The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative


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A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics

Hans W. Frei

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Laced with brilliant insights, broad in its view of the interaction of culture and theology, this book gives new resonance to old and important questions about the meaning of the Bible.

"Frei's book deals with some difficult philosophical texts and is by no means a quick read, but it is a deeply instructive investigation of the history of ideas."—Robert Alter, Wall Street Journal (Five Best Biblical Books)

"An impressively detailed survey of the ways in which biblical narrative has been read and understood from Luther to Strauss."—Journal of Ecclesiastical History

"Frei traces the change that took place in biblical hermeneutics during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, leading to a loss of the sense of realism in reading the biblical text. Focusing mainly on the creation story and the gospel accounts, Frei writes a very insightful account of the influence of general culture on the theological enterprise. His work will be of interest primarily to the specialist, who cannot afford to ignore Frei's thesis even if he is unconvinced by all his suggestions."—Christianity Today

"A careful, detailed, tightly-written essay in the history of ideas, which should draw the attention and critical response of historians in several fields."—Interpretation

"A book of rare and excellent character."—Religious Studies

"An intellectual adventure."—America

"A brilliant and disquieting book which raises dangerously powerful questions for every teacher of the humanities. Frei has a lively and perceptive account of how the changing interpretation of the Bible led on to a changing interpretation of interpretation. His account of Schleiermacher's hermeneutics is probably the best we possess in English."—Alasdair MacIntyre, The Yale Review

"Frei pursues in detail the theme of the eclipse of Biblical realism and its gradual replacement, especially in the later part of the eighteenth century, by new methods of interpretation. . . . A masterly account of the effect upon Biblical studies of the modern approach to literature."—Journal of Theological Studies

"A major contribution to the philosophical theological issue of hermeneutics and should be read by those who are interested in where biblical meaning is to be located."—Restoration Quarterly

"Often refreshingly original and, in its dealing with several cultures and with literatures other than biblical, interdisciplinary as well."—Paul J. Korshin, Eighteenth-Century Studies

"A history of biblical (more particularly New Testament) hermeneutics in the period from Calvin to Strauss. The science of biblical hermeneutics depends in large measure on the kind of religious authority ascribed to the Bible in Christian tradition. . . . The central thesis of Frei's work is that the hermeneutical method favored from time to time and from place to place was more thoroughly influenced than is commonly realized by current cultural trends."—Christian Scholar's Review

"If universal acclamation should thrust on me the authority to choose the required text for this year or this decade, I should without hesitation assign The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative, by Hans Frei. . . . An attractive feature of Frei's work is that he reveals this relatively little known, hermeneutical side of the work of well known philosophers and men of letters, such as Locke and Spinoza, Christian Wolff, Kant, Lessing and Herder, Schiller, Schelling, Hegel and Friedrich Schlegel."—Virginia Seminary Quarterly

"This work offers a valuable critique of modern biblical hermeneutics from the controversies of the early eighteenth century to the eve of the neo-Schleiermacherian revival represented by Bultmann. The author shows that, under the influence of philosophical or religious presuppositions, each of the hermeneutic approaches he studies suffered from the basic weakness of locating the meaning of Scripture outside the texts. . . . Its chief merit is to have brought into a persuasive perspective the roots of certain disturbing aspects of biblical hermeneutics."—Philosophical Studies

"This volume has much to offer the serious student. The chapter on pre-critical interpretation (Calvin and Luther) is worth the cost. English and German scholars are discussed with emphasis on Collins, Baumgarten, Bengel, Herder, Strauss and Schleiermacher."—Southwestern Journal of Theology

"The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative is an immensely suggestive work. It is most valuable for the way it analyzes the philosophical bases of biblical criticism and dispels the misguided and still prevalent view of modern criticism as the final stage in a progressive development, akin to the classical view of the progress of science. Frei has shown the essentially contingent nature of the history of biblical interpretation—that different positions could or could not be held at given times—and for this alone the book deserves close and sympathetic reading."—Commentary

"Frei's outstanding contribution to [hermeneutics] . . . combines an expert knowledge of the course of biblical criticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with the insights of a literary critic and a philosopher."—Times Literary Supplement
ISBN: 9780300026023
Publication Date: September 10, 1980
368 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 3/8
Types of Christian Theology

Hans W. Frei; Edited by George Hunsinger and William C.

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