Meant, Means, Application

Quadriga For the purposes of my developing this argument, let’s take my expression-apprehension model of interpretation as read. On this account, now, we can explain a great many problems that the standard “subsistent meaning” account generates. For instance, the standard account gets into great headaches about “the difference between what it meant and what it means today” (Krister Stendahl); on the expression-apprehension model, there is no static “meant” or “means” to diverge. Under particular circumstances two millennia ago, people apprehended a particular expression in several identifiable and explicable ways; today, people apprehend the words of that expression (usually in translation, in this example) in several identifiable and explicable ways, and that’s just what we would expect. Is there an interesting, convincing vector of continuity among these apprehensions? My best answer to that sort of question involves the next paragraph.

A second persistent toothache for the standard account involves the question of how one gets from “meaning” to “application”. It’s all very well, we are told, to develop a technical argument that some biblical passage “means” X, but how do we apply that in the lifeworld? I answer that an argument about a text’s “meaning” that does not already (or imminently) correspond to a manner of living can be correct only in the most narrow of senses. In other words, “application” is not a problem to be solved in theory; ethos is itself a primary commentary on any purported textual application.

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Êthos Anthrôpôi Daimôn, on Flickr


1 thought on “Meant, Means, Application

  1. Waves of nostalgia flood me seeing that window. Whatever you were teaching I wish I could have listened.

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