[b-hebrew] Deconstructionism

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Wed Apr 4 12:46:23 EDT 2007

Dear Kevin,
> In practice inerrantists are very likely to be opposed to deconstruction as
> it strikes at a central issue for the overwhelming majority of inerrantists
> - that the text has one plain, intended meaning and all other meanings are
> to some degree false.  To accept deconstruction as a valid way of
> approaching scriptural texts is only possible if you have rejected most of
> the assumptions on which inerrancy is based and are at least willing to
> assume that the text *may* have more than one valid meaning.  The idea that
> a Biblical author may in fact have communicated more than a plain reading of
> what the text itself reveals is not likely to sit well with most
> inerrantists.  The "interpretive lenses" of inerrantists and
> deconstructionists are in reality likely to be very different, even if on a
> strictly logical basis it may not be a necessity that this be so.

HH: Perhaps we should let David speak for himself, if he chooses, since 
you may be presenting inerrantism in an overly rigid manner. The 
doctrine of inerrancy is not inherently opposed to the idea that a 
passage could have a double meaning. That is a literary question, and 
each proposed instance on double meaning must be judged on its own 
merit. An allegory or parable is a case of double meaning, yet the Bible 
has a number of these, accepted by everybody. I did not read everything 
Yitzhak offered, but I looked at the slavery text raised in the 
following article:


HH: This first part of the article does not seem to be deconstruction in 
the destructive sense that the word  sometimes implies. The author 
accepts the text but simply says it has "deconstructive" implications 
for the institution of slavery. He is giving his outlook on the text. 
For myself, his view seems overly rosy, since the text does not do away 
with slavery even in principle:

Deuteronomy 23.15-16

You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from  his 
master to you; he shall dwell with you, in your midst, in  the place 
which he shall choose within one of your towns, where  it pleases him 
best; you shall not oppress him.

HH: The slave owner had every right to go retrieve a runaway slave, 
doubtless using force if necessary. However, other people were not 
obliged to return a runaway slave to his master. I think the author is 
right that the law has implications about God's view of the accepted 
social custom of slavery, which God himself accepted according to the 
Mosaic law. God did not feel any particular righteousness was shown by 
returning a runaway slave to his master. However, the slave was not 
necessarily freed by this law as long as the slave master had the 
capacity to enforce his rights as the slave owner. The law does not 
prevent him from recapturing a slave, nor does it require anybody to 
resist him in the effort to do so.

HH: The interpretation of the text by the article Yitzhak recommended is 
interesting and does not really undermine the authority of the biblical 
text. I believe it is that sort of undermining of biblical authority 
that David was talking about when he used the term deconstruction.

HH: Yitzhak is complaining that David is misusing the term 
deconstruction, but actually he is using it according to one meaning 
that the term has acquired, while Yitzhak wants to assert the more 
original and positive meaning. Here is a passage that shows that David 
was using the term according to a current popular usage, but that 
Yitzhak was defending the original usage :


 The popular epithet "deconstruction" comes from hermeneutics. 
"Dekonstruction", as originated by Heidegger, did not, contrary to its 
current popular usage, mean "destructive criticism". The term was 
popularized by Derrida, but in a context where it was accompanied by 
destructive criticism. Heidegger was very interested in reading 
philosophy in the original Greek, and noticed that translators tended to 
add their own interpretations as they translate. These interpretations 
accumulate as "constructions", and a doctrine, whether translated or 
reinterpreted in some other manner (for example, a law reinterpreted by 
a judge), accumulates these constructions over time, becoming a new 
doctrine. Heidegger, desiring to unearth the original Greek thinkers, 
set about to remove such constructions.

Deconstruction in its "postmodern" construction is usually applied to 
ferret out a bias one wants to remove, and has tended to get mixed up in 
the literature alongside criticism of those biases. So guess what, 
deconstruction has acquired an new interpretation, a new construction, 
"destructive criticism". But deconstruction in its original sense is not 
a criticism at all, it is simply a theory about how traditions evolve, 
namely via the accumulation of constructions, along with a methodology 
for ferreting out constructions that have for some other reason been 
deemed to be undesired.

Harold Holmyard
> Kevin Riley
> -------Original Message------- 
> From: Yitzhak Sapir 
> Date: 5/04/2007 12:22:39 AM 
> Dear David, 
> In your original use of the word "desconstructionists," it was used in 
> The following sentence: "I am not making an argument for the inerrancy 
> Of the TN'K here but the unbridgeable difference between the interpretive 
> Lenses of those who accept the inerrancy of the TN'K as originally 
> Scripted and those deconstructionists who work from their own 
> Preconceived notions." As such, it places deconstructionists in 
> Opposition to those who hold by biblical inerrancy. This is not 
> Deconstructionism. While you have quoted a dictionary definition, 
> This definition is a very succinct summary of the entire method and in 
> Fact does not do much to explain what it really is. So, here are 
> Examples of deconstruction of some biblical texts: 
> http://www.shef.ac.uk/bibs/DJACcurrres/Postmodern1/Ethics.html 
> http://www.arts.ualberta.ca/JHS/Articles/article_66.pdf 
> I suggest you read them, and then ask yourself how really are 
> The deconstructionists opposed to inerrancy? In reality, it seems that 
> You have used deconstructionism as a label, emptying it of what it 
> Really means. 
> Yitzhak Sapir 
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