on 13 December 1998
This is not a work for beginners. While biblical hermeneutics are in view, it really concerns how we interpret any text. Thiselton has one major concern: are there standards of meaning that go beyond any particular society and embrace all humanity, or not? Thiselton argues throughout the book that there are, while thoroughly and (I think) fairly presenting the alternative viewpoint(s). His major supports include the later Wittgenstein, the speach-act theory of Austin and Searle, and (to a lesser extent) the eschatological vision of Pannenberg. His major targets are the deconstruction of Derrida and Barthes, the pragmatism of Rorty and (some but not all) liberation theologies, and the reader-response theory of Fish. In a typically understated British way, he cheerleads for the one side and pans the other through the whole book. In both modes, however, Thiselton keeps an impressive critical distance (most of the time) in admitting both to the strengths of those he opposes and the weaknesses of those he supports. While difficult, I know of no better one volume treatment of the subject. A thorough and discerning work for the serious student.
on 18 January 2000
This is certainly, as the previous reviewer warned, a difficult book. The somewhat ponderous style takes some getting used to, but is worth the effort. While admittedly focussing on Biblical hermeneutics, it is unfortunate that this designation will restrict the audience of this thoroughly worthy book to the readership of 'Religion and Spirituality.' Its compass alone merits a much wider readership than that. The obvious improvement on the author's previous work 'Two Horizons' (which he generously concedes) is in its inclusion of Pannenberg's eschatological dimension to a critique of Gadamer. This is indeed a crucial inclusion as it is that which gives substance to Gadamer's otherwise empty general concept of the universal - the naivete of which has brought him under attack or unwarranted appropriation by Rorty, Habermas and others.
The pastoral dimension of the work in the final two chapters is an interesting dimension to a work in a field that often seems abstracted from such considerations. Given the inclusion of the 'life-world' within almost all discussions in post-Heideggerian hermeneutics, this adds credibility to what are often only academic arguments. In general, the use of Biblical examples throughout the work is also judicious and helpful to furthering Thiselton's argument. An indispensible work to all students of textual hermeneutics.