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Imagination: A Hermeneutical Tool for the Study of the Hebrew Bible

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image of Biblical Interpretation

Biblical scholars use the word 'imagination' more and more often, but in different cases 'imagination' covers different concepts. In order to reach a more systematic application of 'imagination' in hermeneutics and Old Testament Studies in general, there is a need to explore the possible uses of 'imagination'. This article comprises: 1) a theoretical introduction extending what Barth and Steck wrote in their classical primer on exegetical methods; 2) a section on imagination and history; 3) a heuristic classifying survey of Brueggemann's use of the word 'imagination'; 4) a reflection on how imagination is restricted by parameters of time and place. The article distinguishes between imagination of ancient people and of people nowadays, but deals with the interplay of both as well. It further reflects on the informed, controlled use of imagination in hermeneutics. After a brief comment on "moral imagination," a survey and mapping of the uses of imagination in hermeneutics rounds off the article. This will make clear how the different notions referred to with the word 'imagination' are related and why it is important to consider them as interdependent concepts. Although the majority of the examples will be taken from the Hebrew Bible, the thoughts expressed here are applicable to the study of the New Testament as well and some more specific New Testament issues and related literature will be referred to.

Affiliations: 1: Utrecht University/Georg-August-University Göttingen


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