Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hermeneutics

I am teaching Hermeneutics again next semester after a year's reprieve. (At Briercrest, Hermeneutics is a second year course required of students in all BA programs.) This time around I have attempted to align the assignments more closely with my overall goals for the course. I also reworked the course introduction in the syllabus:

This course is an apprenticeship in the craft of reading Scripture. We will practice reading skills—which, like any skill, require a lot of work to begin with—that are designed to mine its riches. We will consider how best to approach the diverse genres of biblical literature. We will reflect self-consciously on the reading process itself as we critically evaluate our own reading practices, and strive to develop more effective ones. And we will begin to grapple with persistent hermeneutical issues as we examine cultural and intellectual movements that have shaped the way the Bible has been read.

But the craft of reading Scripture requires more than skills and knowledge; it demands the development of habits, dispositions, discipline, and a willingness to listen attentively to others. This is especially true for Christians who affirm that the Bible is the Word of God that challenges and summons to a response. As you progress through this course, then, it is my hope that . . .
  • You will be convinced of the practical value of wide reading in, and careful study of, Scripture.
  • You will realize what you inevitably bring with you to the task of interpretation, including your presuppositions, your social and historical context, and your past experiences. As you do so, you will become more sensitive to the kinds of things that your background helps you see clearly, as well as to the kinds of things your background (and your bent human nature) keep you from seeing.
  • You will be eager to let your horizons be widened by encountering Scripture, and to let your readings be challenged by others whose backgrounds differ from your own.
  • You will recognize the importance of reading as part of the community of the Spirit, and of listening attentively to other readers past and present.
  • You will nurture an open mind that is willing to revisit questions and the evidence, as well as the humility that strives to learn from and be gracious towards those who arrive at different conclusions.
  • You will seek actively to acquire the wisdom needed to apply Scripture faithfully.
The full syllabus can be downloaded here.

4 comments:

Nick Meyer said...

Hey d.

The course looks fantastic! I just thought you might want to include in your bibliography, to complement Augustine, Origen's discussion of hermeneutics in the last chapter (I believe) of First Principles. It is truly marvelous.

Nick

Nick Meyer said...

I should have said "last book"

d. miller said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Nick. You're referring to book IV of the "de Principiis," right? I'll add it to my reading list (along with Gadamer's Truth and Method).

Nick Meyer said...

While we're at: there's one other text you might want to consider since it is a direct reflection on hermeneutics: Aquinas' description of the various senses of Scripture in Summa in the tenth article from question one part one. (I just completed two courses on the history of interpretation: can you tell?!)