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Transcript Hermeneutics

Prof M D Herholdt
 Hermeneutics,
the study of the theory and
practice of interpretation. It was originally
used in the study of theology, and applied
specifically to biblical interpretation, but has
broadened since the 19th century to include
philosophical theories of meaning and
understanding, and also theories of literary
the study of the general
principles of biblical
interpretation. For both
Jews and Christians
throughout their
histories, the primary
purpose of hermeneutics,
and of the exegetical
methods employed in
interpretation, has been
to discover the truths
and values of the Bible.
Nineteenth-century hermeneutic
theorists such as Friedrich
Schleiermacher and Wilhelm
Dilthey considered understanding
to be a process of psychological
that is to say, the reconstruction
by the reader of the original
intention of the author.
In this view, the text is the
expression of the thoughts of its
author and interpreters must
attempt to put themselves within
the author's “horizon” in order to
relive the creative act.
 Hermeneutics,
 Hermes was the
messenger of the gods of
ancient Greece. He also
protected travelers and
What is the grounds for judgment? If we assume a
definitive ground, we end up with foundationalism.
Existential approaches end up in subjectivism.
Historically critical struggles to bridge the time gap.
Metaphorical is relative.
The German philosopher Martin Heidegger and his
pupil Hans-Georg Gadamer describe this dilemma as a
“hermeneutic circle”, referring to the way in which,
in understanding and interpretation, part and whole
are related in a circular way: in order to understand
the whole it is necessary to understand the parts and
vice versa. This is the condition of possibility of all
human experience and enquiry.
Ways to interpret the Bible
Literal (St Jerome, 4th century
scholar). Take it at face value of
plain meaning.
Moral – lessons to be learned
Allegorical – typological, having
meaning beyond the events, persons
and things explicitly mentioned.
Anagogical – this is a mystical
interpretation, seeking a deeper
spiritual meaning.
Historical-critical - emphasizes the interpretation of biblical
documents in the light of their contemporary environment. It
draws upon not only exegesis and hermeneutics but also such
fields as history, archaeology, and Classical scholarship in an
attempt to reconstruct the historical setting within which
biblical texts were produced.
Existential - focussing on what the text means to you in
addressing your subjective experience.
Structuralism - committed to the structuralist principle that
a language is a self-contained relational structure, the
elements of which derive their existence and their value from
their distribution and oppositions in texts or discourse.
Metaphorical, analogical – departs from the philosophical
notion that the mind works analogical, it can only make sense
of the abstract by expressing it metaphorically.
The critical interpretation of the biblical text to
discover its intended meaning.
Both Jews and Christians have used various
exegetical methods throughout their history, and
doctrinal and polemical intentions have often
influenced interpretive results; a given text may
yield a number of very different interpretations
according to the exegetical presuppositions and
techniques applied to it.
The study of these methodological principles
themselves constitutes the field of hermeneutics, for
Epistemology & Ontology
René Padilla relates that Hermeneutics has to
do with a dialogue between Scripture and a
contemporary culture. Its purpose is to
translate the Biblical message from its
original context into a particular situation.
Its basic assumption is that the God who
spoke in the past and whose Word was
recorded in the Bible continues to speak
today in Scripture (1978:11).
The influence of philosophers
Son of a reformed Church
Dilthey held that historical
consciousness—i.e., the
consciousness of the historical
relativity of all ideas, attitudes,
and institutions—is the most
characteristic and challenging
fact in the intellectual life of the
modern world.
German philosopher, counted
among the main exponents of
existentialism. His
groundbreaking work in
ontology (the philosophical
study of being, or existence)
and metaphysics determined
the course of 20th-century
philosophy on the European
continent and exerted an
enormous influence in
virtually every other
humanistic discipline.
German philosopher who
developed a dialectical scheme
that emphasized the progress of
history and of ideas from thesis
to antithesis and thence to a
Hegel found a place for
everything—logical, natural,
human, and divine—in a
dialectical scheme that
repeatedly swung from thesis to
antithesis and back again to a
higher and richer synthesis.
German philosopher, the founder of
Phenomenology, a method for the
description and analysis of consciousness
through which philosophy attempts to
gain the character of a strict science.
The method reflects an effort to resolve
the opposition between Empiricism,
which stresses observation, and
Rationalism, which stresses reason and
theory, by indicating the origin of all
philosophical and scientific systems and
developments of theory in the interests
and structures of the experiential life.
Austrian-born English
philosopher, regarded by
many as the greatest
philosopher of the 20th
He taught that is was a
mistake to conceive of
meaning as essentially tied
to the nature of reality.
Language has many functions
– words are instruments, not
only to describe, but to ask
questions, play games, give
orders, etc.
Regarded by many as the most
influential philosopher since
German philosopher whose
comprehensive and systematic
work in the theory of knowledge,
ethics, and aesthetics greatly
influenced all subsequent
philosophy, especially the various
schools of Kantianism and
He taught that “The mind imposes
principles upon experience to
generate knowledge.”
French philosopher whose critique of
Western philosophy and analyses of the
nature of language, writing, and meaning
were highly controversial yet immensely
influential in much of the intellectual
world in the late 20th century.
He was the father of deconstructionism.
He taught that the concept of self is itself
a linguistic construction.
His philosophy is based on the idea that
meaning can only be distilled or
interpreted from any particular situation:
there is no objective structure.
Kuhn questioned the traditional conception
of scientific progress as a gradual,
cumulative acquisition of knowledge based
on rationally chosen experimental
Instead, he argued that the paradigm
determines the kinds of experiments
scientists perform, the types of questions
they ask, and the problems they consider
A shift in the paradigm alters the
fundamental concepts underlying research
and inspires new standards of evidence,
new research techniques, and new
pathways of theory and experiment that
are radically incommensurate with the old
Where do we stand today?
“One’s instinct to seek a unified view of
reality is theologically underwritten in the
belief in the Creator who is the single
ground of all that is …
It must accommodate within its metaphysical
embrace both the constituent insights of
elementary particle physics and also the
integrating insights of aesthetic and religious
experience.” (John Polkinghorne, 1988:69)
He may deny it. “ I belief the Bible, but that
can’t be true.” (the world view cannot
accommodate it)
He may relativize it. “This is true only for
certain people at certain times.” (dispensational
He may redefine it. “There are two possible
meanings, and this is the one I accept for this
word. (situationalism – relative to situation)
He may compartmentalize it.” This is a spiritual
concept, for my Sunday but not my Monday life.”
(fragmentation due to dualism).
He may reintegrate it. “when I have more faith
it may be possible for me, but it is not now.”
(not able to apply it existentially).
Ps 94:23 (New International Version)
 Blessed is the man you discipline , O, Lord,
 The man you teach from your law;
 Judgment will again be founded on
 And all the upright in heart will follow it.”
 What
questions can be asked?