From Exegesis to Hermeneutics: The Problem of the Contemporary Meaning of Scripture

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1981


Cambridge University Press


Part I discusses the recent history of Roman Catholic biblical scholarship which has led to the emergence of the problem of how the results of scientific biblical research can and should be integrated into the pastoral project of the Church. It suggests that the original division of labor among biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors is no longer visible (if, indeed, it ever was).

Part II describes three models of biblical research in terms of the conception of Scripture and the theory of interpretation operative in each. The three models are not proposed as equally adequate. Proof-texting, the model which was paradigmatic prior to Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943), is presented as seriously defective. Historical critical exegesis, the model which has been, and to a large extent remains, paradigmatic is shown to be considerably more adequate. However, a variety of forces is placing pressure on this model, revealing its inadequacies when it terminates in historical reconstruction. The third model, the hermeneutical, seems capable of integrating exegesis into a process of interpretation which will prove more adequate to the task of revealing both what the text meant in its own time and culture and what the text means today.

Part III draws out the implications of each of the three models for the relationship between biblical research and pastoral practice.