Subjective or Sympathetic Interpretation?

The later is arguably a better practice than the former:

We can set aside Schleiermacher’s ideas on subjective interpretation. When we try to understand a text, we do not try to transpose ourselves into the author’s mind [in die seelische Verfassung des Authors] but, if one wants to use this terminology, we try to transpose ourselves into the perspective within which he has formed his views [in die Perspective, unter der der andere seine Meinung gewonnen hat]. But this simply means that we try to understand how what he is saying could be right. If we want to understand, we will try to make his arguments even stronger (Gadamer, Truth and Method (2006) 292; Gadamer, Truth and Method (2013) 303; italics added; Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode 297).

Of course, in addition to its direct relevance to interpreting the New Testament, this suggestion to seek to understand “how what [another person] is saying could be right” and even to understand how these arguments could become more plausible is good advice for interpreting all kinds of human communication, perhaps especially communication from those with whom one disagrees. Specifically, such understanding helps prevent premature critiques, and it enables critiques that are made to be made much more carefully.

In the Biblioblogs

In the past few days, there have been several very interesting posts around the biblioblogosphere. To highlight some of those posts here:

Interpretive Methods: Historical, Literary, or Ideological?

In the introduction to To Each Its Own Meaning: An Introduction to Biblical Criticisms and Their Application, Steven McKenzie and Stephen Haynes observe that

One fundamental disagreement between “historical” and “literary” methods of biblical criticism is found in their assumptions about the relationship between texts and history. This disagreement can be expressed in simple terms by saying that historical methods such as source criticism, form criticism, tradition-historical criticism, and redaction criticism emphasize the historical, archaeological, or literary backgrounds or roots of a text, and the development of the text through time. Thus historical-critical methods are sometimes referred to as “diachronic.” On the other hand, literary methods such as structural criticism, narrative criticism, reader-response criticism, and poststructuralist criticism tend to focus on the text itself in its final form (however the final form might have been achieved), and the relationships between a variety of textual elements (both surface and deep), and the interaction between texts and readers (McKenzie and Haynes 7; emphasis original).

That is, both historical and literary approaches are, in fact, ‘ideological’ in the sense that, in the interpretive process, these methods privilege or emphasize the importance of certain information in or about the text. Yet, ‘ideological’ criticism is not typically used as a parent class for ‘historical’ or ‘literary’ criticism. Rather, styles of criticism seem to be assigned to the category of ‘ideological’ when they are considered not to fall within the boundaries of the ‘historical’ or ‘literary’ categories (e.g., 9–10). For example, in addition to the methods mentioned in the preceding quotation, McKenzie and Haynes’ volume includes two chapters that address feminist (268–82) and socioeconomic (283–306) readings as ‘ideological’ criticisms.

What we actually seem to mean, then, when we classify a given method as ‘ideological’ is that the method fits, or has rhetorical validity, within a relatively more specific hermeneutical paradigm (cf. “Paradigms and Rules”). By contrast, ‘historical’ and ‘literary’ methods may more frequently stand as independent categories on equal terms with ‘ideological’ methods because ‘historical’ and ‘literary’ methods fit more directly to a relatively more general hermeneutical paradigm.

In this post:

Steven McKenzie and Stephen Haynes
Steven McKenzie and Stephen Haynes

Jesus as Paul’s Hermeneutical Key

Regarding the place of Jesus in Paul’s hermeneutic, James Aageson suggests that

[Paul’s] hermeneutic is inherently theological and is governed by his experience on the Damascus road and its legacy. From a persecutor of the early church, Paul was transformed into a man with a mission to carry the name of Jesus to the Gentile world. The divine mystery that was revealed to Paul in Christ opens for him new ways of reading and listening to the ancient texts of the Jewish people. His belief in Christ is both an experience and a conviction that, in his eyes, allows him to comprehend the “true” meaning of the religion of his people and their sacred texts (155–56).

The scare quotes (“true”) suggest, on Aageson’s part, at least some reluctance to give an imprimatur to what he considers to be Paul’s view of proper meaning(s) for scripture read in light of Jesus (cf. 158, 180), but Jesus certainly played a constitutive role for Paul’s hermeneutic and, under Paul’s influence and teaching, the churches that Paul planted and the congregations that he addressed.

In this post:

Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament
Stanley Porter

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52.4

The winter issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society arrived in the mail today and includes the following:

New Testament

  • Al Wolters, “ΑΥΘΕΝΤΗΣ and Its Cognates in Biblical Greek” 719–29
  • Nicholas Lunn, “Jesus, the Ark, and the Day of Atonement: Intertextual Echoes in John 19:38–20:18” 731–46
  • David Huttar, “Did Paul Call Andronicus an Apostle in Romans 16:7?” 747–78
  • Joseph Hellerman, “ΜΟΡΦΗ ΘΕΟΥ as a Signifier of Social Status in Philippians 2:6” 779–97

Jewish Scripture

  • Leslie McFall, “Do the Sixty-Nine Weeks of Daniel Date the Messianic Mission of Nehemiah or Jesus?” 673–718


  • Keith Johnson, “Augustine’s ‘Trinitarian’ Reading of John 5: A Model for the Theological Interpretation of Scripture?” 799–810
  • David Barshinger, “‘The Only Rule of Our Faith and Practice’: Jonathan Edwards’s Interpretation of the Book of Isaiah as a Case Study of His Exegetical Boundaries” 811–29