In his Romans commentary, F. F. Bruce gives the following, sound advice for those who want to understand Paul better:
We may agree or disagree with Paul, but we must do him the justice of letting him hold and teach his own beliefs, and not distort his beliefs into conformity with what we should prefer him to have said (136).
Of course, determining what exactly Paul believed is a task that inevitably involves readers and those readers’ preunderstandings, but still the adage holds: “if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time” (cf. Hermeneutics and “the Near”).
Every culture has its “cultural script” that is assumed in its communication. These [Second Temple Jewish] sources help us get a reading on the cultural script at work in the time of Jesus. They also help us understand the reaction to Jesus and his ministry. They also deepen our own perception of Jesus’ claims (40–41).
Particularly this quotation’s first sentence—and then the remaining ones by way of application—strongly resonate with some of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s remarks about “transposition.” Of course, this “script” does not represent a rigid, determining force, but it does aggregate a field of possibilities for Judaism(s) that could make sense within the Second Temple period and, therefore, a field on which Jesus had to play in order to make sense to other Jews of his day. Even if the “sense” some made of him was that he was a dangerous radical who merited execution, such opponents still had to see Jesus as playing on the part of the field where people who deserved execution played. Thus, studying the nature of this field—this “cultural script”—can provide valuable insight into how Jesus situated himself within that field (cf. Wright 1992, 145–338; Wright 1996, 150–55).
Defending the legitimacy of the category of “collective memory,” Maurice Halbwachs observes the following:
History is neither the whole nor even all that remains of the past. In addition to written history, there is a living history that perpetuates and renews itself through time and permits the recovery of many old currents that have seemingly disappeared (64).
Thus, in some respect, the “collective memory” provides the means by which a community recovers for itself things that it has forgotten or allowed to fall into the vague and dusty corners of its memory. Without such collective memory, these lost currents would have no presence in relation to the community and they would have to be recovered—if they would ever be recovered at all—in the same manner as the community discovers new things of which it had not previously been aware.
The interpretation of the law, which had been revealed by God, is the focus of the phrase “works of the law” [at Qumran]. . . . No doubt the emphasis is on Torah in its entirety (see 1QS 8.1–2) but “obeying the law” was in accordance with the correct interpretation, that which had been revealed by God. . . . [T]he phrase does not simply mean “works of the law as God has commanded,” but rather “works of the law that God has commanded and revealed fully only to us” (72–73; italics original).
Thus, at least to a great degree, Torah functions not so much as it is in itself but as it is interpreted by the Qumran community. For this preeminently defining element, opposing interpretations were not credible (e.g., CD 1:13–2:1; 4Q266 f2i:21–f2ii:2). Consequently, entering and remaining in the community necessarily implied returning and adhering to Torah, where Torah was understood according to the proper conception of Torah that the community believed itself to have (e.g., CD 15:12–13; 1QS 5:8–10, 20–22; 4Q271 f4ii:3).
Seen according to the new paradigm, the old one appears mistaken (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 115; cf. Thiselton 712), for the community’s new paradigm directs the community to interpret observations differently than it had done before (Hung 8–9, 63; Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 206). Thus, in very close parallel to the classic gestalt switch, scientists who resolve a crisis by changing their paradigmatic allegiances come to view the same data from a different perspective and have, therefore, a different explanatory context for that data (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 84–85). In this way, the scientists who experience this switch reconceptualize their fields, objects of inquiry, and validation standards so radically that, for them, the hermeneutical world that they inhabit after the paradigm shift fundamentally differs from the one that they had previously inhabited (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 102–103, 109, 111–12, 118, 128–29; see also Grandy).1