Abstract

This essay revisits Bultmann's famous discussion of the role of presuppositions within biblical exegesis. It affirms Bultmann's concern with an interpreter's existential reality while criticizing his silence concerning other things that he also in fact presupposed, most obviously theological preunderstandings (for Bultmann, this was the need to demythologize) and the ascribing of a privileged role to the Bible for encountering the truth about God and humanity. It is argued that the privileged role of the Bible is a corollary of its historic reception and appropriation by the church. The nature of the relationship between Bible and church is then explored via a discussion of Augustine's famous sentence, "In fact I would not believe the gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me." It is suggested that Augustine's understanding of the role of the church is analogous to that of the modern concept of a plausibility structure, whereby significant others enable people to adopt and maintain particular understandings and priorities. The argument offers a way of envisaging the complementarity of Bible and church that has potential to overcome certain historic post-Reformation tendencies to polarize them and their respective authority.

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