Lecture for Abraham Kuyper Center for Science and the Big Questions
Faith communities have long-established reading practices of the Bible, often with firm ideas about normativity, interpretive procedures and ethical demands. In the post-World War II era, biblical hermeneutics has witnessed an explosion of new theories, perspectives and methods, approaches that sometimes easily linked up with traditional ways of interpreting the Bible and sometimes conflicted with almost everything that had been done in this field before. The influx of philosophical hermeneutics, literary studies, phenomenology and social studies on the study of Bible and theology made biblical hermeneutics undergo a mega-shift: from a strictly theological enterprise (a method to interpret and apply the message of the Christian scriptures), hermeneutics evolved into a general science to “understand understanding” in the broadest possible way, as in Martin Heidegger’s understanding of hermeneutics as ontology and self-understanding: from now on, hermeneutics had to deal with text and reader and their complex interaction and the historical “situatedness” of both text and reader. Hermeneutics had come of age. The leading question of this presentation is what all this means for the interpretation and use of the Bible in contemporary debates about science, religion, ethics, world views and so on.