Re: historically informed interpretation (longish)

Carl W. Conrad (
Thu, 19 Dec 1996 06:20:48 -0600

In deference to Ken's own past pleas for consideration of bandwidth
capacities I forebear to cite his "longish" post; everyone received it, and
Jonathan has made splendid arrangements for the new posts to be archived as
they arrive one by one, so that anyone can readily consult it.

Inasmuch as this thread and also the thread on the star of Bethlehem have
rather tangential bearing on the Greek text of the NT, I had initially
vowed to keep silence regarding both. Now, however, Ken has made a
statement which I find astounding--by which I mean no disrespect
whatsoever, having followed his arguments on this list as well as on
Ioudaios-L on questions of historical interpretation over a long
period--and splendid, and it seems to me that this statement has a rather
profound (pardon my relativity!) bearing upon our discussions in this forum
and can be salutary for us all, if we take it to heart.

Congratulations, Ken, on a truly fine post! I mean this not a whit
sarcastically but in all sincerity. You give expression to a new phase of
Socratic doubt that has been coming upon me in ever stronger measure of
late, that the questions we want to ask of the Biblical text are more
numerous and larger than are our present resources for getting at the
answers. I know that this is not quite the way you put it, and you may feel
somewhat more confident than I that there's a bright light at the end of
the tunnel that reveals the full and absolute meaning of each particular
portion of text, but my own inclination is to believe that, so long as we
remain alive in this world, even with the full assistance of the Spirit, we
are going to "see through a glass darkly," gleaning much that will orient
us on our way and hopefully, prayerfully, lead us to become more obedient
and faithful, but never completely plumbing the depths of the original
author's intent or of the original readers' understanding of that intent.
And by this I certainly do not mean to say that we understand nothing
significant of those meanings, only that we have never understood it all,
and that this is one reason that we are likely to continue to fall into
many different camps over the meaning of particular passages. Reason enough
for us to be patient with each other when we disagree over interpretation,
as I feel rather confident we will, and continue to do what we can to
enlighten each other to the degree that each of us is able to enlighten or,
God willing, to be enlightened. So I, for one, want to thank you, Ken, for
your message; forgive me if I saw in it something other than you intended,
but I thank you even if that should be the case, and I wish you and all our
list-members the heartiest greetings of this season, with earnest prayers
for peace and good will to men (and women, if it needs saying, and even if
this is not the latest reading, EUDOKIAS).

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR