Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hermeneutics: Alice, the "Final" Four and Barth

I am taking a requisite class in Hermeneutics, and I find myself surprisingly happy with the initial readings.

The class has opened with a delightful little read from David Jasper, "A Short Introduction to Hermeneutics". The book is really just a survey of, primarily, biblical hermeneutics, but branches to the issue writ large when appropriate. Jasper makes a persuasive case that hermeneutic shifts are leading indicators of theological shifts throughout Christian history.

During the work he betrays a predisposition to the reformation, and in doing so, he also given short shrift to Aquinas and Scholasticism. This would be my only grievance.

Yet, what was particularly appealing were the poems and excerpts that were craftily plotted throughout the chapters. Below I have recounted a few:

"Then you should say what you mean," the March Hare went on. "I do," Alice hastily replied; "at least - at least I mean what I say - that's the same thing, you know." "Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "Why you might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see!"
-Alice in Wonderland

"The letter shows us what God and our fathers did;
The allegory shows us where out faith is hid;
The moral meaning gives us rules of daily life;
The anagogy shows us where we end our strife." - Nicholas of Lyra

"Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read'st black where I read white." -William Blake

The last comes from Barth's "Commentary on the Letter to the Romans"
"The Historical-critical Method of Biblical investigation has its rightful place: It is concerned with the preparation of the intelligence - and this can never be superfluous. But, were I driven to choose between it and the venerable doctrine of Inspiration, I should without hesitation adopt the latter, which has a broader, deeper, more important justification. The doctrine of Inspiration is concerned with the labour of apprehending, without which not technical equipment, how ever complete, is of any use whatever."

1 comment:

Mark said...

Have you ever read Gadamer's book "Truth and Method." The book looks at the broader question of interpretation as such and not simply that of biblical interpretation. The basic idea is that all interpretation starts with certain prejudices or stereotypes about whatever distant, historic or foreign "object of study" and interpretation is the act of working towards refining and redefining these initial, which for him is an never-ending, circular process.
A good but difficult "German" read, which I have yet to finish and perhaps I never will.
I wrote a paper on him, which I'd love to share but unfortunately it's in French!