The Three Horizons: Culture, Integration And Communication -- By: David J. Hesselgrave

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 28:4 (Dec 1985)
Article: The Three Horizons: Culture, Integration And Communication
Author: David J. Hesselgrave


The Three Horizons:
Culture, Integration And Communication

David J. Hesselgrave*

Without doubt we are justified in conjecturing that, from the beginning, man as a communicator has entertained an awareness of the intimate relation that exists between meanings and contexts. At the same time we are probably also justified in saying that there has never been a time when greater consideration has been given to a delineation of contexts or to an examination of their influence on understanding. Let us briefly look at some contextual categories and exemplify some of the ways in which they are regarded by theorists, both secular and religious.

I. The Two Horizons Of Interpretation:
Textual And Interpretational Contexts

The metaphor is used by H. G. Gadamer and Anthony Thiselton. The “two horizons” refer to the context in which a Biblical text is discovered and the context by which an interpreter of the text is conditioned. Of course these two horizons relate to the interpretation of any text, not just the Biblical one, though the relationship may indeed be unique in the case of Biblical revelation. Let us look at these horizons separately.

1. The textual context. The context in which any message is encoded is of salutary importance to the determination of its meaning. This is so obvious that we run the risk of pedantry simply in mentioning the fact. And yet if we examine a few of the ways in which textual contexts have been characterized by writers, both secular and Christian, we may be in for some surprises.

Consider the “dramatistic” view of interpretation propounded by Kenneth Burke.1 He says that all “rhetorical acts” must be analyzed in terms of a contextual “motive” that includes not just words and their arrangement, or even the immediate circumstances in which they were authored, but the totality of data bearing upon the words. This is to say, for example, that the context of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus includes not just the language and the circumstances immediate and contiguous to that experience but also such seemingly remote data as that supplied by the Genesis record. In effect Burke has widened the classical notion of context so as to make it include a much larger purview.

*David Hesselgrave is professor of world missions at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

To take Burke seriously would challenge the breadth of vision and understanding of even the most astute interpreter.

I. A. Richards, on the other hand, occasions a somewhat different response.

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