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Wednesday, 29 July 2015
Resignification

Canon & Community: A Guide to Canonical Criticism,
James A. Sanders, Wipf and Stock, 2000, page 63

Another area that James Sanders turns his guns upon is that of resignification. Just how far can communities and scholars go today while remaining true to the canon?

Another important task will be that of establishing a canonically permissible range of resignification. As concepts, figures and texts journey through the Bible from inception through the last books of the NT, they become resignified to some extent. The crucial question has to do with the limits to which the readjustments in meaning canonically may go. Some work has been done, but much more is in order before we are anywhere near making a sound judgement.

Many would object to any limit being placed on the new meaning and significance that can be extracted from biblical passages, but Sanders seems be saying that just as the Bible itself has a canonical range of activities that its authors or tradents are allowed to do - were allowed to do by their faith communities - so faith communities today should maintain a consistent range of acceptable resignification.

Posted By Jonathan, 8:00am Comment Comments: 3
 
 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015
Comment -

The trouble with that approach is that it binds the faith communities into their past mistakes. If, say, the rabbinic split with the church and visa versa was never God's intended destination, and the 17-18 centuries of Christian anti-Semitism not His intention either, yet we are bound to stick with historic significations, where is the impetus for repentance?

Posted By Timothy Butlin 08:05am

 
 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015
Comment -

Historically, the "second generation" of the Early Church was the faith community that allowed the problems to develop. As they became increasingly Gentile, they were the ones who accepted resignification outside the biblical range.

Now, in this age, we should be disallowing resignification beyond not what the previous generation and all those before it allowed, but beyond the biblical range. That would disallow the centuries of out-of-range signification and put us back in the right place, including room for repentance for past mistake and overstepping the biblical mark.

Posted By Jonathan 10:18am

 
 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015
Comment -

As soon as we open a Bible and attempt to say what it says, we are engaging in commentary. This is as true of the "sola scriptura" approach as it is of Catholicism and Rabbinic Judaism. When a mode of commentary is passed on from generation to generation, we have a tradition, which exists alongside, or in competition with other traditions, so to speak.

A distinct, yet unvoiced, Protestant tradition is the assumption that commentary, theology, etc. can be based on the Bible in translation. As someone (I wish I could remember his name) has aptly put it, translators are arbiters of the Bible's meaning. Translation itself is commentary, as anyone who works in the original languages observes when comparing the multiplicity of translations to the Hebrew or Greek texts.

I point this out because, it seems to me, the idea of a biblically acceptable range of resignification is fundamentally flawed if it is based on this dominant Protestant tradition.

Take, for example, Jesus twice-told quote, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." The Hebrew of Hosea 6:6 (hafatzti hesed) can be understood only in the context of the rich linguistic heritage embodied in the word "hesed" and its association with other concepts (mishpat and rachamim, for example). This heritage is obscured in the translations.

If essential linguistic concepts are obscured, how much more are advanced concepts such as "resignification" removed from their biblical contexts when they are based on the Bible in translation.

I do not mean to say that basing our thought on the Bible in the original languages guarantees that we will arrive at an acceptable range of resignification. It is only the starting point.

Posted By Carl Kinbar 02:17pm