Cultural Interpretation: Reorienting New Testament Criticism

Cultural Interpretation: Reorienting New Testament Criticism

Cultural Interpretation: Reorienting New Testament Criticism

Cultural Interpretation: Reorienting New Testament Criticism

Synopsis

Building on insights into the social functions of language, especially its interpersonal dimensions, Blount constructs a culturally sensitive model of interpretation that provides a sound basis for ethnographic and popular, as well as historical-critical, readings of the biblical text. Blount's framework does more than acknowledge the inevitability of multiple interpretations; it foments them. His analysis demonstrates the social intent of every reading and shows the influence of communicative context in such diverse readings of the Bible as Rudolf Bultmann's, the peasants of Solentiname, the Negro spirituals, and black-church sermons. Then Blount turns to Mark's account of the trial of Jesus, where he shows how this hermeneutical scheme helps to assess the emergence and validity of multiple readings of the text and the figure of Jesus. Blount's expansive interpretive proposal will help scholars and students open up the possibilities of the text without abandoning it.

Excerpt

It is now commonplace to hear biblical scholars admit that textual inquiry is influenced by the contextual presuppositions of the researcher. What is not so evident is the process by which this influence takes place, recognition of its dramatically powerful influence, and acceptance of its implications. This book is intended to further the discussion on each of these accounts.

The method of sociolinguistics provides the clearest way to probe these questions. Its basic tenet is that context shapes the creation and use of language. Therefore, the meaning derived from language is also shaped by context. the sociolinguistic theory of Μ. A. K. Halliday is particularly helpful to this endeavor because he designates three principal functions of language and describes their relationship to its context. Indeed, one of these language functions is primarily concerned with how meaning is established through the interaction of text grammar and concepts with the situation of the language user. Halliday calls this function the interpersonal. By evaluating this interpersonal language function and examining how it interacts with the other two, we will be able to see precisely how the process of cultural interpretation takes place. We will see precisely why context is so important to text interpretation.

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