Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Matthew Bell - The Heuristic Power of Truth -- Origen of Alexandria and a Reply to the Modern Biblical Critic

Across the hallway from historical theology in the religious studies academy lies biblical criticism.  Recent years have seen that field mired in controversy between advocates of reform and methodological conservatives.  Central to the debate is the role of perspective.  The new critics call for the reader not to suspend his or her existential, including any ecclesial, starting points, but to make use of them.  Methodological conservatives counter that this necessarily leads the interpreter into a vicious circle wherein she comes away from her reading only with whatever she brought.  This debate has not stayed across the hall.  The new critics see research into patristic hermeneutics as a source of inspiration for their own reforms.  Therefore, if early Christian reading escapes a vicious circle, proposals for reform based in it stand to do so likewise.  This paper will seek to show that the hermeneutical proposals of Origen of Alexandria in De Principiis are designed, in fact, such that they escape circularity through heuristic, dialectical application of the Rule of Faith.  The Rule presents, almost as a kind of hypothesis, that the scriptures possess layers of meaning; that hypothesis is then refined in encounter with the scriptural text.  Which layers actually are there and what sorts of meaning those layers possess are defined by the text itself.  This hermeneutic describes a spiral, not a circle, ergo vicious circularity has been evaded.

No comments:

Post a Comment