What Do You Read When You Read a Religious Text?

Open Question and Theses towards an Anti-Hermeneutic

in Religion and Theology
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In this essay some key characteristics of contemporary discourse on biblical hermeneutics and philosophical hermeneutics are identified. A redescriptive archaeology of hermeneutics is suggested. The key characteristics of hermeneutics are re-interpreted and critiqued in light of recent theories of religion and history. There are three domains of critical questions at issue in the open question posed to the practice of hermeneutics, namely 1) redescriptive theorising of religion as a social discourse; 2) the materiality of the tradition; and 3) revisioning history and the relationship to the past.

What Do You Read When You Read a Religious Text?

Open Question and Theses towards an Anti-Hermeneutic

in Religion and Theology




Jean GrondinDer Sinn für Hermeneutik (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft1994) ix.


FoucaultThe Order of Thingsxxi–xxii. I have retained (apart from my own emphasis) also that of Robert Wicks “Michel Foucault” in The Blackwell Guide to Continental Philosophy ed. Robert C. Solomon and David Sherman (Oxford; Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell 2003) 243–264 http://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/b.9780631221258.2003.00012.x.




Paul Ricoeur“The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text,” in Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language Action and Interpretationed. and trans. J.B. Thomson (Cambridge; New York NY: Cambridge University Press 1981) 197–221. The point is that actions become interpretable that is to say action Ais this/means that when they “enter into” language when actions can be set in causal relations in a series such that this placement in the series gives the action its significance. This placement occurs in language. Once this occurs the same distancing and objectification operations take place with respect to actions-as-reported or discoursed as take place with respect to texts.


On Hermes see Martin P. NilssonGeschichte der griechischen Religion. Erster Band. Die Religion Griechenlands bis auf die griechischen Weltherrschaft (München: C.H. Beck1967) 501–510; Walter Burkert Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical trans. John Raffan 1 edition. (Oxford; Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell 1991) 156–159; Jennifer Larson Ancient Greek Cults: A Guide (New York NY; Abingdon: Routledge 2007) 144–150.


BurkertGreek Religion158.


BurkertGreek Religion156.


Angelos Chaniotis“Staging and Feeling the Presence of God: Emotion and Theatricality in Religious Celebrations in the Roman East,” in Panthée: Religious Transformations in the Graeco-Roman Empireed. Laurent Bricault and Nicole Bonnett Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 177 (Leiden; Boston MA: Brill 2013) 169–189.


Maier“Vision Visualisation” 313–314.


Bruce Lincoln“Epilogue,” in Ancient Religionsed. Sara Iles Johnston (Cambridge MA; London: Harvard University Press 2007) 241–251; Guy G. Stroumsa The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations in Late Antiquity trans. Susan Emanuel (Chicago IL; London: University of Chicago Press 2011) 28–55; Jörg Rüpke “Patterns of Religious Change in the Roman Empire” in The Changing Face of Judaism Christianity and Other Greco-Roman Religions in Antiquity ed. Ian H. Henderson and Gerbern S. Oegema Studien zu jüdische Schriften aus hellenistisch-römischer Zeit 2 (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus2006) 13–33.


Michel Foucault“Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Language Counter-Memory Practice: Selected Essays and Interviewsed. D.F. Bouchard (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press 1977) 162.


LincolnGods and Demons Priests and Scholars5–15.


LincolnGods and Demons Priests and Scholars5. The text used as example is from the Chandogya Upaniṣad where he shows how authority and positionality are calibrated by means of setting out an understanding of the cosmos self and the nature of being. See also theses 4 and 8 of his “Theses on Method” from the same collection 1–3.


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