Biblical Exegesis without Authorial Intention?

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Authorship and Meaning

Series:

Edited by Clarissa Breu

In Biblical Exegesis without Authorial Intention? Interdisciplinary Approaches to Authorship and Meaning, Clarissa Breu offers interdisciplinary contributions to the question of the author in biblical interpretation with a focus on “death of the author” theory. The wide range of approaches represented in the volume comprises mostly postmodern theory (e. g. Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Paul de Man, Julia Kristeva and Gilles Deleuze), but also the implied author and intentio operis. Furthermore, psychology, choreography, reader-response theories and anthropological studies are reflected. Inasmuch as the contributions demonstrate that biblical studies could utilize significantly more differentiated views on the author than are predominantly presumed within the discipline, it is an invitation to question the importance and place attributed to the author.

Series:

Jochen Flebbe

Abstract

The problem of the relation between author and text may be seen as the lynchpin in considering how biblical texts constitute God’s Word. The traditional and romantic equating of authors and texts causes some problems and requires a divine inspiration for the authors writing the holy texts of the Bible. The concept of intentio operis, invented by Umberto Eco, makes room for an understanding of the Bible as the Word of God for a modern reader, without sacrificium intellectus. The intentio operis claims that a text is different from the author and that the meaning of the text is more than the will of the author – an autonomous entity of its own. This “surplus” of a text could be attributed to God and could be a way of dealing with a text written by human hands as a divine “utterance,” allowing for the biblical concept of “God as word.” The intentio operis contains meaning for the reader, but it can never be fully reached by the reader. Neither is God at humans’ disposal. Being polysemous and polyvalent, the intentio operis offers a pluralistic perspective for different people – and sets a limit on interpretation as well.

Series:

Oda Wischmeyer

Abstract

This chapter is a plea for thinking together about the text, the author, the intentio auctoris and the intentio operis. In this field of interrelated terms, the quest for the author functions as a particular hermeneutical tool beside others that inspires a dialogue between the reader, viz., interpreter and the text.

Series:

Peter Clar

Abstract

Regarding the theorization of authorship, Julia Kristeva’s work is often connected with the so-called écriture féminine and thus aligned with “feminist” literary scholars like Hélène Cixous and Luce Irigaray. Instead, this article focuses on the impact of Kristeva’s famous concept of intertextuality with regard to authorship, first developed in “Word, Dialogue and Novel.” Comparing it with Paul de Man’s concept of authorship, it will be shown that both approaches subvert binary oppositions as they question hierarchies like inside/outside, men/women, author/reader, god/creation, etc. Both theorists use the existing ambivalent structure of language to undermine every construction of identity and in particular the construction of the author. However, although Kristeva’s theories have much in common with deconstruction, it will also be shown that the conclusions drawn by Julia Kristeva and Paul de Man (and deconstructive thinkers in general) are not the same. Whereas Kristeva remains in binary thinking patterns, deconstruction tries to avoid them more radically. Either way, both approaches can facilitate scrutiny of perceived structures of hierarchy and violence, which should be rejected.

Series:

Michal Beth Dinkler

Abstract

This chapter begins by interrogating mainstream scholarly assumptions about New Testament exegesis, many of which are inextricably bound up with the problematics of authorial intention. Exegesis as traditionally conceived – that is, as leading meaning out of the text, from ek, “out” + hēgeisthai, “to lead” – considers textual meaning to result from a subject (God, author, reader or biblical critic) acting on a passive object (text or reader). I argue that this view of exegesis is predicated upon modern discourses of objectivity and agency, which ancient people did not share. Consequently, I propose that we instead think about textual meaning in terms of intersubjective diēgēsis – that is, the result of a “leading between,” from dia, “between” + hēgeisthai, “to lead.” With reference to reader-response theories, anthropological studies of storytelling and ancient views of textual agency, I argue that meaning is best understood as instantiated in the unpredictable, intersubjective space between texts and readers. The chapter closes with a discussion of Paul’s Corinthian correspondence in light of this proposal.

Series:

Stephen D. Moore

Abstract

“Interpretosis” is the satiric term French philosopher Gilles Deleuze bestows on hermeneutics. He and his sometime collaborator Félix Guattari reject every depth hermeneutic predicated upon a concept of interior meaning. In place of the communicational model of meaning associated with classic humanism, but also in place of the constructivist model of meaning associated with postmodernism, Deleuze and Guattari propose a theory of expression that breaks with both models, as well as with Saussurean linguistics (even in its poststructuralist radicalizations), and privileges instead virtuality, emergence and the disjunction of form and content. Aided and abetted by Deleuzoguattarian philosopher Brian Massumi, this essay seeks to explicate Deleuze and Guattari’s para-poststructuralist theory of expression and to reconceptualize biblical authorship, biblical texts and biblical interpretation by means of it. The result is a paradoxical Bible that expresses without communicating and whose strange, prophetic stammerings continually summon “a people to come.”

Series:

Hannah M. Strømmen

Abstract

In this chapter, I address the “containment” of meaning in relation to questions of authorship (or lack of authorship) in biblical studies. By revisiting Roland Barthes’ and Michel Foucault’s critiques of the author figure, I suggest that the implication for biblical studies is the opening of meaning-making beyond the figure of the author in his or her original context. Engaging with Brennan Breed’s study on the divide between exegesis and reception history, I argue that what Breed neglects is the way biblical reception history can more radically counter the “containments” and “closures” of writing that Barthes and Foucault criticize. Building on Breed, I suggest that the inherent “veering” movement of the Bible – or rather, bibles – prompts a different approach to biblical studies. Biblical studies can function as a specifically outward-facing intellectual endeavor that takes into account ongoing meaning-making supplementary to and symbiotic with other academic disciplines.

Series:

Henning Hupe

Abstract

This chapter focuses on repetition and disappearance in the Gospel of Mark. It refers to the language of dance and shows that Mark can be understood as choreography. The text progresses in a number of loops, while leaving blanks and spaces of undecidability which require improvisation in a similar way as the ballet choreographies by William Forsythe. Just like the actors in the biblical scenes and settings, we, the contemporary audience, are being challenged to interact with the text and the performance of its unique, at times “crazy” (Mk 3:21), main protagonist. What we are witnessing is in fact a Jesus who is constantly disappearing, as can be seen, for example, in the boat episodes of Mark 4, 6 and 8, but also in the scene involving the naked young man in the garden (14:50–52). This chapter demonstrates that such iterated patterns like suffering, healing and resurrection, and instances of exchange and echoing in the characterization of the protagonists, can be seen to produce a phantasmatic landscape of anamnesis and memory. The Gospel of Mark thus becomes readable as a wake, or as choreography of loss. In this poetic perspective, Jesus becomes a messianic dancer on the tombs, while Mark, the author, the choreographer of Jesus’ disappearance, can be interpreted as the one who left his text to the survivors, similar to the young man who left his garment behind in the garden.

Series:

Gregory Peter Fewster

Abstract

In this chapter, I trace connections between the “death of God,” the “death of the author” and their respective legacies, in an effort to revise intentionalism and the material configuration of Pauline authorship in antiquity. These discourses on God and the author reveal that things that die do not stay dead; instead they haunt. This is also true of the figures in antiquity, like Paul, which we sometimes call authors. As I explore in the first half of this essay, theologians and literary theorists alike continue to argue that God and the author did not die as secure a death as their eulogizers proclaim. God and the author loom over studies about secularism or textual analysis as their theorists grapple with concepts such as creativity, intentionality and the control of meaning. Haunting, I argue, is both a category that emerges quite naturally from discourses on death and resurrection and a fitting description of the features of those discourses on God and the author that just will not go away. The category of “haunting” helps to revise especially the way we might understand the place of intentionality in textual analysis. In the latter half of this essay, I argue that authors haunt texts attributed to them. These authorial specters are materialized through the actions of editors and copyists in the production of physical text-objects. Interpreting Paul can be productively accomplished through the analysis of extant Pauline texts as material, cultural artifacts, which includes giving attention to the degree to which their material and discursive structures conjure up the figure of Paul. I explore these dynamics with the analysis of P. Vindob. G 26034 + 30453 and Codex Coislinianus (HP, 015). Two very different kinds of Pauline text-objects are inscribed upon these sixth-century manuscripts of Paul, and they are haunted by very different authorial configurations.