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The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics Paperback – September 10, 1980

ISBN-13: 978-0300026023 ISBN-10: 0300026021 Edition: New edition

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The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics + Is There a Meaning in This Text?: The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Landmarks in Christian Scholarship)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (September 10, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300026021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300026023
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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97 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Richard Young on April 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Hans Frei argues that questioning the historicity of the biblical documents in the modern era has led to the loss of the integrity of the narrative structure. This has shifted meaning from the patterns and structure of the narrative itself to external reference. Frei argues that this takes two forms. Those who argued for the historicity of the documents found meaning in the historical events themselves, while those who denied the historicity found meaning in the symbolic ideas or concepts that supposedly lie behind the myths. Both locate meaning outside the text. In response, Frei contends that Scripture is a realistic narrative (i.e., history-like). A realistic narrative firmly sets its characters and actions within the context of their historical and social context. Even the miraculous episodes are realistic if they help render a particular character or story. The history-like realism draws us into the story with the result that the story shapes our lives. The power of narrative is lost when meaning is located outside the narrative: in ideals, doctrines, or historical facts. This is a must read for anyone interested in narrative theology. It is the classic text in the field, from which all other works owe their inspiration.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael on December 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
The primary critique throughout Hans Frei's Eclipse book is the divorce of the narratives of Holy Scripture from meaning, or subject matter (for the book in outline, pp. 5-8; for Calvin and Luther, 23-24; on precritical interpretation in general, 28 and 37; post-Reformation Protestantism, 41; Spinoza, 46; Cocceius, 48; the early Enlightenment in England and Germany, 64; the "Supernaturalist," or historical and ostensive reference thinkers, 87, 91; German idealism, 101; apologetic and historical criticism, 135; Pietism, 156; Gabler, 166; Zacharia, 172; Bengel, 176; heilsgeschichtliche Schule, 181; Herder, 191; German realism, 218; for Pietists, Deists, Idealists, and Realists in general, 220; on Strauss and "myth", 240; and, finally, offering a clearer picture, Frei outlines three distinct proposals for identification of the subject matter: ostensive, 256-261; forms of idealism, 261-64; and, thirdly, the mythical option, 264-65; he continues with the beginnings of narrative meaning, 273; Strauss and narrative, 275; criticisms of these narrative ventures, 278; and, finally, presents his own narrative view, 280).

Chapter 13 seems to best organize the overall content of the book and illustrate the point that Frei is making. By understanding and successfully demonstrating the central problem to be, simply, a loss of narrative meaning, his assessment, as he wisely navigates a difficult history of interpretation, proves a very elegant one. Few thinkers are this insightful or gifted as to reduce an entire history of discussion and dialog to one succinctly stated criticism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Frederick G. Widdowson on August 25, 2013
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Frei writes in a very obtuse manner. His sentences are nothing short of clunky. Still, if you read slow and carefully enough you can learn a great deal about the subject.
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By Jacob on June 8, 2014
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Frei investigates the breakdown between story and reality, realistic and figural interpretation. His Yale post-liberal presuppositions aid his analysing German liberalism. They do not help him construct a coherent alternative.

A realistic interpretation is a strict correspondence between word and reality. There can only be one meaning: that of the author. This is problematic when one approaches biblical prophecy: were the prophets’ intended meanings the same as that of the New Testament readers? At this point the realistic paradigm breaks down.

A figural reading is close to Reformed typology: the narrated sequence contains its own meaning (Frei 28). While Frei doesn’t draw the explicit conclusion, if typology is true, then one must have a narratival epistemology. One will note this is standard Protestant--especially Reformed covenantal--hermeneutics. So what happened in history, especially in Germany? The blossoming liberal schools quite correctly saw that if typology is true, then the bible has a coherent unity. If the bible has a coherent unity, then it forces a narratival epistemology. If that is true, then dualisms of a Platonic or Kantian sort are ruled out.

“What if Plato were a German Liberal?”

The development of hermeneutics didn’t take place in a vacuum. Scholars were interacting with contemporary philosophical shfits. The liberal schools would not accept a realistic hermeneutics because it was obvious (for them) that miracles and resurrection were not part of “reality.” They could not accept a typological reading because typology is at war with internalized, spiritual pious gush.

Lessons to be learned: A Conclusion of sorts

It’s not clear if Frei himself avoids all of the criticisms of liberal theology.
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