CONTEXT AND THE HERMENEUTIC OF PARABLE: PROLEGOMENON TO A CONTEMPORARY CHRISTOLOGY, WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO MARK 4

THOMAS PATRICK REYNOLDS, Marquette University

Abstract

Almost a century has passed since Adolf Julicher inaugurated the critical era in parable studies, but the critical era continues to produce a conflict of interpretations. In the monographs of this century's foremost parable exegetes there is disconcerting conflict not only with regard to the meaning of this or that particular parable, but also with respect to the meaning of the 'meaning' of parables; not just with regard to what the parables once meant, but also with respect to what they now mean; not solely with regard to what they mean, but also with respect to how they mean. This cacophany of voices among critical scholars could be ignored were it not for the fact that we live in an age of burgeoning Christologies-from-below whose point of departure is not the dogmatic formulae of Chalcedon but the message of the historical Jesus--a message which is not limited to the kerygma of what was done to the historical Jesus on the Judean hill, but which includes as an essential element the didache of what the historical Jesus taught and exemplified in the Palestinian countryside. Karl Rahner states that the fundamental theologian is "entirely justified in presupposing the results of original and scientific exegesis and of the history of the life of Jesus, at least with regard to the results which these historical sciences pass on to us as sufficiently certain or probable" {Foundations, p.247}. But how does the fundamental theologian choose when there is such a conflict of interpretations and semantic theories? Is there any warrant for the trust which contemporary Christologians are asked to place in the work of even the most acclaimed parable monographs? A hermeneutic of 'parable' is clearly a matter of urgency, and this is what our dissertation undertakes to explore. The purpose of the first five chapters is to demonstrate that the conflict of interpretations is mainly attributable to exegetic practice that either ignores, rejects or mis-identifies the proper interpretative 'context.' To make this point clear all major works on parable exegesis from Julicher to the present have been classified in five categories (one category per chapter), each category representing a different attitude toward context. At the end of each chapter these are formulated from our analyses and critiques and are offered by way of conclusion. In our critiques we are guided by Lonergan's cognitional theory, Ricoeur's phenomenology of language and interpretation theory, Gadamer's hermeneutic, structural linguistics. The fifth chapter is an in-depth analysis and critique of the two major structuralist approaches to parable exegesis--Generative Poetics (Bonn School) and Structural Exegesis (Paris School). Both approaches to the decipherment of 'meaning' are judged to be ideological. In the final chapter we draw upon the theses of the first five chapters to construct an eclectic approach to parable exegesis and to propose a more critical hermeneutic of 'parable.' In this latter endeavour we take seriously David Tracy's warning that whoever undertakes to interpret the Christian charter texts must also take into account 'common human experience' and particularly that category of awareness labelled 'limit-experience.' Here we are guided by the insights of 'Being psychology' and the philosophy of religion. Special attention is given to the relationship between religious experience and religious expression, and in this regard we draw on several seminal semiological studies from Peirce to Eco. Finally, and solely by way of experiment, we undertake the interpretation of the notoriously difficult parables of Mk's so-called parable chapter.

Recommended Citation

THOMAS PATRICK REYNOLDS, "CONTEXT AND THE HERMENEUTIC OF PARABLE: PROLEGOMENON TO A CONTEMPORARY CHRISTOLOGY, WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO MARK 4" (January 1, 1980). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI8104813.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI8104813

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