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Is There a Meaning in This Text?

, 1998
ISBN: 9780310493372

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Is There a Meaning in This Text? guides the student toward greater confidence in the authority, clarity, and relevance of Scripture, and a well–reasoned expectation to understand accurately the message of the Bible. This volume 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 author–oriented 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 proposal—an Augustinian hermeneutic—that reinvigorates the notion of biblical authority and finds a new exegetical practice that recognizes the importance of both the reader’s situation and the literal sense.

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“To put it another way, do readers project themselves onto the text or discover themselves in the text? This ‘mirror image’ raises what I believe to be the most important question for contemporary theories of interpretation, whether of the Bible or of any other book: Is there something in the text that reflects a reality independent of the reader’s interpretive activity, or does the text only reflect the reality of the reader?” (Page 15)

“Kierkegaard’s point is that linguistic and historical scholarship is not yet genuine reading. It is rather like examining and working on the mirror itself—looking at the mirror rather than in it. Such, he suggests, is the danger of modern biblical criticism.” (Page 16)

“The moral of Kierkegaard’s parables is that readers have ceased to take the privilege and responsibility of interpretation seriously. The purpose of interpretation is no longer to recover and relate to a message from one who is other than ourselves, but precisely to evade such a confrontation. The business of interpretation is busyness: constantly to produce readings in order to avoid having to respond to the text. What is the purpose of such interpretation? Kierkegaard’s answer is cynical yet insightful: ‘Look more closely, and you will see that it is to defend itself against God’s Word.’6 In order to avoid seeing themselves in Scripture as they really are, some readers prefer either to look at the mirror or to project their own, more flattering, images.” (Page 16)

“Deconstruction, as its name implies, is a strategy for taking apart or undoing. It is about dismantling certain distinctions and oppositions that have traditionally guaranteed to philosophy its superior place among the humanities. It is, above all, a strategy for putting philosophy in its place. It also represents a sustained attempt to discern the limits of philosophy. Derrida claims that philosophers are never able, either by reflection or by self-reflection, to rise above their limited points of view to see the world, or even themselves, as God might.” (Page 20)

There is meaning in Vanhoozer's text! Plenty of it, in fact. It is a meaning that traces with a discerning eye the history of authorship and authority, of readership and interpretation—right up to the present time and all under the umbrella of both thinking Christianly and living Christianly. Here is historical, philosophical, and theological exegesis—capped with creative construction—of the first order. As was said to Saint Augustine, on whose thought Vanhoozer builds, Tolle, lege. Take up! Read!

—Robert H. Gundry, Scholar-in-Residence, Westmont College

  • Title: Is There a Meaning in This Text?: The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge
  • Author: Kevin J. Vanhoozer
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Print Publication Date: 1998
  • Logos Release Date: 2011
  • Pages: 512
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Bible › Hermeneutics; Hermeneutics › Religious aspects--Christianity
  • ISBNs: 9780310493372, 9780310211563, 0310493374, 0310211565
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2022-09-30T00:47:14Z
Kevin J. Vanhoozer

Kevin J. Vanhoozer (PhD, Cambridge University) is a research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He also served as Blanchard professor of theology at the Wheaton College and Graduate School (2009–2012) and senior lecturer in theology and religious studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (1990–98). He is the author of ten books, including Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine and Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity—both Christianity Today Theology Books of the Year (2015, 2017). He serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Systematic Theology, Journal for Theological Interpretation, and Pro Ecclesia and was the North American consultant for the second edition of the New Dictionary of Theology (IVP). He is married and has two daughters (and his doctoral students). He is an amateur classical pianist and avid reader, finding that music and literature help him integrate academic theology and spiritual formation into his everyday life.


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