Today two books landed on my desk. The first is from Baker – Opening Paul’s Letters: A Reader’s Guide to Genre and Interpretation (Patrick Gray). Now this is a short work (< 200 pages) and meant to be very introductory, but I am currently reading two other books that would challenge Gray’s approach in different ways. Firstly, I am about half way through Ben Witherington’s new commentary on Philippians and he is very insistent that epistolary-genre analysis (what Gray is focusing upon) is a dead end – rhetorical analysis is the key. We shall see how Gray would respond to this, if he dips into this debate. On the other side, Joel Green feels that the genre-based approach that splits the exegetical task into “what it meant” (in that context) and “what it means today” (in our time) is too artificial a division. My guess is Joel would not like what Gray is doing, though I am generally more inclined to support Gray’s approach as a heuristic model of interpretation. Now I have not read Gray’s book yet, so we shall see where he goes with this exegetical guide. More to come!
Now I love books on exegetical method, but more philosophically-driven books on hermeneutics tend to make my head hurt. But I trust Porter and Robinson to be helpful guides, and I am convinced that if you are concerned with understanding what a text means, you must engage with serious hermeneutical questions about the search for textual meaning.