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Wesley Vander Lugt
5 Stars Out Of 5
December 9, 2009
Wesley Vander Lugt
I 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!
This 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.