Revista Studii Teologice


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Trei demersuri anistorice în exegeza biblică. Avantaje şi limite ale exegezei sincronice

Autor(i): Constantin Oancea
Synchronical interpretation is the exegesis of the biblical text treated as a whole, taking no interest in the process of its composing and conveying; it used to be the traditional Judaic and Christian approach, before the diachronical (historical-critical) exegesis appeared. Today, the phrase “synchronical exegesis” is understood somewhat differently, usually as designating an interpretation interested not in the historical reality of the text, but rather in its current impact. Synchronical approaches may be classified according to their interest, which may be oriented either towards the text itself or towards the reader. Among the text-oriented exegeses, the best known are the linguistic-structuralist and semiotic one, the “New Literary Criticism”, and the “Canonical Approach”. The reader-oriented ones include the feminist exegesis, the abyssal psychology approach, the reception history, the interpretation based on the liberation theology.
The interest of linguistic-structuralist and semiotic exegesis focuses on a text’s structure and form, and on the logical connections within it. The text is approached while ignoring the conditions of its production, and only by analysing its constitutive elements. Such exegesis is grounded on the philosophical impulses of French structuralism (F. de Saussure, C. Lévi-Strauss, R. Barthes, M. Foucault), which also inspired A.J. Greimas’ conception of a semiotic analysis of the text. These types of analysis of the biblical text often start, mathematically, with statistics of the parts of speech, usually the nouns and verbs in the text. It all boils down to the meta-language, the codes and meanings behind the words, usually reducible to a few classes: will, knowledge, initiative, salvation, etc.
Admittedly, any interpretation that fails to examine the text attentively risks missing its senses. A thorough analysis of the words and their function within the text, may contribute to understanding the latter as a whole. However, the unnecessary amassing of statistical details or difficult classifications and terminologies may result in a dry formalism of the exegetical work, bringing no significant results for the research.
Belonging to the „New Literary Criticism”, a series of exegetical writings of the last 30 years (Literary Crticism, Rhetorical Criticism, Holistic Approach, Synchronical Approach, Narratology, Narrative Criticism, etc.), share a common manner of work: the synchronical, anhistorical analysis of the biblical narrative. Their names reveal their origin from the American and Anglo-Saxon areas, but they are also known and employed in Holland and Israel.
The adherents of this approach are not necessarily confessionally engaged. Major contributions to this area belong to critics and literature teachers (E. Auerbach, R. Alter, F. Kermode), who easily shift from interpreting classic authors of universal literature to biblical texts. Such approach was prompted by the discontentment with the “excavative” historical-critical perspective, to the detriment of the literary aspect, the art of the biblical narrative. Whereas the artistic aspect gains the upper hand with Auerbach’s interpretation, other authors pay much attention to the text’s key terms and phraseology, to what is said about the characters (narrative parts), to the characters’ manner of speech, to what they say or do not say (dialogues), as well as to the comparisons which the text allows to draw between characters, and which may influence the understanding of the text.
Personally, I consider that the new literary criticism, even when non-methodical, represents a remarkable form of exegesis among the synchronical approaches to the biblical text. If skillfully employed, its results may enrich the faithful and bring close to God those still seeking Him. The process is, however, problematic as it requires the knowledge of classical languages and especially artistic sense. On the other hand, many of the results of such approach have been already proven in the historical-critical exegesis.
The critical attitude towards the scores of hypotheses and the lack of objectivity of historical-critical exegesis has led to the so-called „canonical approach” – an exegesis starting from the final form of the biblical text, as present in the Holy Scripture. Unlike with the new literary criticism, the adherents of the canonical approach are persons with a deep ecclesial awareness, to whom biblical exegesis is not similar to the exegesis of any other piece of universal literature, but implies the exegesis of the Scripture as Holy Scripture. The most prominent representative of canonical exegesis, Brevard S. Childs, sees the Bible as “the word of God”, whose means is Jesus Christ. The normative character of the final text is conferred to it by the work of the Holy Spirit, through whom the Scripture has acquired its present form. He asserts that exegesis should address firstly the ecclesial community, because the Scripture is the foundation of faith and the core of community’s worship.
Therefore it is the final text that must constitute the object of exegesis, rather than its sources or the traditions behind it. Childs does not contest the accretion and development of biblical texts to reach their final form; he even declares his interest in the process of tradition in the formation of the books. To him, however, the sources or preliminary layers of a text do not have the same value as its final, canonical, normative form. Whereas in the historical-critical exegesis, the different conceptions or contradictions within a text are considered as clues to the various sources or traditions on which it is based, the canonical approach deems this an artificial issue, or pertaining to a different perspective upon the biblical text.
The greatest merit of canonical exegesis is its emphasizing that the Scripture belongs to the ecclesial community and that the Scripture’s interpretation should address the Church, rather than a limited number of initiates, as it often happens with historical-critical exegesis. The canonical approach has also gained the assent of some of the German biblicists, noted mainly for their historical-critical works (E. Blum, N. Lohfink, E. Zenger and especially R. Rendtorff), which could be seen as the most important contribution to the criticism of writing („Redaktionskritik”).
The canonical approach may be reproached the fact that it takes for granted hypotheses which are under debate, on which no consensus has been reached either from the scientific, or the interdenominational point of view. The most notorious question is still: which of the canons should be deemed as normative, since no biblical canon of the Old Testament is acknowledged by all Christian Churches today?
The main justification of synchronical exegesis lies in the fact that the Bible is not only a book of the past, but also of the present. The early-centuries Church was aware that the interpretation of the Bible is more than mere science, it is contemplation, and its actualization through the Holy Spirit. What relates the author’s intention to the interpretation of the current receptor is the work of the one and the same Holy Spirit. The work of the Spirit cannot be confined to inspiring the author of a particular text, but it also comprises the effects which the respective texts engenders throughout history, the actualization and interpretation of the same text at all times, within the Church.
One of the difficulties met by synchronical exegesis lies in defining the beginning and the end of the literary unit undergoing analysis. Finally, structuralism was criticized for its anhistoric tendency, liable to favour a determinism of structure and, implicitly, to affect the individual’s capacity and freedom of action. A serious shortcoming of the synchronic, anhistoric approach of the biblical texts is its ignoring the historical character of the Revelation. Romanian theology has commented on the historical character of the Revelation through Father Stăniloae.
Synchronical and diachronical exegeses are not mutually exclusive alternatives: each of them holds its own relative rights, as well as limitations; no one can claim hermeneutic monopoly. Exegesis will have to corroborate the diachronical and synchronical approaches, a conclusion shared by many scholars who do not, however, agree on the manner of integrating them. We subscribe to the opinion that exegesis can start synchronically, to further employ the impulses thus gained in a diachronical (historical-critical) approach.

Pagini: 39-54