David John Marotta writes:

> My standard in methodologies the analysis of whatever clues the author uses
> to convey their intent to their audience, and for the text to be true
> then their intention must correspond to reality.  These seem like
> objective standards to me, and ones that we can converse about.

The key phrase here (and above) is "correspond to reality".  How do we
determine reality?  The empirical method, which helps us to formulate
regularities from observation and experiment, has mislead some to
think that we can grasp ultimate reality.  A careful examination of
the epistemology underlying the empirical method reveals just the
opposite--the empirical method yields ever closer approximations of a
reality based upon those aspects of it that we can observe!  We cannot
observe St. Paul or his world.  Even if we could, the very act of
observation affects "reality", as Heisenberg pointed out to
physicists.  To claim that we can firmly grasp ultimate reality in the
very tenuous realms into which first century Christian texts lead us
is a dangerous and misleading claim.

Further, to label midrash and allegorical interpretations as "wrong"
seems to me a bit narrow.  They are different than the methods I would
choose today, yet they are the methods in which scholars of St. Paul's
day were clearly trained, at least in Hellenistic Jewish circles.  If
we are to have any chance of grasping the vision of texts produced in
a world dominated by these thought patterns then it is vital that we
learn to treat them with respect.  The difficulty in getting "inside"
this world-view is precisely one of the reasons that I view appeals to
authorial intention with considerable scepticism.

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