The God absorbing text and the text absorbing method : Kabbalah and historical critical method, a complementary hermeneutical study
Date de publication2005
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In this thesis I'm concerned with the hermeneutical changes in the theological interpretation of the Scriptures. The study concentrates on two segments of this trajectory, generally designated — not without a certain post-enlightenment bias — as "precritical" and "critical".
The Jewish intellectual-mystical movement called Kabbalah emerged in the 13th century Babylonia. Its strikingly complex universe that connected int1icately every aspect of life with the cosmic-divine story is an excell ent example of the pre-critical understanding. Thus, in the first chapter I will elaborate the basic hermeneutical principles of Kabbalah in connection with the concept of the textual reality as it existed at that age and that particular setting in order to reveal some essential aspect of the precritical mindset.
With the emergence of the new Enlightenment sense of past, the attitude toward the biblical text profoundly changed. Th e picture of the universe according to the Bible and the perception of the universe by the 17th-18th century intellectual were no longer identical. More and more alarmed by the rupture between the two worlds, several apologetic attempts were made from both scientific and theological sides to close this yawning gap. The attention of these explanations was focused on the historicity of the texts, to disapprove or defend the validity of the witnesses of Scriptures in order to reassure their shaken authority. My aim in the second chapter is to elaborate this new worldview in connection with the philosophical-epistemological challenges o f the I7th-18th century.
In the last chapter, my concern will be the actual functioning of the Kabbalistic and historical-critical methods. I will undertake a comparative project concentrating on the hermeneutical process in order to reveal more possible contrasts and connections. Examining the logic of the twentieth century historical-biblical scholarly works, I will point out that the "classic" historical method is an aggressive hermeneutical approach, as in certain ways it reconfigures and redefines the text in order render it a usable subject of historical examination. Similarly, the Kabbalist understanding is aggressive as it tends to apply radical hermeneutical devices to expound the mystical layer of the narratives.
In the second section of the comprehensive study through the introduction of some recent historical theories I will arrive at the conclusion that the modern narrative theories are uncomplimentary to the historic perception. Among the latest developments of theological hermeneutics, the narrative understanding of Scripture is the closest to the Kabbalist understanding of the text. I will point out the profound discontinuity between the narrative and historical, Kabbalist and critical understanding, distinguishing them by the terms synchronic and diachronic. The thesis ends with this distinction, encouraging further questions about the nature of the interpretation of text and biblical testimony.