Introduction To A Hermeneutics Of Identity -- By: Klyne R. Snodgrass
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Introduction To A Hermeneutics Of Identity
* This is the first article in a four-part series, “A Hermeneutics of Identity,” delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectureship, February 2-5, 2010, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.
Klyne R. Snodgrass is Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies, North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.
No task is more important for Christians than hermeneutics, for hermeneutics determines everything else. Hermeneutics is the process by which texts are understood and appropriated. Lately numerous qualifiers have been added to the word “hermeneutics,” so that one may hear of a hermeneutic of suspicion, a hermeneutic of liberation, of feminism, and so forth. Thiselton lists fifteen such qualifications in the index to his New Horizons in Hermeneutics.1 Attention to hermeneutics has shifted from a focus on texts to a focus on human actions to a focus on understanding oneself. Possibly “hermeneutics” is too broad a word, but we do read to understand ourselves.
Such qualifications have their value, but I suggest primarily a four-level hermeneutic. First is a hermeneutics of realism, the common-sense logic of Ben Meyer that among other things emphasizes that the biblical text is a communication between other people and groups, which demands that we respect both the “otherness” of the people and their communication.2 Second is a hermeneutics of action, which has been advocated by Thiselton, Lundin, and Walhout, and which emphasizes that texts are the result of actions and were intended to produce action, which accords well
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with speech-act theory.3 Third is a hermeneutics of hearing, for what God seeks and Scripture calls for more explicitly than anything else is hearing—that we listen to the text and the voice of the Holy Spirit.4 There are at least eight levels of meaning in the 1,194 occurrences of שׁמע, most of which are evident as well in the 428 occurrences of ἀκούειν. The range of meanings, among other things, includes hearing physical sounds, understanding, paying attention to, agreeing with, and obeying. A hermeneutics of action and a hermeneutics of hearing both call for a hermeneutics of obedience. One not willing to obey will find a way not to understand (John 7:17...
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