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What not to do with words: Uses of Speech Act Theory in Biblical Hermeneutics

Minton, Bernard J (2014) What not to do with words: Uses of Speech Act Theory in Biblical Hermeneutics. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis examines some of the ways in which a particular theory of language known as Speech Act theory has been used as a hermeneutic tool, in particular in relation to Biblical hermeneutics. It begins by outlining the context in which the theory was conceived, and gives a brief description of Speech Act theory and some of its problems. Thereafter, some specific problems relating to the theory’s use as a Biblical hermeneutical tool are explored. These are, firstly, the fact that Speech Act theory relates explicitly to spoken language, but is being proposed as a textual tool; secondly that the nature of the relationship assumed in the theory, between intention and meaning, is compromised within the theory, and that the assumption of a ‘sender view of meaning’ often made by its advocates undercuts the most interesting implications of the theory; and thirdly that the concept of uptake, integral to the theory, is an inadequate substitute for the concept of understanding. All of these problems are identified as fundamental flaws in Speech Act theory, that compromise its usefulness as a hermeneutic tool, particularly given that the theory is being used to buttress ideas of authorial revelation. This thesis also examines the relationship between meaning and significance proposed in the work of E D Hirsch and adopted as a supplement to Speech Act theory, and finds in this distinction also similar weaknesses. However, this does not mean that the concept of revelation is untenable, and the thesis proposes an alternative view of revelation and authorial meaning, using the linguistic theories of Mikhail Bakhtin and Valentin Volosinov, and based on co-operation between author and community. This proposal is claimed to be more hermeneutically appropriate and it is asserted that it also gives a far better theological account of the nature and work of the Holy Spirit.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Biblical Studies (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.631429
Depositing User: Rev'd Bernard J Minton
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2014 08:55
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 11:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7316

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