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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  December 2000

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION December 2000

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Subject:

Re: exegetical objectivity

From:

"Br. Alexis Bugnolo" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 22 Dec 2000 17:24:08 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (163 lines)

At 03:16 PM 12/22/00 -0500, you wrote:
> >>Does he really mean this objectively,
> >there is, esp in these matters, no such thing as objective.
>Surely, you can't be serious.
>very serious.  see below.
>
>>If you are refering to anti-hierarchical movements expoiting anti-christic
>>imagery, I concur that given the supposition, it would not be surprising;
>>but I was refering to exegetical science, which as I see you do not
>>consider to be objective, and I do; but this is a theological matter, best
>>left of this list.
>
>true, but i can't help but make a remark since it is at the core of much
>discussion btwn scholars and various kinds of religious
>fundamentalists.  i'll even grant you that the text is directly given to us
>from god, or, in one rabbinic version, that he wrote the 5 books of moses
>including the little crowns on the letters.  but there is no such thing as
>a literal or single meaning to the text.  we cannot understand the text
>without exegesis, and no matter how certain we are that the "our" exegesis
>or our exegetical science (whether individual or collective) is the "true"
>one, we have to have the exegetical modesty to allow that we (as opposed to
>the author) may be fallible.

O.K. for the sake of this being a Medieval Religious list, and that
exegetical science was certainly existent and influential in the period,
I'll enter the discussion here on this list and make this shorty reply.

You say, "there is no such thing as a literal or single meaning to the
text". I take this as half jest, because if there is no literal meaning to
written human language, why even post us your email?

On the serious side, who ever said that human language had to have a single
meaning? Or further, that just because a text has several levels of reading
that the text itself has no objective meaning?

More seriously:  I see that there is some lack of understanding of what is
meant by an objective sense. I use the word objective in reference to the
meaning of the text as the quality which determines the understanding of
the text in the same, if not exactly, nearly so, sense in which the human
author intended to convey; or if there was any failing on his part in
languague skills, at least that which the rules of grammer would construe
the text to say. I see no reason whatsoever to define objective meaning in
a religious text differently, since whether it be religious or not,
inspired or not, a human still wrote it; and the dominate opinion among
Chrisitans and Jews is that humans wrote the books of the Bible.

I do not understand what you mean by fundamentalists:  my experience of the
term with a definitve non pejoritive usage relates to the rise of the
fundamentalist movement among southern baptists et al. at the turn of the
last century based on a book whose title went something like "The
Fundamentals of Christianity" and which was a movement directed against the
then popular trend in religious circles known as Modernism. As such, I do
not see that this term "fundamentalist" has anything to do with the
Lollards, the medieval Rabbis or the Scholastics.

>
>i must say that the notion of an exegetical science that renders
>"objective" readings of sacred texts strikes me as a theological version of
>the kind of (newtonian) physics-envy that we find among some of the social
>"sciences" (pyschology, economics, sociology).

In a post-Cartesian world, shaped by the notion that nothing known outside
the empirical method of research is scientific, I can understand why you
should say that. But the empiracle method is not the only method of
research, there is also the forensic method [human testimony] and others I
imagine that I am not familiar with; nor is there any necesity to say that
knowledge and a discipline of knowledge must have a presupposed defined
methodology, as if we need a method to certify the truth of what we
know--this is a theoretical construct of the Empirical movement in western
philosophy (17th-18th C.) and it defies human experience, since we hold as
true so much that has no methodologic presuppositions for its acquitistion.

In the Medieval world:  among such authors as commented on the Sententiarum
Quatuor Libri of Peter Lombard, the study of the sacred page was called
theology or sacred doctrine and this was held to be the highest for of
science [scientia] which term was used in the sense we use "knowledge".
This study was considered able to arrive at an objective understanding of
the text because the notion of objectivity was the meaning intended by the
author, and thus the discipline of theology proceeded on the supposition of
objectivity that must be held when using human language in general.

>
>>I was using theological in the objective sense, again. Of course if a
>>group takes a certain stance against the mainstream, and theologizes it,
>>you can call it theological motivation; but in medieval terms,
>>theological  motivations originate with God, and that is how I was using
>>the term.
>
>xnty started out as a group that took a certain stance against the
>mainstream.  why do you think that such groups take such stands?  why do

You are presupposing that the phenomenon of Christianity is something that
can be studied under a generic classification of religious movements, or
that inasmuch as it can it can be explained; this already says much about
how you are approaching the phenomenon philosophically.

>you think it is later "theologized" (whatever that means) rather than done
>by people who believe they are inspired by god? as for what the mainstream

We can't discuss that question until we resolve in what sense we are using
objective in reference to religion.

>is, how can a xn argue that majoritarian decisions decide the nature of god
>and what he wants from his human creation?  doesn't jesus explicitly tell

If by "majoritarian" you are refering to the comment I made regarding 13
centuries until the Lollards came along; I was not making it on the
presupposition that the majority is right; but rather that if 13 centuries
have allows equally many the opportunity to study a text, then it seems
decidely unreasonable to presuppose that someone or group can come along
and find its objective meaning (I use objective here in the same sense as
above).

>his disciples that most people will despise them?  and how can we judge
>what the mainstream is in a period like the MA, when the overwhelming
>majority of texts comes from people who not only claim to represent the
>mainstream, but will engage in crusade and inquisition to eliminate rivals?
>
>richard

Well, this thread began with my comments on Gow's statement that there is a
objective exegesis of the Bible that supports the thesis the the Roman
Pontiff is the Antichrist, and now you say that the credibility of medieval
Catholics is somehow impaired by the crusades and inquisition. I must say
that I find this sort of comment very often on the streets when talking to
fundamentalists, in the proper sense, and that in this forum I do not know
what to say in response.

If I have offended by daring to act like another Cyrano without the potetic
finesse, I ask your pardon, but it was not out of malice or personal
vendetta but simply for the sake of a fruitful academic exchange on an
important area of current historical research; which exchange would be
beneficial to the likes of me, who stands among you professors and scholars
on this list, like a student, perhaps of the kind you'd wouldn't want in
your classes, since I appreciate a lively exchange and have, since my
father was himself a university prof, little fear of engaging in them,
truly less than I ought to have as a Franciscan; and if my determination to
continue the discussion and defend myself has borne ill, I ask your pardon.

Sincerely in Christ,

Br. Alexis Bugnolo









The Franciscan Archive
http://www.franciscan-archive.org/

"A WWW Resource on St. Francis and Franciscanism"

62 Pilgrim Road
Mansfield, MA 02048
USA


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