The Current Crisis In Exegesis And The Apostolic Use Of Deuteronomy 25:4 In 1 Corinthians 9:8-10 -- By: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 21:1 (Mar 1978)
Article: The Current Crisis In Exegesis And The Apostolic Use Of Deuteronomy 25:4 In 1 Corinthians 9:8-10
Author: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.


The Current Crisis In Exegesis And The
Apostolic Use Of Deuteronomy 25:4 In
1 Corinthians 9:8-10*

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

The most important contribution our generation could make to the whole curriculum of divinity would be to face up to the current crisis in Biblical exegesis. At the present moment the crisis has shown very little regard for our traditional ecclesiastical categories, for it has spread like the plague from liberal to evangelical scholars/preachers alike. The only factors that will differ are the symptoms of the crisis. The sad fact remains.

I. Review And Analysis

A. The Failure to Distinguish Meaning and Significance

As E. D. Hirsch analyzed one aspect of this problem,1 a decadent “subjectivism” had cast off all literary constraints and thereby ruled out the possibility of a common and determinate object of knowledge. For Hirsch, this “post-Kantian relativism” 2 that “all ‘knowledge’ is relative”3 had produced “cognitive atheists”4 who adhered to no common authority or to any shared principles, but who freely degraded knowledge and value, subverted the goal of objective knowledge and threatened the very arena of scholarship with their interpretive solipsism.

In Hirsch’s judgment:

Meaning is that which is represented by a text; it is what the author meant by his use of particular sign sequence; it is what the signs represent. Significance, on the other hand, names a relationship between that meaning and a person, or a conception or a situation.5

With this we agree. The theoretical eye of this storm has now been identified. Unfortunately, even Hirsch has undermined his own fine

*Walter Kaiser, professor of Semitic languages and Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Deerfield, Illinois, delivered this presidential address at the 29th annual meeting of ETS, December 27, 1977.

analysis of the normative power of the author’s intention as found in the text by allowing the interpreter to frequently usurp the right of the author to say first what he meant to say.6 Instead of arguing that the “meaning” is always a return to the text as it was meant to be understood by the author, he has most recently enlarged “meaning” to “simply meaning-for-an-interpreter” and comprising “constructions wh...

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