Chapter 3: Toward a New Paradigm for Biblical Study
By way of one such attempt at a new paradigm for biblical studies, I propose a dialectical hermeneutic whose dynamic moments might be schematically outlined as follows:
N1 Negation of fusion through suspicion of the object
N2 Negation of the negation through suspicion of the subject
This dialectic would apply both to the exegesis of texts and to the history of interpretation as a whole.1
Between the naivete of uncritical fusion with the horizon of one’s own heritage and the sundering of that unity by the distance of objectification lies a moment of negativity which can be variously described as suspicion, alienation, doubt, detachment, temptation, or death. And between this alienated distance and the birth of communion lies a negation of the negation, a recoil of suspicion against the suspector, an analysis of the analyzer. This second negation opens the way to an interaction between reader and text that can make possible our own personal and social development today.
In the beginning is the stream of tradition in which we live and move. At least for Western culture, however secular, there can be no reading of the Bible which is not already predisposed by a certain way of seeing, by key ideational preconceptions and preliminary intentions (why we read this text and not another) which are themselves a function of the influence of the biblical tradition. The tradition is our world, prior to any separation of subject and object, prior to all “objectivity,” all conceptualizing, prior also to our own subjectivity.2 It is so encompassing, so
close as to escape notice. We see right through it; yet we can see nothing without it, since it provides the grid of meanings by which we filter the manifold of experience. It is our horizon. The idea of “the past” is already an objectification. But at the level of fusion, the past is the present of the heritage as the matrix in which we perceive our existence. Tradition furnishes us with our conceptions, it hides itself in our language, it provides the “available believable” which sets the parameters of belief, and it provides an orientation for the process of reasoning.
N1 NEGATING THE FUSION
First fusion, then confusion. A suspicion is planted. A doubt festers. One dares to question the tradition, to think the unthinkable. This is the first negativity, the achievement of distance from the heritage by means of its objectification.
. . .the experience of truth, as simultaneous exposure of untruth, includes an element of negation . . . the capacity for truth presupposes the capacity to negate, and . . . only a being that can entertain negativity, that can say “no,” can entertain truth. And since the power of negation is a part of freedom, indeed a defining ingredient of it, the proposition is that freedom is a prerequisite of truth . . . the negation first operative in the experience of truth is defensive rather than offensive: it is concerned to parry a thrust of the world, not to harry its reserve. . . . If so, the truth event has at first the character of un-deceiving (oneself), and only much later also that of “un-concealing” or “unveiling” (the veiled things: the latter is Heidegger’s formula for the initial meaning of truth). . . . It is the suggestiveness, the persuasive likenesses, the manifold make-believe of things as perceived that we are prey to, long before we are plagued by their secretiveness and our curiosity: they too “talk” to us in many tongues, and time and again are found out to have “lied” by “pretending” to be what they are not. . . . [Then we seek to penetrated “behind” appearance — to a truth different from it in kind. Then truth as by nature hidden confronts appearance that by nature hides it.3
Negation is here an essential objectification and hence distancing of oneself from prevailing cultural and intrapsychic images and preunderstandings, and consequently a dialectical moment of necessary alienation on the way to freedom and truth. Negation requires an initial suspension of prevailing understandings — “a flight from knowledge that is to be cured by knowledge.”4
This objectification is, by nature, a phenomenological reduction of the life-world in order to open the world with all its structures to view as a phenomenon which can be analyzed. Such analysis yields distinctions like those between subject and object, fact and interpretation. An essential characteristic of historical existence is precisely the absence of such distinctions. It is hard even to speak adequately of their interlacement, so tangled are they in ordinary experience. Of necessity, however, the scholar objectifies experience; he abstracts a certain “core” from the complexity and concreteness of an event. This process of abstraction of “facts” by means of “objectification” provides him with a point of view for comparing other points of view and proposing functional connections of his own. If he lacked these reference points, his work would be rendered a purely descriptive recital. Phenomenological reduction is thus a necessary device in loosening the threads of the fabric of experience.5
The term reduction is significant. Its use derives from metallurgy. The image is one of smelting an ore in order to “reduce” it to the desired mineral. What we call “reductionism” then is actually a failure of reduction — too small a fire, not enough heat, and the consequent loss of valuable metal. In theology this failure has usually been described spatially — a reductionism fails to include in its explanation certain “higher elements” (metallurgy again!) of human experience.6 In all fairness the image could be inverted, for theology has failed to include in its explanations “lower” elements of experience (sexuality, family relations, human psychological development), which is equally reductionist.7
The Bible, wrenched from its matrix in ecclesiastical tradition, is thus objectified by critical scholarship. It was, to be sure, written by persons, but it can no longer be treated as an immediate Thou, since it has passed into the world of objects by virtue of the act of writing. It is the objectification of the thoughts, experiences, emotions, and visions of persons, but an object nonetheless. As such it has rights which the scholar attempts to champion, both apart from the tradition which enshrined it, and apart from his own enmeshment with it or bias against it. A special askesis is laid upon the analyst. He must seek to disentangle his and his culture’s history from the text before him. He must attempt to withdraw his projections, overcome his defenses, achieve sympathetic penetration of the text in its otherness, and restore genuine distance through interpretation. It is this “otherness” in its fascination and mystery which requires protection against subjectivism, propagandistic exploitation, projected self-understandings, and all the other ways we generally fail to hear and see the other in its otherness.
Consequently, though objectivism has been exposed as a false consciousness, objectivity cannot be surrendered as a goal. It is more than just a special word for honesty, for what is at stake is an elementary respect for the other and its rights.
So the scholar distances the Bible from the church, from the history of theology, from creed and dogma, and seeks to hear it on its own terms. In this search he is sometimes aided by his tools, the “criticisms.” They were well named; for source, form, and historical criticism not only prepared the ground for interpretation, they also provided the initial negativity required for distantiation. The knowing which knows it knows not is not immediately possible with a text ingested from childhood or perceived as an alien cultural superego. The “criticisms” serve the function then of decomposing the “picture” of Jesus and the early church delivered by Christendom. It is only after the negation of the ecclesiastical and intrapsychic images of Jesus and primitive Christianity that we ourselves are thrown into the open space where genuine questioning, and hence freedom and truth, becomes possible.
Such a view of “freedom” and “truth,” however, is admittedly Faustian, and already from the outset antitraditional. Behind the apparent neutrality of objectification is the movement toward liberation implied in negation. Distantiation is not simply, as Heidegger puts it, letting being speak. It is a way of telling it to shut up, until we can sort out some of its many voices. The subject, remarks Jonas, “gains by losing but loses nevertheless” as a result of screening out the over-stimulation of data in order to reduce it to an abstract image, that is, in order to see at all. Sight is the ideal distance-sense, the only sense in which the advantage lies not in proximity but in distance. “The best view is by no means the closest view . . . we consciously stand back and create distance in order to look at the world, i.e., at objects as parts of the world: and also to be unembarrassed by the closeness of that which we wish only to see; to have the full liberty of our scanning attention.” Only, this distance can put the observed object outside the sphere of possible relationship or environmental relevance. In that case, perceptual distance may turn into mental distance, and the phenomenon of disinterested beholding may emerge8 — what I have called alienated distance.
Not only does the subject lose by gaining; the object loses too. The very terminology, subject and object, has an independent power quotient in grammar, where subject connotes activity and object passivity (note the verbal form to subject), with the suggestion of the division of reality between animate and inanimate, agents and things, beholder and be held.9 Thus the text’s speaking is disallowed from the outset, all our protestations about a “theology of the Word” to the contrary.
The goal of a genuine objectivity is thus in actual practice undermined by a will to power structured in the very semantics of language and expressed through a mastery of the object through technique. We presuppose the present as correct, normative, absolute, then suspend it because the past cannot “compete” on our terms, and then try to “appreciate” the past “in its own terms, thus abandoning the question of its truth.10
This association of knowledge with ego-enhancement and power over the world and people is, as we suggested, Faustian. Faust’s knowledge by itself, however, is not working for him. He begins to despair. He has studied philosophy, jurisprudence, medicine,
and even, alas, Theology
all through and through with ardour keen!
Here now I stand, poor fool, and see
I’m just as wise as formerly.11
His despair is the breach in fusion, the seed of negation. But he is unable to proceed alone. He bargains with the Devil for a bit of distance.
It is no accident that Satan appears just at this point in Faust’s disquietude, just in the midst of a critical exegesis of the opening verse of the Gospel of John. For in the phenomenon of critical distance lies the psychogenesis of the image of Satan. All that is peculiarly satanic stems from Satan’s refusal to remain with the other angels and his urge to establish himself as one independent being. The final goal of Satan is to become master of the entire world. Such mastery is possible, however, only by the repression of knowledge of the world’s true “Father” (Rom. 1:18-32!). Thus the image of Satan aptly illustrates both the Oedipal relation, at the level of personal development, and the subject-object dichotomy, at the level of world-perception. He who would master the world without relation to its ground and origin thus plays the Devil.12
Objectification can thus be seen as a special form of the problem of “fallen consciousness,” of which Satan is the archetypical representation. Objectification is the consequence of an independence which is out of communion with its own ground: an alienated consciousness.
The process of repression has its analogue in objective research, in the process by which we select out data: the individual separates what will be forgotten from what will be remembered and separates himself from aspects of both in the very act of discrimination. Lost from sight to him is the ideological character of this procedure, with its operational amnesia concerning the shaken and problematic nature of his own existence.
Satan has an Oedipus complex. His neuroticism includes self-protection, self-assertion, and self-expansion; the formation of separations, isolation, alienation, aloneness; the repression of thought, feeling, and impulse. Bakan calls this constellation of alienated consciousness agentic knowledge.13
Nevertheless, Bakan sees something inherently therapeutic in the Devil and in demonic energies. For in the myth of Genesis 3, God is set on perpetuating fusion by holding man unconscious. The Devil, on the contrary, is the counterforce which renders man conscious, through disobedience. An alliance of the ego with the Devil is necessary to make it possible to achieve the requisite distance which would allow for the development of authentic selfhood.14 Paradoxically, selfhood is only achievable by fall and loss; the way up is the way down. But this very process can prove the Devil’s undoing, for by permitting successful distance to be achieved, by bringing the demonic into the light, the demonic is stripped of its demonic (i.e., unconsciously compulsive) character. “The Devil’s very permissiveness is the cause of his own destruction.”15
Biblical criticism can now be seen as just such a “diabolical” rebellion against the reigning superego of dogmatic Christendom. In liberal Protestant circles, that rebellion has largely succeeded. Distance, and consequently the possibility of freedom and truth, was won. For a time biblical criticism played a creative role in genuine liberation and individuation, insofar as its “agentic” function was dialectically related to what Bakan calls “the communion function,” that is, the process by which separation is finally overcome.
Today, however, biblical criticism is the new Establishment. Now, not dogmatic Christendom, but the biblical guild functions as the harsh superego in the self of many exegetes. Insofar as a person submits to its standards in order to receive approval, recognition, and advancement, there is effected an “internal transference” of the ego to the superego. One’s own intrinsic powers, life-questions, and deepest yearnings are sacrificed in the interest of acceptance by “them” — thus placing the justifying authority of the self outside the self in such a way that, regardless of the rewards, only anxiety can result. In his schematism of the “natural history of Satanism,” Bakan speaks of this self-defeating anxiety syndrome as “denial”; in classical theology it is better known as “bondage of the will.”16
It is essential that the dual character of distantiation be kept clearly in mind. Satan is an ambivalent, not a purely demonic, figure. He carries the existential truth of a necessary evil which each person recapitulates in his separation from a fused identity with his parents and from his belongingness to his heritage. This ambivalence attached to biblical criticism. On the one hand, it played a central cultural role in deconversion to an anti-creedal analytical attitude. In doing so it uncovered (and continues to uncover) invaluable information for which we should be eternally grateful. But simultaneously, it suffered a gigantic inflation concerning its own reconstructive powers in the life of the spirit. In fact it was incapable by itself of reconstruction, because its very life was methodological skepticism, which is de-structured in principle. As a compensation for the anxiety created by the breakup of the tradition, what actually developed was a tendency either to bifurcate existence and preserve one’s piety in isolation from the searing winds of criticism, or else to live through the negation by living off the negation.17 The second alternative has become increasingly dominant. Objectivism is precisely this attempt to live off the negation by enshrining the subject-object dichotomy as normative for all existence and then seeking to find one’s life through the mastery of objects. If the first alternative is an illusion, the second is idolatry.
It is not a theologian, but a psychologist, David Bakan, who dusts off that last term. Idolatry, he believes, is a loss of the sense of search, of the sense of the freshness of experience. It is overquick fixing upon any method or device or concept as the ultimate fulfillment of the life-impulse. Idolatry is “allowing the impulse to be bribed by incomplete but immediate satisfaction.” As in neurosis, idolatry is to become arrested at a way station, usually for the small satisfaction that is to be had at that stage. Instead of reacting vividly to actual stimuli, in response to their specific nature, we react repeatedly with rigid patterns provided by our given methodology. “My definition of idolatry conceives it as a kind of ‘being stuck’. . .” This being stuck he dubs “methodolatry,” the worship of method. “When there is a worship of these methods themselves rather than the objective toward which they are directed, then indeed does science become idolatrous.”18
The judgment on biblical criticism is not, then, that it doesn’t work, but that it has “got stuck” in the second moment of the dialectic of understanding. It has become fixed and immobile in the antithesis, rigidified in a necessary but alienated distance, and captive in its very victory. Unable to extricate itself from its own diabolical descent, objectivism must itself be negated to be transcended.
N2 NEGATING THE NEGATION
One always wanted to respect fully the distance of the interpreter from the text, but for the same reason one wanted also to overcome it.19
There can be for us no retreat from analysis, no flinching from the knife of criticism. However future ages may judge us, it has become our destiny to follow this way to its end. But that end is dialectical, not linear. Criticism rounds upon the critic. There is a further work of destruction, but this time a destruction of what destroys, a de-construction of the assurances of modern man. There is another kind of suspicion, but this time a suspicion lodged against ourselves, against those who suspect what is suspected.20
Do not forget that, as Marx once said, the educator himself has to be educated; in modern jargon, the brain of the brain-washer has itself been washed. The historian, before he begins to write history, is the product of history. . . . It is not merely the events that are in flux. The historian himself is in flux.21
This requires that we put ourselves at a distance as a first step in overcoming the alienated distance of objectivism.
“To object”: this is the counterattack of the object against the manipulative self-assertion of the subject. The object by objection can, for its dialectical moment of ascendency, subject the subject long enough to listen. This restores the true meaning of “object”: objectum, something thrown in the way (from jacere, to throw, and ob, before). It becomes Gegenstand, not Objekt; that which stands over against us as resistance, opposition, and tension, as opposed to the passive recipient of a scrutinizing, active subject.
The greatness of Freud, says Bakan, lay not simply in his astounding facility for maximizing distance with respect to modes of thought in which minimal distance prevailed initially — things like dreams, slips of speech, or jokes. Rather, it was his enormous courage in the willingness to make, not just his own and his patients’ dreams, but his responses to them, the subject of investigation. The result was a public psychoanalysis, one which relieved his own depression and opened the way to a new kind of therapy.22
What Freud achieved, biblical criticism has, on the whole, failed to do, remaining frozen in a distance that provides not a perspective for relating, but rather remoteness from view. We have failed not only to penetrate the object in communion with it; we have failed to be in communion with our own selves and to allow penetration of ourselves by the object. If objectification is the necessary flight from union wherein the subject renders itself invisible to analysis and hence invulnerable in respect to the object, then it is precisely at the point of subject-vulnerability that a way forward can be forged.
The psychotherapeutic relationship is suggestive of a different relation between the reader and the text. For the healing relationship must be at once objective, in order to provide the distance to see, and personal, so that transference may come about. Even more, the analyst must be willing to change. Carl Rogers stresses the very real risk involved in psychotherapy. For
. . .courage is required. If you really understand another person in this way, if you are willing to enter his private world and see the way life appears to him, without any attempts to make evaluative judgments, you run the risk of being changed yourself. You might see it his way, you might find yourself influenced in your attitudes or your personality. This risk of being changed is one of the most frightening prospects most of us can face. If I enter, as fully as I am able, into the private world of a neurotic or psychotic individual, isn’t there a risk that I might become lost in that world? . . . The great majority of us could not listen; we would find ourselves compelled to evaluate, because listening would seem too dangerous. So the first requirement is courage, and we do not always have it. 23
Respondeo etsi mutabor: I respond though I must change — this is Rosenstock-Huessy’s answer to Descartes. Cartesianism gave man distance from nature in order to catch the questions flung by it, to ponder the answers, and to make them known. But that way of answering has now become a social problem itself.24
Interpretation must now pass through a second negativity: the loss of our own emotional predisposition not to be unsettled, our easy acquiescence to contemporary questions, languages, and perspectives. We must pass through a fiery river of social and self-analysis in order to make possible what Ricoeur calls an archaeology of the subject.”25 This archaeology is aided by two approaches: a sociology-of-knowledge analysis of the cultural role of biblical criticism and a psychoanalytically informed critique of the way we read the text.
A. A SOCIOLOGY-OF-KNOWLEDGE APPROACH
In the vast sweep of secularization, biblical criticism played an essential role vis-a-vis the demystification of the religious tradition. Jurgen Habermas has described the way secularism deprived traditional world views of their power as the unifying mythic consciousness and centering ritual of a culture. On the one hand, insofar as traditional beliefs could be “useful” to secular ends (i.e., the rise of capitalism) they were reshaped into a supportive religious ideology (i.e., the Protestant ethic). On the other hand, insofar as the religious heritage remained an impediment to secularism, it was relativized by critical analyses which demolished it brick by board down to the historical foundations of belief, reconstructing it as a new edifice on quite different foundations: rationalist ethics, historical causation, the principle of analogy, disbelief in miracle, etc. What was thought to have been given from the heart of eternity is now seen as a human construct, filled with foibles and tainted everywhere by man. If anonymous scribes, not Moses, wrote the Pentateuch, and Jesus never spoke the Sermon on the Mount as we now have it, who is to be believed? — the scholars, of course! The authority of tradition passes into the hands of the critics of tradition.
By this careful reconstruction the tradition seems to be retained, and demolition passes as renovation. Yet nothing is the same. Under the guise of scientific objectivity and antiseptic disinterestedness, the legitimating authority of traditional belief has been seized and bent to the service of new legitimations by a new authority. By claiming a scientific character this new world view has been able for several centuries to disguise its ideological nature. An ideology, by definition, compels suspension of doubt about the legitimacy of its claim to validity. Thus the ideology of secularism was born, replacing traditional legitimations of power by appearing in the mantle of science and by deriving its justification from the critique of tradition, thereby keeping actual power relations inaccessible to analysis and to public consciousness.26
It might be instructive to compare the role that biblical criticism played in the demystification of the Bible, with that of the Kinsey reports in the demystification of sex. Both depended on their approximation to scientific models for their persuasive power and authority. Both purported only to be descriptive, and maintained an objectivist stance; but in fact neither was value-neutral. Both led to the creation of a new “world” of perspectives, changed values and actions. Were the changes that resulted simply the consequence of letting people know the truth? This is the claim made. But just as no one could conceive and prepare the Kinsey questionnaire unless sex was already from the outset demystified, so no one would even consider using the analytic historical method unless the demystification of the Bible was presupposed from the start. Nor will I hide behind a value-free analysis of these developments. Demystification is essential to secularization, and a necessary step in clearing a space for genuine human freedom. Only, it is no great blow for freedom to accomplish this demystification under the guise of a new mystification, or to present a new path to freedom under the banner of a presumed scientific necessity. (Consider also the formative effect of public opinion polls.) In this way “pure description” masks a commitment to a certain kind of cultural transformation, thus “keeping actual power relations inaccessible to analysis and to public consciousness.”27
The clearest example of how little biblical criticism has been value-free is provided by Morton Smith in a statement which is exceptional only for its candor, not its convictions. Historical criticism, he says, is “atheistic” in the classical meaning of the term. That is to say, if there are gods, they do not intervene in the world’s affairs.
It is precisely this denial which is fundamental to any sound historical method. . . . But the historian does require a world in which these normal phenomena are not interfered with by arbitrary and ad hoc divine interventions to produce abnormal events with special historical consequences. This is not a matter of personal preference, but of professional necessity, for the historian’s task, as I said at the beginning, is to calculate the most probable explanation of the preserved evidence. Now the minds of the gods are inscrutable and their actions, consequently, incalculable. Therefore, unless the possibility of their special intervention be ruled out, there can be no calculation of most probable causes — there would always be an unknown probability that a deity might have intervened.28
Few practicing biblical scholars would take exception to this, even those who speak of God’s acts in history, since these are generally viewed as mediated through the selfhood of human agents. So acclimated are we to this attitude of functional, methodological atheism that we may no longer be shocked by the vast gulf between this view and the Bible’s, where God is depicted as directly intervening in nature and history at will! From the outset, therefore, the biblical scholar is committed to a secularist perspective. If he wishes to discover meaning in the texts at all, he has but three choices: he may attempt to interpret the text by a program of demythologization; he may opt for a practicing atheism, whereby references to God in the text are in every case reducible to another explanation; or he may delude himself into believing that there is no hermeneutical problem.
Now we have a vantage point from which to view the split consciousness of the “believing” biblical scholar. On the one hand, he studies the Bible because it witnesses to the reality of God, and because he wants to let that reality be effective in his personal and corporate life. On the other hand, he must study as a functional atheist. The method itself alienates him from his very objective. It establishes a gulf which can never be bridged as long as he is frozen in distance. It is the Faustian complex: bondage of the will.
If alienation from the objective (“faith,” “God,” “truth”) were the sum total of mischief done, the issue could easily enough be resolved by opting for unbelief. But this alienation is the twin of another: our own alienation, in the act of scholarship, from ourselves.
Modern theory is about objects lower than man: even stars, being common things, are lower than man. . . .[Even in human sciences, whose object is man, their object too is “lower than man”. . .For a scientific theory of him to be possible, man, including his habits of valuation, has to be taken as determined by causal laws, as an instance and part of nature. The scientist does take him so — but not himself while he assumes and exercises his freedom of inquiry and his openness to reason, evidence, and truth. Thus man-the-knower apprehends man-qua-lower-than-himself and in doing so achieves knowledge of man-qua-lower-than-man, since all scientific theory is of things lower than man-the-knower. It is on that condition that they can be subjected to “theory,” hence to control, hence to use. Then man-lower-than-man explained by the human sciences — man reified — can by the instructions of these sciences be controlled (even “engineered”) and thus used. . . . And as the use of what is lower-than-man can only be for what is lower and not for what is higher in the user himself, the knower and user becomes in such use, if made all-inclusive, himself lower than man. And all-inclusive it becomes when it extends over the being of one’s fellow men and swallows up the island-kingdom of the person. Inevitably the manipulator comes to see himself in the same light as those his theory has made manipulable; and in the self-inclusive solidarity with the general human lowliness amidst the splendor of human power his charity is but self-compassion and that tolerance that springs from self-contempt: we are all poor puppets and cannot help being what we are. . .29
Thus there arises a perspective in which the development of a discipline seems to be determined by the logic of scientific-technological progress. The quest for knowledge becomes itself a function of necessity and retains this aspect throughout its career, which is a continuous response to the new necessities created by its very progress. “The skill possesses its possessor.”30 This technocratic compulsion, which sets up a sense of necessity in the development of method (recall Morton Smith’s “professional necessity”), becomes, in Habermas’s terms, a background ideology which takes upon itself legitimating power. It has become the singular achievement of this ideology to detach society’s self-understanding from the frame of reference of relational, reciprocal, communicative interaction, with all of its symbolic reinforcements, and to replace it with a scientific, objectivist model which aspires to the self-reification of men under categories of manipulative rational action and adaptive behavior. “For the first time man can not only, as homo faber, completely objectify himself and confront his achievements that have taken on independent life in his products; he can in addition, as homo fabricatus, be integrated into his technical apparatus. . .”31 The final triumph of the ideological power of the technocratic consciousness is the obliteration of the difference between controlling and relating, between manipulation and communion, not only from the consciousness of the sciences but from men themselves.
The attempt at mastery of objects leads to the loss of the master. In evacuating his selfhood in order to disappear from view as the objective observer, the viewing subject forgets the magic words that can restore his materiality. Like the ancient dybbuk separated from its body and consigned to wander the world, modern man senses his detachment from life as the peculiar curse of his modernity, the price paid to Satan in return for distance.
Let me illustrate the consequences of objectivist alienation by means of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The parable is simple and clear: God passes over the “ill-righteously indignant” Pharisee, who presumes himself so superior to the sinful publican, in favor of the one willing to call his own life into question. The parable is almost a mirror of the hermeneutical situation, but our interest in it lies elsewhere.
The scholar’s task in exegesis is obviously to explicate the social roles of the two figures, explain that the hearers would at first identify with the Pharisee as the bearer of religious and social status, and then suffer shock and consternation at the wholly unexpected justification of the publican. The scholar, having finished his work, lays down his pen, oblivious to the way in which he has falsified the text in accordance with unconscious tendencies, so much so that he has maimed its original intent until it has actually turned into its opposite. For any modern reader at all familiar with the text knows that (1) “Pharisees” are hypocrites and (2) Jesus praises the publican. The unreflective tendency of every reader is to identify with the more positive figures in an account. Consequently, modern readers will almost invariably identify with the publican. By this inversion of identification, the paradox of the justification of the ungodly is lost and the social implications for the reader ignored. What the story teaches is the transcendence of both role typifications in the “third” perspective of Jesus. For it is Jesus who declares the publican justified and not the man himself, since the publican has accepted and internalized the judgment of religion over him (“a sinner”). The last verse (14a) articulates not what the tax collector says, but what he was precisely unable to say. To enter the space in which this parable speaks requires that we hold Pharisee and publican together as dual aspects of a single alienating structure, represented here by the temple; to locate both kinds of responses within our own experience; and to transcend both by their reconciliation under the justifying love of God. But to begin by identifying with the publican as if he were the “good guy” is simply to flip the righteous/unrighteous tag. The story is then deformed into teaching cheap grace for rapacious toll collectors. All this because the exegete hid behind his descriptive task without examining the recoil of the parable upon contemporary self-understanding. I know of no more powerful way to underline the inadequacy of a simply descriptive or phenomenological approach which fails to enter into a phenomenology of the exegete.32
Or again, Christian scholars have tended to identify with Paul in his attack on the god-man Christology of his Corinthian opponents, without sensing the vast gulf between Paul’s situation and our own. Paul himself may have at one time embraced a theos aner view, only to break with it later as a result of its inherent tendencies toward divisiveness and overweaning pride. In any case he boasts that he “spoke in tongues more than you all,” performed signs and wonders proper to an apostle, and had ecstatic visions (1 Cor. 14:18; 2 Cor. 12:12; 12:1-5). The early church was itself born of a dramatic inrush of power and Holy Spirit. It was in just this context that the Pauline cross kerygma had its relevance and bite. It was intended to check (not kill) enthusiasm and to restrain those whose egos had become over-inflated, by placing them under a nonlegal but real constraint. We reconstruct the scene, side with Paul, and treat his position as normative for dogmatics. But we stand in quite a different spot. Apart from the charismatic movement, our communities are scarcely threatened by an inundation of power, enthusiasm, or ecstasy. Quite the opposite! When we take over Paul’s theology of the cross without exegeting our context, this theology, originally conceived as a means of harnessing power for the sake of others, becomes a rationalization of our powerlessness, our spiritlessness — the jaded, enervated religious malaise of twilight Christendom.
One last example must suffice. There is in Revelation 18 (again following the lead of Mottu”‘) an implicit social critique which can be analyzed under the Marxist categories of religion as distress and protest.34 Latent in the liturgical form of this passage there is a primitive or “savage” political analysis of the Roman Empire. As such it is suggestive of a theology of liberation. But that raises the question of who can read and appropriate such a text, since it is addressed not to the carefree scions of privilege, but to those who, like the early Christians, are in some manner oppressed and who, at the same time, under the impulse of ressentiment, wish to free themselves from prevailing injustices.
It is no accident that historical critical commentaries on this chapter have generally failed to register any awareness of the consequences of a serious reading of this text for today. Indeed, the biblical interpreter who is satisfied with the existing order of things is only too likely to set up the chance situation of the moment as absolute and eternal, and to conform the text to his situation so as to minimize its power to unsettle his self-understanding and lifestyle. Here we can suspect, in ourselves and others, an infiltration of the social position of the investigator into the results (including omissions!) of his study. We read the text with a whole constellation of commitments, class attitudes, economic and career anxieties, defense mechanisms and rationalizations, all of which are able to blind us to the contradictions in our own manner of living. Our way of reading must therefore be examined for its implicit ideological bias and blindness. Our liberation from social determination depends upon the degree of insight we gain into the ways we are determined, and the conjunction of the otherness of the text with a sociology-of-knowledge analysis of our responses to the text can aid in that process.
B. A PSYCHOANALYTICAL APPROACH
The “archaeology of the subject” leads to deeper strata, more personal than social, and for which psychoanalytic tools are more appropriate. For the problem of cultural distance is not only a matter of conceptual and linguistic difference. It is also, as Paul Ricoeur reminds us, a problem of forgetfulness of the radical questions enshrined in the language and conceptions of another time. Forgetfulness, however, is nothing other than what psychoanalysis means by selective repression. Now if interpretation is, as Gadamer says, the attempt to hear again the question which occasioned the answer provided by the text, then forgetfulness of the perennial questions of existence is a major block to interpretation.
This is an insight long ago recognized by the rabbis. They had a tradition to the effect that the oral law was given in its entirety to Moses, but that most of it was soon forgotten. What survives in the written law represents only hints and fragments. According to one version, during the period of mourning for Moses, no less than three thousand Mosaic oral traditions deriving from Sinai were lost. Others were forgotten by Joshua. Many of the exegetical proofs were also forgotten. Some were restored by Othniel’s dialectics. Others were restored by Rabbi Akiba.35 Besides the manifest intent of providing a rationalization for the exegetical program of the rabbinic scholars, this tradition also reflects awareness of the problem of forgetfulness of those very questions and their answers on which full human life depends, and the continual need, by means of exegesis, to seek their recovery for contemporary life. That is why the text is studied at all, as Ernst Fuchs comments. It tells us something that, without it, could no longer be ascertained.36
It is necessary then to struggle against our own forgetfulness of the question in the text, that is, to struggle against our own alienation from what operates in the question. This too, says Ricoeur, is a destruction, a de-construction of the assurances of the destroyer. There is, he argues, a profound unity between destroying and interpreting; any modern hermeneutic must be a struggle against idols, and consequently it is destructive. In the language of the three great “masters of suspicion,” it must be a critique of ideologies (Marx), a critique of all flights and evasions into otherworldliness or illusion (Nietzsche), a struggle against avoidance and arrested development (Freud). In this sense any hermeneutic must be a struggle against repression. “For what we wish is to hear through this destruction a more original and primal word, i.e., to let a language speak which though addressed to us we no longer hear.”37
This more primal hearing cannot, however, be achieved by means of demythologizing alone. For there is a certain arrogance in making our world view normative for a demythologizing of the ancient world view. We have to struggle against the presuppositions of our own culture, against the assurances of modern man himself, in order to regain that “interval of interrogation” of which Ricoeur speaks, wherein the primal question can once again address us as the question of our own being. This limits demythologizing to the task of differentiating the etiological from the symbolic functions of myth. By exposing the scientific pretensions of the myth, demythologizing liberates its symbolic function. This permits a “second naivete,” a postcritical equivalent to precritical fusion, a return to the powerful immediacy of symbols — but all this on the basis of distance, on the basis of criticism and demythologization.38
This recovery of the symbolic function requires that the thinking subject be “humiliated”: that he abdicate his superior vantage point, given in the very semantics of the subject-object dichotomy. The image of Faust yields to that of Narcissus, confounded by his own reflection. It is the thinking-feeling subject, the cogito, and not just the object, the religious symbol, which must now undergo deeper exploration, in order that it can become open to the reality expressed in symbols. For this, Ricoeur proposes psychoanalytic psychology as an “antiphenomenology,” the purpose of which is to conduct an archaeology of the subject as a means of reflection on symbols.
And because the activity of interpretation bears a reciprocal relation to the subject’s personal history, the symbol gives rise not only to thought but to becoming, to individuation, to the metamorphosis of personality.
The interpreter as he moves from symbolism to rationality will find that he must make another movement, back into the shadows of his ego and history, for he discovers that his being is mirrored in the reality of life and history and simultaneously created by him in the moment of comprehensions.
Let me illustrate how such an “archaeology of the subject” might look when carried out in reference to the story of the healing of the paralytic (Matt. 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26). The procedure I am about to detail is one actually developed and in use by Dr. Elizabeth Howes and the Guild for Psychological Studies in San Francisco. The material reproduced is a conflation of several different seminars on the same text, drawn both from those in which I participated at the Guild for Psychological Studies and from my own classes. It is offered as a concrete example of at least one way in which the dialectical hermeneutic under discussion is being practically implemented.
Suppose a group of us is in a circle examining the story of the paralytic in a Gospel synopsis, using as our modus operandi a consistently maintained Socratic dialogue. Our leader guides us into the text by means of a carefully conceived series of questions, based on his or her own previous exegesis of the text.40
1And getting in to a boat he crossed over and came to his
own city. 2And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed;
and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Take heart my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”
4But Jesus, knowing their thoughts,
said, “Why do you think evil in your heart? 5For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he then said to the paralytic – “Rise, take up your bed and go home.” 7And he rose and went home. 8When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God,
who had given such authority to men.
1And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it
was reported that he was at home. 2And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. 3And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. 4And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
6Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts. 7“Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? 9Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? 10But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he said to the paralytic – 11 “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” 12And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and glorified God,
“We never saw anything like this!”
17On one of those days, as he was teaching, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18And
behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; 19but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up to the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20And when he saw their faith he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”
21And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying “Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” 22When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts?
23Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say ‘Rise and walk’? 24But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he said to the man who was paralyzed – “I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home.” 25And immediately he rose before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home, glorifying God. 26And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”
First we analyze the passage, noting the differences and seeking to account for them. 41
The initial line of questioning might run like this:
Q. How does Matthew’s account differ from that in Mark? In Luke? How would you account for the absence in Matthew of reference to the four men, the tearing out of the roof, and the lowering of the paralytic? Why does Matthew not explain the charge of blasphemy? How does the ending of Matthew’s account differ from the other accounts, and why? etc. Which appears to be the earlier source?
Q. What is the form of this narrative? What happens when you remove Mark 2:6-10? Would the scribes have responded the way “all” are said to do in verse 12 of Mark? How do you account for the presence of two discrete forms of the oral tradition (a healing story and a conflict story) in a single narrative? Has the church fused these, or are they expressions of a complex event? What light is thrown on this question by the distant cousin of this account in John 5:1 ff.? Or by the similar complex forms in Mark 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6?
This line of critical questioning can of course go on indefinitely, to issues of context (the relation of Mark 2:1-12 to the conflict block, 2:1-3:6 and its prehistory), redaction, historicity, etc. The leader must decide how far to pursue each line of questioning in terms of the available time, his own assessment of the value of the yield in terms of his careful preparation of the text, and the nature of the group’s objectives. The issue is not whether we do justice to each question we can conceive of asking, but which questions require the greatest weight in the light of the specific exegetical task.
Rather than blending the Gospels into an undifferentiated harmony, we are able by means of this critical foray to see the actual differences between them. Our results are, however, less than conclusive. Is this account the fusion of a miracle story with a conflict story? If so, which if either is historical? Or is it, like three other healing-conflict stories and its distant parallel in John, a mixed form, reflecting perhaps a complex event? I am no longer confident that we can decide definitely either way. In situations like this, when the critical conclusions are ambiguous (as is so often the case), scholars tend to become dogmatic in order to defend the critical method. As a result, evidence is sometimes presented with more assurance than is warranted; what begins as a possibility becomes in the next paragraph a probability and ends as indisputable fact.
It just may be, however, that the critical procedure is more important than its results. By means of it we have achieved distance. It has undermined residual or manifest views of plenary inspiration, literalism, and bibliolatry, and has set the conditions for a pre-Christological and non-sanctimonious reading of the life of Jesus. In doing so we have brought to the fore the literary problems. It is not always necessary to solve them before going further. It may not even be necessary to dwell at any great length on critical prolegomena. In each pericope the problems of the text itself, and not the critical method, should determine the manner in which techniques are employed.
Now we seek to enter more deeply into the story, each person proceeding on the basis of those critical conclusions which commend themselves as most cogent. (It is a dogmatic fallacy to demand a consensus where matters of probability are concerned.) Working through the account once more, we now try by means of historical imagination to revivify the scene so far as we are able, with historical and literary data serving as continual checks on speculation. 42 This intermediate step enables us to ask what Jesus or the church understood to be the relationship between healing and forgiveness, what was meant by “the Son of Man,” or what is presupposed in the pericope about the nature of God. Such factual questioning avoids premature self-reflection unchallenged by what is most alien or unexpected in the text.
This second line of questioning might include questions such as these:
Q. Try now to picture this scene as it is described in Mark. For what purpose do the four friends bring the paralytic to Jesus? What do they do when they can’t reach Jesus? What did Jesus “see” which he identifies as “faith”? What evidence is there as to the attitude of the paralytic himself? Why does Jesus speak of forgiveness? Does Jesus forgive him? How do the scribes hear him? 43 What is meant by “which is easier”? Who is the Son of Man?
Once again, a third time, we take a fresh look at the text. Only this time the distance collapses upon us in an interrogation of the subject. It becomes necessary to ask how the text resonates in us. The insight that revolutionized the analysis of dreams — that the characters in the dream represent psychic phenomena within the dreamer — has a certain applicability to the analysis of other texts as well. For even if, unlike a dream, I did not produce the story in the text, its capacity for evocation depends on its resonance with psychic and sociological realities within or impinging upon me. It is therefore legitimate to introject the characters in the Gospel story as probes into one’s own self-understanding.
A third line of questioning might proceed then as follows:
Q. Who is the “paralytic” in you? That is to say, with what aspect of ourselves does this character resonate, if any? (long pause)
A. It is the way I’ve been over-academized. The way I reduce everything to an intellectual exercise.
–It’s the suppressed power I have as a woman, which is only allowed expression as bitchyness. Women weren’t — aren’t — supposed to have strength.
–It’s the loss of my whole feeling side, my incapacity as a man to know how I feel about things that happen.
–My “paralytic” is a decade of semi-childhood lost. I don’t know how to find it again.
–It’s my inability to speak up in groups like this.
Q. Now, who is the “scribe” in you?
A. It’s the part of me which is always judging me, making me feel unworthy.
–My “scribe” is my intellectualism. My theologian. My skeptic.
–The “scribe” in me is saying it doesn’t like what you’re doing in this discussion.
–It’s the part of me that can think well of myself only by repressing all knowledge of the injured, imperfect, or evil parts of me. So it hates me for having a paralytic, and does everything in its power to keep it down.
Q. But why doesn’t the “scribe” want the “paralytic” healed — both in you and in the story?
A. Because he can’t admit that this too is a part of him. He wants too badly to think well of himself.
–That’s why I’m so self-righteous around people who represent this part of me. I see in them what I can’t admit is in me and then try to cut them down.
Q. So what is the relationship between the “scribe” and the “paralytic”?
A. Well, the paralytic is as bad off as the scribe, since he’s internalized the scribe’s judgments of him as being accurate. Isn’t that why Jesus has to begin by forgiving his sin? The man accepts for himself the current notion that sickness is the result of sin.
–And if this is psychosomatic paralysis, he may be right. At least Jesus treats him as if his guilt is real.
–I think the paralytic wanted to be sick. I mean, if Jesus thinks he needs forgiveness, possibly the guy did do something that has led him to seek punishment unconsciously. And what better way than to be immobilized, incapable of sinning again! So Jesus has to go right to the heart of the matter and see if the man is ready to let his punishment go.
–Yeah, he’s playing God, like, he judges and pronounces sentence on himself: You dirty sinner, I’m going to paralyze you for that!
Q. O.K., this is speculative, but speculation based on what’s given in the text and what is known of certain kinds of functional paralysis today. But how are the “paralytic” and “scribe” related?
A. The paralytic needs the scribe to condemn him. The scribe needs the paralytic to feel superior to.
–So every “scribe” has his “paralytic,” and every “paralytic” has his “scribe”!
Q. Now, who are these four helpers? What resources are available to bring us to the healing value? What would it be like to marshal your paralytic and helpers to move to the healing source? That, after all, is what the story’s about, isn’t it?
A. Do you mean inner or outer?
Q. How would you answer that?
A. I’d say both.
–I just wonder if I have four friends who would do this for me.
–In any case we don’t heal ourselves. This isn’t “self-actualization,” but participation in a process which leads to healing.
–I’m getting really angry about the way this discussion is going. I feel as if we’ve just fallen back into the old trap of talking about it as if it were just a matter of understanding and straightening ourselves out, of self-therapy, or even group therapy. I’ve been down that road, and that’s not where I’m at. For me the issue is forgiveness. Does forgiveness really happen, and do we know what it means actually to be forgiven? I mean, are we just going to sit around parading our hangups, or does God have something to do with all this? (long pause)
–Yes, why does Jesus use the “divine passive” (“Your sins are forgiven” as equivalent to “God forgives your sins”)? Is he saying that God forgives his sin, or simply, look buddy, forget your guilt-trip, it’s all over, like the whole sin thing is a big hangup and Jesus doesn’t buy it?
–I think that’s a modernization. I think Jesus took sin seriously, but God more seriously still.
–Jesus was fighting for this cat’s life. He’s saying, right, you sinned, but here’s a new start. The power that gave you life says, “Start over, you’re all right, I love you. Now take off.”
–Let me see if I can say what I’m feeling. The scribes think Jesus is claiming to forgive sins. Jesus may or may not be claiming that power — there’s a tension between “your sins are forgiven” and “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — but he is clearly asserting the man’s forgiveness. The church certainly believed Jesus was forgiving his sins — at least in Matthew’s conclusion: “they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” Could you say it this way: the healing power had its locus in Jesus. But it also had its locus in the paralytic. And Jesus could evoke that power in the man. And this same power continued to have its locus in the church.
–You’re talking about the Holy Spirit.
Q. Could you say that without using “Holy Spirit”?
A. (After some discussion the group agreed on the following as the content of the phrase “Holy Spirit”:) Jesus evoked the life-transformative process in the paralytic.
–That’s why he had to come to Jesus. Someone has to spark it in you. If we could do it for ourselves, we would.
–But the man also had to do something. He not only had to come, but to trust Jesus when he was told to take up his bed and walk.
–Is that what is meant by the Son of Man here? Is that merely a title of Jesus, or does it refer to an immanent principle of eschatological wholeness in each of us? Is God transcendent God immanent in the Son of Man?
(The period ends. Each participant is given a bag of clay and asked to model their “paralytic” or their “scribe” in the light of the day’s discussion and bring it to the next seminar.)
In this example we still employed the critical tools (source, form, redaction, historical criticism). Have we then contradicted what was said at the beginning about the bankruptcy of biblical criticism? Not at all. For these “tools” are now under new management. After every scientific revolution, as Kuhn points out, while the researcher still uses much of the language and methods he used before, he does so to different ends and within a different gestalt. 44 It is most certainly not a question of serially adding to the old techniques and tools new ones, such as sociology and psychology. That can take place under the old paradigm (and has!) without so much as touching the problem of objectivism. The issue from the outset has not been the need for new and better tools, but the solution of the fundamental anomaly of the field: the failure of the old paradigm so to interpret Scripture as to enable personal and social transformation today. The techniques and the “agentic” manner of thought employed by the historical critical method were themselves functions of the kinds of questions asked and the presuppositions shared under the old paradigm.
Theory and practice are therefore not so simply disentwined. In a certain sense the historical critical paradigm has been, like Paul’s notion of the Law, our pedagogue till now. A new paradigm means both the supercession and the fulfillment of the old. It is necessary to assert this, on the one hand, against those who would incorporate the new within the old and, on the other, against any historical critical Marcionites who, out of justifiable frustration or simple sloth, are ready to throw over the old altogether. When we take up previous methods into a new totality we are not then “beginning with the Spirit and ending with the flesh.” After all, it was precisely those who said that Christ was the end of the Law who ransacked the Old Testament like a treasure trove! So let me repeat: the new paradigm is a theory and a practice, indeed, a theory about a practice. As such it is constitutive of the entire ethos connected with that practice. To change a paradigm is thus to change theory, practice, and ethos. That the scholarship of the future will continue to need critical tools is indisputable; but which and how and in what measure — that is a genuinely open question.
It should be clear from the example that exegesis has been transposed into a wholistic context in which questions of technique have been subordinated to the overarching purpose of enabling transformation. It should be equally clear, however, that such self-exploratory analysis is not subjectivism or intrapsychic reductionism, for the understanding of ourselves which the text evokes makes possible a far more profound understanding of what the text itself actually says.
This concern for the rights of the text and the deepest possible understanding of it characterizes the approach of Dr. Howes and her associates. To the critical insights and the questioning method of her New Testament mentor, Henry Burton Sharman, Howes has added symbolic analysis and psychological insights drawn from her training under Fritz Kunkel and Carl G. Jung. Building painstakingly over three decades, she and her psychotherapeutic colleagues have constructed an approach to human individuation in which the teaching and deeds of Jesus, plus other biblical material and the mythologies of many cultures, are treated as guides to personal and social growth as an integral part of a world encompassing life-process. Rigorous use of biblical criticism prevents psychologizing and allegorizing, insofar as the attempt is made to recover what Jesus actually taught and how the church in fact interpreted his teaching, and only then to inquire into its psycho-social and symbolic meaning, both for Jesus and the church, and for us today. The net result is the most promising new approach which I have yet encountered. Predictably, as Kuhn would lead us to expect, it originates outside the biblical “Establishment.” 45
Communal exegesis of this sort overcomes the “expert ethos” of professional scholarship, since each person is the primary resource for how the text resonates in her or him. At the same time, the deprivatized, corporate context cures the solipsism of scholarly practice. The interpreter needs the mediation of the felt responses of others in order to discover how he or she is affected by the text’s address. Here also a recovery of the revelatory function of art becomes crucial. Through the medium of clay, paints, written dialogue, music, movement, silence, or role-playing, the echo of a feeling, which gives birth to an insight and is evoked by resonance with the text, can be given further body and substance. Insight and feeling coalesce in a story we are striving to tell. When it becomes our story — that is, when feeling and insight merge in the symbolic matrix of our being — then the insight furthers the self-formative process.
The insights thus evoked are a rich blend of ancient and contemporary wisdom, of recovered questions and our own existential responses. The problem, however, is not simply that of discovering insights; we must also integrate them into our self-understanding, modifying our thought and behavior by means of their intervention. 46 For an insight never strikes us as really true or truly real until it can be related to those symbols which most profoundly inform our lives. All the more powerful then are insights whose very genesis lies in those religious texts which have throughout human history provided the symbolic landmarks for life’s orientation.
The insights we seek by means of the text are thus neither general religious or theological truths, nor simply the author’s original insights, but the truth of our own personal and social being as it is laid bare by dialectical interpretation of the text. Corporate, Socratic dialogue enables the participants to uncover the ways in which they have mutilated and distorted both the written text and the text of their own experience, and to liberate the depth symbols of existence from a mode of expression deformed as a private language (as neurosis and religion) into the mode of expression of public communion (as community and faith). “The Socratic secret,” wrote Kierkegaard, “which must be preserved in Christianity unless the latter is to be an infinite backward step, and which in Christianity receives an intensification, by means of a more profound inwardness which makes it infinite, is that the movement of the spirit is inward, that the truth is the subject’s transformation in himself.” 47 The spiral of questioning between the text and ourselves moves deeper and deeper, both more inward and more cosmic, as one after another link with present experience is forged. What began as destruction and negativity issues in — communion.
Everything said earlier about the bankruptcy of biblical scholarship can now be summarized in a single phrase: it “got stuck” in the Faustian moment of alienated distance. The consequence of this separation was objectivism: the subject-object dichotomy. The restoration of communion and genuine dialogue between interpreter and text depends on the practical resolution of the subject-object problem.
A. SUBJECTS AND OBJECTS
It has been the argument of this book that one cannot get beyond the subject-object dichotomy except by going through it. In this sense the attempt to eliminate the subject-object dichotomy by an un-mediated existential encounter is hopeless. That dichotomy is not only unavoidable, it is necessary, in order to fight free from the stream of life which carries us. But it can and must be transcended in a dialectical sense, not by its obliteration, to be sure, but by its transformation. The subject-object dichotomy gives way, by means of the archaeology of the subject, to a subject-object relationship. Alienated distance is bridged so as to become relational distance, in which the integrity of each party is preserved by the reciprocity of dialogue. Subjects and objects remain, each as object of the other, each as subject to the other. Together they become copartners in the quest of life. Having begun (fusion) as the object of a subject (the heritage), I revolt (distance) and establish myself as a subject with an object (the text), only to find myself in the end (communion) as both the subject and object of the text and the subject and object of my own self -reflection.48
Thus there is achieved a communion of horizons, in which the encounter between the horizon of the transmitted text lights up one’s own horizon and leads to self-disclosure and self-understanding, while at the same time one’s own horizon lights up lost elements of the text and brings them forward with new relevance for life today. In this encounter some elements of one’s own horizon are negated and others affirmed; some elements in the horizon of the text recede and others come forward. 49 Both text and interpreter have been called into question in terms of the answer they have given to the questionableness of existence, which has been given precise form by the text and by our interest in the text. Interpretation is then no longer a question of accepting or rejecting what is said in the text, but of self and social exploration in terms of the question which the text, possibly even in an inadequate or antiquated way, has nevertheless been indispensable in helping us to recover. That is why all knowledge is inevitably linked to the self-formative process of the knowing subject. “In this sense, then, every true hermeneutical experience is a new creation, a new disclosure of being; it stands in a firm relationship to the present, and historically could not have happened before.” 50
Such a conclusion does not imply subjectivism, either as manifested in a will to power over the object or as a projection into the object. On the contrary, it makes possible a genuine objectivity, wherein an interpretation is only able to grasp its object and penetrate it in a relation in which the interpreter reflects on the object and himself at the same time as moments of an objective structure that likewise encompasses both and makes them possible. 51
Paradoxically, we are more certain of the unfathomable depth in ourselves, once it has been revealed to us in experience, both that it is and what it is, than we are of our own consciousness. And we know that the wholeness which we all at heart seek is not under our conscious control (though we must cooperate with it), but lies beyond us as a process to which we can only offer ourselves. This process gives itself to be known by us; it comes before us as subject in the relation of object. It meets us in the great myths and religious texts, preeminently in the figure of Jesus of Nazareth, and shows a knowledge of us which we ourselves lack. As knower I know that in the knowledge gained of the object I am first of all known. There is here an unveiling through the object that discloses to me a depth beyond my reckoning, a depth through which I begin to be released from egocentric strategems and reunited with all creation.
If the subject-object relationship dialectically supplants the subject-object dichotomy, and in doing so establishes a communion of horizons, then there is worked a transformation of our life-relation to the text. The interests which motivated our reading, and the applications we hoped to secure, move from the fringe of consciousness to which they were exiled by objectivism, and occupy a place of honor in the full light of critical awareness.
B. INTERESTS AND APPLICATIONS
The Faustian negation was no “disinterested” quest for truth. It was profoundly interested. It sought ruthlessly to clear space for autonomous selfhood by negating the heritage. But it was for all that no less a genuine quest for truth. For its pursuit of knowledge was a movement aimed at emancipation. It had a stake in autonomy and responsibility. It only became untrue when it disguised its “emancipatory cognitive interest” (Habermas) from itself and others, and failed to allow truth’s recoil against the subject. Only when reason’s interest in reason was hidden from the process of reasoning did the dichotomy occur, with the consequent loss of reason’s unity with experience and its capacity to enhance individuation. 52
“The highest interest and the ground for all other interest is interest in ourselves.” 53 The issue is not selfishness, which is in fact aborted self-interest incapable of realization. Interest is rather the will to existence, to survival, wholeness, and pleasure. It is thus not a secondary inference from the reasoning process, but is constitutive for all knowing and acting whatever. “Interest precedes knowledge even as it only realizes itself through knowledge.” As an act of freedom, interest precedes self-reflection just as it realizes itself in the emancipatory power of self-reflection. 54
This unity of reason and the interested employment of reason conflicts with the objectivist concept of knowledge as pure theory untouched by the practical concerns of life. But we have already seen how in fact interests were rendered abstract and surreptitiously projected onto objects. The objectivist finds himself only in the representation of things, dispersed and immersed in objects. Biblical scholars could avoid the hermeneutical question for so long precisely because the scholar, having projected his interest onto the text, could regain it only vicariously through the “objective” restatement of what lay in the text, without any reference to himself or his community. Now, at the end of the procedure, to reintroduce the real concerns which initially motivated his research would be to show his hand — as having been in control all along! Hence the results of inquiry were rendered inaccessible to practice. Insofar as he is unable to summon up the courage for self-reflection, the scholar lives in dispersal as a dependent subject that is not only determined by objects but is himself made into a thing.
Once again the psychotherapeutic relationship provides a helpful alternative. For here we meet, not an interest in knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but an interest in knowledge as enlightenment which promotes healing in actual persons. Knowledge and interest fuse. “It is not that interest inheres in reason; rather, reason inheres in interest.” 55 It is because the patient is sick that reason is enlisted to help him. Suffering and desperation generate an interest in criticizing one’s own false consciousness. The dialogue between therapist and patient promotes a relearning process which, impelled by the passion for criticism and the desire to be made whole, reunifies the self that has been internally in conflict. In the therapeutic relationship, then, theory and practice, research and treatment, linguistic analysis and personal experience, coincide. The healing process is in fact synonymous with the uncovering of truths repressed or never known. 56
Religious texts have had this same quality of urgency. They have aimed at healing or alleviating the wound of existence, of providing a meaning without which life cannot continue. These too are issues of existence and survival, at a level more profound than psychotherapy. Here more than anywhere else, reason and fantasy join hands in the task of imaging and attaining the “good life.” The latter, writes Habermas, is neither a convention nor a timeless essence, but the vision of that measure of emancipation that historically appears objectively possible under given yet modifiable conditions. It is in imaging the exact specificity of this vision of the “good life” that reason and fantasy discover their common interest. This is why reason, unless it is ideologically ensnared, inclines toward the progressive, critical-revolutionary but tentative realization of the major dreams of mankind, and why it can no longer be divorced from the intuitive and feeling functions of the imagination. 57 How did biblical scholarship, whose subject matter is so saturated with eschatological imagery, lose sight of the fact that we have always only studied the past in the name of a desirable future?
For too many of us too much of the time, our emancipatory interest in the text, which originally led us to seek in it the insights that evoke transformation, has been bribed by more superficial interests such as advancement publication, or fame. These intervening interests are purely “agentic,” however, and lack any practical relationship to the truth of the text. In fact, the question of truth is beside the point, for a publication need not be true to bring about public recognition; in some cases quite the contrary. 58 Knowledge is thus separated from experience, theory from practice, reason from the interest in reason, scholar from life-context.
If, on the other hand, our interest is re-centered around the depth-concerns of our existence — if, for example, we define our interest as the search for personal and social transformation in the light of the teaching of Jesus — then we already presuppose a process which makes transformation possible. And to seek the question which renders my own existence questionable is to assume that my not yet being what I am is encompassed by the possibility of becoming what I am but am not. When we “let the text speak,” therefore, we do not value equally everything it has to say, but fashion an order of ranked priorities in terms of the resonances it establishes with our own unknown but higher potentialities. We know of this unknown through our or the text’s unanswered questions. Therefore we do not listen just for what pleases us. Indeed, we learn to watch for what displeases us, what is most alien to us, since our interest is explicitly in being altered. 59 It is because we do not know who we are that we need the text. For the insights which it makes possible are the means by which, in Ricoeur’s words, we advance toward our being.
Apart from the initial conviction that knowledge is consummated in communion the dialectic of interpretation does not climax in transcendence but only reversal, in an infinite series of reversals: the antithesis simply becomes a new thesis, which is displaced by a new antithesis, ad infinitum. We would not have entertained the first negativity had we not believed that our betrayal of the heritage would lead to higher truth. Why would we have busied ourselves with the very text which the heritage enshriness, unless we believed it taught another truth which the heritage had lost?
So we listen to the text. But with whose voice does it speak? It is a text still, not a person. It has no voice of its own. “Letting the text speak” is, after all, only a figure of speech. Whose voice? Bultmann’s? Marx’s? Jung’s? Calvin’s? Billy Graham’s? The text is mute! So apart from the prior assumption, from the very outset, that something speaks through the text which called the text and myself into being, the text is cast into a swamp of total relativism, and interpretation is reduced to ventriloquy.
So I repeat: in the text I hope to encounter an alien speech which is finally the self-disclosure of God. That is the ultimate ground of the attempt at objectivity. For if I scramble the message, if I impose on the text my own subjectivity, I close off to myself my own transformation, including whatever social consequences hang thereon. There is a “passion of the text,” as someone has called it; like a sheep led to the slaughter, it openeth not its mouth. Only this mouth is not dumb, but gagged, rendered speechless by our domination. Objectivity is not “disinterestedness,” therefore; it seeks to hear the alien speech precisely because it is interested, and passionately so, because the very life-formative process of the creation itself is at stake.
Our interest, therefore, implies application. It is our desire to apply which led us to read — unless, that is, we are out of relationship with our own existence and seek only to quarry the text for publishable tidbits (but that too is an “application” of sorts). This self-explorative application of the text to our own present for the sake of a desirable future is not, then, the last act of study. It is implicit from the outset. 60
Not only that, but the text does not disclose its meaning unless our world becomes clarified at the same time. One comprehends the substantive content of the tradition only by applying that tradition to oneself and one’s situation through an interpretive translation. Application furthers the insight; it determines whether or not it was valid, and extends its meaning through contact with lived experience. For meaning at least partly depends on what questions we are asking in the present. Consequently, “Understanding the text is always already applying it.” 61
It has seemed to me that the arguments of this book, both negative and positive, have a bearing on the reading of the Bible in any context, or for that matter, the reading of any “eminent text” significant for life, whether it be in history, philosophy, litera ture, or law. For that reason I have attempted to avoid restricting my comments solely to the role of the Bible in the church. I can avoid doing so no longer, however, for a peculiar characteristic of the Bible itself is its concern to establish a community around that reality to which it bears witness. We saw earlier that the church has been rendered problematical as the locus of Christian community. The American churches are in a cultural Babylonian captivity. But for some reason the captives still want to be free, many of them, and suspect that the Bible might light the way. There are no doubt other contexts in which the Bible can be fruitfully read and studied, new forms of community in which the Bible plays a central role in growth. But in the final analysis the Bible is the church’s book. They go to Babylon together, together languish by the River Chebar, together wander home. There are people today who long for liberation. (Scholars are people too.)
All this, of course, spells a certain amount of upheaval in the role of the scholar. On the one hand, research will always be necessary, even as the questions change. And in research the longest way around almost always proves surest. An extended detour, temporarily holding questions of relevance at a distance, plowing in philology, combing through the debris and trances of centuries, leafing through ponderous books — all this tedium and eyestrain may be the most fruitful way to the heart of the matter — if we get to the heart of the matter. That approach is not the only way, however. A situation of oppression or need, such as addiction or persecution or personal crisis, can sometimes provide its own spontaneous hermeneutic which simply overleaps the problem of the past. In this case personal suffering or social alienation has already provided distance from normative cultural interpretations (the state of fusion). Either approach has its limitations. Biblical scholars must resist the temptation of establishing themselves as scribal mandarins jealously pocketing the keys of knowledge. And the oppressed and non-expert must avoid the temptation of anti-intellectualism and that form of “pneumatic exegesis” which simply reads off the text what one already thinks he knows. How much each could learn from the other, if only they could more often be seated around the same table!
Why then should we continue the anachronous practice of making the model of the biblical scholar normative in the training of students? Scholarship is the vocation of only a few for the sake of the many. The model for students should be not the biblical scholar, but the biblical interpreter — a person competent to help any group of people understand the impact of the Bible in human transformation. By binding the interpreter to the needs of real people in everyday life, the tendency to “get stuck” in an alienated distance can be effectively countered. At the same time the interpreter no longer need always defer the actualization of the “word-event” to the preacher. This handy bifurcation of professional “areas” (I research, you preach) is legitimate no longer. For what the spoken word of preaching is able to do (sometimes; the “new hermeneutists” often speak as if it happens automatically every time the preacher opens up his mouth!) is to overcome the objectification of the text which results from its having been written. But this same goal can be achieved in the act of communal exegesis itself, where the text again becomes
speech addressed to persons as a word to which each must personally respond. That means that the interpreter need not always confine himself to prolegomena, but can share in the word-event as contributor and participant. Such communal exegesis will not replace preaching, but it is on a par with preaching, and, where it is practiced, serves to renew preaching (and the preacher!).
In the solidarity of our shared interest we come together round the text. We wish to learn something from it, not better, but different, something we did not know at all, or only sensed dimly. Respondeo etsi mutabor: we are ready to listen even if we must change. And in rare moments of lucidity and courage we may listen in order to change.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know. . .62
This kind of knowing is not the quest for certainty about things known, but the search for the unknown. We no longer regard knowledge as a truncated pyramid in which each advance in knowledge diminishes the unknown, with an eye to its final abolition. Such an image of the intellectual quest is nothing more than an egocentric device for controlling our anxiety about existence. Instead we perceive knowledge as an inverted pyramid opening out onto infinity, in which each advance in knowledge leads to greater wonder and wider vistas of unknowing. The text, the tradition, the human community, I myself — these are not problems susceptible of technological manipulation only (as indeed they are in the moment of agentic distance), but mysteries requiring unveiling, insight, revelation. Such knowledge is not mastery but participation received as a gift. Understanding is substituted for mastery.
The agency of Satan as a dynamic necessity for the establishment of distance must now be surrendered, for the ego becomes aware of portions of reality that lie beyond its mastery, the recognition of which deprives the satanic role of its compulsive power. With the surrender of mastery in the ego’s sense there comes about a more profound mastery, now no longer premised on repression. 63
The Faustian notion of freedom as the absence of superego constraints or restrictions from the side of tradition is thus revealed to be bondage of the will in separation from and yet in symbiotic dependence upon the heritage. Freedom as unconstraint is superseded by freedom as the capacity for communion. We are no longer locked in a standoff between the tradition and ourselves. There is instead, in Gadamer’s words, a dialogue between the distanced tradition and our belongingness to a tradition. 64 In this communion of horizons the dialectic of interpretation attains for a short moment the goal of understanding; then the horizons shift, our self-understanding and world change, we see the past in a different light, and the process begins anew.
And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate — but there is no competition —
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again. . ..65
1. By “dialectical’ I mean specifically a triadic movement from thesis to antithesis to synthesis. This establishes the schema of fusion, distance, and communion in a dynamic relationship which is tipped off balance forward so as to impel each successive step. For purposes of descriptive clarity such a model is justified. In actual practice, however, work is always more random, more hit-and-miss, trial and error. Historically, dialectic refers to many different forms of argumentation, from dialogue (Socrates, Plato) to disputation (the Scholastics) to a triadic universal process (Hegel). In reference to Hegel’s use of dialectic, one should perhaps add that there should be no attempt to read a dialectical movement onto the physical universe, or to install it as a special logic. Nor does the thesis “produce” its antithesis; only our critical attitude does that, and its failure means that no antithesis is forthcoming. Similarly, “struggle” between thesis and antithesis does not “produce” a synthesis. The struggle is one of human beings, and they must produce new ideas. And the synthesis is not just a compromise; it usually contains new ideas which cannot be reduced to earlier stages of the development. Cf. Karl C. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations (New York: Basic Books, 1965), pp. 314 ff. By dialectic we mean, following Bernard Lonergan, “a combination of the concrete, the dynamic and the contradictory.” Insight (New York: Philosophical Library, 1957), p. 217; cf. also p. 421.
2. Richard E. Palmer, Hermeneutics (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1969), pp. 132-133.
3. Hans Jonas, The Phenomenon of Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), pp. 175-176.
4. Lonergan, Insight, p. 200.
5. Larry Shiner, “A Phenomenological Approach to Historical Knowledge,” History and Theory, 8 (1969): 266-274.
6. “I am not bothered by someone who tells me that he is not ashamed of being a reductionist. What does bother me is his failure to perceive that he has not explained myths or rituals by being unashamed of reduction.” Hans H. Penner, “Myth and Ritual: A Wasteland or a Forest of Symbols?” in James S. Helfer, ed., On Method in the History of Religions, Beiheft 8 of History and Theory (1968): 52.
7. See Peter Homans’s urgent appeal at this point in Theology after Freud (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), part I.
8. Jonas, Phenomenon of Life, pp. 149-152.
9. James Brown, Subject and Object in Modern Theology (London: Student Christian Movement Press, 1955), p. 31.
10. Palmer, Hermeneutics, p. 182.
11. Goethe’s Faust, cited by David Bakan, The Duality of Human Existence (Skokie, Ill.: Rand McNally & Co., 1966), p. 67.
12. Cf. Homans, Theology after Freud, pp. 141-142. The works of Homans and Bakan have been seminal for my thinking.
13. Duality, pp. 67 ff.
14. “. . . Lucifer was perhaps the one who best understood the divine will struggling to create a world and who carried out that will most faithfully. For, by rebelling against God, he became the active principle of a creation which opposed to God a counterwill of its own.” Erich Neumann, Depth Psychology and a New Ethic (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1969), p. 141. This implies, however, that Satan is not dualistically conceived, but images the dark side of God himself, and that monotheism does not mean unity against multiplicity but the unity of multiplicity within the Godhead. Rivkah Scharf Kluger, Satan in the Old Testament, trans. Hildegard Nagel (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1967), p. 10.
15. Bakan, Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition (Princeton, N.J.: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1958), pp. 232-233. Cf. also his “Psychological Characteristics of Man Projected in the Image of Satan,” On Method (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass 1967), pp. 160-169.
16. Homans, Theology after Freud, p. 142.
17. In reference to the former, the biblical theology movement, whenever it flinched from the burden of demythologization, became merely a nostalgia for the past. Devotion to “the Hebraic mentality,” schemes of Heilsgeschichte, and certain forms of the quest of the historical Jesus, leap over the problem of translation by seeking to make a past understanding normative in its own terms. There is here a deference to the authority of the past as a substitute for lost union with the present tradition. This requires a projection, albeit positive, of our own life-potential onto an understanding of existence which is not immediately transferable into our mundane lives, and is consequently an illusion, regardless of the historical validity of the reconstruction involved. This amounts to the repression of the consequences of our act of negation, symbolized by Oedipus’s blindness. As such it avoids the hermeneutical problem altogether. (It is also, one might add, a frequent error of classicists.)
18. “Idolatry in Religion and Science,” On Method, pp. 154-158.
19. Ernst Fuchs, “Response to the American Discussion,” in The New Hermeneutic, ed. James M. Robinson and John B. Cobb, Jr. (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), p. 238.
20. Paul Ricoeur, “The Language of Faith”; this and another article to be cited, “The Critique of Religion,” were translated by Bradley DeFord in the Union Seminary Quarterly Review, Spring 1973.
21. Edward H. Carr, What Is History? New York: Knopf, 1961), pp. 44 and 51.
22. Sigmund Freud, pp. 232 and 251.
23. On Becoming a Person (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1962), p. 333, quoted in Bakan, Duality, p. 99. That psychotherapists often fail to live up to this standard is shockingly documented by the expose of a patient’s “counterattack” against his analytical objectification, in “A Psychoanalytical Dialogue with a Commentary by Jean-Paul Sartre,” Ramparts Magazine, vol. 8, no. 4 (October 1969).
24. Eugene Rosenstock-Huessy, “Farewell to Descartes,” Out of Revolution (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1969), p. 751. The author fails to grasp the continuing dialectical necessity of distance, however.
25. Freud and Philosophy, trans. Denis Savage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), pp. 419 ff.
26. Habermas, “Technology and Science as Ideology,” in Toward a Rational Society, trans. J. J. Shapiro (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970), pp. 98-113. Consider, for example, the symbiotic dependency of the biblical critical movement in America on fundamentalism as a source for converts to “deconversion.” Criticism requires something to criticize. What then is the future of biblical criticism in colleges and seminaries where students are now arriving already deconverted and secularized?
27. “What provokes one to look at all philosophers half suspiciously, half mockingly, is not that one discovers again and again how innocent they are . . . but that they are not honest enough in their work, although they all make a lot of virtuous noise when the problem of truthfulness is touched even remotely. They all pose as if they had discovered and reached their real opinions through the self-development of a cold, pure, divinely unconcerned dialectic (as opposed to the mystics of every rank, who are more honest and doltish–and talk of ‘inspiration’); while at bottom it is an assumption, a hunch, indeed a kind of inspiration — most often a desire of the heart that has been filtered and made abstract — that they defend with reasons they have sought after the fact. They are all advocates who resent that name, and for the most part even wily spokesmen for their prejudices which they baptize ‘truths’–and very far from having the courage of the conscience that admits this, precisely this, to itself, very far from having the good taste or the courage which also lets this be known, whether to warn an enemy or friend. . .” Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Random House, Vintage edition, 1966), pp. 12-13; italics mine, except the last.
28. “Historical Method in the Study of Religion,” in James S. Helfer, ed., On Method in the History of Religions, p. 12. Smith does not exclude the possibility of “divine” interventions within the psyche of historical persons. “And even if we supposed (as is probable) that many oracles were not cooked to order, but were expressions of the individual or group unconscious, or of the prophet’s ‘sincere conviction’ . . . even this account of the cause permits, and indeed, requires naturalistic, psychological analysis and explanation. It is a mesh in the coherent web of natural causes and consequences, which a god is not” (p. 13).
29. Hans Jonas, Phenomenon of Life, pp. 195-96.
30. Ibid., pp. 193 and 209.
31. Habermas, “Technology and Science as Ideology,” pp. 105 ff. I leave aside for the time being the no less crucial question of the role played by the historical critical method in justifying the domination of the rising bourgeoisie over the more fundamentalistic working class and over the texts themselves. Henry Mottu asks provocatively in a personal communication whether the bourgeoisie had in fact, under the cover of an “objective” approach. taken for granted that God functions as if He would be on our side. This would explain the ability of the believing scholar to tolerate functional atheism, since the God-question can be left aside because it is answered in advance in favor of the bourgeoisie enterprise.
32. Henry Mottu is engaged in an exegesis of this passage using Sartrian and Marxist categories. This discussion already lies under debt to his developing ideas.
33. From a lecture in a team-taught course at Union Theological Seminary, fall, 1970, entitled “Apocalypse and Revolution.” The faculty were Paul Lehmann, Henry Mottu, and I.
34. Cf. Friedrich Engels, “On the History of Early Christianity,” in Marx and Engels on Religion (New York: Schocken Books, 1964), pp. 316-47.
35. B. T. Temura 16a; Menahot 29b.
36. “What Is Interpretation in the Exegesis of the New Testament?” in Studies of the Historical Jesus, trans. Andrew Scobie (London: Student Christian Movement Press, 1964), p. 78.
37. Ricoeur, “The Language of Faith”; cf. also The Symbolism of Evil, trans. Emerson Buchanan (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), p. 349: “Beyond the desert of criticism, we wish to be called again.”
38. Cf. Ricoeur’s The Symbolism of Evil, part II.
39. Charles H. Long, “Archaism and Hermeneutics,” in The History of Religions, ad. Joseph M. Kitigawa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 86-87; cited by Homans, “Psychology and Hermeneutics: Jung’s Contribution,” Zygon 4 (1969): 351 ff.
40. The openness of questioning is of course not absolute, as Gadamer points out, since every question already implies the direction in which the answers to that question must come if it is to be meaningful and appropriate. With the placing of the question. what is questioned is put in a certain light; it implies an answer. Real questioning then presupposes openness — i.e., the answer is unknown — and at the same time it necessarily specifies boundaries. Everything depends therefore on finding the right questions, which in turn presupposes a continually deepening awareness on the questioner’s part. This underlines the importance of listening to the text from the outset, for the text itself is an answer to the question which occasioned it. But questioning means also going outside what is said in the text and encompassing other possible answers. It is inadequate simply to restate the text’s answer; the text must be placed within the horizon of the question that called it into being. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode (1960), cited by Palmer, Hermeneutics, pp. 198-201.
41. The text is taken from Gospel Parallels, ed. B. H. Throckmorton (New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1949).
42. This procedure is comparable to the amplification method used in dream analysis, but with contributions from all participants. Cf. Elizabeth Boyden Howes, “Analytic Psychology and the Synoptic Gospels,” Intersection and Beyond (1971), p. 152; available from the Guild for Psychological Studies, 2230 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, California 94115.
43. Those who regard the account as a compound of two literary units may deal with the scribes at the redactional level (asking why the church found it instructive to juxtapose healing with a conflict over forgiveness involving the religious authorities). In either case a claim for experience is being made, whether at the historical or the redactional level: that religiousness can be a social neurosis which blocks the healing of others and oneself, and that its resistance to healing arises from the splitting-off and repression in oneself and in society of what is unacceptable to consciousness (hence the role of forgiveness in the story).
“Scribes” are therefore not simply a kind of Jew, to whom we can, with subtle or blatant anti-Semitism, feel superior. They are endemic to all religions, wherever blame and moral standards are established. Christians almost invariably take a “Pharisaic” attitude toward Pharisees “Pharisaism,” Nietzsche observed, “is not a degeneration in a good man: a good deal of it is rather the condition of all being good.” Beyond Good and Evil, p. 88.
44. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d ad. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), pp. 120-135. What changes is not simply the interpretation of observations that themselves are fixed once and for all, as many would like to argue. “Rather than being an interpreter, the scientist who embraces a new paradigm is like the man wearing inverting lenses. Confronting the same constellation of objects as before and knowing that he does so, he nevertheless finds them transformed through and through in many of their details. . . Operations and measurements are paradigm-determined. . .Scientists with different paradigms engage in different concrete laboratory manipulations. The measurements to be performed on a pendulum are not the ones relevant to a case of constrained fall.. . . After a scientific revolution many old measurements and manipulations become irrelevant and are replaced by others instead. . . But changes of this sort are never total . . Though he may have employed them differently, much of his language and most of his laboratory instruments are still the same as they were before.” But even these enduring features have a changed relationship to the ruling paradigm and sometimes even produce different results, as in the celebrated case of Dalton’s atomic theory.
45. Since my acquaintance of the Guild for Psychological Studies is somewhat recent, I have asked Dr. Howes to write a brief appendix for this book, outlining the Guild’s approach in more precise detail and providing several examples of the kinds of questions asked. For further reference see Elizabeth B. Howes and Sheila Moon, Man the Choicemaker, forthcoming from Westminster Press, Fall 1973.
The urgent task now before us is the development of a variety of such workable models for exegesis in a life-context. See for example the “conversation-model” proposed by my colleague J. Louis Martyn, “An Open Letter to the Biblical Guild about Liberation,” in a forthcoming Festschrift for Paul S. Minear, edited by Paul Holmer. I am confident there are others of which I need to be informed.
46. “Insights are unwanted, not because they confirm our current viewpoints and behavior, but because they lead to their correction and revision.” “They may be accepted as correct, only to suffer the eclipse that the bias brings about by excluding the relevant further questions. Again, they may be rejected as incorrect, as mere bright ideas without a solid foundation in fact; . . . again, consideration of the contrary insight may not reach the level of reflection and critical consciousness; it may occur only to he brushed aside in an emotional reaction of distaste, pride, dread, horror, revulsion.” Lonergan, Insight, pp. 191-193.
47. Concluding Unscientific Postscript, trans. D. F. Swenson (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1941), pp. 37-38. Jurgen Habermas comments on the ontological illusion that Socratic dialogue is possible under any and all circumstances; whereas in fact attempts at dialogue are repeatedly closed off by invisible interests hidden behind objectivism’s desire to derive everything from itself. Knowledge and Human Interests, trans. J. J. Shapiro (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), pp. 228 and 314-15.
48. “For let this be said now: the subject-object relation, which presupposes, holds open, and stands through the duality, is not a lapse but the privilege, burden, and duty of man. Not Plato is responsible for it but the human condition, its limits and nobility under the order of creation. For far from being a deviation from biblical truth, this setting of man over against the sum total of things, his subject-status and the object-status and mutual externality of things themselves, are posited in the very idea of creation and of man’s position vis-a-vis nature determined by it: it is the condition of man meant in the Bible, imposed by his createdness, to be accepted, acted through. . . In short, there are degrees of objectification . . . the question is not how to devise an adequate language for theology, but how to keep its necessary inadequacy transparent for what is to be indicated by it. . .” Hans Jonas, Phenomenon of Life, pp. 258-59; cf. also Schubert Ogden’s helpful discussion on “Theology and Objectivity,” Journal of Religion 45 (1965): 175-95; Ian G. Barbour, Issues in Science and Religion (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966), pp. 175-206; and Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962). chap. 1.
49. Palmer, Hermeneutics, p. 244.
50. Ibid. K. NI. Baxter, commenting on the relative success or failure of modern playwrights to reconceive a classical play, observes that “this ‘shaking up’ of a classic demands the power to impose a new pattern on the broken pieces after the jolt has occurred. This can only be done by someone who is in direct touch with the center from which the original classic was created, someone who can restore concentratedness to the theme.” Speak What We Feel (London: SCM Press, 1964), pp. 52-53.
51. Habermas, Knowledge and Human Interests, p. 181. The expression transcending the subject-object relationship rings like another familiar nostalgia, that of transcending the parent-child relationship. It is not the terms which constitute the relationship as oppressive, however, but rather the quality of the relatedness.
52. This entire section lies under heavy debt to Habermas, Knowledge and Human Interests, especially pp. 198-213.
53. Ibid., p. 206.
54. Ibid., p. 210.
55. Ibid., p. 287.
56. It is not by accident that we have chosen a personal interaction and developmental model with certain analogies to the psychotherapeutic relationship, rather than the mechanical models of natural science hitherto aped by historiography in its rush for recognition as a science. Naturalistic models have in practice presented a closed scheme of cause and effect wholly autonomous to the investigating agent; whereas the actual process of discovery may lead to a change in the agent in the very act of becoming conscious of meaning. Causal models depend for their cogency on unreflective consciousness; laws are applicable only insofar as people let themselves be determined by them. But self-reflection releases the subject from dependence on hypostasized powers, thus making self-transcendence possible. This is the proper goal both of therapy and interpretation. Habermas, ibid., pp. 256 and 309-10.
Habermas has attempted to extrapolate from the psychoanalytic model to a general theory of knowledge, which he then tests against sociological theory (in his forthcoming Toward a Communications Theory of Society [Boston: Beacon Press]). And in its quiet and unpretentious way the Guild for Psychological Studies has already for several decades been practicing a method of biblical study which achieves the same end for biblical hermeneutics.
57. Knowledge and Human interests, pp. 288 and 211-213. See also Homans, Theology after Freud, pp. 195 ff.
58. Why do trivia like Schonfield’s The Passover Plot or Allegro’s The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross find so many fervent readers, while more responsible books languish on the shelves? Is it not because, as Homans points out (Theology after Freud, p. 227), popular culture is a diffuse mythopoetic apparatus thrown into motion by the collapse of the transcendent, one that serves — adequately or not, that is not the point — to “minister” to the nostalgias of the masses? There is, as it were, a will to be disabused, a desire to let nostalgias die. If Christianity can be debunked at its very root, then the painful tug of this nostalgia for the lost innocence of fusion in the ancient tradition can be laid to rest: the ghost of Jesus will grant us peace, if only. . .
Scholars are indignant at the perversion of their art by such publications oblivious to the fact that their own efforts often serve the same purpose — among the educated elite!
59. The act of desiring an insight “penetrates below the surface to bring forth schematic images that give rise to the insight.” When there emerges into consciousness an object coupled with an incongruous affect, then one can investigate association paths, argue from the incongruous to the initial object of the affect, and conclude that this combination of initial object and affect has been inhibited by repression. “For the combination was inhibited, precisely because it was alien.” Lonergan, Insight, pp. 192-93.
60. So Gadamer, in Palmer, Hermeneutics, pp. 235-36. This view of application is poles apart from that implied by the term contemporization. Contemporization is itself a problem created by objectivism. It assumes the validity of an undialectical objectification of the past, the detachment of the investigator from the past, and the incapacity of historical criticism to mediate the past to the present (else why a separate effort called contemporization?). One thinks immediately of The interpreter’s Bible.
61. Ibid., p. 188. This is true even in the most exact of pure sciences, mathematics. For mathematical theory, as Michael Polanyi observes, can be learned only by practicing its application: its true knowledge lies in our ability to use it. The Tacit Dimension (New York: Doubleday, 1966), p. 17. How much more should this be true of the great religious texts, whose sole concern is informing the practice of living?
62. T. S. Eliot, “East Coker” in Four Quartets (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1943), p. 15. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
63. Bakan, Duality, pp. 66-67. With the declining power of the superego to bind impulses, and its replacement in mass culture by behavioral control steered by external stimuli (especially the mass media), we might hazard to prophesy that the disproportionate emphasis on the biblical critical tools will also decline. The ideological, demystifying function of criticism will decrease even as its essential interpretive function is retained. Not the biblical tradition, but modern secular culture will increasingly be the heritage from which distance is sought. Here the biblical tradition may actually act as antithesis rather than thesis. and play an iconoclastic role in reference to secularism (cf. p. 10). This is in fact already sometimes the case for students of Scripture who lack religious roots.
64. In Palmer, Hermeneutics, p. 184.
65. T. S. Eliot, “East Coker” in Four Quartets (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1943), p. 17. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.