Inspiration and Intention
February 27, 2009
The latest edition of Themelios includes an article by Jared Compton concerning the dual authorship of Scripture. It is particularly interesting considering some of the recent discussions on this blog.
It was not too long ago that Kevin Vanhoozer answered the question Is There a Meaning in This Text? by relocating meaning in authorial intention,1 doing so even more robustly (not to mention, evangelically) than E. D. Hirsch had done. The difficulty, however, with any general hermeneutical theory, including speech-act, is that on the surface Scripture’s dual authorship seems to fit uncomfortably within any set of interpretive rules, particularly since one of its authors is God. While the inherent complexity in and exceptionality of Scripture’s authorship are well noted by evangelicals, hermeneutical rules are nevertheless still proposed and, quite often, even mandated. In fact, two particular rules are prescribed with some frequency. On the one hand, some evangelicals (as we shall see) suggest that inspiration demands that what one author intends the other must as well. To suggest, therefore, that God could intend more in a text than the human author runs the risk of being labeled hermeneutical Docetism, for such a proposal denies the full humanity of the text. Moreover, many of these same interpreters alsoRead the entire article HERE.
suggest that interpretation demands that what one author intends so too must the other. Suggesting that God could intend more in this case runs the risk of being
labeled hermeneutical nihilism, for one has removed the only means for interpretive control and stability. Despite the risks, other evangelicals (as we shall also see) are uncomfortable with this line of argumentation and suggest that these rules are ill-fitting, not least because the apostles themselves, they claim, do not seem to be preoccupied with following them. These evangelicals insist that our assumptions about general hermeneutics and dual authorship must be open to revision if Scripture and God’s hermeneuticians consistently transgress our rules.
The following essay will seek to enter this debate, freshly sketching the issues involved and seeking to justify these latter assertions, though not absolutely and not by directly exploring the apostles’ use of the OT. Rather, the essay will proceed at a preliminary step to that discussion and will argue that (1) inspiration does not suggest that the divine and human authors must share intentions and (2) shared intentions are not the sole means of interpretive stability.