The Material Culture of the Bible: An Introduction by Ferdinand Deist

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By Ferdinand Deist

Scholarly discussions of biblical interpretation frequently forget about the truth that language and literature shape an essential component of a people's tradition, that interpretation hence implies the full cultural procedure of the proper literature, and that biblical interpretation hence implies inter-cultural conversation. This e-book explores the theoretical and sensible implications of this remark from a cultural anthropological standpoint, appears at fresh anthropological reviews of old Israelite society, offers sensible examples of a cultural interpretation of old Hebrew narratives, and discusses the effect of the notions 'cultural relativity' and 'inter-cultural communique' for biblical interpretation.

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In deciding which hypothesis represents the 'most readily accessible interpretation', the reader's culturally constituted cognitive world is deeply involved. Moreover, the principles she applies in taking a decision on a speaker's intended meaning are, according to relevance theory, for the most part not of a linguistic, but rather of a contextual and cultural nature. These criteria include the following: (a) (b) (c) (d) The more processed information links up with recently processed information the more easily accessible new information will be (the principle of recency).

Such a claim overlooks the extent to which synchronic analysis is itself an interpretative construction that strives to explain the evidence. But there is another important aspect of the synchronic approach that should not be overlooked. Following Hermann Paul, de Saussure distinguished between observing the concrete speech of different individuals (parole) and an average abstract type of the language they speak (langue). Langue, as the institutionalized repository of a speech com- 36 The Material Culture of the Bible mimity, dictates the rules of the language at any given stage, while parole consists of particular speech actions.

Commenting on the implications of Mannheim's theory of knowledge for hermeneutics, Simonds (1975: 83) writes, To secure full understanding of the meaning of a cultural product we must recognize that it is presented not only immediately, in the determinate physical, structural, temporal, etc. properties of the product as 'something in itself, but also immediately: that is, the product also stands for and points to meanings which transcend whatever is given directly. For this reason, adequate interpretation of an object of this kind requires us constantly to look beyond the work in two different directions: first, to the specific intentional act by which meaning was conferred upon the work by its author, and second, to the larger (but still historically specific) context of intersubjective meanings which that intentional act reflected and also presupposed.

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