Arrived: Margaret Mitchell, Paul, The Corinthians and the Birth of Christian Hermeneutics

Margaret Mitchell's new book on Pauline hermeneutics (in both sense of that term) has just arrived. It is a beautifully produced CUP production (with better quality paper than I remember from other recent Cambridge volumes), and promises to be a feast. Here is just one section, to whet your appetite:

Hermeneutics is born in misunderstanding. And hermeneutics is no hobby for those with too much time on their hands; it is directed to very specific persuasive purposes, carried out in agonized arm-wrestling with language and its wily, untamed nature and with other readers who are similarly and inconveniently ungovernable, and yet still – at least theoretically – within reach as a circle of possible persuasion. It was all about hermeneutics – understood as the most carefully calibrated attention to clarity and obscurity, which is the essential dilemma of both good poetics (in literary terms) and truthful testimony (in forensic ones). As a thinker with apocalyptic start-up software, Paul was inextricably caught between the poles of the clear and unclear, the revealed and concealed, the known and unknown. His hermeneutical claims in individual arguments (always very specific) gravitated to one pole or the other, depending upon the context, depending upon the audience, depending upon the stakes. But mostly they veered and hovered, like the famous veil in 2 Corinthians 3 that both reveals and conceals, and moves from one conversation partner to another, somewhere between the two, and even suspended over the text, making communication possible, but always contested, fraught and questioned, partial and subject to ongoing revision and revelation.

Margaret M. Mitchell, Paul, The Corinthians and the Birth of Christian Hermeneutics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 11.

I am not sure I am aware of a better summary of the nature of interpretative work than this. Incidentally, Iain Torrance, President of Princeton Theological Seminary considers the book a 'masterpiece … the most interesting book I have on the New Testament for several years.'