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Bonhoeffer and Interpretive Theory

Essays on Methods and Understanding


Edited By Peter Frick

How does the contemporary reader make sense of the life and writings of such an icon as Dietrich Bonhoeffer? The essays in this volume seek to address this question by carefully examining the social, cultural, religious and intellectual locations that inform the Sitz im Leben of a vast readership of Bonhoeffer. The focus of each of the essays is thus on the task of articulating and clarifying a hermeneutically self-conscious and responsible approach to interpreting and understanding Bonhoeffer. The authors come from widely divergent backgrounds, both geographically and intellectually, and therefore offer a wide spectrum of dialogue. Methods and approaches examined in the essays discuss themes such as gender, religion, race, ecology, politics, philosophy, literature among others.


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Peter Frick: Understanding Bonhoeffer: from Default to Hermeneutic Reading


Peter Frick Understanding Bonhoeffer: from Default to Hermeneutic Reading Die Seele der Hermeneutik besteht darin, daß der andere recht haben kann. Jean Grondin on Gadamer1 Introduction The ability to read is one of the marks of the educated person and the be- ginning of civility. Those who are able to read usually do so without giving any thought to their underlying “perspective,” “approach” or “interpretive method.” Reading happens nearly automatically. The reader’s eyes glance at the words and lines of a specific text, and with little effort, the meaning of the text forms in our minds. We have found the information we were looking for, or we have gained a certain understanding or answer regarding a specific question. There are, of course, various levels of reading which involve distinct degrees of interest and intellectual alertness. It is one thing to leaf superficially through a newspaper or glance at a flyer advertising groceries but quite another thing to read a philosophical discourse, such as Anselm’s Prologion, Aquinas’ Summa or Heidegger’s Being and Time. There is also a marked difference in reading an author in his or her original language of composition or in translation. In other words, reading – and correspondingly understanding – are deci- sively hermeneutical tasks. But as even a glance at the vast corpus of second- ary literature on Bonhoeffer makes apparent, when it comes to reading and understanding his writings hermeneutically – and correctly – there seems to be much inconsistency and confusion. Is it even reasonable, permissible...

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