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Summary of "Hermeneutics," ABD, Vol. III., pp.149-154.

Traditions of Hermeneutics

A. General and Specific Hermeneutics:



General Hermeneutics

0) Aristotle: Peri hermeneias

logic of statements

1) Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Betti and the Romanticist tradition

Schleiermacher: preconditions which make understanding possible

Individual and problems related to interpersonal communication (mis-understanding lies in the individuality of the writer or reader. Grammatical (preparatory step)à technical (or psychological) interpretation (Individuality of writer & reader)

Dilthey: historical consciousness (Epistemological)

Epistemological : understanding = linguistic communication + historical consciousness (i.e. tradition + culture of the past/history)

Understanding is a Nacherleben (re-experience) of an original Erlebnis (experience) which is never identical with the original, but it is co-determined by the interpreter's own historical horizon.

Verstehen (understanding) for social and human sciences Vs

Erklaren (explaining) for natural sciences

2) Existential Interpretation of Bultmann & earlier Heidegger (philosophy)

Heidegger: Ontological; Hermeneutical circle

U is Ontological. Interpretation is the modus in which reality appears; it is constitutive for being itself. A person's existence comes into being by an act of interpretation.

Hermeneutical circle: pre-understandingà new possibilities for existence (through events of understanding)à modification or revision of his self-understanding (new pre-understanding).

He posits that the communication of existential possibilities through language is fundamental to human existence.

3) Gadamer

Gadamer :Dialogical process

A dialogue unfolds between present and past, between text and interpreter, each with its own horizon. The goal of interpretation is the fusion of these horizons. Hermeneutics as an ontological turn towards language; But the actualizations of this broad linguistic tradition occur only in changing, historically-finite, events.

4) Critical Hermeneutics

A Critique of ideology (Hermeneutics becomes a social science.)

Habermas, Apel

Against: uncritical accpetance of tradition as authoritative & ignorance that language may be medium of domination.

Pro: Critical Hermeneutics based on the experience of manipulation and progaganda and fed by a suspicion regarding the truch claims of tradition.

5) Ricoeur: The theory of the conflict of interpretations

Hermeneutical philosophy: more directed toward understanding the past and its significance for the present:

Critical Hermeneutics: more directed toward the future and changing the present. They are both one-sided when maintained as absolute positions. Biblical Hermeneutics: narrative analysis with metaphorical process open up the world in front of the text.

6) Tracy: Interpretation theory for Christian Theology

A particular hermeneutics may become necessary, depending on the nature of the material to be interpreted and the purpose for which it is done (interpretative community).

B. Development of Biblical Hermeneutics

NT can be understoood as an interpretation of OT

Early Church: grammatical-historical (Antioch) Vs allegory (Alexandria)

Tertullian: church and doctrine

Reformation: the Bible as the living word (Lat . viva vox) of God

Multiplicity of meaning and priority of the Word over other authories.


  1. Historical: historical criticism, e.g. text criticism, redaction criticism
  2. Existential: Barth: theological exegesis (Bible = God's word + man's word)
  3. Bultmann: communicate the kerygma to a modern audience. (dialectic between the historical and existential dimensions of the text. Kerygma rests on the fact (Dass) of Jesus' life, not on its historical details (Was).

    Fuchs and Ebeling:

  4. Structural:
  5. Pragmatic: