Are we to be content with such an interpretative situation in OT theology where there is no arbitrating criterion, as Brueggemann seems to suggest? If not, what path should we take through this interpretive malaise?
Critical realism, as I suggested earlier, may prove to be for us an apt guide through the malaise and the agent needed to bring order to the interpretative process. Critical realism (according to Ben Meyer) makes the following hermeneutic proposition: “the text has primary claim on the reader, namely, to be construed in accord with its intended sense.” In Critical Realism and the New Testament, Ben Meyer offers several insights into the process of human communication that stood out and I offer ten of them below.
1. Man is a meaning being with a natural drive for the mediation of meaning to and from his fellow human beings (18).
2. Of man’s resources for mediation of meaning, language is primary and peerless (18).
3. The drive to communicate is a complex as the entire social dimension of the life of man. But there is a common note that runs through its many performative modes (to request, to inform, to persuade…) and other modalities (…, private/public, oral/written, etc.): the will to transmit intended meaning (18).
4. Transmission envisages reception and normally envisages some response from the receiver(19).
5. Writing calls for a more deliberate use of language than is usual in ordinary speaking(19).
6. The writer expresses a message in a text and the reader construes a text with to receiving its message (19).
7. “Intention” and “intended meaning” is thus not only in the writer; it is also intrinsic to the text insofar as the text objectifies or incorporates or encodes or express the writer’s message (19).
8. Critical realism takes sober account of the interpreter’s need to measure up to the text and to be attuned to it. When the literature to be interpreted is great, it may well call for an understanding of the world and a self-understanding on the part of the interpreter that at the moment are simply beyond him (xiii).
9. Superficial hermeneutics takes the interpreter’s intellectual, moral, and religious authenticity for granted. Deep hermeneutics takes nothing for granted and ultimately concentrates on the above threefold authenticity [[intellectual, moral, and religious]]… (xiii).
10. One construes a text progressively and cumulatively, by spiraling into its sense, i.e., attending to the reciprocally mediating opposites that define the hermeneutic circles”:
a. The circle of whole and parts: “I understand the whole only in function of understanding of the parts; I understand the parts only in function or understanding the whole.”
b. The circle of things and words: “I understand words by understanding the things that they refer to; I understand things by the understanding the words that refer to them.”
c. The circle of reader and text: “I understand myself in virtue of understanding the text; I understand the text in virtue of understanding myself (21).