Hermeneutics today poses one of the most important challenges to theology. The volume Theology as History (“New Frontiers in Theology,” III, 1967) is only an example of current interest in the problems of Scripture interpretation. The problem that hermeneutics places before theology has many sides. It is focused, first of all, on the Scriptures as the Word of God (a focus seen, for example, in the discussions that buzz around the names of Bultmann, Fuchs, Ebeling, Pannenberg, et al.). But along with this, it has to do with the reading of the confessions of the churches.
This problem touches the whole gamut of theology and of every confession. For here an effort is made to get at the essential and unique message that the churches wanted to express in their confessions. The words of the confessions are of enormous importance, of course, but words must be read with their associations. And this demands an accounting of the historical background of the creeds, of the polemics that gave rise to them, of the whole situation in which they were created. What was the intention behind the dogma? This is the question.
Roman Catholic theologians are involved in today’s reflections on the hermeneutical problem in a special way. The interpretation of Scripture has been central in the Reformation churches from the beginning. But today hermeneutical questioning of dogmas (in Roman Catholic context, the infallible dogmas) is lively in Roman Catholic circles also, and it is very much a part of the ecumenical situation. The question in the background is this: Does hermeneutics offer the possibility of a convergence that was impossible until now? Henrich Ott has spoken of a “converging interpretation” that brings theologians closer together without ...1
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