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Biblical Exegesis without Authorial Intention?

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Authorship and Meaning


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.


Tyler Smith

The Fourth Gospel and the Manufacture of Minds in Ancient Historiography, Biography, Romance, and Drama is the first book-length study of genre and character cognition in the Gospel of John. Informed by traditions of ancient literary criticism and the emerging discipline of cognitive narratology, Tyler Smith argues that narrative genres have generalizable patterns for representing cognitive material and that this has profound implications for how readers make sense of cognitive content woven into the narratives they encounter. After investigating conventions for representing cognition in ancient historiography, biography, romance, and drama, Smith offers an original account of how these conventions illuminate the Johannine narrative’s enigmatic cognitive dimension, a rich tapestry of love and hate, belief and disbelief, recognition and misrecognition, understanding and misunderstanding, knowledge, ignorance, desire, and motivation.


Jochen Flebbe


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.