The three horizons : a study in biblical hermeneutics with special reference to Wolfhart Pannenberg
This thesis is concerned with the 'problem of hermeneutics', particularly as it applies to the interpretation of the Bible. A number of different approaches have been employed in order to try to bridge the distance between the past and the present. Hans-Georg Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics, which describes understanding as a 'fusion of horizons', has been influential. However, Gadamer has been criticized by a number of thinkers, particularly Emilio Betti and E.D. Hirsch, for not giving an adequate account of how a measure of objectivity or validity is possible in interpretation. This thesis presents a description of interpretation which resolves some of the apparent conflicts between these schools by presenting them as accounts of two, complementary levels of one interpretative process, levels related in a type of hermeneutical circle relation. Nevertheless, Betti and Hirsch's concerns for objectivity and validity could still not be satisfied without grounding this hermeneutical circle relation in an adequate ontology. To do this, the thesis turns to the work of Wolfhart Pannenberg. This thesis argues that Pannenberg, while accepting much of Gadamer's hermeneutics, goes beyond Gadamer and provides many helpful insights critical both for general hermeneutics and for biblical interpretation. Pannenberg grounds Gadamer's fusion of the two horizons, the past and the present, in universal history, conceived as an eschatologically orientated ontology, rather than in an ontology of language. The thesis argues that this is the third horizon necessary for interpretation. Pannenberg asserts that characteristics of universal history are made known proleptically in Jesus Christ. Consequently, this thesis argues for the use of a Christological principle in biblical interpretation and illustrates the use of such a principle in Paul (e.g., in I Cor. 8-10).