Thursday, July 5, 2012

Please check out Larry Hurtado's new blog post on his phrase, and method, "hermeneutics of agape." In his blog post, he writes of the term:

As I indicated in a footnote, to my knowledge, this was my own phrasing, though influenced by various things I'd read.  Subsequently, I've noticed a few others who have used very similar expressions.  In particular the following:  Alan Jacobs, A Theology of Reading:  The Hermeneutics of Love (Boulder, CO/Oxford: Westview Press, 2001); and also Tom Wright's  brief discussion of what he called "a hermeneutic of love" in The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis:  Fortress, 1992).  I now think it's possible that Wright's comments lodged somewhere in my mind and helped to prompt my own particular phrasing.
In my own brief exploration of the idea, however, I may have teased out  (if all too briefly) a few distinctive suggestions.  I emphasized, for example, it is agape, with all the rich and powerful connotations attached to term that derive from the many NT statements in which it is used.  Agape in the NT dominantly is used in statements about God's redemptive efforts, and about believers' responsibility to care for others in various relationships, even one's enemies.  This is why I probably chose to retain (and then explain) the word "agape" rather than "love", given the heavily romanticized drift of the latter word in modern usage.
Do read his whole post here. I think the phrase is compelling, and it suggests to me (as just about everything in biblical studies does) a phrase used by Ben F. Meyer regarding the "hermeneutics of goodwill" (found in Critical Realism and the New Testament). This phrase indicated an openness to the claims of the text, even if, as Meyer said, ultimately "suspicion has its uses." A reading with goodwill does not mean one ultimately consents to the claims of the text, but they are genuinely engaged with and the reader is open to them. I wonder, though, if Hurtado's phrase of "hermeneutics of agape" does not function even better in this manner. The fact that one reads with "agape" does not indicate agreement or consent, if I iunderstand the phrase correctly, but even more than goodwill, it implies a relationship (to text or person) infused with love of God and neighbour.

John W. Martens

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