The Spirit, the Letter, and the Life of the Text: Schleiermacher’s Hermeneutics Revisited
Schleiermacher’s hermeneutics are usually considered ‘idealist’, ‘romantic’, or essentially ‘Christian’. And indeed, they began as a series of lectures on the hermeneutics of the New Testament, a context that is usually neglected. Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that Schleiermacher hardly uses spiritual exegesis or Einfühlung here, but rather deals with specific material problems raised by Biblical Criticism – the (Aramaic-Greek) mixed language of the New Testaments, its insecure textual basis and its composition from fragments. All these features of the New Testament are serious obstacles for grasping the text and transform Schleiermacher’s idealist and logocentric idea of understanding towards a hermeneutics of (written) scripture. The lecture insists on the need for a re-reading of Schleiermacher as a material hermeneutics and argues for a more complex conception of how the religious heritage influences hermeneutic theory.