In his essay on “The Universality of the Hermeneutical Problem,” H.-G. Gadamer draws upon Aristotle’s analogy between an army halting its retreat and the experience of coming to understanding. The halt may be so gradual that an observer can say when individuals within the army stop fleeing, but it’s more difficulty to say when the army as a whole has stopped its flight (Philosophical Hermeneutics, 14).
This situation Gadamer likens to the acquisition of language by children and comments,
In the utilization of the linguistic interpretation of the world that finally comes about [for adults], something of the productivity of our beginnings remains alive. We are all acquainted with this, for instance, in the attempt to translate … that is, we are familiar with the strange, uncomfortable, and tortuous feeling we have so long as we do not have the right word. When we have found the right expression … when we are certain that we have it … then something has come to a “stand” [as the army in Aristotle’s analogy]. Once again we have a halt in the midst of the rush of the foreign language…. What I am describing is the mode of the whole human experience of the world…. There is always a world already interpreted, already organized in its basic relations, into which experience steps as something new, upsetting what has led our expectations and undergoing reorganization itself in the upheaval. Misunderstanding and strangeness are not the first factors, so that avoiding misunderstanding can be regarded as the specific task of hermeneutics. Just the reverse is the case. Only the support of familiar and common understanding makes possible the venture into the alien, the lifting up of something out of the alien, and thus the broadening and enriching of our own experience in the world. (Philosophical Hermeneutics, 15)
From the morass of the unfamiliar and strange, humans seem to acquire language or other forms of understanding—to the extent that we do—by means of what are or come to be known quantities, whether as a parent or caregiver, or based on other accumulated prior experience. Our efforts to cope with a “surging sea of stimuli” halt their flight, they come to a stand, once that sea finds its own place—and itself comes to stand—within our understanding of the world, which has quite possibly been broadened for the experience (Philosophical Hermeneutics, 14).
For other reflections by and on Gadamer, see also previous posts on his thought.
Due out this November is Randall Price and Wayne House’s Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology. According to the book’s blurb,
The Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology includes an introduction to the field of archaeology for readers who might not be familiar with the methods, practices, and importance of this area of study. Included in this section is an annotated bibliography of important biblical archaeological reports, books, and journal articles for further study. The rest of the handbook is devoted to a book-by-book (Genesis through Revelation) presentation of the most significant archaeological discoveries that enhance our understanding of the biblical text, including a section on the intertestamental period.
For more information or to pre-order, see Zondervan’s website, Amazon, or other booksellers.
In his essay on “The Universality of the Hermeneutical Problem,” H.-G. Gadamer reflects,
It is imagination … that is the decisive function of the scholar. Imagination naturally has a hermeneutical function and serves the sense for what is questionable. It serves the ability to expose real, productive questions, something in which, generally speaking, only he who masters all the methods of his science achieves.
As a student of Plato, I particularly love scenes in which Socrates gets into a dispute with the Sophist virtuosi and drives them to despair by his questions. Eventually they can endure his questions no longer and claim for themselves the apparently preferable role of the questioner. And what happens? They can think of nothing at all to ask. Nothing at all occurs to them that is worth while going into and trying to answer.
I draw the following inference from this observation. The real power of hermeneutical consciousness is our ability to see what is questionable. (Philosophical Hermeneutics, 12–13).
Without the ability to “see what is questionable,” there is also little chance of breaking “the spell of our own fore-meanings” (Gadamer, Truth and Method, 281), or the assumptions about the reality we encounter that, at first brush, seem as naturally indubitable as anything could be.
For other reflections by and on Gadamer, see also previous posts on his thought.
The free book of the month from Logos Bible Software is David Garland’s commentary on Mark in the NIV Application Commentary series. The NIVAC series takes as its point of departure the observation that
most Bible commentaries take us on a one-way trip from the twentieth century to the first century. But they leave us there, assuming that we can somehow make the return journey on our own. In other words, they focus on the original meaning of the passage but don’t discuss its contemporary application. The information they offer is valuable — but the job is only half done! The NIV Application Commentary Series helps us with both halves of the interpretive task. This new and unique series shows readers how to bring an ancient message into a modern context. It explains not only what the Bible means but also how it can speak powerfully today.
Companion discounts include additional NIVAC volumes by John Walton (Job) and Scot McKnight (1 Peter). For additional information or to order, see the Logos website.
Mark Hoffman has updated his previous list of “free Bible software and trial versions” to include some of the more recent additions in the space, as well as a number of online resources.
For further discussion, see also Trial versions of Biblical Studies software, Logos 7 academic basic, and Logos 7 Basic for free.
Due out from Baker Academic in February 2018 is Ian Levy’s Introducing Medieval Biblical Interpretation: The Senses of Scripture in Premodern Exegesis. According to the book’s blub,
Does medieval hermeneutics have continuing relevance in an age dominated by the historical-critical method? Ian Christopher Levy asserts that it does. Levy shows that we must affirm both the irreversible advances made by the historical-critical method and the church’s lasting commitment to the deeper spiritual senses beyond the immediate historical circumstances of the text.
In Introducing Medieval Biblical Interpretation, Levy explains that medieval exegetes, like modern practitioners of the historical-critical method, were attuned to the nuances of ancient languages, textual variations, and cultural contexts in which the biblical books were produced. Yet these early interpreters did not stop after establishing the literal, historical sense of the text. Presupposing as they did the divine authorship of Holy Scripture, medieval exegetes maintained that the God of history imbued events, places, and people with spiritual significance so that they could point beyond themselves to deeper salvific realities. There is much meaning to be discovered through the techniques of medieval hermeneutics.
For more information or to pre-order, see Baker Academic, Amazon, or other book sellers.
Due out from Baker Academic in January 2018 is R. W. L. Moberly’s The Bible in a Disenchanted Age: The Enduring Possibility of Christian Faith. According to the book’s blub,
In our increasingly disenchanted age, can we still regard the Bible as God’s Word? Why should we consider the Bible trustworthy and dare to believe what it says? In this creative, accessible, and provocative book, leading Old Testament theologian R. W. L. Moberly sets forth his case for regarding the Bible as unlike any other book (and the Bible’s Deity as unlike any other deity) by exploring the differences between the Bible and other ancient writings. He explains how and why it makes sense to turn to the Bible with the expectation of finding ultimate truth in it, offering a robust apology for faith in the God of the Bible that’s fully engaged with critical scholarship and compatible with modern knowledge.
For additional information or to pre-order, see Baker Academic, Amazon, or other book sellers.
Forthcoming this November from Baker Academic is Mary Veeneman’s Introducing theological Method: A Survey of Contemporary Theologians and Approaches. According to the book’s blub,
Sound theological method is a necessary prerequisite for good theological work. This accessible introduction surveys contemporary theological methodology by presenting leading thinkers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as models. Figures covered include Karl Barth, Frank Clooney, James Cone, Avery Dulles, Millard Erickson, Jeannine Hill Fletcher, Hans Frei, Stanley Grenz, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Stanley Hauerwas, Elizabeth Johnson, Paul Knitter, George Lindbeck, Bernard Lonergan, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Clark Pinnock, Karl Rahner, John Thatanamil, Paul Tillich, Hans urs Von Balthasar, Kevin Vanhoozer, Delores Williams, and John Howard Yoder. Introducing Theological Method presents the strengths and weaknesses in each of the major options. Rather than favoring one specific position, it helps students of theology think critically so they can understand and develop their own theological method.
For more information or to pre-order, see the Baker Academic, Amazon, or other book sellers.
Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google, discusses at TED the interplay between technology, attention, and distraction.
For additional discussion of this TED talk, see Alexandra Dempsey’s post on the Freedom blog.
For additional discussion the significance of focus, the importance of guarding it, and a helpful tool to that end, see Focus—there’s an app for that. For more information or to try Freedom, see the Freedom website. For additional similar discussion and tools, see also timewellspent.io.
Logos Bible Software has provided a helpful current webinar about how to get started with Logos 7.