How to read a book


I have had some folks who were mystified over the 200+ posts on “Hermeneutics.” I need to clarify a couple of things so as not to alienate anyone in blognation,and to bring them up to speed. Basically, there are two ways folks approach a text (say the Bible or even the constitution), there are the ‘constructionists’ who read a text seeking to find what the author intended to say. In other words, the constructionist will ask ‘what did Paul mean by…’ Then there are those who are deemed ‘deconstructionists’ who beleive that it is impossible to get in the head of an author, and who feel that the meaning of a text is defined by the reader him/her self. So, the interpreter of the text is who is important, not what the original author meant.

Therefore, when a ‘deconstructionist’ approaches the Bible, he/she can reinterpret it based on a variety of reasons (it is offensive, it is irrelevant, it is weighted on the side of patriarchy, etc.). No one is purely a constructionist or a deconstructionist, but this is the grid in which people interpret Scripture, whether they realize it or not.

6 thoughts on “How to read a book

  1. Well…I’m both–constructionist and deconstructionist. I’m a huge “fan” of N.T. Wright and from the definitions given here he would be the ultimate constructionist. I’m also a mammoth “fan” of Frederick Buechner who says “listen to your life” and that scripture helps us to do just that, so pretty deconstructionist.

    Good post Padre. I see Canterbury starting to bleed out of your veins on these last few.

  2. Well interesting…I wouldn’t know what to call myself…
    As much as possible,I try to approach the Word in search of the truth of the text as interpreted by the Holy Spirit. I do beleive the scripture that states that the Word is living and powerful. At times I am edified by the Word, at other times I am rebuked in a way that *whew* I am so glad it is just between me and God…
    I try my best not to look for the Word to validate my opinion or to justify myself…it rarely does…
    some scriptures speak one thing to me today, and something quite different down the road… but it is living right? So much like a spouse you deal with different aspects of your relationship on different days in different ways…
    Does that make sense to anyone else?
    Regardless… it’s not just another book to me.

  3. I am a deconstructionist and I belong to a biblical scholarship group I can invite you to if you want. Just let me know and I will post a link. I will be back when you post again.
    May you be blessed.

  4. I’d suggest that there is at least one other way, as Ange alluded to, I think:

    One can look for what God is teaching us in a particular passage (I’m talking more the Bible here than I am the Constitution), rather than what the author meant or what it means to me.

    I realize that many would say that God IS the author of the Bible and only used human hands to do the writing (that’s what I used to believe).

    To some degree, I might still think that a bit, but I also think that you can hear Paul’s voice, David’s voice, etc in the words of the text…so I tend to think of them as the authors.

    A helpful example might be the psalmist’s prayers that God would destroy the psalmists enemies…I tend to think of this as an acceptable prayer of frustration, but not really reflect a desire on God’s part to destroy all of our enemies.

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