Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ratzinger's Essay: Biblical Interpretation In Crisis

Once again, Alan Bandy has posted something that really got me thinking. He just put up an interview with noted biblical scholar Craig Bloomberg, in which he discusses faith-based scholarship.

I immediately remembered a great article I once read written by the future Pope, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The article is actually a paper he presented in New York that dealt with the topic of contemporary biblical exegetical method. In particular one of the themes of the paper is the need for a historical critical assessment of historical critical scholarship. Here's an excerpt:

We need to introduce at this point what I have already called the diachronic approach to exegetical findings. After about two hundred years now of exegetical work on the texts, one can no longer give all their results equal weight. Now one has to look at them within the context of their particular history. It then becomes clear that such a history is not simply one of progress from imprecise to precise and objective conclusions. It appears much more as a history of subjectively reconstructed interrelationships whose approaches correspond exactly to the developments of spiritual history. In turn, these developments are reflected in particular interpretations of texts. In the diachronic reading of an exegesis, its philosophic presuppositions become quite apparent. Now, at a certain distance, the observer determines to his surprise that these interpretations, which were supposed to be strictly and purely "historical," reflect their own overriding spirit, rather than the spirit of times long ago. This insight should not lead us to skepticism about the method, but rather to an honest recognition of what its limits are, and perhaps how it
might be purified.

This essay had a profound impact on my thinking when I read several years ago. Click here for the whole article.


UP said...

This is a great blog. I hope more people discover it.

Alan S. Bandy said...

That is very interesting. The history of scholarship definetly plays a role in the exegesis of texts. My question, however, is what does he mean by diachronic exegesis?

Deep Furrows said...

Diachronic is contrasted with synchronic.

"Diachronic language studies look at the development of a language over a period of time."

"A synchronic approach looks at language at a particular point in time, rather than over time."