What at one time I was calling my abstract has now become my introduction. Sorry, not filled with hyperlink yet. Still would appreciate feedback.
In recent years theological interpretation of Scripture has found new life in the post-Enlightenment freedom from pure objectivity and the reaction to the modernist tendency to segregate the theological disciplines. Theological interpretation wrestles with hermeneutical questions from an explicit position of faith. It seeks to guide reading practices in a way that puts the readers in a position to live with and know God and fellow believers. Among theological interpreters the task of guiding the practices of reading communities is a highly contested one, and tensions exist on a number of levels. The concept of meaning is central in this debate and thus has much to do with the outlook of theological interpretation.
Chapter one introduces theological interpretation as a re-emerging branch of biblical studies growing out of a renewed interest in the hermeneutical significance of viewing the Bible as sacred texts and the believing community as the proper reading location. The chapter considers the shortcomings of ‘modern’ and ‘postmodern’ approaches in taking adequate account of the theological aspects of scriptural interpretation. Concepts of meaning, including critiques of such concepts, are seen as central to the task of theological interpretation, and the chapter displays why a study of concepts of meaning is warranted.
Chapters two and three describe and analyze the concepts of meaning in two competing proposals for theological interpretation. Chapter two examines Stephen Fowl’s suggestion that theological interpreters abandon the search for meaning in biblical texts in favor of interpretive aims and interests. Fowl’s critique of meaning results in certain habits and practices as the defining traits of theological interpretation. In chapter three I examine Kevin Vanhoozer’s realist conception of meaning, especially through his understanding of authorial intention by way of speech-act theory.
Chapter four identifies that both of these competing proposals have strengths and weaknesses, and ventures to understand meaning in a way that Fowl and Vanhoozer may be seen as a dialogical pair. To this end, the chapter suggests that a more holistic conception of the term “meaning” reflects the nature of felicitous speech acts and the realities of the total speech situation, thus allowing the theological interpreter to maintain the necessity for authorial intention with Vanhoozer and the reading community with Fowl.
Chapter five concludes the project by assessing the debate about meaning as one based on a false dyad. It asks about the shape of theological interpretation if Fowl and Vanhoozer were to read Scripture together, establishing what challenges this conversation offers for the theological interpretation of scripture and performing a theological analysis of what such debates about meaning themselves suggest about what role the Church plays and ultimately about who God is. These exercises lead to tentative challenges for biblical scholars and theologians to begin working more closely together on issues of urgent importance for the contemporary church and world.