If you haven’t read…
Posted October 17, 2007on:
…David Steinmetz’s article on ‘The Superiority of Pre-critical Exegesis‘ then do so now! I first read it when I was writing my Song of Songs dissertation and again today when we discussed it in History of Interpretation.
Steinmetz offers what I described as a ‘goal-evaluated’ view of interpretation and what Dr McCartney suggests might be termed an ‘outcome assessment’. That is to say, he proposes that the mediaeval principle of multiple layers of meaning in the text worked, and thus should be regarded as true. Whereas modern critical exegesis doesn’t, and should thus be dismissed as false.
You will see the similarities with Augustine’s method that I outlined here.
The Song is a particularly interesting example of Steinmetz’s model. In the pre-critical era, it was one of the most preached on and commented on books in the bible. People loved it for what it taught about Christ and the church. It was edifying and enlightening. It built up the body and strengthened Christians’ love for Christ. In the modern era, it’s almost ignored and forgotten by the church. And when it is read, it scares people or it leads them in wholly ungodly directions (see David Clines’ reading of the Song as Israelite pornography, for example). GHE doesn’t work for the Song. The interpretations it produces don’t do what the bible is supposed to do.
So, what should we do? Become modern mediaevalists? Possibly. Kind of. What we need is to develop a mode of interpretation that is effective for today’s congregations. So it will need to be plausible, in a way that many older interpretations just aren’t any more, but it also needs to be edifying.
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