Re: Parting company is such sweet sorrow

David John Marotta asks about authorial intention, universal truths
and innate reason--all potential topics for fulsome discussion.

Let me step aside for just a moment before we dive into deep
epistemological waters.  While I think that the reasoning process is
based on similar mechanisms in most humans, I think there are at least
two ways in which people may reason.  One is analytic, denotative and
relatively precise, while another is (for want of a better word)
metaphoric (see Philip Wheelwright's _Metaphor and Reality_ for a
clearer discussion of what I mean by this).  Most of us seem to lean
in one direction or the other.  I think that I see evidence of *both*
kinds of thought in the Bible.  Paul, in particular, seems to mix them
in very complex ways.

One only needs to read with real Talmud students for a short time to
realize that some of their exegetical reasoning is very different than
that used by traditional protestant biblical scholars.  Trying to
force Paul's thought into a mold that too narrowly accords with our
own in the name of "innate reason" is a serious mistake, especially
when contemporary scholars of different background and training (like
my rabbinic friends and myself) can apply "innate reason" so
differently and with such different results.

That same caution should be used in our search for authorial intent.
I strongly feel that communication is *possible*, but I feel equally
strongly that identification is not.  I cannot discover what Paul
intended from the inside, I can only deduce what meaning his text
conveys given certain assumptions.  In other words I cannot identify
with the mind of Paul, or get inside his world view, with any
certainty--and I believe that to attempt such a task is fraught with
dangers posed by many hidden reefs.

I don't think we would have fundamental disagreements on all three of
these points, but I think our conclusions in regard to the proper way
in which they should be applied and nuanced might go in very different

Paul J. Bodin                         Internet: pjb3@cunixb.cc.columbia.edu
Union Theological Seminary               smail: 435-52nd Street
(718) 439-3549                                  Brooklyn, NY 11220