Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Take that, Society of Biblical Literature!

If you're one of those people who've decided biblical scholardom is not the place for you, then Stanley Hauerwas's essay in the festschrift for New Testament scholar Richard Hays (who, I have it on extremely reliable information, used to be called "Chip" in college) makes for terrifically comforting reading. Here are some of the gems:

Hays at one time thought it crucial to maintain the distinction between "what it meant" and "what it means" to insure that the Scripture can judge the church. I do not know if he still thinks such a distinction is necessary, but from my perspective such a distinction only insures that members of the Society of Biblical Literature can judge the church.

The reader will note that I avoid using the language of "interpretation" because I think such language suggests that the text has "a meaning" which then must be interpreted. Such a view reproduces the habits of liberal Protestant theologians who assume the language of Scripture needs to be demythologised to meet the epistemic standards of modernity.

To try to isolate the "meaning" of a word from its use is to assume that language is one thing and what the language depicts is something quite other. As a result language and the world are understood to be externally related to one another in a manner that language users are positioned as spectators rather than performers. The presumption that a dualism exists between language and the world hides from us that "the world" is constituted by language and that there is no way to transcend language to speak about language.

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