Re: historically informed interpretation

Thu, 19 Dec 1996 18:03:34 -0800

Just to clarify, I don't accept a deconstructioninst or radical
reader-response solipsistic understanding of a text as whatever it
"means" to me. Unless, however, my theology is right and I get to one
day interrogate Paul over 1 Tim 2:12-15, I can't recover authorial
intent, since I can't talk to the author about his intent. Even now, in
conversation or writing, my words can be misconstured! How much more
that of NT authors? I don't know if "the meaning" of the text exists or
is recoverable. I think the best that I can argue for is that the text
has at least one intention and we can intelligently and reasonably
develop a limited set of potentially valid interpretations, any of which
may point more or less to what the text intends, which may not be
limited to one thing, by which I mean to suggest that an author may be
attempting to accomplish more than one thing in any given piece of
writing. I can appreciate David Moore's, shall I say discomfort, with
such a position, but I think that's the best that I can hope for. I
also acknowledge that a text may be very meaningful taken in a way that
has nothing to do with the text. I have to be careful when I say
that, because I came into conflict with a prof in a seminar because I
wanted to limit the possible meanings of a text to less than infinite.
Is that what the text means? I don't think so. That doesn't mean it's
not a valid devotional thought, but it is not the meaning. And then
again, the sorts of applications of biblical texts, like John's Gospel
that led to vilence against Jews through the centuries most likely also
outside the range of valid meanings and also not a harmless devotional
meaning. Oops, I think I've been in Berkeley too long.

Ken Litwak
GTU (at least for the moment)
Berserkely, CA