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Is There Meaning in This Text?

Kevin J Vanhoozer

Is There Meaning in This Text?

Kevin J Vanhoozer

$55.00

Hardback

IS THERE A MEANING IN THIS TEXT? is a comprehensive andcreative analysis of current debates over biblicalhermeneutics that draws on interdisciplinary resources, allcoordinated by Christian theology. It make a significantcontribution to biblical interpretation that will be ofinterest to readers in a number of fields. The intention ofthe book is to revitalize and enlarge the concept ofauthor-oriented interpretation and to restore confidence thatreaders of the Bible can reach understanding.The result is a major challenge to the central assumptionsof postmodern biblical scholarship and a constructivealternative proposal -- an Augustinian hermeneutic -- thatreinvigorates the notion of biblical authority and finds anew exegetical practice that recognizes the importance ofboth the readers situation and the literal sense.

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About "Is There Meaning in This Text?"

IS THERE A MEANING IN THIS TEXT? is a comprehensive andcreative analysis of current debates over biblicalhermeneutics that draws on interdisciplinary resources, allcoordinated by Christian theology. It make a significantcontribution to biblical interpretation that will be ofinterest to readers in a number of fields. The intention ofthe book is to revitalize and enlarge the concept ofauthor-oriented interpretation and to restore confidence thatreaders of the Bible can reach understanding.The result is a major challenge to the central assumptionsof postmodern biblical scholarship and a constructivealternative proposal -- an Augustinian hermeneutic -- thatreinvigorates the notion of biblical authority and finds anew exegetical practice that recognizes the importance ofboth the readers situation and the literal sense.
- Koorong

Is there a meaning in the Bible, or is meaning rather a matter of who is reading or of how one reads? Does Christian doctrine have anything to contribute to debates about interpretation, literary theory, and postmodernity? These are questions of crucial importance for contemporary biblical studies and theology alike. Kevin Vanhoozer contends that the postmodern crisis in hermeneutics--''incredulity towards meaning,' a deep-set skepticism concerning the possibility of correct interpretation--is fundamentally a crisis in theology provoked by an inadequate view of God and by the announcement of God's 'death.' Part 1 examines the ways in which deconstruction and radical reader-response criticism 'undo' the traditional concepts of author, text, and reading. Dr. Vanhoozer engages critically with the work of Derrida, Rorty, and Fish, among others, and demonstrates the detrimental influence of the postmodern 'suspicion of hermeneutics' on biblical studies. In Part 2, Dr. Vanhoozer defends the concept of the author and the possibility of literary knowledge by drawing on the resources of Christian doctrine and by viewing meaning in terms of communicative action. He argues that there is a meaning in the text, that it can be known with relative adequacy, and that readers have a responsibility to do so by cultivating 'interpretive virtues.' Successive chapters build on Trinitarian theology and speech act philosophy in order to treat the metaphysics, methodology, and morals of interpretation. From a Christian perspective, meaning and interpretation are ultimately grounded in God's own communicative action in creation, in the canon, and preeminently in Christ. Prominent features in Part 2 include a new account of the author's intention and of the literal sense, the reclaiming of the distinction between meaning and significance in terms of Word and Spirit, and the image of the reader as a disciple-martyr, whose vocation is to witness to something other than oneself. Is There a Meaning in This Text? guides the student toward greater confidence in the authority, clarity, and relevance of Scripture, and a well-reasoned expectation to understand accurately the message of the Bible. Is There a Meaning in This Text? is a comprehensive and creative analysis of current debates over biblical hermeneutics that draws on interdisciplinary resources, all coordinated by Christian theology. It makes a significant contribution to biblical interpretation that will be of interest to readers in a number of fields. The intention of the book is to revitalize and enlarge the concept of author-oriented interpretation and to restore confidence that readers of the Bible can reach understanding. The result is a major challenge to the central assumptions of postmodern biblical scholarship and a constructive alternative proposal--an Augustinian hermeneutic--that reinvigorates the notion of biblical authority and finds a new exegetical practice that recognizes the importance of both the reader's situation and the literal sense.
- Publisher

Meet the Author

Kevin J Vanhoozer

Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Ph.D., Cambridge University) is Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, from 1990-1998 was senior lecturer in theology and religious studies at New College, University of Edinburgh, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

He has written Biblical Narrative in the Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur (Cambridge University Press), Is There a Meaning in This Text? (Zondervan), The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology (Westminster John Knox). He is the editor of the Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology (Cambridge University Press), The Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Baker).

His most recent publications are First Theology: God, Scripture and Hermeneutics (Intervarsity Press), Remythologizing Theology: Divine Action, Passion, and Authorship. (Cambridge University Press) and Jeremiah (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible).

Koorong - Editorial Review.

Table Of Contents

  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Introduction: Theology And Literary Theory
  • 1. Faith Seeking Textual Understanding
  • Three Parables On Reading And Reflection
  • Philosophy And Literary Theory: From Plato To Postmodernity
  • Meaning And Interpretation: The Morality Of Literary Knowledge
  • The Three Ages Of Criticism: The Plan Of The Book
  • Augustinian Hermeneutics
  • Part One: Undoing Interpretation: Authority, Allegory, Anarchy
  • 2. Undoing The Author: Authority And Intentionality
  • Authorship And Authority: The Birth Of The 'author'
  • Undoing The Author's Authority
  • Undoing The Author's Intention
  • Has The Bible Lost Its Voice?
  • 3. Undoing The Book: Textuality And Indeterminacy
  • Demeaning Meaning?
  • What Is A Text?
  • Meaning In Antioch And Alexandria
  • Textual Indeterminacy: The Rule Of Metaphor
  • Interpretive Agnosticism?
  • 4. Undoing The Reader: Contextuality And Ideology
  • The Birth Of The Reader
  • The Aims Of Reading: Literary Knowledge And Human Interests
  • Interpretive Violence
  • Power Reading And The Politics Of Canon
  • Undoing Biblical Ideology
  • The Ethics Of Undoing: The 'new Morality' Of Knowledge
  • Part Two: Redoing Interpretation: Agency, Action, Affect
  • 5. Resurrecting The Author: Meaning As Communicative Action
  • The Physics Of Promising: From Codes To Communion
  • Dissenting Voices: Speech Rehabilitation
  • The 'what' Of Meaning: Texts As Communicative Acts
  • The 'who' Of Meaning: Authors As Communicative Agents
  • Communicative Action And The Author's Intention
  • Meaning And Significance Redivivus
  • 6. Redeeming The Text: The Rationality Of Literary Acts
  • Belief In Meaning As Properly Basic: The Nature Of Literary Knowledge
  • The Conflict Of Interpretations: The Problem Of Literary Knowledge
  • How To Describe Communicative Acts: The Norm Of Literary Knowledge
  • Genre And Communicative Rationality: The Method Of Literary Knowledge
  • 7. Reforming The Reader: Interpretive Virtue, Spirituality, And Communicative Efficacy
  • The Reader As User, Critic, And Follower
  • Is Exegesis Without Ideology Possible?
  • Reader Response And Reader Responsibility
  • Understanding And Overstanding
  • The Spirit Of Understanding: Discerning And Doing The Word
  • The Vocation Of The Reader: Interpretation As Discipleship
  • Conclusion: A Hermeneutics Of The Cross
  • 8. A Hermeneutics Of Humility And Conviction
  • Trinitarian Hermeneutics
  • The Verbal Icon And The Authorial Face
  • Hermeneutic Humility And Literary Knowledge
  • Bibliography
  • Name Index
  • Subject Index

Excerpt

Excerpt from: Is There Meaning in This Text?

Preface This is not quite the book I set out to write. My interest in hermeneutics initially arose out of my attempt as a theologian to clarify the role of Scripture in theology. What does it mean to be 'biblical'? As a systematic theologian with a number of forthright exegete friends, I have long been aware of how easy it is to use Scripture to prove this or that doctrine, or to justify this or that practice, only to be accused of distorting the text. Of course, one does not have to be a scholar to misread the Bible; it can happen during daily devotions as well as during deconstruction. However, recent trends in hermeneutics may themselves be inadvertently aiding and abetting such misreading by propounding theories of interpretation that, in my opinion, drain the biblical witness of authority. I thus began writing this book with the aim of defending the Bible from its cultured hermeneutic despisers. If theology is largely biblical interpretation, then it is important to work with sound hermeneutic principles. In the course of writing the book, several things happened. First, I came to appreciate certain aspects of deconstruction in a way that I had not anticipated. Second, I came to see that I was dealing with questions whose reach extends far beyond the realm of biblical interpretation alone. Insofar as postmodernity is a 'culture of interpretation,' I found myself dealing with issues at the very heart of the debate about the postmodern.(1) I have come to think that the way individuals and communities interpret the Bible is arguably the most important barometer of larger intellectual and cultural trends.(2) Third, and most important, I became increasingly convinced that many of the contentious issues at the heart of current debates about biblical interpretation, about interpretation in general, and about postmodern interpretation in particular, were really theological issues. I began to see meaning as a theological phenomenon, involving a kind of transcendence, and the theory of interpretation as a theological task. Instead of a book on biblical interpretation, therefore, I have written a theology of interpretation. To be precise, it is a systematic and trinitarian theology of interpretation that promotes the importance of Christian doctrine for the project of textual understanding. What started out as a work in hermeneutic theology has become a book on theological hermeneutics. N. T. Wright, in his excellent work on interpreting the Gospels, is under no illusion about the scope of the task facing today's student of the Bible, whether academic exegete or preacher. Fully to account for how to read the Gospels as historical, literary, and sacred texts demands much more than looking words up in a dictionary. The serious student of Scripture needs to develop an epistemology (theory of knowledge) and hermeneutic (theory of interpretation): 'Any philosophically minded literary critics looking for a worthwhile life's work might like to consider this as a possible project.'(3) My own view of the project is even more ambitious than Wright's, involving not only epistemology, but the metaphysics and ethics of meaning as well. Such is the task I here undertake --- to respond, from an explicitly Christian theological point of view, to the modern and postmodern challenges to biblical interpretation by marshaling a host of interdisciplinary resources and bringing them all to bear on the problems of textual meaning: Is there a meaning? Can we know it? What should we do about it? I am aware that contemporary debates concerning theories of interpretation can be as intimidating to the lay reader as discussions of non-Euclidean geometry or quantum mechanics can be to the nonscientist. Nevertheless, meaning and interpretation are too important to be left to the specialists. Indeed, it follows from the Protestant emphasis on the priesthood of all believers that every Christian wrestle for himself or herself with the complexity of biblical interpretation. Reading Scripture is both privilege and responsibility. The present work challenges what amounts to an emerging consensus that sees meaning as relative to the encounter of text and reader. The interpretation of Scripture, on this view, owes as much to community tradition as to the canonical text itself. The view here defended --- that meaning is independent of our attempts to interpret it --- is a minority opposition view in the parliament of contemporary literary theory. Several groups have, at different times and places, read or heard portions of the following arguments. Students at various institutions endured the gestation of many of its arguments. I am grateful to those who participated in the 'Biblical Interpretation' seminar at New College, Edinburgh, to my erstwhile doctoral students at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School who took part in my seminar on 'Meaning, Truth, and Scripture,' and to Tim Ward, one of my current doctoral students, who read most of the manuscript and offered helpful suggestions. Thanks also to those comparative literature students in Edinburgh University's 'Literary Theory' course for allowing a theologian to pose awkward questions concerning the ethics of interpretation. A word of thanks is also due the Working Party on the Interpretation of Scripture of the Church of Scotland's Panel on Doctrine for their ecumenical toleration of my attempt to draw a distinction between right and wrong interpretation. I especially appreciated their alerting me to the dangers of abstruseness inherent in my project of reinvigorating author-oriented interpretation through a creative retrieval of Reformed theology and speech-act philosophy. Notes 1. The term 'interpretation' appears in the present work with two very different senses. The more positive sense (call it realist) treats interpretation as a mode of knowledge. The more negative sense (call it nonrealist) views interpretation as an exercise in human ingenuity and invention and fails to carry the connotation of knowledge. 2. This is so especially, but not exclusively, in Western societies. Had time and space permitted, I would have liked to have dealt more with the way emerging African and Asian theologies interpret the Bible and to explore how their approaches also reflect broader social and intellectual trends. 3. N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (London: SPCK, 1992), 61.

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Product Details

Product Details
  • Catalogue Code 120795
  • Product Code 0310211565
  • EAN 9780310211563
  • UPC 025986211561
  • Pages 496
  • Department Academic
  • Category Scripture
  • Sub-Category Hermeneutics
  • Publisher Zondervan
  • Publication Date Jul 1998
  • Dimensions 236 x 160 x 40 mm
  • Weight 0.732kg

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