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Publication Date: 2009
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Is there a meaning in the Bible, or is meaning rather a matter of who is reading or of how one reads? Does Christian doctrine have anything to contribute to debates about interpretation, literary theory, and post modernity? These are questions of crucial importance for contemporary biblical studies and theology alike. Kevin Vanhoozer contends that the postmodern crisis in hermeneutics"incredulity towards meaning," a deepset skepticism concerning the possibility of correct interpretationis fundamentally a crisis in theology provoked by an inadequate view of God and by the announcement of Gods "death." Part 1 examines the ways in which deconstruction and radical readerresponse criticism "undo" the traditional concepts of author, text, and reading. Dr. Vanhoozer engages critically with the work of Derrida, Rorty, and Fish, among others, and demonstrates the detrimental influence of the postmodern "suspicion of hermeneutics" on biblical studies. In Part 2, Dr. Vanhoozer defends the concept of the author and the possibility of literary knowledge by drawing on the resources of Christian doctrine and by viewing meaning in terms of communicative action. He argues that there is a meaning in the text, that it can be known with relative adequacy, and that readers have a responsibility to do so by cultivating "interpretive virtues." Successive chapters build on Trinitarian theology and speech act philosophy in order to treat the metaphysics, methodology, and morals of interpretation. From a Christian perspective, meaning and interpretation are ultimately grounded in Gods own communicative action in creation, in the canon, and preeminently in Christ. Prominent features in Part 2 include a new account of the authors intention and of the literal sense, the reclaiming of the distinction between meaning and significance in terms of Word and Spirit, and the image of the reader as a disciplemartyr, whose vocation is to witness to something other than oneself. Is There a Meaning in This Text? guides the student toward greater confidence in the authority, clarity, and relevance of Scripture, and a wellreasoned expectation to understand accurately the message of the Bible. Is There a Meaning in This Text? is a comprehensive and creative analysis of current debates over biblical hermeneutics that draws on interdisciplinary resources, all coordinated by Christian theology. It makes a significant contribution to biblical interpretation that will be of interest to readers in a number of fields. The intention of the book is to revitalize and enlarge the concept of authororiented interpretation and to restore confidence that readers of the Bible can reach understanding. The result is a major challenge to the central assumptions of postmodern biblical scholarship and a constructive alternative proposalan Augustinian hermeneuticthat reinvigorates the notion of biblical authority and finds a new exegetical practice that recognizes the importance of both the readers situation and the literal sense.
Kevin J. Vanhoozer (PhD, Cambridge University, England) is Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is author of several books, including Is There a Meaning in This Text? The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge, The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology, and Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine. He also serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Systematic Theology and the Journal of Theological Interpretation.
Wesley Vander Lugt5 Stars Out Of 5December 9, 2009Wesley Vander LugtI can hardly think of a better book to merit republication in Zondervan's Landmarks in Christian Scholarship series!Vanhoozer utilizes speech-act theory to show how every text is a result of communicative action in which an author intends to do something with his or her words. He demonstrates how we can approach Scripture with hermeneutical realism, knowing that the divine/human authors really did intend to communicate something through the particular words we have in our Bibles.Vanhoozer argues that we can discover meaning through a thick description of everything the author was doing through this particular act of textual communication. To be responsible and respectful to the text, therefore, implies searching for the actual meaning of the text, not whatever meaning we care to project.Honesty, openness, attention and obedience will lead us to realize and respond to the meaning that the author intended. To understand Scripture means to take the position of a servant, and to approach the difficult yet joyful task of interpretation with humility and conviction. If we do this, will we really find just one meaning? Vanhoozer's hermeneutical realism and a robust doctrine of the Spirit lead him to defend a Pentecostal plurality of meaning and significance. In other words, it takes a diversity of methods and reading in a diversity of contexts to approach the thick, unified meaning of Scripture.It is almost impossible to summarize the content and significance of such a substantial work, but hopefully the recap above approximates the meaning in this important text. You may find the contents (locution) of the book obtuse at times, but what Vanhoozer does (illocution) in the book is astonishing, and its effect (perlocution) is far-reaching. If you are a serious student of biblical interpretation, you need this for your library!
JasonS4 Stars Out Of 5October 23, 2009JasonSThis must have been the most difficult book that I have ever read. I can say, however, that I have read it with profit. There is a reason that it is considered a modern standard in the field of hermeneutics. VanHoozer states his case, quotes extensively from those with whom he disagrees, uses many references to bolster his point, and builds a good argument. What is that argument? That there is indeed meaning in the Bible text. The death of God movement has led to the death of the author movement, it seems. Some are declaring that meaning is in the eye (head, or heart, I suppose) of the reader/community instead of being resident in the text. VanHoozer argues that texts are the result of authors communicating, and that communicating requires meaning or nothing is communicated. VanHoozer relates this to Trinitarian theology by stating that there is a God, thus there is an author of all things, so there is meaning. There is the incarnation of the Son of God, so God manifests and communicates with man, so authors and the meanings in their texts obviously are real. He then reminds us that there is the Holy Spirit who is also God and illuminates the text that we might understand. With all of this in mind, he calls us back to a sort of literal hermeneutic in which the literal sense is the literary sense. I recommend this book to people interested in hermeneutics, and people who have lots of reading time. A worthwhile read.