1st Edition

Playing with Scripture Reading Contested Biblical Texts with Gadamer and Genre Theory

By Andrew Judd Copyright 2024

    This book puts a creative new reading of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics and literary genre theory to work on the problem of Scripture. Reading texts as Scripture brings two hermeneutical assumptions into tension: that the text will continually say something new and relevant to the present situation, and that the text has stability and authority over readers. Given how contested the Bible’s meaning is, how is it possible to ‘read Scripture’ as authoritative and relevant? Rather than anchor meaning in author, text or reader, Gadamer’s phenomenological model of hermeneutical experience as Spiel (‘play’) offers a dynamic, intersubjective account of how understanding happens, avoiding the dead end of the subjective–objective dichotomy. Modern genre theory addresses some of the criticisms of Gadamer, accounting for the different roles played by readers in different genres using the new term Lesespiel (‘reading game’). This is tested in three case studies of contested texts: the recontextualization of psalms in the book of Acts, the use of Hagar’s story (Genesis 16) in nineteenth-century debates over slavery and the troubling reception history of the rape and murder in Gibeah (Judges 19). In each study, the application of ancient text to contemporary situation is neither arbitrary, nor slavishly bound to tradition, but playful.


    Part I: Gadamer and Genre Theory

    1 Gadamer in conversation

    2 Spiel

    3 Genre

    Part II Three Contested Biblical Texts

    4 Reading psalms in the first century

    5 Reading Hagar in the nineteenth century

    6 Experiencing that night in Gibeah as twentieth-century horror film


    Appendix: Breakdown of OT citations in Acts by genre


    Andrew Judd is a Lecturer in Old Testament at Ridley College, Melbourne and the Australian College of Theology.