Texts & Interpretations

If you occasionally wander over to HuffPo Religion (I do not recommend doing it too often), you will notice all kinds of articles offering all sorts of authoritative or alternative interpretations of religious texts such as the Bible, Koran, Torah, Rig Veda, etc.

In not one of these articles will you ever be told there are many possible interpretations of all these texts, there are reasons for each possible interpretation, or that once you have texts — religions of words — the inevitable and unavoidable result will be endless and irresolvable disputes over the meaning or proper interpretation of those words.

If this puzzles or frustrates you, I have two suggestions — especially for undergraduates who are reading religious texts while not being simultaneously educated in exegesis or hermeneutics.

The first suggestion is to read Stanley Fish’s excellent and highly readable primer on interpretation, Is There a Text in This Class?  The second is to read Terry Eagleton’s Literary Theory: An Introduction.

With the knowledge gained from these two books, you not only will understand why theological disputation is an infinite subject, but you will also be able to point out the flaws — or alternatives — to any argument or interpretation presented to you from a text.  You will also learn to stop reading HuffPo articles which claim to read religious texts in the right (or rather left) way.

Did you like this? Share it:

Leave a Reply