Sandra Schneiders: Hermeneutics Over Exegesis

Last night saw the first of the 2010 meetings of the Fellowship of Biblical Studies here in Melbourne.  Our guest speaker was Professor Sandra Schneiders who spoke on the topic 'Biblical Interpretation: The Soul of Theology'. At one level the talk was a clear account of the history of late 20th Century Catholic biblical scholarship, with special attention paid to the need to move beyond an exclusive reliance on the historical critical method, and to embrace a more obviously hermeneutical approach to the NT texts, not least as a way of recovering their ultimate function as mediators of a relationship with God.

Different members reacted to this call in different ways (only to be expected). There was one point that struck me as being especially pertinent, however, to do with how we orientate our students to critical biblical study. Schneiders argued (here I am summarizing) that what we need is a fully rounded account of biblical hermeneutics which will become the concern not just of a few philosophically minded biblical scholars, but become the primary entry point for anyone entering the field. In other words what we need to teach people in Bible 101 is not so much exegesis as hermeneutics.

I couldn't agree more.