Monday, February 11, 2013

Recovering Theological Hermeneutics

Jens Zimmermann, Recovering Theological Hermeneutics: An Incarnational-Trinitarian Theory of Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004. ISBN: 0801027276.

I wrote a review earlier of Zimmerman's more recent Incarnational Humanism. One could see in that book some of the hermeneutical views of Zimmermann. Recovering Theological Hermeneutics makes explicit what is implicit in Incarnational Humanism. Both books supplement one another. They could be considered companions. Zimmermann's goal is to correct some of the myths of premodern hermeneutics. He believes that the "interpretive practices from the early church to the Enlightenment" is "not given due credit for its richness and complexity" (17). The purpose of this book is to correct this failing. He argues that the goal of premodern hermeneutics was "communion with God." Zimmermann writes a history of hermeneutics from premodern times to postmodernism.

Recovering Theological Hermeneutics is divided into three parts. Part one tells the story of premodern hermeneutics. This was probably my favorite part. The author looks at the interpretive practices of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Puritans, and Pietists. Part two covers secular hermeneutics. Gadamer and Levinas are the two primary scholars covered in this part. Each have a chapter to themselves. The reader will observe the high respect Zimmermann has for Gadamer's work. The chapter on Levinas was difficult to understand. In the third part Zimmermann presents his own views on theological hermeneutics through the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Recovering Theological Hermeneutics presents a well-crafted history of hermeneutics for premodern interpreters to postmodern interpreters. Some chapters are more difficult to understand. Some background knowledge of hermeneutics would be helpful in reading this text. The book seemed to be different than the title indicated. The reader assumed it would be a methodology on interpreting the Bible theologically. This book looks more at the "grounds" for interpretation than the methods. Zimmermann argues that there must be a transcendental ground for us to know who we are. For example, he shows how Calvin taught a double knowledge. To know ourselves we must know both God and ourselves. Zimmermann also emphasizes how everything is interpretation. Everyone stands from somewhere. This also emphasizes als the idea of the incarnation. We are all influence by our culture and history. This would be a good book for anyone interested in philosophical hermeneutics.

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