Gerhard van den Heever


This essay responds to the three main position papers of the 2018 CIAS workshop, which were published in Religion & Theology 26, no. 1&2 (2019). The main thrust of the essay relates to the concept of hermeneutics and the location of the discourse of comparative hermeneutics. The essay defines the fundamental question at stake as a question of discourse. From this basis, the paper proceeds to consider four main issues that constitute the framework for conceiving a Centre for the Interpretation of Authoritative Scripture: to wit, historicising of scripture and tradition, the character of texts and textual traditions and canons, comparative religion and hermeneutics as discourse and the implied definition of religion (and of religion as social discourse). Firstly, comparative hermeneutics raises the problem of what a tradition is. What constitutes its essential identity? Secondly, it is possible, and this essay explores this line, to redescribe hermeneutics as a social discourse, that is, to understand interpretation as social interaction. It is when the concept of religion is historicised, and the complex and contestatious processes of social and identity-formation are investigated, that the social discursivity, authority construction and power-effects, and the ideological work performed by tradition-formation can be brought to light. In this manner, the essay argues for the de-essentialisation of religious traditions such that it is possible to think beyond narrowly delimited boundaries and rather see the common human activity of social discourse productions that bind adherents of different religious traditions in a given social aggregation together – which enables thinking common social purposes.


comparative hermeneutics; historicisation; scriptural reasoning; inter-religious dialogue; discourse; study of religion

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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