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REL 315 - History of Biblical Interpretation Pt 3

A brief overview of some important approaches to biblical interpretation: Modernism and Post-Modernism.

Colin Toffelmire

on 6 October 2017

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Transcript of REL 315 - History of Biblical Interpretation Pt 3

pre-Christian Interpretation
Biblical interpretation at Qumran (ca.150BC-70AD)
sectarian community
strongly opposed to Jerusalem priesthood
Teacher of Righteousness, fundamental spiritual authority
biblical commentary on prophetic texts especially
pesharim apply the specific words of the biblical text to immediate events in the life of the community
Philo (20BC-50AD)
rooted in neo-Platonic philosophy
the "body" of the text (literal)
the "soul" of the text (spiritual)
only deployed in certain cases
if God appears to have been lessened
if some inconsistency is apparent
early Jewish and Christian Interpretation
Use of the OT in the NT
Permeates the NT
A variety of different approaches including typology and allegory
Consistent (to a degree) with other uses of Scripture in the 1st c. AD
Rabbinic interpretation (1st c. BC-2nd c. AD)
arises out of Pharisaic Judaism
Hagaddah (telling)
moderate flexibility
used for spiritual edification
Halakah (rule)
concerned particularly with Torah
develops into Mishnah, to which is added the Talmuds (commentary on the Mishnah)
binding oral tradition
Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428 AD)
excellent example of Antiachene school of interpretation
interpretation according to the historical sense
distinctly similar to later Reformation hermeneutic
still decidedly Christian in orientation
Origen (184-253 AD)
most famous of the Alexandrian school of interpretation
student of Clement of Alexandria, who was central to the development of Christian allegorical interpretation
Origen extended Clement's historical and spiritual division to include the four senses: historical/literal, allegorical (Christological), tropological (moral), and anagogical (eschatological)
St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430AD)
possibly the most important theologian of the early Christian period
Scripture always leads readers to God
adopted the dominant allegorical method, but with specific controls
always begin with the historical/literal meaning
Scripture is interpreted by Scripture
the Rule of Faith (oral theological tradition) guides correct interpretation
Context decides indeterminate cases
after all of these steps are exhausted, only then can the interpreter turn to the spiritual sense
Medieval Interpretation
Gregory the Great (540-604AD)
Medieval period saw the continued use of interpretation according to the four senses
greater and greater refinement of spiritual interpretation
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274AD)
one of the scholastics of the 13th c. (seeds of the enlightenment)
attempted a middle way between Augustine and Aristotle (deeply aristotelian, as opposed to platonic)
accepted the four senses, and re-emphasized that they must all rest on the historical or literal sense (which could itself be diverse)
his own biblical interpretation focuses on the historical sense exclusively
Vital historical developments in European Christianity
the creation and swift rise of the Mendicant orders (particularly the Franciscans [1209AD] and Dominicans [1217AD])
the Reconquista - reconquering of the Spanish peninsula by Christian forces, driving Muslim forces back
this led to the re-discovery of much of Aristotle's work, and fueled the intellectual fires of the Scholastic movement
The History of Biblical Interpretation Part 3 - Modernism and Post-Modernism
Reformation-era Interpretation
Northern Humanism
1)literary and cultural program
2)Christian renewal through reform
3)European peace
intellectuals interacting with the power-elite of Europe
in some cases a notable cosmopolitan bent
intense focus on a return ad fontes (to the sources)
particularly focused on good rhetoric and simple, accessible reasoning
the desire to found doctrine on something stable - i.e. Scripture
Erasmus of Rotterdam (1467?-1536)
greatest of the Northern humanists
great hostility toward scholastics and Aristotelian philosophy and logic
elevation of reason
internalized spirituality and the imitatio Christi (moral imitation of Christ)
great Latinist, one of the few great Greek scholars of his day
created the first printed version of the Greek NT (though using an inferior text-type)
the Bible is self-authenticating
no glossing hard or confusing passages, or passages that challenge received doctrine - the text as it is
"Above all, we must hasten to the sources themselves, that is, to the Greeks and the ancients."
John Calvin (1509-1564)
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531)
Reformation Hermeneutics
no unified approach
the necessary textual and philological tools were placed in Luther's hands by the humanists (esp. Erasmus)
Luther was an early adopter
vital consequences of circumventing the Vulgate for the Greek NT, or using Greek manuscripts of Augustine's work instead of Latin translations - challenged doctrines that had been developed based on the Latin text
Luther's thought was propelled to the big stage by Erasmus and other well connected humanists
the Reformation happened on the back of the humanists, but in the end they had very different goals
Calvin and Zwingli both began as young humanist thinkers, and ended as reformers
important aspects:
1)ad fontes - thus Hebrew, Greek, Latin
2)Scripture as doctrinal foundation
3)2 types of "literal" sense - historical and prophetic
4)continued, if adjusted or downplayed, use of allegorical interpretation (Luther esp.)
Enlightenment-era Interpretation
The Enlightenment (generally) - 17th-18th c.
the bridge from the Medieval age into the Modern age (oversimplification)
strong focus on reason over tradition or authority (whether religious or secular)
intellectual child of European humanists and the Reformation (among lots of other things)
Isaac Newton (1642-1726)
radically revised our theory of the physical universe
humans capable of understanding the universe and its laws
Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
question of epistemology (how do we know?)
radical doubt
rationalism and foundationalism
"cogito ergo sum"
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
experimentation and observation
induction (not deduction)
knowledge is power
John Locke (1632-1704)
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
"know then thyself, presume not God to scan the proper study of mankind is man"
son of Portuguese Jews who fled Catholic Portugal
grew up in Amsterdam
relatively diverse and tolerant city (relatively!)
excommunicated (herem) from his Synagogue, reasons not known precisely
lens-grinder in Leiden, and freelance thinker, writer, philosopher
radical Naturalist
rationalist tendencies (read Descartes before Descartes was cool)
no transcendental God, but a place for religion as social control
often considered the father of modern biblical criticism
Baruch (Benedict) de Spinoza (1632-1677)
Modernist Interpretation
Friedrich D.E. Schleiermacher (1768-1834)
German Christian philosopher of religion
interpretation involves two steps:
linguistic - working out the grammar, syntax - common meaning
psychological - getting into the author's head - distinctive meaning
highlights the need to understand the intention in order to move from possible meaning to actual meaning
actual meaning=intent
the possibility of knowing the author better than he/she knew him/herself
Adolph von Harnack (1851-1930)
German liberal theologian
the true religion of Jesus underlying the NT account
kingdom of God
Fatherhood of God and value of the human soul
ethic of love
radical redefinition of the object of study
not the text, or the author's intent, but the historical world behind the text
Modern biblical criticism
Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918)
articulated what would become the standard view of the sources underlying the Pentateuch (JEDP)
very strong sense of developmentalism
privileged dynamic, personal religion
deeply anti-Semitic
Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932)
focus on oral genres underlying the biblical literature
older and more original is better, truer
The History of Religion project
defining the history and development of Israelite religion
deeply influenced by foundationalism and developmentalism
grounded in humanism and the Enlightenment
human answers to human questions
grounded in foundationalism (rationalism, empiricism)
rise of developmentalism (Marx, Darwin)
Scottish Common Sense tradition
epistemological common sense
we see the world basically as it is
what seems obviously true is accepted as true
moral common sense
we basically know right from wrong naturally
methodological common sense
founded on empiricist thought
Hodge: "The Bible is to the theologian what nature is to the man of science. It is his storehouse of facts; and his method of ascertaining what the Bible teaches is the same as that which the natural philosopher adopts to ascertain what nature teaches."
gather facts, then abstract universal principles from those facts
suspends both historically and theologically contextual readings
"no creed but the Bible"
Karl Barth (1886-1968)
trained as a good liberal Lutheran
von Harnack was one of his teachers
deeply disillusioned with liberal theology, in great part due to the endorsement of the German war effort in WWI by people like von Harnack
the Romans commentary (1922) fell like a grenade in the German academy
God as above and beyond all human cultural or intellectual achievements
God revealed in the incarnate Word (Christ), which is witnessed to by Scripture
deeply confessional reading of Scripture
Structuralism and the Linguistic Turn
Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)
the move from philology and diachrony to synchrony
meaning as systemic opposition
Language is a part of culture
everything is part of a system
includes things like art and poetry - we can observe the structures that make art meaningful
the idea of "deep structures"
constructivism - the systems in which we participate frame the way we understand and access the world
Post-modern Interpretation
Post-structuralist approaches
the system is there, but it's fuzzy and changeable, and our relationship to it is circular
reader-response criticism
the reader creates meaning
Fish and the blackboard
Eco - the text as control
ideological readings
feminist (Trible, Schussler-Fiorenza, etc)
Marxist/political (Boer)
queer theory, masculinity studies (Moore)
Text-centered approaches
narrative criticism
structural poetics
the Bible as literature
Confessional approaches
biblical theology (Childs, Brueggeman)
engaging critical biblical scholarship and Christian theology
theological interpretation (Radner, Vanhoozer)
trying to find a coherent way to read the Bible as Christians
pre-modern hermeneutics (Wall)
back to the Fathers?
the return of allegory (Reno)
is the spiritual sense still viable?
Story World
Text World
Implied Author
Implied Reader
Real/Empirical Author
Real/Empirical Reader
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