Saturday, June 20, 2009

Keeping the hermeneutical pot boiling

No time to write today, but thankfully others are saying things worth reading. One thing about hermeneutics is that it involves skills in reading texts and those skills are kept up to date by (a) reading (keep reading the Bible daily) and (b) continuing reflection on what it means to read the Bible, to understand what is read, and to do the work of theology which flows from that.

Doug Chaplin of Clayboy offers a post on the question of subjective/objective readings and whether or not there are only original meanings to search for. Here is an excerpt:

"The text-in-transmission generates meanings other than the original meaning as people, cultures and texts converse with each other. When the text is canonised and placed alongside others, new conversations open up. The New Testament, whatever else it is, is also the fruit of having a Jesus-shaped conversation with the Law, the prophets and the psalms. In that conversation the text is changed as much as the interpreter, sometimes, as one translation is preferred to another, quite literally.

Within the pages of the Hebrew BIble the pre-exilic texts are reshaped and retold in post-exilic editions, and original meaning and context alike are (hopefully soundly-based) conjectures that are as much about mapping the story of the text as exploring its meaning. What historical criticism can do is elucidate the conversation and help us hear the voices that went into speaking the text. What tradition does, at least in part, I suggest, is help us hear the ways that different people have listened to the text."

Father Daniel Weir, in a comment on The Ugley Vicar (eight comments in), brilliantly argues the case for contextual theological work, including this:

"I think there are two reasons that theology to be contextual. The first is so that theology not become irrelevant and esoteric. Theology, after all, is in service of the Church which is God's instrument for mission in the world. To disconnect theology from the world makes it, to use a term that Walter Wink applied to biblical scholarship, bankrupt, in the very precise sense, not of havng no value, but of being unable to accomplish that for which exists. As is true about the US auto industry which failed to produce the kind of cars that Americans needed,discoonnected theology will not provide what the Church needs.

The second reason is that there is a real danger that attempts to ignore context will fail and that theology will be shaped by the unacknowledged and unexamined contexts of theologians."

Food for thought!

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