Re: historically informed interpretation

Somi Chuhon (
Sun, 22 Dec 1996 00:03:51 -0800

At 06:03 PM 19/12/96 -0800, you wrote:
>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.

If I may refer you to a book that was extremely helpful to me in this area,
hirsch's _Validity in Interpretation_ makes a fabulous argument for the
sufficiency of the text to convey authorial meaning/intent. (in the first
or second chapter, I forget). The problem of determining the menaing of a
text, (as I had stated in another post) is not the problem of a text to be
clear but the problem of man's sin that keeps him (or her *smile*) from
"seeing clearly". In the view of Hirsch ( and I tend to agree with him), we
CAN recover authorial intent -- at least, that which was meant to be
recovered or is that which is sufficient to understand the text -- from what
has been given to us in the text.

> 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

To conclude that perhaps a writer is "attempting to accomplish more than one
thing" does not seem to be a helpful alternative to the difficulty of
determining his intent. I admit that some texts may appear to say more than
one thing...but that is determined on the grounds of the grammatical issues
within that text, not as an alternative to not knowing specifically what the
author meant to say. (Please tell me if I am misunderstanding you). I
agree with you that the whole practise of interpretation is based on
probability, not hard fact...that's the nature of it and the probabilities
are to bring us as close as possible to the meaning of a text. It's
something that I have to constantly keep in mind when a tendancy for
closed-mindedness sets in! :)

>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.

Can we really deem it "valid" if it does not reflect what the text means?
Shouldn't we place our devotion on the standards of what the text means and
not on an interpretation's "meaningfulness"?

ACTS Graduate Student
Langley, B.C.
Old Testament Studies