Inner Biblical Exegesis As A Model For Bridging The “Then” And “Now” Gap: Hos 12:1-6 -- By: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 28:1 (Mar 1985)
Article: Inner Biblical Exegesis As A Model For Bridging The “Then” And “Now” Gap: Hos 12:1-6
Author: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.


Inner Biblical Exegesis As A Model
For Bridging The “Then” And “Now” Gap: Hos 12:1-6

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.*

One question our generation of Biblical interpreters must solve is this: Is the meaning of a Biblical text and its application one process (as Hans-Georg Gadamer1 would urge us to believe), or are these two separate actions (as Emilio Betti and E. D. Hirsch2 argue)? Is there a difference between the meaning of a text (which, according to Hirsch, does not change) and the significance of a text for us today (which changes, depending on the situation)?

I. The Problem Of Application

The outstanding achievement of Gadamer is his revolt against separating application from both understanding and interpretation. He considered “application to be as integral a part of the hermeneutical act as are understanding and interpretation.”3 Together they comprised “one unified process … The text,… if it is to be understood properly, i.e. according to the claim it makes, must be understood at every moment, in every particular situation, in a new and different way. Understanding here is always application.”4 Gadamer goes on to say: “If the heart of the hermeneutical problem is that the same tradition must always be understood in a different way, the problem, logically speaking, is that of the relationship between the universal and the particular. Understanding, then, is a particular case of the application of something universal to a particular situation.”5

Now we can partially agree with Gadamer that this is one half of the herme-neutical problem (and even “the heart of the… problem”—on the significance side)—that is, the task of finding the proper alignment between the universal and the particular. But we must, with Hirsch, observe that “it will not do to say in one breath that a written text has a self-identical and repeatable meaning and in the next that the meaning of a text changes … It is precisely because the

*Walter Kaiser is academic dean and professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

meaning of the text is always the same that its relationship to a different situation is a different relationship.6

Accordingly, rather than “fusing the horizons” (Gadamer’s Horizontverschmelzung

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