I could be posting about the weather in Glasgow this morning, with snow-slicked slippy pavements so that one gets a backache just from walking with tensed muscles at every step — but rather I’m talking about the widespread perception that ‘exegesis’ and ‘hermeneutics’ concern the production of a correct answer, rather than (respectively) the rigorous analysis of a text and the theoretical articulation of how of interpretation works.
I just noticed this since Kelvin Facebook-linked to a post in which Gillan Scott offhandedly observes, ‘As those on both sides fight over the exegesis and hermeneutics (i.e. the correct interpretation) of the Biblical texts…’.
As long as biblical studies and hermeneutics are haunted by the longing for an illusory ‘correct interpretation’, we won’t get anywhere; the stakes are too high for combatants who can’t risk loosing their death-grip on their professedly correct interpretations. So part of the reason my work draws less uptake than do those essays and books that promise to guide readers to the proper 13 steps to arriving at the correct interpretation lies in my stubborn unwillingness to play that game. Of course one can always identify particular interpretations as correct relative to certain bounded criteria and premises — but people really want not just to be right relative to people-like-them, but specifically to be able to use their ‘rightness’ to bludgeon others into acquiescence. It won’t work; it has a long, demonstrable history of not working; but since participants in this fantasy gladiatorial sport can’t consider the possibility that their energies amount to nothing more than a charade. Big rewards fall to those who play the charade exceptionally convincingly — but the case for a different approach to hermeneutics gets no traction in a world where most participants mostly want to shore up their preconceptions.