John Milbank and Biblical Hermeneutics: the End of the Historical-Critical Method?

Heythrop Journal 53 (2):253-263 (2012)
It is perhaps ironic that a methodology still convinced of its radical iconoclasm and progressive nature should at the same time be regarded as critically backward, a by-product of a disappearing philosophy. Such a view of the historical-critical method is held by John Milbank who argues that because of its dependence upon heretical philosophies that affirm the ontological autonomy of a world without reference to or participation in God, it should be confined to theological history. This essay will argue that Milbank's challenge ought to be taken seriously by Christian biblical interpreters and suggests that historical-critical study, in the form criticised by Milbank, needs to be rejected. Milbank exposes the philosophical bankruptcy of the method from a Christian perspective; nevertheless, Milbank overstretches himself. His rejection of the historical-critical method results in a hermeneutic that has no place for a biblical text's historical particularity and sense. Because of this, he is left subsuming historic texts into the regula fidei of his philosophical meta-narrative, whether they fit such a move or not. This is particularly the case with Milbank's treatment of biblical texts, which, it shall be argued, operates as a refusal of history and a refusal of the particularity and alterity of the text. This highlights the need for an historical hermeneutic for Christian biblical interpretation, based on theological presuppositions, which takes the theological value of both historical particularity and the text seriously
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2011.00727.x
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