Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hermeneutical Myopia in Centuries of Scholarship

In an introductory chapter on "a literary approach to Old Testament theology" in his book Dominion and Dynasty, Stephen Dempster speaks of the "hermeneutical myopia of the last few centuries of biblical scholarship." This hermeneutical myopia has come about through "presuppositions that magnify the texts and minimize the Text. One of the philosophical assumptions that has produced this situation has been a diminution in the belief that the Bible is the Word of God. . . ."

Dempster continues, saying that there has been "an enchantment with the minute details of the biblical text rather than with its more global features, which ipso facto cannot exist. The concern for studying smaller and smaller sections of the biblical text and the increasing specialization of scholars studying the minutiae of philology and morphology have resulted in a loss of perspective." [1]

I've found this to be commonplace in my dealings with biblical scholarship. In an effort to take the human authors seriously (so they say), extremely bright PhD types forget the Author behind the authors and the whole larger work—the whole canon, the big Book of which the smaller books are but chapters. So the Text of which Dempster speaks is the whole Bible. And the texts (individual books) are not rightly understood, more strongly stated, are distorted and twisted if it is not considered how they are to be understood in the light of the larger narrative framework provided by Genesis through Revelation. 

[1] Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2003), 28.


David Bayly said...

Excellent point. What's the Dempster book about? And have you read John Sailhamer's book "The Meaning of the Pentateuch?" John hits certain similar points really, really well in that book as well as saying a number of things I can't agree with.

David Bayly

Jeff Wencel said...

David, the subtitle really says it: it's a" theology of the Hebrew Bible." It takes seriously the arrangement of the canon of the Hebrew Bible. And Dempster takes seriously the divine intention for the canon to function as a literary whole. As the title suggests, he traces the development of the key themes of "dominion" and "dynasty" across the storyline. I haven't read Sailhamer much yet, and I've heard polar opposite responses to his work. He sounds both quite good and quite odd at times. Press on, JW

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