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» Ship of Fools   » Special interest discussion   » Kerygmania   » Let's Create A Hermeneutic! (Page 1)

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Source: (consider it) Thread: Let's Create A Hermeneutic!
fletcher christian

Mutinous Seadog
# 13919

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We tend to be great at cracking things open, cutting things down, critiquing things into oblivion here. It's part of the western mode I guess - the notion that there must be one true way and one sole truth. We bring that baggage to our understanding of scripture too and we all get tied in knots over literalism and non-literalist readings, over scholarship and devotional approaches. But surely there must be enough minds here to build up rather than tear down and we could create a hermeneutic?

This isn't to stray into dead horse territory about old arguments that have been thrashed out in circles, but instead an attempt at bringing all approaches together into one hermeneutic. I'm not suggesting that we might be capable of inventing something new, but it might be interesting to try and see where we get. As such, this may be my only contribution to this thread! I do think it might be worth trying though, because so often we come at it from the other side - so to speak.

I've often wondered if the literary approach might not be a way in to such a framework that almost everyone can get something from. I'm not sure I can begin to formulate something beyond that, but perhaps if we got the ball rolling we might manage to get somewhere?

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'God is love insaturable, love impossible to describe'
Staretz Silouan

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Nigel M
Shipmate
# 11256

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Oh, this one will be a cracker!

It may not be possible to bring all approaches together into one, as some will be mutually incompatible. However, I think it is possible to offer principles for interpretation. My offering for starters would be:

[1] Decide where ‘meaning’ lies. My take is that the only valid approach is to focus on authorial intention.

[2] Ask the question, “Why is that there?” of the text.

[3] Answer that question by reading the text with the author’s sandals on. See what the author did by using the words he used in the way that he used them, to effect an affect on an audience.

[4] Bring together findings from three areas to achieve that last: Archaeology (the artefacts), Sociology (particularly worldview analyses), and Linguistics (including communication theory).

[5] Test it.

[6] Only then consider how the particular author’s meaning maps to another author’s meaning.

[7] With or without [6] above, apply the meaning to today’s context – that is to draw out a significance (not the same thing as a meaning).

Bingo.

And with that, the hermeneutics class completed the course and wondered off for a coffee.

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Lyda*Rose

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# 4544

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I had to look up hermeneutic. [Hot and Hormonal]

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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Dark Knight

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# 9415

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I have only read the thread title twice, but every time I do, I sing it in my head to the tune of "Let's impeach the President".

Never mind me. As you were.

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Wronger than a drooling idiot on stupid juice - but I understand his argument.
mousethief (paraphrase)
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Love is as strong as death (Song of Solomon 8:6).

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Latchkey Kid
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# 12444

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If we have come from a harmonising heritage like mine, we must unlearn harmonisation.

I like the three worlds approach of Sandra Schneiders. I certainly use it for the Gospels.

While the canons may be perceived to have a unity, there is also a diversity among the redactors and also a progress of theological thinking.

Narratives may be used to find commonalities between the experience reflections of the communities and our own experiences. We must also expect that we do not have anything in common with a particular passage.

The lectionary approach may be useful in some circumstances, but it has the danger of "snacking" without regard to context or the story it is part of.

The lectionary approach is reflection-action where we look at a passage and see how it may be relevant to our community. We should also use the action-reflection approach where we look at what is happening in the life of our community and seeing what texts may be relevant to our situation.

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fletcher christian

Mutinous Seadog
# 13919

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There is certainly something to be said for taking each book as a whole on its own merits. In church terms we do tend to snack, sometimes without reference to the rest of the book and its overall themes. But is it meant to be that way?

I think what I'm asking is, did the original author expect us as hearers/readers to preserve their original artistic and creative integrity? (I know this phrasing is problematic but perhaps it helps).

I feel I'm drifting dangerously close to a reductionism in an attempt to by-pass our current problematic readings. I don't know if that is a bad thing.

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'God is love insaturable, love impossible to describe'
Staretz Silouan

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Dafyd
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# 5549

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
[1] Decide where ‘meaning’ lies. My take is that the only valid approach is to focus on authorial intention.

I don't think 'meaning' has to focus on authorial intention. That's not to say that authorial intention is unimportant; but as always in life what someone intends to do or is trying to do is not the same as what someone actually does.
The only thing the omission of which makes an approach invalid is the words.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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anteater

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# 11435

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Nigel M:
quote:
My take is that the only valid approach is to focus on authorial intention.
There are a few problems with this. And it does depend of what you are reading it as. A Holy Text or an Ancient Book.

Point 1, as developed by canonical critic including the subject of my instantly dead thread about Kugel. But I think his point is valid.

So suppose the original intent of the Song of Songs was a sort of early OT "Joys of Sex". Then suppose that the learned and deeply pious scholars admitted it into the canon only on the basis that it was about the spiritual relationship between God and Israel.

It is the latter who made it into Sacred Scripture. How far does there intention matter?

Second: Can you detect intention under the words? I mean how would you know if the author was just having a larff? I'm not saying that's all that common but how would you know? All you have is the text. So if you wanted to say that the NT writers were condemning Gay Sex in using words like arsenokoitai and malakoi (I don't BTW) all you have is the words and some other uses of the words that you can use in comparison. You can have no idea what was actually in the author's mind, because you have no access to it, at all.

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Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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Even the author frequently does not know what is going on in her own text. We frequently blame the Muse for the astonishing things we didn't realize we were doing.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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Nick Tamen

Ship's Wayfaring Fool
# 15164

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I agree that the author’s intent, while often very helpful, can’t necessarily be the determinative thing.

Rob Bell posits a question that I think is useful in approaching much of Scripture, particularly those parts we might call “Bible stories”: Why did people keep telling this story? What is it about this story that has made people want to tell it and to hear it for thousands of years? Why have people thought that story, which is really disturbing is some ways, still needed to be remembered and handed down?

Sometimes, I think the answers to questions like this can lead us to a place of thinking of the stories less as something to understand and more as something to be lived into. That’s an approach that often resonates with me anyway.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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Some useful risks mentioned thus far when taking authorial intention as the starting point; it certainly is not an easy road to take and the risks need to be mitigated. However I am drawn to this approach because it seems to me that the alternatives lack validity.

By ‘authorial intention’ I do not mean that Christians are to try to get into the head of the author in an attempt to understand the psychology that drove him (assuming it to be a ‘him’ in the case of the biblical texts) to produce a particular piece of work. The debates over authorial intention in that sense were had during the early to middle part of the last century in literary studies more generally. I accept that the authors are long since gone, and also that they lived and breathed in a different time and place. We cannot get inside their heads in that way. What we can do, though, is deal with the text that is publicly available and bring to bear an understanding of the worldview within which the author lived and breathed. We can try to put ourselves in the shoes of the author (and the original audience) and if the shoe fits, walk a mile in it. That’s why I boiled it down to that phrase: Paying attention to what the author did, using the words he used in the way he used them, to effect an affect on his audience. The choice of words and rhetorical style is informed by the author’s worldview and resultant mindset. They are in the public domain – everyone, believing (Jew or Christian) or not – has access to the text and can draw on insights from linguistics and communication theory in particular when approaching the text.

During the literary debates of the last century, only three approaches to meaning were identified and explored:
[1] Authorial meaning
[2] Textual meaning
[3] Reader / audience meaning

I have had the opportunity to read around those and the debates that took place (it’s been an area of interest for me for many years) and it seems to me that the outcome boiled down essentially to just two of those options: [1] and [3]. That’s because – unless I have missed the point entirely – [2] has no ‘meaning’ on its own. How, after all, can squiggles on parchment/papyrus/ paper mean anything unless a human is involved? And the only humans left in the debate are the author or an audience at some point.

If that is the case, then interpretation comes down to a choice between investigating what the author intended, or taking the audience as the point of authority.

That latter option seems to me to be too full of holes to be a valid option. Too many questions remain outstanding even after decades of debate. E.g., Which audience, which time, who carries weight, who decides, and so on.

This may be a good thread to throw this open, so I do so to see if anyone can offer a way out of the conundrum of audience validity. Or is there another option not considered?

Just in passing: although different traditions may take the starting point to be approaches taken by their leaders or liturgies, I can’t escape the feeling that those are secondary points. They, too, have to go back to the question of validity in interpretation and whether the starting point should be the human author or some other point.

Just in passing the passing: I’ve advocated a bottom up approach, I know. Start with the humans. That has not touched the divine element which, for believers, could also be an ‘authorial intention’. My very quick take on that here is that God chose to work through humans, letting them use their faculties and styles (and worldviews), so we have a green light to go up from the bottom. In any case, I think the majority approach for much of the past 2,000 years in Christianity has been to focus on the top down approach – God as author – so it probably doesn’t do any harm to redress the balance a bit!

I know I haven’t addressed some specific questions in earlier posts; I thought I should provide a bit more detail first. I may have to wait for the weekend to get proper responses to those questions. All good points…

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Dafyd
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# 5549

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
During the literary debates of the last century, only three approaches to meaning were identified and explored:
[1] Authorial meaning
[2] Textual meaning
[3] Reader / audience meaning

quote:
How, after all, can squiggles on parchment/papyrus/ paper mean anything unless a human is involved? And the only humans left in the debate are the author or an audience at some point.

If that is the case, then interpretation comes down to a choice between investigating what the author intended, or taking the audience as the point of authority.

I don't think I agree. (And as an aside, I think authority is largely the wrong metaphor here.) The meaning of symbolic communication such as language depends on a shared understanding between the speaker/author and the audience. It's debateable whether you can have even that without both being part of wider pre-existing linguistic communities; in most cases anyway they are and the shared understanding derives from the preexisting linguistic community. That shared understanding is what grants the squiggles on papyrus or paper their meaning, rather than any purely authorial or audience meaning. That means that what the author actually succeeds in meaning can be both more than or awry from what the author started out intending to mean.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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fletcher christian

Mutinous Seadog
# 13919

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I'm not sure focusing on author intent as 'the' authority would leave much room for inspiration. We talk of something being 'inspired' in the sense that it can talk across it's context as well as relating to it. In that sense, something has life and meaning beyond its context; perhaps even beyond its original intent. If we tried to create a hermeneutic that somehow (if it is at all possible) brought together various approaches then we would surely have to leave room for that 'inspired' part of the text, both from the meaning I've outlined above and from a religious perspective?

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'God is love insaturable, love impossible to describe'
Staretz Silouan

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Martin60
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# 368

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One of those excellent dialectical threads.

I think we can get in to the mind of Paul: it's a Bronze Age x Classical Antiquity mind being blown.

[ 26. January 2018, 12:07: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Love wins

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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Apologies in advance for the length of this response – much to consider in the comments thus far. There might be some repetition, but hey ho. I’m sure Paul could have organised things better…


quote:
Originally posted by Latchkey Kid:
I like the three worlds approach of Sandra Schneiders.

I hadn’t heard of Schneiders, but realised after a swift dig that I had also came across this model, albeit by way of the French philosopher and linguist Paul Ricoeur, who developed the three worlds approach. I agree that this is a useful model to keep in mind if we are not to blur the distinctions and cause misunderstandings. Ricoeur’s approach distinguishes between:

[1] The world Behind the text: the world within which a text (or any communication) was originally produced. This is the world of the author’s intention, the hermeneutics of an author. It is this zone that occupied interpreters of texts (not just religious ones) pretty much exclusively until the middle of the last century.

[2] The world in the text: the world as presented in the text as a literary object, creating its own reality. This world pays attention to how texts function as works of literature. It focusses on the structure, rhetoric, idiolects, etc., that are to be found in individual communications. In biblical studies this approach was adopted around the 1970s as a reaction against the earlier source and form critical methods.

[3] The world in front of the text: the world inhabited by the readers / hearers of communications. One approach in this field has been the reader-response model, where focus has been on the individual readers and communities to see how they have appropriated meaning.

This three-fold model maps neatly on to the three approaches I mentioned earlier: intention lying with the author, the text, or the audience. The only area I have trouble with (and that may be my lack of grip!) is [2] above. As with textual intention, I cannot see how a text on its own generates anything. It is inanimate. The stylistic world it produces can reside only in the mind of either an author or an audience – there has to be human interaction from one end or the other. So for me, [2] collapses into either [1] or [3], and it is important for interpreters to distinguish between the two.
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I don't think 'meaning' has to focus on authorial intention. That's not to say that authorial intention is unimportant; but as always in life what someone intends to do or is trying to do is not the same as what someone actually does.

Is there a reasonable likelihood that what the authors did in composing their biblical texts could have come out wrong, as it were? Is it likely that they might have mis-written something?

What I am thinking about here is that the biblical authors were obviously not in the world of Twitter, where they could shoot off a communication in haste and repent at leisure. It took some effort to get together the resources to write something. Even a book like Galatians, which is possibly the closest we get to a Twitter rant, is carefully composed and has structure, betraying the existence of preparation despite (or even because of?) the rhetorical flourishes. I don’t doubt that if Paul were alive today he would have taken out a Twitter account and we would have a “Move over Trump” moment, but he was educated in a system that prized rhetoric and structure in communication. I think it would be fair to conclude – or at least say we could take a stand on the probability – that the biblical authors did not issue a communication at variance with their intention.
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
(… I think authority is largely the wrong metaphor here). The meaning of symbolic communication such as language depends on a shared understanding between the speaker/author and the audience. It's debateable whether you can have even that without both being part of wider pre-existing linguistic communities; in most cases anyway they are and the shared understanding derives from the preexisting linguistic community. That shared understanding is what grants the squiggles on papyrus or paper their meaning, rather than any purely authorial or audience meaning. That means that what the author actually succeeds in meaning can be both more than or awry from what the author started out intending to mean.

I take your pint about ‘authority’. Validity is a better term.

Granted that communication can only work with a shared understanding (or world), surely it is still the case that a text carries meaning only when a human interacts with it.

An author’s intention is still distinguishable from possible multiple interpretations by receivers. I think this would also apply in the standard models of communication, which differentiate between a series of steps, such as in the following 7-stage model:

Conception → Encoding → Transmission → Reception → Perception → Decoding → Apprehension

The first three lie in the control of the author (sender), the final four with the audience (receiver). At each arrow there is room for error. Noise can intervene. So certainly it is entirely possible that a communication – even between people with the same shared understanding (cultural and linguistic) – can fail. In fact, it looks to be a miracle that any communication can be entirely successful. However, meaning still comes down to choosing between one human or the other: the author (original sender) or the audience (recipients). A group of recipients with the same shared understanding as the author may nevertheless come to mutually incompatible interpretations of that author’s communication. At this point I think we are thrown back on the author for validation.


On anteater’s first point about the canon. Picking up a bit from the (in my opinion now only) Two Worlds distinction, one reason why this is important is that an audience’s reaction to a text doesn’t impact at all on the original meaning (i.e., the author’s intention). What we have with canonical development is a recognition that certain texts were respected more than others in the early Christian communities. It’s a bit like hymns and choruses; 99% drop off after first publication and only 1% make it past the cut and into later editions. It could be that Paul wrote cartloads of letters (he seems that sort of person), but time and tide retained only a handful. It is true to say that the audience had a role in selecting those works for posterity (Paul’s letters, hymns, choruses), but I wouldn’t say that the selection process does anything to alter an original intention.

Let’s say that one of Paul’s letters to Corinth was indeed completely misunderstood by his intended Corinthian audience. Nevertheless, they got enough out of their misplaced understanding of the letter to prize it, copy it and disseminate it. Other communities then received a copy, also completely misunderstood it (and even took it in a different way to the first Corinthian audience). Nevertheless, they too copied and disseminated it. Eventually the Church leaders recognised that this letter was so prized by the assorted communities that it made the grade for entry into the Canon. The fact that there were multiple interpretations of the one text does not invalidate its original intention. We can proceed independently of the multiple interpretations to seek access to Paul’s original intention. I suspect that there was very few, if any, instances where a single text had generated a single – or even just two – senses for an audience. Even the Song of Songs (which is obviously about Christ and the Church!) could be taken in various ways.

So in a word or two, audience interpretation can not be a valid route into understanding the biblical texts. There are just too many interpretations, some of them mutually incompatible.

That throws up another issue driving the need to see the author’s intent as the fount of meaning. I assume that Christians read the bible for two reasons when it comes to faith: To know more about God, and to know how that God wants us to behave. Christians are then faced with multiple interpretations, so the issue is where they have to go to find a bedrock from which they can meet those two needs. Some will rely on their community leader(s) for interpretation. Others will rely on a particular tradition. Still others on individual spiritual guidance. But the question will always come to the fore: How do you validate those interpretations? The route to validation always seems to boil down to those two options: the author or an audience.
quote:
Originally posted by anteater:
Can you detect intention under the words?

I accept that this is hard work. We do have to cross a divide of time, place, and culture (including worldview). Perhaps this is where the hermeneutical circle (better, spiral) comes into play – we go back and forth between the author’s world and ours, closing the horizons as we do so. I wouldn’t say that we have no access to the author’s world; we may be cut off to a greater degree from his/her mind in the sense of the psychology underlying a communication (and this was the criticism of much that went on in literary studies before the middle of the last century), but we do have the text as a representation of his/her intention, expressed in the public domain by means of the words chosen. We also have the surrounding contextual work available to use from archaeology and sociology, that have been very useful in painting the picture of life as she was lived, and thus in providing access to the worldview, mindsets, and hence intentions, of authors.
quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
Even the author frequently does not know what is going on in her own text.

I’ve covered the question above of an author making a mistake and thus producing a communication that mis-fires when compared to the original intent. There is another valid point here, though: an author might not be aware of all the possible implications of his/her work. The more rhetorical the style, the more the likelihood of varied future entailments.

I would answer that by saying that that future scope of understanding lies not in the area of authorial intention, but in audience understanding / interpretation. Equally, it is quite possible that an intended audience (say, Paul’s intended recipients of a letter to the Christian community in Corinth) might completely misunderstand what an author was getting at. This does not invalidate the author’s original intention, though. This is one reason why it is important to keep in place the distinction between [1] and [3] above.
quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
Why did people keep telling this story? What is it about this story that has made people want to tell it and to hear it for thousands of years? Why have people thought that story, which is really disturbing is some ways, still needed to be remembered and handed down?

There is a lot in common here with Paul Ricœur’s concept of ‘worlds’. A text can raise a mental image in a reader’s / hearer’s mind. The reader / hearer is then inhabiting a world. This works better for works of fiction than it does for railway timetables of course.

What I would want to say is that these ‘worlds’ are still not the same as the author’s ‘world’; they are examples of reader-responses. I accept that in recent decades historians have taken an interest in these responses and how a text is received by individuals or communities. These can be collected by way of a series of synchronic cuts in time to see how, for example, that letter of Paul to Corinth was understood (received) by the first audience, by a 4th century audience in Rome, a 12th century audience in Paris, a 16th century audience in Geneva, and so on. These are matters of history, but still do not invalidate the approach of taking the author’s original intention as the base starting point for interpretation, independent of any later extra-authorial significance.

What comes to the fore, I think, is that some texts ‘resonate’ more with humans than others. Some are chosen for copying and disseminating, others not. I’m not able to say what it is about the former that set them apart from the now disappeared latter. It may have something to do with what the German phenomenological philosophers such as Hans-Georg Gadamer bring to the game: we humans have commonality, so that despite distance and time we can fuse our horizons of understanding. Compared to us, Paul may be a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but our worlds can collide with his. Well, ‘collide’ may be not the right word; overlap is better!

Ricoeur draws in part on the German phenomenological philosophical tradition - particularly as expressed by Gadamer – to argue that [1] above (authorial intention) is indeed important and can be accessed sufficiently by way of dialogue with the text, which is the element still in the public domain after the departure of the mortal author. This is the world of two horizons, bringing our horizon of understanding (informed by our worldviews) into increasing overlap with that of the original author.
quote:
Originally posted by fletcher christian:
I think what I'm asking is, did the original author expect us as hearers/readers to preserve their original artistic and creative integrity?

...and...
quote:
Originally posted by fletcher christian:
I'm not sure focusing on author intent as 'the' authority would leave much room for inspiration.

On that first point about liturgical readings and the tendency to edit texts for the liturgy, raised earlier by Latchkey Kid. I have not come (consistently) from a liturgical church background, but am probably not alone in being concerned about the way biblical texts can be handled when it comes to readings in church. Excluding a few verses from a Psalm presumably because it contains material best reserved for the 09:00 p.m. watershed is something that clashes with the idea that an author’s intention should be respected. If an author pleads with his God to take revenge on enemies in two verses out of 20, then to my mind those two should stand in the reading. Otherwise we run the risk of mis-interpretation. The decision to scissor them out may be an example of audience intention coming to the fore, overriding the author’s. Or it may be a decision that Jesus’ command (hermeneutic?) to love one’s enemies should override anything elsewhere that contradicts it. That is an interesting topic for another day.

On inspiration. Good point, much to say. Not sure how to summarise here. I’ll try this: Inspiration has commonly been taken to refer to the process by which the author came to write his/her text (probably a ‘his’ in the biblical context). From a bottom-up approach I would suggest that God inspired the author in the following sense.

The author was a proper theologian; so loyal to God, immersed in the worship and study of God, seeking to understand who God is and how God wants his people to behave, that when he identified an issue affecting the community he felt the urge to communicate a correction, seeking to affect an audience so as to effect a change in their behaviour.

In part, this draws on communication theory to say that the kind of texts we have in the Bible were reactions to something going wrong somewhere. I would guess that if the people of Israel were model citizens of God’s Kingdom, then there would be peace and harmony, shalom and stability. There would be no impulse to write anything (apart maybe from a host of praise psalms), because there was no issue to address. In this light, the biblical texts are insights into what went wrong and what was needed to fix it. God would be addressing those issues by way of loyal citizen theologians.

Marrying this to a top-down approach it is possible to say that God did not override an individual author’s mode of expression (or even cultural worldview), but rather wove his message through the author’s worshipful commitment, driving a response to an issue that came out in the style appropriate to that human author. We are not in the world sometimes portrayed where inspiration is modelled on the Boss-Secretary roles, with the secretary faithfully recording verbatim the words of the boss.

Can inspiration go wider than the author? I suppose it is possible to say that the same Spirit that inspired the author is also at work inspiring audiences. Where I find this tricky, though, is in dealing with the instances of mutually incompatible interpretations that can come from highly respected spiritual teachers in the same tradition. What do we do then? I think we can only focus further on the original authorial intention for validity in interpretation.

There’s quite a bit here that I found useful in the works of the literary critic, E.D. Hirsch.
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
I think we can get in to the mind of Paul: it's a Bronze Age x Classical Antiquity mind being blown.

The history of Christian interpretation from neo-Platonic influences to more recent New Perspectives could be summarised in that!
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ThunderBunk

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Can someone find me a single biblical text that is not at least as much the creation of editorial effort as it is of any author? The interpretation of texts is critically influenced by their shape, and there seem to me, from my less than enormous knowledge, to be just about no texts which we see in our bibles that are not the creation of editors as much as authors, never mind the overlaying of the work of translators.

For all of these reasons, authorial intention seems to me just about invisible. This may or may not be the case for all texts - I would argue it was, but for different reasons in most non-biblical texts - but to me it's pretty obviously negligible in the process of interpreting biblical text.

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Nigel M
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Well, actually I think there are quite a few candidates for biblical texts that are unlikely to have been amended over time, but I should expand on the topic of ‘author’ here.

I know that the term is perhaps most commonly understood to refer to the single human who put pen to paper (or quill to parchment/papyrus). In that narrow sense, we would be hard pushed to cope with the question of authorial intention unless that same work had come down to us in pristine shape.

Those who espouse authorial intention, however (and not just in relation to biblical texts), take a more pragmatic view here. We have the texts that we have, and we have to deal with them. Of course, textual critics are doing sterling work on sorting out the bits and pieces to take us closer to the likely original text, but we do have to manage with the current state of affairs.

The textual critic Emanuel Tov has a good explanation on the development of texts that can help here:

“…the biblical books passed through two main stages in development: the stage of the books’ literary growth up to the form which was final in respect of their content, and the stage of the copying and textual transmission of the completed compositions…”*

Tov is dealing with the Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) here, but the principle could be applied to the NT, too. The authorial intention bit does not apply to the scribal copying and disseminating process, nor does it apply to the growth stage (if there was one) of literary development. Authorial intention would apply at the point of the final composition.

There are a range of processes that would need to be considered in the development of a final text form. For example, texts that were the output of a group of individuals working together (some national constitutions come under this heading), or cases where a specialist scribe (amanuensis) does the leg work on the actual writing (Paul may have used one of these). Just because we cannot determine the name of one specific individual, or just because the originator of a communication was not the one who literally wrote the text, does not mean we cannot approach interpretation via authorial intention.

So for the purposes of interpretation, the ‘author’ relates to the signing off of the final version that became fixed for the transmitting community.


*Tov, Emanuel. Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, 2nd revised edition, Fortress Press, p.315

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ThunderBunk

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But that says absolutely nothing about the translation or interpretation of the text over the last sixteen hundred years, both without which and behind which it is entirely mute.

Authorial intention is not entirely mythical, but its ability to articulate itself in any pure form is.

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ThunderBunk

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My point here is not that Tov is speaking of the Hebrew bible and his point is therefore irrelevant. My point is that he is talking about a text which is always, liturgically and (as I understand it) otherwise accessed in its original language, so all the linguistic and interpretative work is done in the community.

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Nigel M
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I responded on the topic of the work of editors, partly because that was the main focus in your post, but also mainly because it was that aspect of editorial work – what Tov and others call the literary growth – that has been used as one argument against the use of authorial intention as the base for validating interpretations.

On interpretation, that of course is the work of hermeneutics. It can be based on authorial intention, or it can be based on audience intention. The decision on which to adopt comes first (perhaps often unconsciously); the work of interpretation then proceeds. The point is that validity in interpretation can only lie, it seems to me, in either the horizon of the author, or the horizon of the audience.

With respect to translation, the 7-stage communication model I outlined earlier can apply to communication between people with shared linguistic and cultural backgrounds, or to people who need translators to work with. Translation imposes an additional stage in the decoding area of work, but all communication still requires decoding. As I suggested earlier, people in the same shared linguistic and cultural community can misunderstand each other just as much as those who are not in the same pool. That does not nullify – or even remove from access – the search for, and obtaining of, an author’s original intention.

I am not sure that we need a ‘pure form’ of authorial intention. I assume that we work as humans in the same way that the human author worked; with more or less limited linguistic skills and understanding of human life. There is nothing perfect in human work, whether authorial or audiencial (had to make that word up). We all work with what we have, supplemented by review in the public sphere – apart maybe from those who take audience intention in an individualistic and pietistic manner.

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I don't think 'meaning' has to focus on authorial intention. That's not to say that authorial intention is unimportant; but as always in life what someone intends to do or is trying to do is not the same as what someone actually does.

Is there a reasonable likelihood that what the authors did in composing their biblical texts could have come out wrong, as it were? Is it likely that they might have mis-written something?
Paul seems to me to be dictating off the cuff at times.
But we can set aside scribal error or errors of vocabulary on the part of the author, even though such things do happen. If the written word could exactly match the intention of the author there would be no need for interpretation. We could just read the author's intention off the words.

Writing clearly so as to convey one's intended meaning is hard work: words have connotations that one cannot control, so one has to pick one's words to find the right connotations. One has to pick the right entry point into the subject. One has to pitch one's communication so that the implied audience matches the intended audience in terms of their presuppositions. To use that three-world model one has to find the right set of words and concepts that will convey the relevant aspects of one's own world into the world of the reader/audience in such a way that they can be assimilated into it. And therefore there are various places in the process where what one does other or more than one intends.

quote:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
The meaning of symbolic communication such as language depends on a shared understanding between the speaker/author and the audience. It's debateable whether you can have even that without both being part of wider pre-existing linguistic communities; in most cases anyway they are and the shared understanding derives from the preexisting linguistic community.

Granted that communication can only work with a shared understanding (or world), surely it is still the case that a text carries meaning only when a human interacts with it.
Unless you're positing that the writer of the text is continually interacting with the text somehow, this does not I think support your argument.

quote:
An author’s intention is still distinguishable from possible multiple interpretations by receivers. I think this would also apply in the standard models of communication, which differentiate between a series of steps, such as in the following 7-stage model:

Conception → Encoding → Transmission → Reception → Perception → Decoding → Apprehension

The first three lie in the control of the author (sender), the final four with the audience (receiver). At each arrow there is room for error. Noise can intervene. So certainly it is entirely possible that a communication – even between people with the same shared understanding (cultural and linguistic) – can fail. In fact, it looks to be a miracle that any communication can be entirely successful.

I don't entirely think that seven-stage model works. For one thing, I think the idea that there is a definite intended meaning prior to encoding is wrong. The meaning of the text is created in the process of writing the text. It's not encoded or translated from thought to the written word.

quote:
However, meaning still comes down to choosing between one human or the other: the author (original sender) or the audience (recipients). A group of recipients with the same shared understanding as the author may nevertheless come to mutually incompatible interpretations of that author’s communication. At this point I think we are thrown back on the author for validation.
I think that if a group of recipients with the same shared understanding as the author can reasonably come to mutally incompatible interpretations of the author's communication then the author's communication is ambiguous.

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Jengie jon

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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
If the written word could exactly match the intention of the author there would be no need for interpretation. We could just read the author's intention off the words.

No, we only need no interpretative framework if we share the exact same interpretative framework as the author.

At times I have said things where my intent and meaning was clear to me but the person hearing them understood something very different. Normally these were family members who are the sort of people who react assuming common understanding.

Jengie

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
Writing clearly so as to convey one's intended meaning is hard work...

Given the fact that human communication is necessarily limited in capability, we are indeed in the world of probability, rather than exact match. However, we are also in a world where exigency can drive focus on outcomes. If an issue captures the attention of someone as being of importance and requiring a response, then it is likely that the someone will spend time and other resource in planning the response to the best of their ability so that his or her point of view comes across.

It’s that phrase, “best of their ability” that impacts us when it comes to biblical interpretation. I think we can be quite confidant that the biblical authors had good capability when it came to planning communication. Two reasons for this: (a) we see the rhetorical skill displayed in the texts themselves, and (b) we have insight into some of them that they had plenty of training (Paul being an example again).

There is a scale of capability, really; so I wouldn’t want to leap from the fact of human limitation to a conclusion that authorial intention is not accessible – or no longer reasonably accessible.
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I think the idea that there is a definite intended meaning prior to encoding is wrong. The meaning of the text is created in the process of writing the text. It's not encoded or translated from thought to the written word.

Not sure how you would define “definite intended meaning”. I would place intention in the realm of Conception. The model in its early stages would run thusly:

(a) Before we get to the Conception stage, there is the identified issue, trigger, or motivation, that prompts an author to consider that a response is necessary. The prompt may be relatively innocuous, such as a list of questions that someone brought to Paul from one of the Gentile Christian communities seeking guidance on the direction to take (e.g., 1 Cor. 7:1 – “Now concerning the issues you wrote about…”). Or it may be an issue of unacceptable behaviour that reaches the ears of an author (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:1 – “It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you”).
(b) The author then considers and formulates the response. This is an internal experience and not in the public domain. It may be an initial, “I must get around to answering that at some point”, or it may be the mental process of actual thinking about the content of the message that the author wants delivered. These are all intentions, and precede the actual Encoding. For the purposes of biblical interpretation, of course, we do not investigate those in the absence of a text. We are interested in what the author actually did, using the words he or she used, in the way he or she used them, etc.

In part here, I think we may ‘mean’ different things by intention. As I can’t see the rationale for a text having meaning on its own in the absence of a human, behind or in front of the text, then I am not likely to understand intended meaning as inherent to the writing process (Encoding) itself. The texts remain inert. They lie in dusty drawers, weighty tomes, or even still in the sand awaiting the attention of an intending human being. My point would be that the quest for validity in interpretation can only validly follow the belief that a text means what its author meant.
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
Unless you're positing that the writer of the text is continually interacting with the text somehow, this does not I think support your argument.

I don’t think it is necessary that an author has a continuing interaction with a text, beyond the physical representation of his or her idiolect as portrayed by the choice of words. However, there is an argument that authors continue to carry ownership of texts beyond their production. They have the right to be identified with a text not only to secure funding, but also to be the arbiter of what was meant. In that sense, I suppose an author could hover like a spirit over the waters.

What I trying to get at, I think, is that we have to access the author’s intended meaning via the text. The text therefore is our link into that other world. However, the text itself has no inherent meaning. It is possible for someone to come at the text and bounce off it with a ‘sense’ and make no reference to the author. If we were to so bounce off it, we would simply be enacting audience meaning, though, not a textual meaning.

An example of this in practice: an art critic presents an introduction to a painting to a group of listeners. The critic might say, “To me, this painting reflects the relationship between communication and power. The political ideology in this portrayal is evident as the painter wields his authoritarian brush over the discourse of white space…” That would be, to me anyway, an example of audience meaning or intention, devoid of reference to an author’s actual original intention. The author may have been blissfully unaware of modern critical discourse analysis and have had absolutely no intention of expounding a political discourse of power. The best we can say here is that the critic has bounced his or her agenda off the canvas, taking the medium of communication (the painting itself) as the secondary starting point for interpretation (the primary starting point being the agenda).

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ThunderBunk

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I would still fundamentally distrust the output of this hermeneutic process.

First, there is no mention of the fact that translating involves reading and interpreting. It is not simply a matter of code-switching; there is a movement out of one code and into another, in the middle of which, between the codes, sits the translator. They have already interpreted the text to decode it and will encode their interpretation as they write their translation. It is inevitable, it is universal and it puts a layer over the original which its reader is not capable of removing, being part of the same interpretative community.

Secondly, it denies that any reader has read other texts, and that any time they read a biblical text, that text enters into dialogue with a moderately unpredictable corpus of other texts that they will have read.

Thirdly, there is no space in your scheme for acknowledging the fact that people, our predecessors and fellow members of the communion of saints, have been interpreting biblical texts for 1700 years or so. Any interpretation carried out now inevitably enters into dialogue with the history of interpretations, and will form part of that history in the future.

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by ThunderBunk:
…there is no mention of the fact that translating involves reading and interpreting.

Are you arguing for the case that we cannot access authorial intention where the author’s primary language was different to ours?

A good translator and a good translation process will sit under the author. Trying to apply translation from an audiencial standpoint can ultimately lead to chaos. The work of an interpreter, as with text critics, will need to involve knowledge of the source languages and cultures. There is nothing in here that cannot be taken into account by the communication process from author as sender to audience as receiver. Someone, somewhere will have to do the work of perceiving and decoding, but a translator's aim must be to transmit as faithfully as possilbe the intention of the author.
quote:
Originally posted by ThunderBunk:
…it denies that any reader has read other texts, and that any time they read a biblical text, that text enters into dialogue with a moderately unpredictable corpus of other texts that they will have read

Recognition of the fact that readers/hearers all come with ‘baggage’ is a good first step to being able to bracket out other interpretations; the process to the author is quite often through the hermeneutical spiral as horizons fuse, but I wouldn’t say that just because I might have read Alice in Wonderland that I am therefore forever fated to look for rabbit holes in the Book of Job.
quote:
Originally posted by ThunderBunk:
…there is no space in your scheme for acknowledging the fact that people, our predecessors and fellow members of the communion of saints, have been interpreting biblical texts for 1700 years or so. Any interpretation carried out now inevitably enters into dialogue with the history of interpretations, and will form part of that history in the future.

I don’t think the logic of the argument requires any such space, because it is not inevitable that validation engages with the history of interpretation. Engagement with the history of interpretations is an engagement with the reception history – the series of applications (significances) that interpreters have made to their own times and places. These lie in the remit of audience intentions, not authorial intentions. The reason I suggest these are not useable for validating interpretation now is that we have multiple and often incompatible interpretations, and the believing community is not helped toward the answers they need to those two questions: How do we understand more about God, and How does God want us to live?

I take as essential the distinction made between Meaning and Significance. Meaning is fixed in time, it is the author’s meaning made via a text. Significance on the other hand relates to the later applications made by interpreting communities over time. They will differ. To put my point in its essence, if validity is indeed to be located with the author, and there is a discrepancy between the authorial intention and a later significance, then so much the worse for that significance.

I know that sounds rather blunt – throw Tradition out with the bathwater! – but I need to make the point that there are two entirely different processes going on here: the process of validating an interpretation by way of authorial intention, and the process of investigating the way texts have been interpreted down the years.

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ThunderBunk

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Authorial intention is created by the reader when reading, out of the text which is the only relevant evidence of the author. We can impute all kinds of things to authors, particularly those of biblical texts, but as their texts are infinitely acreting palimpsests, each successive layer of interpretation of authorship makes the author themselves more as well as less obscure, in that what we are in fact creating and receiving is a reading of authorship.

Readers are reading when they are reading. No amount of wishing will make your wishes come true, any more than they wil the perpetual necromancy of arch-protestants who want to turn all church activity into a seance, trying to call up the spirits of the third century, before everything was corrupted by erupting into history.

There is no means of recovering the purity you believe to have been lost.

[ 28. January 2018, 16:34: Message edited by: ThunderBunk ]

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Nigel M
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I suspect I won’t be able to convince you, ThunderBunk, but I don’t share your pessimism about access to authorial intention. The translator process you mentioned is, in fact, a good example to use of just how important authorial intention has to be. In legal, political, and business circles around the world day after day, translators prove that it is not only possible, but absolutely essential, that the interpreter submits to the authority of the author. If translators were unable to make a match, a fusion of horizons, between the world of the author and the world of the receiver, then it would not be possible engage in transactions across cultures. Indeed, we would risk wars on a daily basis. To reverse a phrase, I would argue that translators are translating when they translate.
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ThunderBunk

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
I suspect I won’t be able to convince you, ThunderBunk, but I don’t share your pessimism about access to authorial intention. The translator process you mentioned is, in fact, a good example to use of just how important authorial intention has to be. In legal, political, and business circles around the world day after day, translators prove that it is not only possible, but absolutely essential, that the interpreter submits to the authority of the author. If translators were unable to make a match, a fusion of horizons, between the world of the author and the world of the receiver, then it would not be possible engage in transactions across cultures. Indeed, we would risk wars on a daily basis. To reverse a phrase, I would argue that translators are translating when they translate.

Well, to go down your list, technical translators are probably the closest, but even then they work within a world in which both sides are part of the same technical culture, even though divided by a linguistic barrier. Legal translators are in a completely different position because of the extent to which the text speaks a world into existence: for example, a crime is defined and an action which previously was not a crime now is one. If the same legal effect results, then the translation is successful. But different cultures have their own legal systems, except transnational systems like the EU. So boundaries matter, and interpretation within different boundaries therefore also matters. In business circles......well, aside from the extent to which English is becoming a lingua franca and very much a source of division, extreme cultural sensitivity and focus on the receiving culture is required to prevent offence which may well scupper a deal completely. So to my mind, none of your point is proven.

I do know whereof I speak, having studied translation at length, and indeed translated a fair number of texts.

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Nigel M
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You haven’t dealt with the fact that translation is based on securing a fusion of horizons between two different linguistic and cultural worlds. A human communication is a willed transaction. There is always an author (singular or plural) who signs off on what becomes the final form of the communication. Translation remains subject to the will of that author if the original intention is to be communicated successfully between the (at least) two different worlds. It is not open to the translator to bring his or her own intentions to the game, interpreting the original author’s communication in a way that suits the worldview of that translator.

The fact that translation of the author’s original intention happens is the proof that there is such a thing as authorial intention and that it can be accessed.

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ThunderBunk

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
You haven’t dealt with the fact that translation is based on securing a fusion of horizons between two different linguistic and cultural worlds. A human communication is a willed transaction. There is always an author (singular or plural) who signs off on what becomes the final form of the communication. Translation remains subject to the will of that author if the original intention is to be communicated successfully between the (at least) two different worlds. It is not open to the translator to bring his or her own intentions to the game, interpreting the original author’s communication in a way that suits the worldview of that translator.

The fact that translation of the author’s original intention happens is the proof that there is such a thing as authorial intention and that it can be accessed.

Translation is not merely open to the translator's intention; from the point at which the translator ceases to be exclusively a reader of the source text, translation is closed to the intention of the author of the original. Insofar as this intention, assuming it to have some kind of identifiable reality, has any influence, it does so because it is encoded into the translator's reading. After that, the translator has carte blanche, necessarily, with only a loyalty to their reading and to the process by which they became capable of reading to hold them back from wild invention. These two elements do a good job, because they are deeply ingrained in the identity of the translator, but they have no direct connection with the author of the original text.

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Nigel M
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There are two processes here. The end process is the encoding of meaning into a new world. Fair enough. But the first process is still the reading of a text with the meaning encoded by an author. The medium (written or oral, painting or whatever) carries no meaning independently of either the author or the reader. When a translator ‘reads’ a text, he or she is not (hopefully) imposing his or her own world onto the text. That would be to mis-read. And if the reader is capable of distinguishing between worlds so as to limit the reading-in that can occur, then he or she is open to ascertain the authorial meaning represented in the text.

For the purposes of biblical interpretation, we still have the two processes in play. The first is the ascertaining of the author’s meaning, the second the application of that meaning into the receptor world.

I appreciate that we are taking up a fair bit of space on this topic. It is only one part of the subject to do with authorial intention, and authorial intention is only one part of the hermeneutical process (I would argue). We are still only on principle [1] of my first post. I said this thread would be a cracker.

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ThunderBunk

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2] Ask the question, “Why is that there?” of the text.

[3] Answer that question by reading the text with the author’s sandals on. See what the author did by using the words he used in the way that he used them, to effect an affect on an audience.

[4] Bring together findings from three areas to achieve that last: Archaeology (the artefacts), Sociology (particularly worldview analyses), and Linguistics (including communication theory).

[5] Test it.

[6] Only then consider how the particular author’s meaning maps to another author’s meaning.

[7] With or without [6] above, apply the meaning to today’s context – that is to draw out a significance (not the same thing as a meaning).

Strangely I don't think most of the rest of the principles are hugely controversial, providing that there is no expectation that the author is anything other than a textual creation. A lot of it feels, speaking from the perspective of a literary scholar, a little small-scale, but that's because the bible pretty much is its own corpus, and has a much smaller field of external references than a literary work.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
There is a scale of capability, really; so I wouldn’t want to leap from the fact of human limitation to a conclusion that authorial intention is not accessible – or no longer reasonably accessible.

No, that's not the point at issue here. The point is that whether accessible or not, intention never translates automatically into what is actually done or meant. When intention successfully becomes action we do not need to talk about intention at all. The concept of intention is there because of the mismatch between what was intended and what is actually done.

An author's arguments may have logical consequences of which the author is not aware. An author's words may not have precisely the connotations that the author wishes. An author's metaphors or figures may not reveal their matter under the light in which they conceived them.

Furthermore I don't accept the distinction between meaning and significance. (I believe by E.D. Hirsch?) Meaning is significance. Meaning is always a relationship between the text and the world, or indeed between the text and itself.
One criticism that's been made of identifying meaning with intention is that it's not clear which authorial intention is operative. Is it the authorial intention for the whole work, or the authorial intention for each individual sentence? The meanings of the individual sentences interact with each other beyond the ability of an author to intend, and therefore has significance to the other sentences rather than just authorial 'meaning'. This sum of all interactions between individual sentences is the meaning of the whole work. Thus even if we suppose that authorial intention gives validity at the level of the sentence, it cannot give validity at the level of the work.

quote:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I think the idea that there is a definite intended meaning prior to encoding is wrong. The meaning of the text is created in the process of writing the text. It's not encoded or translated from thought to the written word.

Not sure how you would define “definite intended meaning”. I would place intention in the realm of Conception.
My point is that there is no sharp distinction between Conception and Encoding.

quote:
The author then considers and formulates the response. This is an internal experience and not in the public domain. It may be an initial, “I must get around to answering that at some point”, or it may be the mental process of actual thinking about the content of the message that the author wants delivered. These are all intentions, and precede the actual Encoding.
One cannot formulate a response even internally without using symbols, which even when internal are of the same nature as public symbols. What you call Encoding therefore starts as soon as Conception starts. They are not distinct stages.

That being the case we can't isolate a theoretical pre-encoded conception that we identify with the meaning.

quote:
As I can’t see the rationale for a text having meaning on its own in the absence of a human, behind or in front of the text, then I am not likely to understand intended meaning as inherent to the writing process (Encoding) itself. The texts remain inert. They lie in dusty drawers, weighty tomes, or even still in the sand awaiting the attention of an intending human being.
If the texts are inert they cannot carry the author's intention around with them like a spirit hovering over the waters or otherwise. The author's intention would be left behind when the text goes in the drawer or the sand.
If the author's intention can accompany the text, however, so can the shared communal meaning.

If the text gives us access to the authorial intention it can only do so on the basis of the shared communal meaning. If the material signs are non-commensurable with meaning, being of a different kind entirely from what can have meaning, meaning cannot be deduced or decoded from them.

quote:
An example of this in practice: an art critic presents an introduction to a painting to a group of listeners. The critic might say, “To me, this painting reflects the relationship between communication and power. The political ideology in this portrayal is evident as the painter wields his authoritarian brush over the discourse of white space…” That would be, to me anyway, an example of audience meaning or intention, devoid of reference to an author’s actual original intention. The author may have been blissfully unaware of modern critical discourse analysis and have had absolutely no intention of expounding a political discourse of power.
And yet, if an anthropologist can use the text as evidence for the power structures of the artist's society then information about those power structures or about the author's attitude to those power structures has been encoded into the text without the author's intention. The author may reveal assumptions and beliefs and reactions that the author took so much for granted that they were not consciously aware of them.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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fletcher christian

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So, if we were to construct something from the discussion above, I think it is fair to say we need something regarding authorial intent. What we haven't been able to decide upon is the weight of the significance of that as an overall interpretive key for how we approach the text today. Is that putting it too simply?

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Nigel M
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Apologies for gap in time - working week continues without any apocalypse. Quick update...

Dyfed…
The difference between Conception and Encoding in the Communication models is between the mental element, where a communication is devised (conceived), and the activity of transferring the conceived thoughts onto a medium (paper, canvass, parchment…). Theorists find it useful to keep that distinction, because it delimits clearly between the (authorial) internal thought process that is never available to the public, and the external inscription that may or may not become public.

On the difference between Meaning and Significance, it was indeed Hirsch who popularised that. He and his followers found it necessary to make the distinction between the authorial process and the audience process. This can be mapped to the work of communication theorists, by aligning Meaning to the stages where the author is in control (Conception – Encoding – Transmission, in the 7-stage model), and Significance to those where the audience can be in control (Reception through to Apprehension) – barring noise in the system, of course. Significance relates to the activity of applying texts to current situations and is therefore variable across time, Meaning is fixed at the point of transmission.

fletcher christian
I think there is still an issue over the role of an author.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
The difference between Conception and Encoding in the Communication models is between the mental element, where a communication is devised (conceived), and the activity of transferring the conceived thoughts onto a medium (paper, canvass, parchment…). Theorists find it useful to keep that distinction, because it delimits clearly between the (authorial) internal thought process that is never available to the public, and the external inscription that may or may not become public.

My point is that the thought process doesn't amount to any definite content prior to being turned into symbols. After Wittgenstein's private language argument I don't think it's possible to believe that there's any difference in quality between the thought process in the head and the process of committing to an external medium. One can't therefore posit a significant pre-composition intended meaning that it is the interpreter's task to recover.

In case it's not obvious I am not sold on the communication model that you're using.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Nigel M
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I am borrowing the 7-stage model because it seems to be the most appropriate to the field of biblical interpretation; other models are less so. Communication theorists may differ in their terminology and some will have more or fewer stages. For example, those theorists focussing on verbal communication probably have no need for the Encoding stage – they can go straight from Conception to Transmission. Others add stages; I know some like to include Feedback as a final stage, but that is also more appropriate to the verbal sphere. In biblical studies we are divorced from the immediacy of those verbal-based transactional models, where interaction and feedback play out. If there are such things as language games, then biblical interpretation is in a different ballpark.

We don’t need to get hung up on the psychological or neurolinguistic end of communication theory. While it is possible to break down the Conception stage into further sub-sets associated with symbols, for the purposes of biblical interpretation we cannot get into the author’s head to make a judgement call on what went on there. We can, however, be certain that at some point the author chose to transfer a set form of words in an order that represented his or her meaning and intention, from the internalised workings of the mind, to a medium. We can also be certain that the biblical authors were writing to, and in, a public sphere. They were not expounding private sensations; they were operating within the constraints of their culture and language and succeeded in impacting an audience.

I think we agree that in biblical studies we cannot access the author’s Conception stage. I would say as well that we are probably not fussed about the Encoding stage in terms of how it happened, though obviously it did happen. We see the result of Transmission by virtue of the fact that a community received the encoded output and copied / disseminated it. It is from that medium (the encoding that is transmitted) that we draw the intention.

So when it comes to biblical interpretation, I can’t really see a way round this. When a reader needs to validate a reading / interpretation, he or she is thrown from the text into one of two worlds: either the world of the human who encoded that text (as motivated by a trigger), or the world of the reader (motivated by a much wider range of things). The prior claim to ownership of the textual content lies with the human author, not the reader. Authorial intent, therefore, must have priority in the field of biblical interpretation. That's the conclusion, anyway.


Thinking further about the menaing of 'intention', I think there may be a difference in understanding here

Earlier I had a crack at defining ‘author’, to not limit it to a single person necessarily, but to focus on the encoded text that the author dropped the dead donkey on and transmitted. I didn’t have a go at the ‘intention’ part of ‘authorial intention’, at least as it impacts the process I am arguing for in biblical studies.

Borrowing ideas from the field of pragmatics, I suggest that interpretation should focus on intention-as-function (or purpose): an author intends to achieve something (correcting an issue seems to be the popular one). There needs to be consideration of this aspect: the purpose of a communication. There is an overlap here with speech act theory, in particular the distinction between illocutionary force and perlocutionary act, with the former being the delivery of an authorial intent to do things like assert, suggest, demand, promise, vow, etc., and the latter the effect, intended or not, achieved in an audience by the author’s transmission. Meaning lies in the former, significance in the latter.

This drives the summary of what should go on when analysing texts: paying attention to what an author did in using the words he or she used, in the way he or she used them, to effect an affect on an audience.

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by ThunderBunk:
...I don't think most of the rest of the principles are hugely controversial, providing that there is no expectation that the author is anything other than a textual creation.

If one were to work back along a process and came to that issue of valdiating interpretations, what approach would you like to see that could meet the need for validation and the OP's desire to create a hermeneutic?
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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
We can, however, be certain that at some point the author chose to transfer a set form of words in an order that represented his or her meaning and intention, from the internalised workings of the mind, to a medium. We can also be certain that the biblical authors were writing to, and in, a public sphere. They were not expounding private sensations; they were operating within the constraints of their culture and language and succeeded in impacting an audience.

Your argument for authorial meaning depends upon first ruling out all options other than authorial meaning and readers' meaning on the grounds that meaning depends upon a subject. I don't think you can make that move if you argue as you do above that the author is not expounding private sensations but depends upon their culture and language.

The only sequences of words that represent the author's intention are ones that start with 'I intend to' or some similar formula or are cast in the future tense (and are not predictions) or have a similar structure. 'I'm going to the shops' represents the speaker's intention to go to the shops. 'I have just been to the shops' does not represent the speaker's intention.
In the general case, an utterance does not represent an intention. The order of conceptual priority is the other way around.

quote:
When a reader needs to validate a reading / interpretation, he or she is thrown from the text into one of two worlds: either the world of the human who encoded that text (as motivated by a trigger), or the world of the reader (motivated by a much wider range of things). The prior claim to ownership of the textual content lies with the human author, not the reader.
The world of the human author does not seem to me to be limited to the author's intentions. It includes all the other humans with whom the author interacts including the implied audience, about some of whom the author may have false beliefs or be ignorant.

quote:
Borrowing ideas from the field of pragmatics, I suggest that interpretation should focus on intention-as-function (or purpose): an author intends to achieve something (correcting an issue seems to be the popular one). There needs to be consideration of this aspect: the purpose of a communication. There is an overlap here with speech act theory, in particular the distinction between illocutionary force and perlocutionary act, with the former being the delivery of an authorial intent to do things like assert, suggest, demand, promise, vow, etc., and the latter the effect, intended or not, achieved in an audience by the author’s transmission. Meaning lies in the former, significance in the latter.
I'm glad that at least you don't confuse the illocutionary act with the intention to perform the perlocutionary act as Quentin Skinner does.

Austin denies that the intention to perform a particular illocutionary act guarantees that the illocutionary act is performed or that no other illocutionary act is performed. One can't appeal to Austin to defend the equation of meaning with intended meaning.

The model I think I would use is Jakobson. The speech-act has in Jakobson's model six aspects; I would add another as nothing in Jakobson corresponds to Austin's illocutionary aspect.
Relevant ones here are:
Formal or aesthetic aspect: the words used.
Authorial or expressive aspect: the speaker's disposition.
Audience or rhetorical aspect: the effect upon the audience.
Contextual or constative aspect: the subject matter of the utterance.
Illocutionary aspect: what the speaker is doing in the utterance.

In none of these is meaning identical with intended meaning.
The formal aspects of the work are what they are regardless of whether the author intended them or not. Likewise, the subject matter of the work is what it is dependent upon the rules by which language can be taken to refer to the world. Intention is here relevant in establishing our grounds for belief - an accidental statement may be true but we cannot appeal to the author's experience as warrant for believing it.
The expressive aspect obviously leads us into consideration of the author's intentions. But it also leads us into any emotions or attitudes of the author's that the author has only unintentionally expressed and might have rather concealed or been unconscious of.
The rhetorical aspect does take us into the author's intentions. But it equally takes us into whether the author went an effective way about doing what he intended. (A study of Paradise Lost cannot assume that Milton's intention to justify the ways of God to men is successful.) The same applies to the illocutionary aspect.

Of these aspects the only one that the interpreter must necessarily take into account is the formal aspect. That is, the interpreter must refer to the actual words used. They may, time and opportunity being limited, omit any of the others, but without reference to the words used they are no longer interpreting the text.

quote:
This drives the summary of what should go on when analysing texts: paying attention to what an author did in using the words he or she used, in the way he or she used them, to effect an affect on an audience.
Pedantic footnote: you mean to effect an effect. An affect (n) is specifically an emotional state or mood.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
...you mean to effect an effect. An affect (n) is specifically an emotional state or mood.

Actually, I am using ‘affect’ as a noun in order to bring out the intentional act of influencing. The author’s aim is to facilitate a state whereby an audience is affected by the communication; the result of the influence (effect) is that something, a response, is brought about – in accordance with the author’s desire. I assume here that the biblical texts, like most texts(?), are not neutral; i.e. they are not limiting themselves to the Informative import (railway timetables again), but can also carry Affective and Expressive imports.

I seem to have landed on the example of Paul writing to the believing community in Corinth, so I’ll take that up again. A phrase such as “Now concerning the issues you wrote about…” provides an opening for Informative import – answering questions – but Paul’s rhetorical style could be Expressive, and he wanted his audience to conform to a mode of behaviour, so Affective import is a factor as well.

quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
Your argument for authorial meaning depends upon first ruling out all options other than authorial meaning and readers' meaning on the grounds that meaning depends upon a subject. ...

It has to rule out, I would argue, anything other than the human author and a human audience (reader / hearer) when it comes to interpreting texts. Private sensations remain private until uttered in the presence of someone other than the person experiencing them. Culture and language are contributing factors to successful communication. So it’s possible to move from an intention in the mind of an author to the transmitted text, and this provides the ground for a theory that moves in the opposite direction. The constraints come in the form of the context; e.g., whether the conversation context was one where Grice’s maxims of cooperation (to take that example) were more or less likely to be followed.

Shared culture and language (and more specifically shared interests, such as how to behave in certain circumstances) doesn’t necessarily blur the distinction between what an author meant and what an audience took as a significance.

RE: the implied / textual / internal audience
I’m not so sure that the distinction between an implied audience or a real audience matters in the field of biblical interpretation. Paul may have set up an implied audience in his mind when he wrote a letter to the believing community in Corinth (though he usually has named individuals in mind, which implies a real audience), but as I noted earlier we are not dependent on his audience fully appreciating his import and intention. They may have ‘got it’, or they may have just got away with it, but the fact is they were affected sufficiently by Paul’s writing to retain and disseminate that text – and other generations promoted the text to prominence and for posterity.

Can you see a need for defining the implied audience over and above any other? The concept seems to work better in the field of drama (plays, monologues, poems...). Form Critics had a crack at this in their own way, but otherwise…

And back to intention
I think a text does indeed betray an intention; perhaps I am drawing the circle of meaning around the term ‘intention’ a bit wider. Breaking away from the example of a letter to Corinth, here’s another example from Paul’s output:

quote:
Romans 1:1-7 (NET Version)
From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. This gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh, who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name. You also are among them, called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all those loved by God in Rome, called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Obviously, commentaries are full of stuff from this, but the bit I want to light on is the “You also are among them” clause.

On the face of that could just be a piece of informative import. Something the audience should know, surely, that they are counted among ‘the Gentiles’. However, I would argue that Paul here is staking out his authority over this particular group at Rome. He does it by way of explanation of his calling. He is appointed, approved, commissioned, to be the one who takes responsibility for the development into faith of the Gentile believers. Later on he expresses regret for not being able to visit them in person, but here he is confirming that he is their apostle. There is nothing sinister in this; in the hierarchical covenantal world view it would be natural for a person for persons to want to know where they stood – and under whom they stood.

Here we could infer a trigger for Paul: He is aware that this particular community lacks clear leadership. They need to know which of the apostles on the tour is the one to whom they go for guidance and direction. Which one is their teacher? And so we see Paul making reference to his apostleship (twice) and his confirming that this audience is indeed under his wing and he takes responsibility for them.

Thus we have one intention from this text. Plenty of others, of course, as well in those few verses. We do not know for sure if he succeeded in his intention. The Roman believers might possibly have misunderstood, but this does not invalidate the intention.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
Your argument for authorial meaning depends upon first ruling out all options other than authorial meaning and readers' meaning on the grounds that meaning depends upon a subject. ...

It has to rule out, I would argue, anything other than the human author and a human audience (reader / hearer) when it comes to interpreting texts. Private sensations remain private until uttered in the presence of someone other than the person experiencing them. Culture and language are contributing factors to successful communication. So it’s possible to move from an intention in the mind of an author to the transmitted text, and this provides the ground for a theory that moves in the opposite direction.
The problem for me is that I do not think that ruling out everything except the (human) author and the audience is justified. We have yet to rule out the human society in which the author lives. Doing so seems to me to lead to manifestly false formulations such as 'Culture and language are contributing factors to successful communication'. Culture and language aren't contributing factors to communication but the medium, as flesh and blood are not contributing factors to successful human life.

I don't deny that we can often deduce an agent's intention. However, the occasions on which we wish to deduce an agent's intention are generally speaking those when we suspect that the agent's intention was not the same as their performance.

It is I think fundamental to the concept of intention that the responsibility to honour the intention primarily lies with the author or other actor's performance. The audience's responsibility is primarily to what was done and only secondarily to what was intended to be done.

quote:
The constraints come in the form of the context; e.g., whether the conversation context was one where Grice’s maxims of cooperation (to take that example) were more or less likely to be followed.

I don't think that's quite the significance of Grice's maxims of cooperation. Context might define what counts as following or flouting a maxim, but the maxims themselves apply to all contexts of communication. For example, politicians and teenagers may both follow the maxim of manner in their speech, yet what counts as an appropriate manner for the politician speaking may not count as appropriate for the teenaged audience. The politician trying to get the manner appropriate may fail to do so.
Clearly in that case, the politician's intention to not be condescending does not guarantee success. And yet the condescension of the politician's utterance should seem to be part of the meaning of the politician's communication, certainly if you don't see meaning as purely informative but see meaning as effected affect upon the audience.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
We have yet to rule out the human society in which the author lives. …

I’m not sure that ‘human society’, as a factor in interpretation, would ultimately be anything other than either the author’s intent or an audience intent; like textual meaning I think it collapses into one or the other.

The way I go about this is to see that it is the human that brings meaning or intention into a situation. With that as background, the issue you raise about culture (and language) is an interesting one. I don’t go with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that the structure of a language determines or greatly influences the modes of thought and behaviour characteristic of the culture, so will leave the language bit to one side unless anyone wishes to argue otherwise. As to culture more generally, I would say that seeing culture as the medium rather implies that humans are inevitably trapped in their social environment and can never have the will the break out. Yet when we come across differences to the cultural worldviews and mindsets we carry, we come to a junction in life where there are three choices:

[1] Consider the new offering and turn onto a new path away from our previously held beliefs
[2] Consider the new offering, decide that our current beliefs are still in fact justified, and so stay on the current path
[3] Turn our back on the opportunity to decide and remain stubbornly fixed to the current beliefs

The fact that people do from time to time opt to adapt, abandoning previously held comfortable cultural beliefs in favour of new ones, would seem to imply that culture should be seen as contributory to the decision-making process in life, rather than innate to our beliefs as a medium. It only becomes close to a medium if the person encountering a difference withdraws into the castle, pulls up the drawbridge, and hopes that the rest of the world would just go away.

Challenges to presuppositions would also have been rife in the world that generated the biblical texts. For example, at one level Paul had a similar culture to the tradition within which he was trained: 2nd temple Judaism. There were, however, other views extant within Judaism and Paul would have overlapped with some, but have differences with others. Then he would also have had an overlap with the culture of the Graeco-Roman world within which he was born, yet also with differences. Narrowing the field, he would have had overlaps with the views of his fellow apostles, but - as is recorded in his interchanges with them - he also had differences. The same could be said about his interactions with the believing communities across the empire: some overlaps, some differences. If there was complete overlap, I doubt there would ever have been triggers to motivate the writing of the biblical texts.

Similarly, when audiences are a trigger for a text, they carry a motivation to understand the authorial intention. They overlap to some extent with their surrounding culture, but have questions or behaviour that prompts the generation of a text designed to impact them – i.e., they have differences. I would argue that the fact that they copied and disseminated the texts indicates that they opted for point [1] above; they took on board the intention of the author, changed their way of living, and thought it worthwhile to pass the challenge on to others.

It is this factor that keeps nagging at my mind in the context of…
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
The audience's responsibility is primarily to what was done and only secondarily to what was intended to be done.

I understand the implication of the fact that we only have the text and not the author in front of us. My feeling, though, is that we (or any audience) do not have to be trapped, as it were, by the text. There is a case for saying that the audiences we are concerned with (the biblical ones) were motivated to spend time and resource on getting at the author’s intention.
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ThunderBunk

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I would contend that those compiling biblical texts were overwhelmingly concerned with making their own interpretation look natural. Given a whole series of sources, they would naturally integrate and assemble them in a way that is congruent with the life of that text in the contemporary community. If the text had a liturgical use, I can see no reason why they would not project the liturgical text directly into the biblical narrative at the appropriate point, because the liturgy is the life of that text, that element of their common narrative, at the time. This could be seen as an ahistorical use of texts, but it's the one that pertained for thousands of years, until the mid-19th century in fact, so it's the one that needs to be taken seriously for any hermeneutic to be fit for purpose.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
We have yet to rule out the human society in which the author lives. …

I’m not sure that ‘human society’, as a factor in interpretation, would ultimately be anything other than either the author’s intent or an audience intent; like textual meaning I think it collapses into one or the other.
I don't think the phrase 'audience intent' here can be meaningful.
You've yet to show that the collapse happens.

quote:
As to culture more generally, I would say that seeing culture as the medium rather implies that humans are inevitably trapped in their social environment and can never have the will the break out.
Only if you think culture is a monolithic structure in which people move. I'd say rather that it's a set of tools, at least some of which are able to modify other tools.
I think that it's clear that thoughts such as 'slavery is wrong and the economic system could function perfectly well without it,' could only have occurred to St Paul with great difficulty. For that matter, it seems clear that he was unable to work out for himself many of the implications of, 'in Christ there is no man or woman'.

quote:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
The audience's responsibility is primarily to what was done and only secondarily to what was intended to be done.

I understand the implication of the fact that we only have the text and not the author in front of us. My feeling, though, is that we (or any audience) do not have to be trapped, as it were, by the text.
That's got nothing to do with the point I'm trying to make. My point stands even where we can confidently identify the author's intention.

There is no point in saying that our concern is with the author's intention except when we can distinguish between the textual meaning and the intention. And in those cases being concerned with the meaning of the text is not the same as being concerned with what the author intended.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I'd say rather that it's a set of tools…

I think that word, ‘tools’, is indeed a better one than ‘medium’ in the context.

quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I don't think the phrase 'audience intent' here can be meaningful.
You've yet to show that the collapse happens.

On the question of a collapse, I outlined the approach in earlier posts, but not in detail, so I’ll use the opportunity to go into more detail here.

There are two strands I bear in mind:

[1] Texts are inert. They are transmitted encodings of something outside of themselves. Like pebbles on the sand, texts carry no intrinsic meaning until an intentional being sees, reads, or hears them. It is always the human that brings meaning, or infers intention, to the text. This means that the approach I take defines the term ‘meaning’ (which I accept is a slippery term) along these lines: the linguistic sense intended in an encoded transmission. It is the essential intentionalness of the act that sets this apart from other senses of ‘meaning’.

This is different to reference; I tend the follow the lead of others here who define a referent as the thing (object, event, or process) in the world which is intentionally signified by a word or expression. It is a property of utterances.

Just in case anyone is not sure, I also keep a distinction between the media of transmission (papyrus, parchment, paper, canvas, etc.) and the text as the set of arbitrary signs (the alphabetic, hieroglyphic, or other symbolic squiggles) on a medium. Both are inert, but I am not including the whole shebang when using the word ‘text’. Just in case.

[2] The constraints imposed by the language game with which we are dealing, in regard to biblical texts.


Actually, although we’ve spent some time discussing the question of whether a text can ‘mean’ anything at all, this is a something of a sideshow in the quest for a model of interpretation. With regard to texts, the real issue you have been raising is the question of authorial competence, or as some prefer it, the infelicity of a text to adequately represent what the author intended. Obviously I prefer the term ‘authorial competence’ to the longer option, because the later might be taken to imply that a text has intentions!

It’s customary here in linguistic manuals to use the example from Gotthold Lessing’s Emilia Galotti, so I might as well quote it here and get it out of the way. In the play, Lessing has Emelia’s mother say (in German of course), “My God! If your father knew that! How angry he was already to learn that the prince had seen you not without displeasure

Critics know that this was a slip and that Lessing must have intended to write either “not without pleasure” or “not with displeasure”. The point here is that it was human beings that recognised this to be a slip, taking into account context and inferring the author’s intent. The audience could intentionally opt to read the transmitted version literalistically, or (as is usually the case) recognise that competence was an issue and infer intention. Intention still lies with the human, not the text.

On the constraints point in [2] above, this calls into question the likelihood that we have received a text that is deliberately deceptive. In this category we can place the cases of authors having a laugh, trolling, etc., and also audiences intentionally varying a text. I think we can ignore the issue of scribal or publisher non-intentional error; the real issue is with intentional acts of deception and also deliberate changes to a text.

There are places, for example, where a scribe has, for theological reasons, amended the text in front of him during the copying process. One such example is 1 John 5:7f, which in the standard Greek text (Nestle-Aland and UBS) reads ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα, καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν, which the NET Version translates as: “For there are three that testify, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are in agreement.”

There is a variant text that adds a clause: έν τω ούρανω ό πατήρ και ό λόγος, και τό άγιον πνεύμα και ούτοι οί τρεις εν είσι. The whole passage appears in the KJV as: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

This has been the cause of much contention, but textual critics today conclude that the additional words came later, inserted by a scribe with a particular theological intention – to reinforce the Trinitarian aspect, perhaps to counter what might have been seen as a strange counterpart: A Holy Trinity of Spirit, Water, Blood.

Even here, I would argue, what we have is human intention at work and not anything inherent in the text that implies intention. Again, it collapses back into audience intention (in this example). It was the scribe that determined a need to amend the text away from the author’s original intention. We have on our side the more general scribal habit that they typically copy their sources with fidelity so that copied texts are closely related to their ancestors. This is one constraint that mitigates the risk of infelicity.

What about authorial intended deceptiveness (having a laugh, trolling, etc)? The constraint that applies here, I think, is the nature of the communication context. Given the close relationship between the subject matter of the biblical texts (knowledge of God and how God wants his faithful people to live) and social life in a covenant relationship up all the social levels, I think it more likely than not that an audience would be able to distinguish between cases where the intention is trustworthily aligned to delivery, and those where it isn’t. The reception, copying and transmission of the texts in the public arena of a religious state, is a good indicator of the weight of the constraint that would apply to filter out authorial deceptiveness.

Does this mean we can be absolutely sure that the biblical texts we have received contain no textual infelicity? No, I don’t think we can be that sure, but given the constraints that apply in the ‘language game’ of biblical writings, I would argue that we have probable cause, or even a realistic chance of conviction, that the text is felicitous. It adequately represents the competence of the author.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I don't think the phrase 'audience intent' here can be meaningful.
You've yet to show that the collapse happens.

On the question of a collapse, I outlined the approach in earlier posts, but not in detail, so I’ll use the opportunity to go into more detail here.
And then you go off onto a tangent. Aside from re-iterating the premise that texts are inert you don't actually go into any more detail about the collapse.

quote:
[1] Texts are inert. They are transmitted encodings of something outside of themselves. Like pebbles on the sand, texts carry no intrinsic meaning until an intentional being sees, reads, or hears them. It is always the human that brings meaning, or infers intention, to the text.
'An intentional being' means if it means anything a reader whose parents conceived them while trying for a baby.
I say that because I think some of the feeling of coherence your argument has is achieved by iterating the word 'intentional' in contexts where it does not actually belong.
If the text is inert then it cannot bear the author's intended meaning. The author's intended meaning dies and is lost on transfer to an inert medium. It cannot then be resurrected by a reader coming across the inert corpse. Your theory requires one to bridge the gap between author and reader using only materials that on your theory have no structural soundness.

quote:
Just in case anyone is not sure, I also keep a distinction between the media of transmission (papyrus, parchment, paper, canvas, etc.) and the text as the set of arbitrary signs (the alphabetic, hieroglyphic, or other symbolic squiggles) on a medium. Both are inert, but I am not including the whole shebang when using the word ‘text’.
The signs and therefore the text, as distinguished from the media, cannot be inert in the sense you're using. In the sense in which the media are inert there are no such things as signs.

On your account meaning can only be assigned to signs by an individual, either the author or the audience. There can be no such thing as a pre-existing shared meaning. This means that the assignment of meaning to sign by the author can only be an essentially arbitrary assignment at the time of writing. This assignment cannot itself be recovered by the reader and leaves no trace within the work (which is inert). The cipher key used to encode the meaning does not form part of the text, and is therefore lost. Therefore the readers' assignment of meaning to the work can only ever itself be arbitrary. Therefore communication would be impossible.
Communication is not impossible; it does happen. Therefore the premise that the text is inert is wrong.

quote:
With regard to texts, the real issue you have been raising is the question of authorial competence, or as some prefer it, the infelicity of a text to adequately represent what the author intended. Obviously I prefer the term ‘authorial competence’ to the longer option, because the later might be taken to imply that a text has intentions!
I think your example from Lessing confuses two places where intention can go awry from performance. A slip of the pen or tongue is not a failure at the same point as, say, the author being unintentionally condescending.

quote:
There are places, for example, where a scribe has, for theological reasons, amended the text in front of him during the copying process.
Your analysis of this point is not I think really compatible with your earlier contention that where a text is the product of multiple authors the intention that counts is that of the final editor of the text.
However, I'm not sure why you bring it in at all. I think that your analysis here is not to the point, as if your intention is not so much to argue your case so much as to dump everything you've read on the topic onto the thread.

quote:
What about authorial intended deceptiveness (having a laugh, trolling, etc)?
I fear you needlessly go about the houses here; the intent to deceive is not the relevant intent to mean and co-exists with the intent to mean.
That said, again, I'm not sure why you bring it in at all. I think the fact that you make heavy weather of a case that you should be able to dispose of more simply is a symptom of your loose use of the word intention, which loose use vitiates your argument.

quote:
Does this mean we can be absolutely sure that the biblical texts we have received contain no textual infelicity? No, I don’t think we can be that sure, but given the constraints that apply in the ‘language game’ of biblical writings, I would argue that we have probable cause, or even a realistic chance of conviction, that the text is felicitous. It adequately represents the competence of the author.
There are as I understand it sentences in Paul that are incomplete. And Mark is I believe a notoriously poor stylist.

But that's not the question I'm talking about.
I'll reuse a case from the Bible I alluded to in my last post.
Paul writes that in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, man nor woman.
Elsewhere, Paul writes things that seem to indicate an acceptance of the status quo in Hellenistic society in relation to slaves or women.
There are three interpretive possibilities.
A) We take the Galatians statement as an announcement of the radical nature of the Gospel, and interpret Paul's other pronouncements in the light of that so that they're consistent with the radical nature of the Galatians declaration.
B) We take Paul's other pronouncement at face value and qualify our interpretation of the Galatians passage so as to make it consistent with the status quo in Hellenistic society.
C) We take the Galatians passage as meaning one thing and the other passages as meaning quite another thing, when Paul had changed his mind, or hadn't thought through the logical implications of what he'd earlier written, or so on. And therefore we take the Bible to be a collection of inconsistent aphorisms.

It seems to me that an approach that relies on authorial intention must go with either B) or more plausibly C). An authorial intention hermeneutic can at best judge A) implausible.
I think A) is correct, as best obeying the hermeneutical injunction to read the text in the light of Christ as announcing Christ.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Nigel M
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Dafyd,

On your ‘intentional being’ definition: I think the term you are thinking of for that definition is ‘intended being’. ‘Intentional’ belongs where it has been put throughout to refer to a being with the capacity for intention, resolve, or purpose (as in the phrase, “She is an intentional leader”).

On the main issue, you seem to think that I have been arguing for some quasi-mystical relationship between author and text. My point from the top, rather, has been against the form of literary criticism that made an entrance in the middle of the last century for a short while: Textual Meaning – the “in the text” option as opposed to the earlier “behind the text” or later “in front of the text”. Before long it was superseded by a focus on the audience / reader, but it made a foray into biblical studies for a longer while. That form of reading – textual meaning - rode on the back of concerns about the type of authorial intention that was being propounded in literary criticism up to that point, and concluded that if the author was absent and inaccessible, then all we have is the text. If that is the case, then meaning must reside there. My point has been – and remains to be – that as far as I can see the case was not made out and any attempt to apply it to biblical interpretation is bound to fail.

My points are not tangential when taken in that context, but rather try to hammer home the point that in biblical interpretation we cannot do without the aspect of intention, and that intention can only lie with an intentional human being. The only intentional humans around are either the author or the audience. Working on the premise that intention lies in the text, autonomously of an author (or even an audience), does not make sense. It might be reference, but not sense.

To me the point seems banal and we may be at odds over semantics, rather than substance.

Your point about authorial style doesn’t impact the main point. Paul often starts a topic and then moves into a detailed sub-topic. That would appear to be his style. But just because an author uses his or her idiolect and style in a communication does not militate against there being intention at each and every point of the communication.

On the point about consistency across different texts (e.g., Paul’s theology), I don’t see why a form of systematic theology needs to be imposed on intention, as if authorial intention fails simply because an author is not (apparently) consistent over time. Biblical studies should, I think, work at the micro level first; it needs to deal with intention in individual texts at specific points in an argument (or narrative, etc.). Only later should one work on the macro level to the compare texts. There should be no need for qualifying the meaning of one text on the basis that it appears to be contradicted by another. All I want to argue for when it comes to defining a hermeneutic would be to take each text on its merits as representing the encoded transmission of an intention at a particular point in space and time. The question relating to your (A), (B), or (C) options come later.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
On your ‘intentional being’ definition: I think the term you are thinking of for that definition is ‘intended being’. ‘Intentional’ belongs where it has been put throughout to refer to a being with the capacity for intention, resolve, or purpose (as in the phrase, “She is an intentional leader”).

I don't believe the OED recognises that as a meaning of the word. The closest it gets is the rare use to describe an agent to mean, acting with intention - thus an intentional leader is presumably contrasted with someone who is leading followers without being aware of it.
Cats act intentionally, but are not (to the best of our knowledge) capable of symbolic meaning.

quote:
On the main issue, you seem to think that I have been arguing for some quasi-mystical relationship between author and text.
I don't think I think you're arguing that. If anything I think you're arguing the opposite.
If you can indicate where you think I said that you might be clearer.

quote:
My points are not tangential when taken in that context, but rather try to hammer home the point that in biblical interpretation we cannot do without the aspect of intention, and that intention can only lie with an intentional human being. The only intentional humans around are either the author or the audience. Working on the premise that intention lies in the text, autonomously of an author (or even an audience), does not make sense. It might be reference, but not sense.
I assume that last line is intended to be a joke. (If the argument is true of sense it is even more true of reference.)

That may have been your intention. I do not however think it was the meaning of your text. You can only show that we cannot do without the concept of intention if you demonstrate the consequences of trying to do without it, which you did not try.
For example, merely showing that we can hold reasonable hypotheses about the intentions of the scribe does not show that we can't interpret the text without raising the question of the scribe's intentions.
It seems to me that the sense and reference of the text as received including the scribal addition is identical whether or not we recognise the scribal addition as an addition or whether we falsely consider it authorial.

quote:
Your point about authorial style doesn’t impact the main point.
It was not intended to address the main point, and it didn't. It was addressing what I consider a side point, namely your contention that a high degree of confidence in authorial competence is warranted. That appears to me to be a presupposition you are bringing to the evidence rather than a conclusion you are drawing from it.

quote:
On the point about consistency across different texts (e.g., Paul’s theology), I don’t see why a form of systematic theology needs to be imposed on intention, as if authorial intention fails simply because an author is not (apparently) consistent over time.
A sentence exists and has meaning or significance in the context of the paragraph or whole document of which it is part. Significance is supposedly the possibly unintended relationship of the intended meaning to anything is not the intended meaning. When we interpret that document, we are primarily not interested in the meaning of the isolated sentence but in the relation of the meaning of the sentence to all the other sentences in the paragraph and of the paragraph to the other paragraphs in the document. Relation of meaning to something else is on the scheme cited significance. Significance can apparently be unintentional.

But I think you're wrong to say that the choice between A, B, and C comes later. The interesting and important question about the meaning of Galatians 3:28 is precisely whether or not it is meant in a sense compatible with the institution of slavery or not or with inequality between the roles of the sexes in the church and society or not.

--------------------
we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Nigel M
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On the Intentional Leader thing, I’ve come across the concept in the business world during presentations on leadership style. It seems to have gained currency in recent years and these things usually will have been trundling around for a bit longer in academic discussions. I found a few examples of use online here, here, and here.

If dictionaries are descriptive rather than prescriptive, I suspect that where public discourse leads, the OED will eventually follow!


I will come back later in the week on the question of evidence and the slavery example.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
On the Intentional Leader thing, I’ve come across the concept in the business world during presentations on leadership style.

I don't think presentations on leadership style in the business world are the first place I'd turn to for the use of words to aid conceptual clarity.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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