Rikk Watts wrote:
> For what it's worth, I've always understood exegesis to be the more
> practical subset (i.e. it actually works with specific texts and historical
> cultural contexts) of hermeneutics which deals with the general theory of at
> one end of what constitutes a text and how they communicate through to
> larger philosophical-historical questions of meaning in general. Naturally,
> the modes of thinking, language, and discourse common to each differ
> If there is a sociological dimension, perhaps one might say there's a very
> general distinction between hands-on practitioners (usually involving a
> particular set of specific skills to answer the question: what does this
> text mean?) and the sometimes very technical theorizers (who deal with
> philos and the history of philos in seeking to answer the question: is there
> a general theory of meaning? Some like Vico and his followers would argue
> that philos is actually a subset of history, so a philos of history can get
> involved as well), with the former assuming (or not!, often unknowingly and
> usually belatedly) the proposals of the latter. Sorry about that horrible
> last sentence.
> One can be interested in either or both, and in my classes on Interpretation
> students get both. It's fascinating to watch individual student's interest
> vary across topic.
> Be interested in anyone else's comments.
Thanks for your contribution since I was beginning to wonder whether or
not after forty years in the field that I was still missing something!
In fact, I was considering whether to post my own contribution just to
see if I was simply showing my ignorance, so I was reassured by your
saying "out loud" what I would have said ... although I think that I
will go ahead, if only to be able to confirm that we are here in
For me, the difference between "hermeneutics" and "exegesis" is simply
the difference between theory and practice. Thus, I see "hermeneutics"
as being simply the theoretical considerations about how one does or
should approach a text to understand it; hopefully, these reflections
would function within the wider context of those philosophical
considerations in the area of "epistemology," focused upon the
particular issue about words (both spoken and written) and how one does
or ought to understand them. Whereas "exegesis" would those processes
by which one actually goes about seeking to understand particular
statements, whether written or spoken (???).
As for the interconnection, my possibly naive point of view is that I do
not see how one could function adequately in either without some first
hand (i.e. personal) knowledge and practice in the other. I am not sure
that I could trust the exegetical results of any exegete who claimed to
be operating without any commitment to or awareness about any of the
more theoretical issues and problems involved, for fear that he or she
was functioning within/upon some hermeneutic about which the
practitioner was simply unaware (???). Conversely, I am not sure that I
could trust the theoretical opinions of any hermeneut
who had no personal experience in any particular field of exegesis,
since that is what theory ought to be "talking about" (???).
Well, Rikk, you asked for comments and now you have mine. I do hope that
I have not just shown my ignorance; in fact, I rather hope that I have
simply stated the obvious by putting in writing what is a commonplace in
our discipline (???). If not, I would be most interested in hearing from
someone about what they perceive to be my own short-coming or
short-sightedness, if any ... as (hopefully) I am not yet too old to
Thanks, and most sincerely,
Clive F. Jacks, Th.D. (Union Seminary, NYC)
Professor of Religion, Emeritus
(but now happily retired back home in the metro Atlanta area!)