Hermeneutical Curse

1. I think I’m cursed by my own hermeneutical method. Let me explain.

2. I put a very heavy emphasis on context. I am not content to be able to explain what the text says, but, more importantly, why it says so. Or why the author wrote so. Or why the person in the text did and said so. The keyword is why, why, and why.

3. I extend the principle to analyze the thoughts of dead (and alive, but it’s easier to analyze the dead ones) theologians, e.g., Luther and Calvin. The question is not, ‘what did they think about X?’, but ‘why did they think that way about X?’ And, usually, I will try to find clues from their life which can help me to answer the question. Hence, for example, the themes of pilgrimage and promise loom large in Calvin, because, well, he was a pilgrim himself.

4. To some extent, this hermeneutical method really helps me not only to know their thoughts, but to appreciate why they were so. In that sense, I would not deify them nor dogmatize their theologies. They will be nuanced by the context through which they emerged.

5. But, as Alison would say, on the other hand there is always the risk that I would reduce theology to anthropology or sociology, since I am trying to explain everything (and I really mean it when I say everything) from its personal or social context.

6. Ultimately, I extend the principle further to analyze my own life. I want to be able to explain why I was so or why I did this and that at a certain point in my life. And sometimes I was able to do that, and unfortunately it was not fun at all after awhile. Because now I am not so sure anymore about my identity. Perhaps indeed identity is a social construct, to borrow the postmodern term for it.

7. I think I better stop my rant now. It’s getting really fast and furious.


7 thoughts on “Hermeneutical Curse

    1. septian Post author

      hmm.. because the divine inspiration took upon the human form? (nevertheless, I would never underestimate the role of the Spirit for our reading, since He is the Lord of our writing as well as the Lord of our reading — echo Barth)

  1. pedro

    is it wrong or a curse seek explanation to what you mentioned?

    is reducing theology to so and so… too strong a statment? are we then putting theology on the alter? even though theology was once “the queen of science”.

    theology (theologies) is, some say, the study (studies) about god. it is not any more superior than anthropology or sociology. although the subject matter (god) is divine, it is still us (humans) studying/ studying about god.

    1. septian Post author

      hm this post is supposed to be a little bit tongue-in-cheek, actually. I believe it should be a both-and, i.e., theology utilizes and works together in communion with (or, shall I say, dancing together like perichoresis?) anthropology, sociology, history, etc.


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