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Contents

  1. Nature and significance
  2. Biblical criticism
  3. Hermeneutics, the Bible and Literary Criticism | Ann Loades | Palgrave Macmillan

But the intelligible content for each, i. Biblical knowledge is divided at its core. Nature of Knowledge. In order to resolve the conflict of the various theories presented above, we must engage in a philosophical analysis of knowledge. I will briefly outline the essential dimensions of knowledge and then relate them to historical and biblical knowledge.

Tim Keller on Interpreting the Bible

Knowledge is essentially relational. The subject the knower relates to the object the known. He does not create, project or in any way devise the object. Rather, he encounters the object in its own independent existence with its own essential dimensions. The object presents itself to the subject as real and intelligible. The object is distinctly other except in the case of self-knowledge in which a subject knows himself through his acts. All knowledge of objects is also essentially transcendent.

The subject goes beyond himself in the act of knowing. The act of knowing forces the subject to encounter reality beyond himself. The transcendent nature of knowledge brings to light the true contact with reality had by the subject. The subject does not stay trapped in himself, but actually comes to know something other than himself. Knowledge cannot be reduced to knowledge of sense perceptions late Husserl, Heidegger, et al. Knowing is an act of the person.

The person goes out of himself, transcends himself to truly make contact with reality, to encounter other beings in their existential significance. This transcendent act is essentially receptive. The knower receives reality through his act of knowing. The knower does not make the object he knows through his act of knowledge. Rather, the knower receives the essence of the object he knows. The object presents itself to the subject as real and the knower transcends himself to receive its essential reality.

Nature and significance

In sum, knowledge is essentially 1. I will return to these principles throughout our study. Nature of Historical Know ledge. Historical knowledge is a particular problem in epistemology. If knowledge is like a horse then historical knowledge is like a mule. The horse is pure-bred, virile and unadulterated. The mule, however, has a sadder story. It is the unhappy result of the union of a horse and a donkey. It does not really have an identity as horse or donkey, but it is caught somewhere between the two.

And on top of all that, it is impotent! Historical knowledge is any knowledge that is acquired second-hand or third-hand or fourth-hand, etc. For example, if my friend tells me that he got in car accident, I have acquired a piece of historical knowledge from the eye-witness. On the other hand, if he tells me that the traffic jam I am in is caused by an accident at a particular intersection his testimony is more dubious. Yet I have still acquired a piece of historical knowledge. If he backs up his testimony by saying that he saw the accident himself or that he heard a radio report about it, I will be more likely to believe him.

Historical knowledge is essentially based on the testimony of an individual, whether he be a witness, a writer or an artist. So when I gain historical knowledge, what it is that I am actually knowing? Do I come to know the events described? Here we face the mule-nature of historical knowledge. The skeptic Bultmann would argue that I cannot know the events described by the historian unless I contact them myself. That Julius Caesar was assassinated or that Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor or that Abraham Lincoln gave an address at Gettysburg are not events that can be known.

For our skeptic, they are intrinsically unknowable because I cannot have direct contact with the events. Yet then what do I come to know when I read a historical book which describes past events? I can identify the vocabulary of Plutarch or Suetonius. I can even analyze the intentions of Stephen Ambrose by a careful review of his works.

So I can come to know the author at least in a limited fashion. Beyond that, the text itself has a meaning. If I cannot know the events and I do not know anything about the author, then I am left with an historical text.

I can learn the inner contours of the text, its quality of prose, its grammatical forms, etc. The text would move beyond being an interesting old book to being a real record of real events. I acquire a piece of historical knowledge.


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When my friend tells me he got in a car accident, I do not simply know the fact that he told me he got in car accident. I actually grasp the car accident event itself. The object of my knowledge is not his saying. The event itself is the intelligible object of my act of knowing. I receive the essence of the event. The lens may be dirty or partially broken, but it does not point to itself. I have not personally witnessed the car accident, but my knowledge extends to that real event.

Biblical criticism

I apprehend it when I come to know it. Knowledge, Language and Interpersonal Communion. This brings us to the philosophy of language. Since we readers of histories are not the eye-witnesses of the historical events about which we read, we must rely on the testimony of others. Testimony of events is given by eye-witnesses through language. If an event is vocally told to me or related to me through a letter, book or other text, I am the recipient of language. Rather I am the recipient of a meaning conveyed through language regarding historical events.

But can language actually convey knowledge? Again the skeptic can insert himself into the discussion. From his perspective, knowledge cannot truly be communicated from one person to another through language. Knowledge is only available through direct experience. For the Husserlian phenomenologist, language only inserts sense perceptions into my milieu. I may find black and white ink symbols in my sight or listen to certain wavelengths with my sense of hearing, but the coherence of such sounds or symbols is an imposition on my sense perceptions.

I do not make contact with the realities discussed by language, I only encounter my own sense perceptions. Yet I hold that these perspectives are short-sighted, not doing justice to the experience of knowledge and language. Language can communicate real knowledge. If my friend tells me that Notre Dame lost its football game, I gain real knowledge—as long as my friend is not lying.

The skeptical and phenomenological views do not recognize my ability to gain knowledge of real events through linguistic communication. From the skeptical perspective, I may be able to gain knowledge about my friend: how fast he is talking, whether he is showing signs of happiness or sadness, etc. Yet I cannot really know the event of the game itself. It is removed from my experience, so my knowledge is necessarily unsure, instable and incomplete. The game, as an event, is unintelligible to me because I did not experience it.

I cannot truly know it. Again, I assert that language can truly communicate knowledge of real events. When someone communicates a fact to me, I gain true knowledge. I do not merely come to know the contours of his voice, the patterns of his writing or the style in which he communicates. I actually come to know the events he communicates. I myself have contact with the events. Yet with history there is always limitation. The limitation is this: when I encounter reality through the language of the historian vocal or written I have a necessarily secondary encounter.

Though the object of my knowledge is identical to that of the historian, my vision is obscured, limited and conditioned by his honesty, eloquence and humanity. Therefore the attainment of historical knowledge invariably puts me in a relationship with the historian. The historian not only invites me to behold historical events and gives me the vision of them, he actually invites me to view the events through his eyes as it were. I am welcomed into his very own personal vantage point to view the events of history. Language itself includes an invitation.

When someone speaks to me or writes to me whether to me specifically or to readers in general , he invites me not only to behold reality together with him, but to come to know him. Language is essentially communicative. Language does not merely transmit ideas or even point to realities. Language is also essentially interpersonal. Non-persons cannot use language. The very existence of language implies the existence of a community of persons. For communication itself can only exist between persons.

Language is used to convey personal knowledge of events and realities. Because of its nature as communicative and as personal, language brings about an interpersonal communion. If the persons involved in the language-situation comprehend one another, they form a communion with one another.

Though they are centuries-distant, a student can come to know intimately the great minds of the past: Aristotle, Cicero, Machiavelli, etc. The language of the writers is the only doorway into their thoughts and through it they deliberately open themselves to a real interpersonal communion with their readers. In the case of the philosophers and historians, this communion is strictly intellectual. Yet in the case of the playwrights like Aristophanes or Shakespeare, the communion attained can extend to the emotions.

And in John of the Cross or Teresa of Avila, the reader even comes to a spiritual interpersonal communion with the author. Interpersonal communion is the highest goal of language. The reader of history is led from himself through a text to real events viewed in the context of interpersonal communion with the historical author. Biblical knowledge, to return to our central topic, is characterized by a few unique conditions which set it apart from other forms of historical knowledge.

Biblical Knowledge. Biblical knowledge has become its own special category. Biblical critics approach their text with a much higher degree of skepticism and distrust than any other group of historians or literary critics. Though many critics want to see the Bible as merely an historical relic, they do not treat it as such.

Biblical knowledge takes on peculiar dimensions that cause it to differ from other types of historical knowledge. Biblical knowledge also has a unique relationship with biblical faith. When a person reads Tacitus and believes what he writes about Roman history, critics put this in one category.

But when someone reads the Bible and believes what the Deuteronomist or Matthew or Paul writes, this is placed in a totally different category. Both actions of assent are kinds of faith. It also expands the metaphysical horizon of the reader. Therefore the kind of knowledge derived from a secular historical account differs from the kind of knowledge derived from the biblical account specifically because of the nature of the biblical account as the word of God. Historical knowledge gleaned from the Bible has been a hot topic over the past few decades.

The object is the matter. Wright is not about text-critical issues nor about traditionally historical issues. Their debate is an epistemological one. I will present a few diagrams that outline a schema for understanding different views of biblical knowledge. The diagram I first present is my outline for secular historical knowledge in Figure 1. First, the author of the text observes the event occurring. At this point, there can be multiple permutations. For example, the author might not have personally witnessed all the events he records.

Also, his observations are peculiar to his own perspective. For example, if the historian is watching a battle from one side of the lines, his view of what happens on the other side will not be as complete. Second, the author writes down his text. This moment is also full of controversy. Here the author can distort the observations he has made. He can add his own opinions. He can select particular material to insert or omit. He absolutely controls the text.

He may even write total fiction without indication. Even if the author is sincere and genuine in his presentation, he cannot help but be conditioned by his experiences and allow that experience to shade his writing. There is no truly objective observer.

Beyond this lack of objectivity, the historical author always writes with a purpose. The events he encounters are meaningful to him for particular reasons, which may or may not be the true meaning of the events. Every historical account offers an interpretation of the events it describes and this interpretation can help or hinder the readers apprehension of the events.

Third, the text itself does not lie. The text may be modified or adulterated by editors and copyists of varying skill, but it still presents itself to the reader as the writing of the author. Next the reader approaches the text with all of his presuppositions and philosophical biases. He can read the text honestly enough as long as he is familiar with the language employed. Yet he cannot help himself when he interprets the text, to see it in light of his own experiences. Even his access to the language is colored by his own experiences and mental associations.

He cannot render an objective interpretation. To do so would be to undermine the identity and autonomy of the interpreter. For example, the reader of Thucydides must determine what archaeological sites should be identified with the cities and ports mentioned in the text.


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He must determine the place of various historical figures in harmony with other historical documents from that period of Greek history. The challenge is immense. Yet the reader does access the events themselves. The reader, if he is to read the text as an historical one and not as fiction, must intellectually assent to the historicity of the text. That is, he must acknowledge the veracity of the text in rendering an account of real events.

He must believe that the events relayed in the text really occurred and that the historian attempts to present those real events.

Hermeneutics, the Bible and Literary Criticism | Ann Loades | Palgrave Macmillan

Thus if the reader reads an account of a battle or the life of an ancient person, he must accept the actual occurrence of that battle or the events in the life of the ancient person. With sober acknowledgement of the limitations of the recorder of history, the reader must accept the historicity of the document. Yet the perspective of the author is always limited, as discussed above. All historical accounts are incomplete.

Second, I present my outline of the historical-critical epistemology for Bible reading in Figure 2. In this scenario, the basic outline of the secular historical schema is maintained, but. In contrast to the first figure, the author forms a concept and then produces a text. This textbook seeks to reclaim the Bible for a Christianity that is open to society and keen on participating in conversation about major issues. Theological Hermeneutics. This textbook introduces theological hermeneutics by giving a historical account of the development of hermeneutical thinking.

It presents an overview of the various hermeneutical schools of thought, and shows their rooted-ness in different parts of A comprehensive introduction to the history and significance of hermeneutical thinking in theology. Discusses text interpretation throughout history and the significance of text linguistics in a modern and postmodern context. Windows on Jesus. Wim Weren, John Bowden. A readable and illuminating survey of synchronic and diachronic approaches. The synchronic appoaches look at the limits of a text, structural and narrative analysis. Diachronic approaches deal with historical, form and redaction criticism.

Experiences in Theology. Jurgen Moltmann, Margaret Kohl. Provides a methodological afterword rather than a foreword to his systematic contributions to theology. Presents theology as an adventure of ideas, shaped by his personal career and the political context through which he has lived. Biblical Exegesis. John H. Hayes, C. This is an excellent guide to the various methods of biblical criticism to put into the hands of students.