Liturgical Hermeneutics

Prophet Jonah

Today at, Gabe Martini writes:

Contemporary scholars and certain Christian groups today tend to approach the study of scripture as archaeology.

Rather than receiving the scriptures as God-breathed tradition in the life of the Church, the text is abstracted from its incarnate context, subjected to scientific analysis. While much can be learned, of course, from a knowledge of Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew, this is not an end unto itself. Popular hermeneutical methods such as the grammatical-historical are recent, being flawed in a number of ways. And really, no single approach or ‘method’ should be deemed superior to the rest.

In the end, this whole approach is undermined by a crippled foundation. The scriptures are not a treasure chest waiting to be unlocked with the right set of keys, nor are they only useful for the academic ‘elite.’

At the heart of this misguided, modern project is a desire to ‘get back to’ an ‘original’ text or meaning of scripture. But this begs the question of whether an original text–or interpretation–has ever really existed:

Scholarly interpretation has been governed by an overriding concern to establish the original text and meaning. But there are many circumstances in which this is either not appropriate or not the whole story. For the Scriptures do not simply belong to their original context: they have been read and re-read over the centuries. When we venerate the Book of the Gospels we are acknowledging it as something that belongs to the present: it bodies forth Christ now.
— Andrew Louth, Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology, p. 9

… Advocates of solitary methods such as the grammatical-historical approach (which has its uses, to be sure) will argue that you can find this ‘archaeological’ approach in the early Church Fathers, or in other ecclesiastical writers such as Origen. But as Louth notes, the intention of Origen was not to “get back to” an original text, but to rather gather every edition of the text in one place, so that all could be appreciated, studied, and proclaimed as valuable.

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Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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