writing things down…

New Journal

I just learned about the forthcoming Journal of Theological Interpretation.

I’m telling you, theological interpretation is the hot thing!  I just wish we knew what it was.  But, I suppose the minute we pin it down, it will no longer be.  Which leads me to wonder…What do you think theological interpretation is?



  dave beldman wrote @

Ha! I am encouraged by the fact that someone who has done a dissertation on theological interpretation can’t define it. Last year in my first year of graduate studies we were asked to write a paper about our respective disciplines and what we hope to achieve, etc., and one of my statements was that whatever theological interpretation is, I wanted to be doing it.
I guess as a starting point I’d say that theological interpretation involves reading/interpreting the Bible as God’s Word, the goal being to hear God’s address.

  Chris wrote @

the goal being to hear God’s address

Yes, but is there a method for this? I don’t think so, and therefore, I tend to see theological interpretation in the same class as ideological criticisms – we describe it by the presuppositions with which we come to the text (e.g., “the Bible as God’s Word”) and not by the methods employed in reading/interpreting it. What do you think?

  dave beldman wrote @

hmm. I knew I wasn’t really answering the question. You’re right that part of theological interpretation involves the presupposition that the Bible is God’s Word although I admit that I am somewhat reluctant about classing it as an ideological criticism (perhaps as a gut reaction). I guess I am convinced that the Bible ought to be read as God’s Word not as a book merely motivated by economic, political, or gender reasons. That being said, I would argue that theological interpretation has much to learn from non-confessional and minority interpretations.
You are right, though, that theological interpretation is not a method. Perhaps learning how to interpret texts better in general will better “attune” our “ears” to hear God’s address. The conventions of literary studies are being applied to the Bible today with some very good results. Genre, structure, and style are ways in which meaning is mediated, though these have to be balanced with a concern for historical context. Thus, certain methods can aid in theological interpretation.
In the end, I suppose theological interpretation is more of a posture than anything else, a posture of humility (even/especially about our own interpretations), submission and a willingness to listen and trust.

  -drm- wrote @

Asking a question like what is theological interpretation will necessarily get you a broad answer, no different than asking the question: What is interpretation? It is a question of about an action, not an object. The initial question sprawls into:

What is theology?, What is interpretation?, Theological interpretation of what?, Are we constrained to the Bible when we use these two words?, Tradition?, Scripture?, Canon?, relationship to other ecclesial practices?

Obviously, I’m not going to attempt to answer your question in a blog post. I have about 70 more or less coherent pages written on the topic if you’re interested though.

And skip James K. A. Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?, it’s not very good. Given the topics you’re interested in read these instead:

GEM Anscombe’s Intention
Derrida’s Writing and Difference
Ricoeur’s The Conflict of Interpretations & Time and Narrative
Foucault’s “What is an Author?”
Eagleton’s Literary Theory
The first two articles in Iseminger’s Intention & Interpretation

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