Ways of Reading the Bible in the Academy A North American Perspective By Stephen M. Garrett, PhD
W of Reading the Bible ays“If you wish to succeed, you must ask the right preliminary questions” –Aristotle, Me ta p hy s ic s , 2.1 What does success look like? What kinds of preliminary questions should we be asking?
W of Reading the Bible aysWhen we read the Bible, or anything for that matter, we read in order to understand. We want to know what a particular text means.Raises a number of questions:• What does meaning “mean”?• Where is meaning located?• Is meaning discovered or made?
HermeneuticsGreek verb he rm e ne uo : to be an interpreter. To interpret, explain, or make clearBiblical Hermeneutics: The art and science of discerning the authorial discourse in the text understood as something someone says, to someone about something in some way.Another kind of Interpretation: Performative
“Mind the Gap”Problem: Between Two Horizons (Gadamer, Truth & Me tho d )• Historical• Cultural• LinguisticSuggestion: A Communication Model(Brown, Sc rip ture a s Co m m unic a tio n) Sender-Message-Receiver
World in Front of the TextFocus is on socio-cultural, linguistic location of readersWays of reading:• Reader-response criticism• Feminist criticism• Liberation criticism• Ideological criticism
World in Front of the TextPresuppositions: “An a p rio ri assumption that underlies a person’s thoughts and views of reality through which every experience is filtered” (Tate, Inte rp re ting the Bible , p. 279)What do we do with our frameworks of meaning:• Recognize and Identify• Expose ourselves to others• Submit to scrutiny
QuestionAre there any constraints on interpretation?
World Behind the TextFocus is on the political, philosophical, religious, socio-cultural norms as well as geography of the authors, all of which inform why the text was writtenWays of Reading:• Source criticism• Redaction criticism• Social-scientific criticism• Archeological studies
QuestionWhat counts as relevant background questions and knowledge?
World of the TextFocus is on the grammatical context and original thought world of the author expressed through linguistic constructsWays of Reading:• Form criticism• Rhetorical criticism• Genre criticism• Canonical criticism
QuestionWhat about the socio- cultural context from which language emerges?
Thick vs. Thin Descriptions Thin Description reduces interpretation to one worldviewThick Description integrates these worlds to achieve meaning and understanding
MeaningMeaning is a function of the relationship between parts (words, phrases, sentences) and the whole (paragraphs, book, Bible). Meaning is multi-layered.Meaning is built upon trust between “word and world” (Steiner, Re a l Pre s e nc e s , p. 90).As language users, we have privileges and responsibilities, not unlike citizens.
Interpretive VirtuesShould avoid hermeneutical dogmatism, on the one hand, and cynicism on the other.Virtues for and Vices against Understanding• Honesty/Dishonesty: recognizing own biases• Open-mindedness/Stubbornness: being willing to hear and consider other views• Attention/Carelessness: focus on the text (and the author) rather than oneself• Patience/Impatience: willingness to take time• Humility/Pride: willingness to be wrong and learn from others
Close ReadingA close reading means that the reader pays attention to the various parts of the text, often looking for repitition, contrasts, comparisons, verbs, cause and effect, figures of speech, etc. DuBois, Clo s e Re a d ing )When we seek meaning and understanding, we enter into dialogue with the authors of the text where we interrogate the text and allow the text to interrogate us.
Thank you for your attention! I look forward to your questions firstname.lastname@example.org
Works Cited Adler, Mortimer. 1972. Ho w to Re a d a Bo o k. New York: Simon & Schuster. Aristotle. M ta p hy s ic s . e Augustine. 1953. Ea rlie r Writing s . Library of Christian Classics. London: SCM Press. Brown, Jeannine. 2007. Sc rip ture a s Co m m unic a tio n. Grand Rapids: Baker. DuBois, Andrew and F. Lentricchia, eds. 2003. Clo s e Re a d ing . Durham: Duke University Press. Fee, Gordon. 2002. N w Te s ta m e nt Ex e g e s is . Louisville: Westminster John e Knox Press. Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 2011. Truth a nd M tho d . London: Continuum Press. e Heidegger, Martin. 1962. Be ing & Tim e . New York: Harper & Row. Tate, W. Randolph. 2006. I rp re ting the Bible . Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. nte Vanhoozer, Kevin. forthcoming: M re He rm e ne utic s . Grand Rapids: e Zondervan. Wolterstorff, Nicholas. 1995. Divine Dis c o urs e . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.