Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture

By Gallagher, Edmon | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 2010 | Go to article overview

Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture


Gallagher, Edmon, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture. By Peter J. Leithart. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009, viii + 254 pp., $19.95 paper.

"It is written that the letter kills but that the spirit gives life. As the letter cloaks the spirit, so a husk veils corn." With these words, Gregory the Great advised readers of the Song of Solomon to peel away the literal meaning of Scripture so one may look deeply at the true, spiritual sense that is obscured by the letter (Coram. Cant. 4; trans. David A. Salomon, available at http://www.sage.edu/faculty/salomd/nyssa/great.html). Peter J. Leithart, Senior Fellow of Theology and Literature at New St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho, also wants to look deeply into Scripture, but his method directly contradicts that of Gregory. Instead of peeling away the husk of the letter to reveal the spiritual "corn," Leithart advocates "devoted attention to the husk" and aims "insistently, manically" to present "a hermeneutics of the letter" (p. 34).

Deep Exegesis contains six chapters bookended by a preface and an epilogue. In the preface, Leithart tells us that his aim in this book is "to describe and defend the ways biblical writers themselves read the Bible" (p. viii). However, he does not spend much time dealing with apostolic exegesis of the OT, as one might expect from this statement. Rather, he concerns himself with how the biblical authors construct meaning, how they convey information to their readers through the "husk." Actually, he does this on an extended basis only for the story of the blind man in John 9, a passage to which he returns in nearly every chapter.

As Leithart makes clear in chapter 1 ("The Text Is a Husk: Modern Hermeneutics"), he wants to develop a literal but not literalistic hermeneutic, one that pays close attention to the words on the page, following the clues inherent in them to discover not just the bare minimum of what Scripture conveys "in the letter," but all that God wants to communicate to us. In Leithart's view, the "husk" of the letter constitutes an essential part of the divine message, and it is by detailed consideration of this husk that the reader gains insight into deeper matters. The seventeenth century becomes the definitive era during which the letter was equated to the husk that could be discarded, though, as Leithart admits (p. 214, n. 9), similar ideas feature in all periods of Christianity. Chapter 1 focuses especially on Spinoza and Kant as those who grounded "true religion" in philosophy and morality, with Scripture subservient to these principles. If the wording of the Bible presented an obstacle to rational religion, one should seek a deeper message not dependent on the letter. The implication of Leithart's analysis here is that evangelicals (Leithart's primary audience) who downplay the details of the biblical text in the pursuit of truth are following in the footsteps of Spinoza and Kant, and the examples of "Kantian evangelicals" include Peter Enns and Richard Longenecker (pp. 29-34).

Chapters 2-6 spell out Leithart's proposed hermeneutical method. Chapter 2 ("Texts Are Events: Typology") argues that the meaning of texts changes based on subsequent events, just as attempted murder becomes an assassination only when the victim dies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.