Kierkegaard on the interpretation of Scripture

I am reading Kevin Vanhoozer’s classic book, Is There a Meaning in This Text? (Zonderan, 1998), and I came across this timely parable on p. 16. 

 

Kierkegaard said that some people read Scripture like disobedient subjects responding to their king’s decree.  Instead of obeying the word from their king, they set out to interpret it.  Every day they offer new interpretations about what the king meant, and soon they have so many possible renderings that they get lost in hermeneutics and ignore their need to obey him. 

 

Here is Vanhoozer’s take on Kierkegaard’s point:  “The purpose of interpretation is no longer to recover and relate to a message from one who is other than ourselves, but precisely to evade such a confrontation.  The business of interpretation is busyness:  constantly to produce readings in order to avoid having to respond to the text.  What is the purpose of such interpretation?  Kierkegaard’s answer is cynical yet insightful:  ‘Look more closely, and you will see that it is to defend itself against God’s Word.’”

4 Comments

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  1. ouch…a powerful observation!

  2. Nice choice to read. By the way Vanhoozer’s book celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year…while its a long-shot from Calvin, who entered the 500 club, it is pretty impressive that the text has been around for that long.

    Zondervan is releasing it again in november.

  3. “Instead of obeying the word from their king, they set out to interpret it. Every day they offer new interpretations about what the king meant, and soon they have so many possible renderings that they get lost in hermeneutics and ignore their need to obey him.”

    Oh my!! Hard sayings. HARD indeed!!

    Over the years, I’ve become more and more convinced that the most difficult verse in the Bible is John 13:17.

    “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

    The difficulty is not in the knowing; it’s in the doing, which happens also to be where the blessing is. “Lord God, make us doers and not mere interpreters.”

  4. would you say that the deeper meaning(s) can usually be discovered by putting into practice the simpler surface application?

    great choice of book, though i admit to not having made it all the way through it yet. would love to read more of your comments about it.

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