Authorial Intent and Historical Reporting: Putting Spong's Literalization Thesis To the Test

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
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  • 1 Trinity Lutheran Seminary Columbus, Ohio

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John Shelby Spong's thesis that a post-canonical process of literalization caused episodes in the Gospels to be misunderstood as historical narratives when they had been intended by their authors and received by their original readers as purely metaphorical tales does not hold up to the scrutiny of either literary or historical analysis. It is also theologically unnecessary, motivated apparently by a drive to legitimate a reading of the texts that is better obtained through a recognition of the hermeneutical limits of authorial intent, an appreciation for polyvalence, and an adoption of postmodern reading strategies.

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