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Listening to the BibleThe Art of Faithful Biblical Interpretation$
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Christopher Bryan and David Landon

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199336593

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199336593.001.0001

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The Hermeneutic of Suspicion

The Hermeneutic of Suspicion

Chapter:
(p.23) IV The Hermeneutic of Suspicion
Source:
Listening to the Bible
Author(s):

Christopher Bryan

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199336593.003.0004

The expression “hermeneutic of suspicion” is a tautological way of saying what thoughtful people have always known, that words may not always mean what they seem to mean. Some forms of expression, such as allegory and irony, depend of this fact. Sometimes a hermeneutic of suspicion may be important for more negative reasons, as when we suspect that texts are not telling us the whole truth. Examples would be what NT texts tell us about the role of women in early Christianity (naturally reflecting patriarchal assumptions) or what they tell us about “the Jews” and “the Pharisees” (clearly influenced by quarrels between the early church and the synagogue). The hermeneutic of suspicion can, however, be misused and overused. Unbridled, it leads to absurdities, as in the assumption that any text involving the miraculous must be unhistorical, or the preposterous notion that Jesus, misunderstood by those who shared his language, culture, and religion, is now for the first time to be truly understood by scholars who share none of these things. In sum, it is sometimes useful to “see through” things, and suspicion has its place. If we insist, however, on “seeing through” everything, we end up seeing nothing.

Keywords:   Hermeneutic of suspicion, Women in the NT, Patriarchy in the NT, “The Jews” in the John, Pharisees in the gospels, Miracles

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