Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Single Most Important Essay of My Undergraduate Career

The most important essay I was assigned to read in undergrad and definitely the most influential passage is excerpted below. I found the Bach analogy beautiful:
 "If these historical realities are not taken into account, if the texts are not encountered in all of their historicality, then there is no understanding, either of the texts as texts or of the apostle from whom they have come. What Isaac Stern once said about playing a Bach violin concerto also applies to understanding Paul and his letters. Various interpretations, he said, can be called "right"; but equally, many interpretations have to be called "wrong." No reading of a text, whether from Bach or from Paul, that neglects its historicality--that is heedless of its origins, genre, form, structure, and intentions, however imperfectly these may be discerned--can be credibly called an interpretation of that text. Whether engagement with the text and a concern to understand its claims are subordinated to an interest, say, in "the effects of reading" it, or whenever the text is simply taken over for one's own purposes, whether theological, aesthetic, or political, then the text is not being interpreted but confiscated. An interpreter must be, first of all, an advocate for the text."
 Furnish, Victor P. "On Putting Paul In His Place." Journal of Biblical Literature 113.1 (1994): 12-13.

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