Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 02:1 (Spring 1981)
Article: Reviews
Author: Anonymous


The Two Horizons. New Testament Hermeneutics and Philosophical Description with Special Reference to Heidegger, Bultmann, Gadamer and Wittgenstein, by Anthony C. Thiselton. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980. xx + 484 pp. $22.50.

Dr. Thiselton, Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies in England’s University of Sheffield, has written a book of major proportions. A quick glance at the five-page table of contents leaves the reader astounded at the scope of the task the author has undertaken. And after reading the book, one feels that Thiselton has, in fact, pulled it off. The book is an education in itself, deftly guiding the reader through the labyrinths of philosophers, theologians, and biblical critics. The author’s objective is to aid the task of hermeneutics—the science of interpretation—by raising questions about the nature of language and its use, the nature of knowledge, and the presuppositions that the exegete brings to the biblical text. Whence the title, “The Two Horizons”? Thiselton says, “… ‘horizon’ is used metaphorically to denote the limits of thought dictated by a given viewpoint or perspective. The goal of biblical hermeneutics is to bring about an active and meaningful engagement between the interpreter and the text, in such a way that the interpreter’s own horizon is reshaped and enlarged” (p. xix). Thus, while traditional hermeneutics has tended to focus upon methods for understanding the ancient biblical text (and Thiselton does not denigrate this perspective at all), the contribution of this book concerns the ‘horizon’ of the modern interpreter and the phenomenon of language.

Thiselton begins by building a case for this entire enterprise why engage in all this philosophical enquiry? What is wrong with the traditional view of hermeneutics as a collection of “rules” to be applied so that a text will be understood and interpreted correctly? The reader must ponder the first chapter carefully and hear its message well. Hermeneutics, says Thiselton, is a two-sided problem. The problem is not simply understanding the “historical particularities and historical conditionedness of the text” (though that is of major importance), but also realizing that “the modern reader is also conditioned by his own place in history and tradition” (p. 15). Thus, Thiselton’s task consists of discovering and analyzing the applicable insights of appropriate philosophers so as to help the modern hearer or reader be aware of and understand his own ‘horizons’. The interpreter must become aware of the “distinctiveness of his own horizons, as against those of the text” (p. 16). Thus, using Gadamer’s phrase, there must be a fusion of horizons (Horizontverschmelzung)—the horizon of the text and that of the modern reader—for that text to be un...

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