Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Hermeneutics of the Emmaus Road

Rather than putting this in the comments section I wanted to synthesize some of the responses and thoughts that have been simmering in my mind with all of this discussion. Luke 24:13-35 contains some insights into hermeneutics that pertain to our recent discussions.

On the morning of the resurrection, the disciples were walking along the road discussing and talking about all that happened. When a man whom they did not recognize joins them and inquires as to what all the commotion is, they retell in their own understanding what had transpired. This man, Jesus, rebukes them for their disbelief in all that the prophets had foretold. Jesus then gives them a lesson starting with Moses and the prophets and showed that all of those writings point to Him. Jesus proceeds to share a meal with them, upon breaking bread their eyes are opened and he “vanished from their sight”.

A few observations,

1. The disciples did not recognize Jesus physically (their eyes were kept from recognizing him) or spiritually (they were looking for the “one to redeem Israel”)

2. The disciples had misread and therefore disbelieved in the Scriptures

3. Jesus gives them an OT survey with Himself as the central protagonist

4. After breaking bread their eyes were opened

This pertains to our recent discussion in a few ways. Like the disciples we see Jesus on our own terms. As this story shows, Jesus is most fit for the task to correct our views of Him and as we saw in Mark 8, only Jesus can decide who is and is not fit to preach. Misunderstanding is form of disbelief. This next point is perhaps the most slippery exegetically. I think that hermeneutics must be sacramental. As Jesus broke the bread and gave it them their eyes were opened. Internalization of these stories is a form of hermeneutics. As Flannery O’Connor pointed out, the point is the story. Reading scripture must develop a Christ-as-the-protagonist internalization.


John Paulling said...

Why is there a gulf hurricane relief advertisment on our blog? Who authorized that?

david said...

I was wondering that too. I think I like where you are headed PD. But what exactly do you mean by, "Internalization of these stories is a form of hermeneutics"?

Jon Furst said...

"Misunderstanding is a form of disbelief,"-I like that but will need to chew on it.

I took the liberty of moving that ad to the bottom of the page (just for the record I didn't authorize it).

John Paulling said...

It seems to me that, "Internalization of these stories is a form of hermeneutics", is a way to answer the question, "if its inappropriate for me to abstract 'timeless truths' from a story then what am I to do with them?" So, not to speak for PD, but maybe the idea is that you assimilate the entire story. I still think someone needs to give me a method for doing that, though. HERM 2310 or something. Maybe, that will come to light in part two of David's article.

On a related note, I am starting to be a little bothered by the Flannery O'Connor quote. It could be that I am misunderstanding, but why couldn't that man just be posing a fair exegetical question. If it is impossible for us to achieve a "blank slate" in our reading, is it not just as impossible for Flannery O'Connor to achieve a "blank slate" in her writing? There is an agenda out there somewhere, right? Whether its Moses, or Flannery O'Connor, or Marilynne Robinson (our foremother according to the flesh), or whoever, Nicholas Sparks even has an agenda, I guess. In my opinion, although the quote does, I think, get a good point across, but it has hints of artistic snobbery in it. There is a reason that she wrote this story, and not that one. This may not gain you the most fundamental element of the story, but it doesn't seem, to me, like an entirely inappropriate question. The poor man.

Paul-David Young said...

Plodder: your struggle with O'Connor's quote is perceptive. Blank Slate can never be achieved, that kind of idea had its run in 20th century art, known as automatism. It was more Freudian, unleashing the "id". This kind of thinking was made possible by Kant who spoke of disinterestedness... all of this is very pertinent to our O'Connor quote and I hope to write an entry about Disinterestedness, Derrida, and the death of Objectivity.

All of that to say that there must be intention on the part of the author. How do we know? When was the last time you put Piano Concerto 4:33 on?

david said...

I stand by O'Connor. Yes, there is a point to the narrative but it cannot be reduced to a timeless truth for the reasons already listed. We wouldn't dream (I hope) of doing that with a metaphor: God as Father = because he cares for us. A metaphor is richly nuanced and complex with many layers. The man might ask, "Okay the metaphor is cute but what do you really mean?" To seek a dynamic equivalent is to deflate it and destroy the reason for using it in the first place. How much more so for story?

I realize at the end of the day we can't carry the story of redemption in our minds without articulating meaning and action points. Part II is becoming difficult and may yield a Part III. Like John I'm anxious to see such a hermeneutic not talked about but put into action. Somebody man up and postpropositionally exegete something.

John Paulling said...

I agree, David. I guess, what I'm saying (which may not at all be what y'all are arguing for) is that when exegeting a narrative it would not be an inappropriate question to ask, "what compelled you to write this? You don't write in a black hole." The answer may not be a timeless truth, but there would be an answer. To me, you have to ask some kind of question like that to make any progress in the actual exegesis. Once again, that may not be what you are getting at. If so, I'm sorry for misunderstanding. Also, I'm open to being wrong. I just want to see it done. It seems to me that almost any kind of exegesis at all would deflate, or make the story too fluffy, or just be plain superfluous. Let me know.

John Paulling said...

I think, I'm realizing that I have been missing the point in some of this. I have Richard Pratt's theory about Moses' objective for writing the Pentateuch in mind. I'm wondering if that kind of polemical exegesis would fal out of the good graces of the postpropositianalists?