Text Theory and Biblical Literature

The Bible is more than a text, but it is certainly not less. Recognizing this essential nature of biblical literature, therefore, is a fundamental preliminary to the construction of its meaning, and provides a framework within which to articulate a valid hermeneutic. Sailhamer gives expression to this nature in his introduction to OT theology.

“One of the developments of recent text theory is the emergence of the idea that a text is a system of signs that can be understood as an act of communication and thus implies a communication situation. A typical communication situation consists of a speaker who transmits information to a hearer via a shared mode of communication or sign system:

Speaker ——> Sign System ——> Hearer

Seen within such a context, a text can be understood as the sign system bearing the information in an act of communication. Thus, if we replace the general notion of information in the diagram above with the specific idea of a text and put the author and reader in the place of speaker and hearer, we can construct the following diagram to show the role of a text within a communication situation:

Author ——> Text ——> Reader

On the basis of the diagram above, it is possible to formulate a view of a text as a written linguistic communication between an author and reader.”

John H. Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 47.

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