Pluralism and Presuppositions: Reimagining Metanarrative and the Bible

It is human nature to tell stories. Humans have and will always, tell, compile, and interpret stories. As the narrativizing of events is fundamentally human, reading the Bible as one grand-narrative is a fundamentally interpretation – for scholars, students, and all people alike. In biblical scholarship, approaching the Bible as a metanarrative goes back to pre-critical scholarship and is not a recent development. However, there is no one consistent, systematic, and repeatable critical method for approaching the Bible as a metanarrative, yet scholars still find ways to analyze and re-tell the story. Although there is no critical methodology to isolate how to engage with and re-tell the metanarrative, consistency exists amongst the work of scholars approaching the Bible as metanarrative. This paper seeks to argue that biblical metanarrative scholarship requires a presupposition that metanarratives exist and that a plurality of critical methods are required to interpret and re-tell the biblical metanarrative. To substantiate this claim, I engage with the hermeneutical contributions of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur, namely Gadamer’s understanding of the human-hermeneutical-experience, articulated through the narrativizing of real temporal events as narratives that represent real events in the real world, and Ricoeur’s concept of the pre-narrative quality of human experience; which suggests that humans earnestly desire story, and human life is an active pursuit of a narrative. Gadamer and Ricoeur provide a foundation for engaging the biblical metanarrative as a fundamentally human practice. Included in the discussion is Hans W. Frei, who, in The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative, illuminates how modern readers and interpreters lost the art of reading Scripture as a unified story as a predominant method of biblical interpretation. He provides the historical backdrop for an unfortunately bifurcated approach to reading Scripture. Subsequently, I engage with three biblical scholars who successfully presuppose the existence of metanarratives while using a plurality of critical methods to interact with the biblical metanarrative. Brevard S. Childs’s canonical approach utilizes higher-criticism, engages with the present form of the text as a piece of literature in its own integrity, and demonstrates that the biblical metanarrative and higher-criticism are not mutually exclusive. Robert Alter’s concept of fictionalized history, and his literary-critical approach, engages with the metanarrative as an ancient historical narrative. N.T. Wright, in The New Testament and the People of God, engages with literary, historical, and theological dimensions of the Bible and applies a worldview-model to first century Judaism. Hermeneutic philosophy points to narrative making as innate to humanity, and biblical scholarship engages with a retelling of the biblical metanarrative with a plurality of critical methods. This paper demonstrates that scholarly approaches to the biblical metanarrative require (1) a presupposition that metanarratives exists, and (2) an eclectic plurality of hermeneutical methods.

4 thoughts on “Pluralism and Presuppositions: Reimagining Metanarrative and the Bible”

Leave a Comment