themselves. Moreover, before we can know what a text means, we must know what it originally meant!
Hermeneutics: A Study of Two Horizons “To put it another way, hermeneutics is the science [and I would add the term art] of reflecting on how a word or an event in the past time and culture may be understood and become meaningful in our present situation.” Carl Braaten, History and Hermeneutics (1966), p.131
We may have come to the Bible as a container with meaning yet in reality the Word transforms reading into an encounter. • E.g., Beethoven’s 9th as a music score or as an event
Three Worlds of Text In present scholarship, we can categorize three different groups of theories, regarding the location of meaning 1. World Behind the text (Author-centered) 2. World Within the text (Text-centered) 3. World in front of the text (Reader-centered)
Three Worlds of Text • World Behind the text (Author-centered) • Meaning is assumed to lie in the author’s intention formulated in terms of social, political, and cultural matrix of the author. Questions asked, “What prompted John to write this?” “What did he mean when he wrote?” “What historical situations influenced his work?”
Three Worlds of the Text • World Behind the text(Author-centered) • Three Critical Approaches associated with historical-critical method: • Source criticism • Form Criticism • Redaction Criticism
Three Worlds of the Text • 1. World Behind the text(Author-centered) • Problem with looking for meaning only with this historical approach: • With the huge amount of attention given to the world behind the text . . . The text itself and the reader was overlooked.
Three Worlds of the Text • 2. World Within the text(Text-centered) • Emphasis upon the text as the place where meaning is housed • Rise of Literary criticism
Three Worlds of the Text • 2. World Within the text(Text-centered) • Problem: • Text becomes autonomous, disconnected from history, author, and reader. • Text becomes a “container” for meaning, to be conquered
Three Worlds of the Text • 3. World in front of text (Reader-centered) • Each reader brings to the text a different set of presuppositions, experiences, interests, competencies • Reader “creates” meaning in his/her encounter with the text • Rise of Reader-Response Criticism
Three Worlds of the Text • 3. World in front of text (Reader-centered) • Problem: • Meaning can be seen as an invention of the reader, separate from the intention of the author or the historical situation at work in the original writing. • Each reading is a new meaning. No “stable meaning of a text.”
Three Worlds of the Text • Answer: An Integrated Solution • Meaning is a conversation between: • Narrative World of Text • Real World of Reader • Historical World of the Author • Interpretation will be impaired when any one world is given exclusive reign while neglecting of the other two!
Simple Communication Matrix Sender Speaker (or author) Message Spoken (or written) Receiver Listener (or reader) Feedback
Biblical Interpretation Spirit God Reader Thinks Writer Thinks Space - Time Barrier Moves Moves Our Task 1. Observe Text Written Text 2. Ask Key Text-Driven Questions 3. Answer Questions Using Textual Evidence and interpretive tools (Word Studies/Cultural Historical Background, etc.)