Paul Ricoeur and Joseph Ratzinger both challenge the pretended omnicompetence of the historical critical method in the field of biblical interpretation. Moreover, their respective counterproposals for coordinating historical analysis and hermeneutical synthesis exhibit structural similarities: each draws attention to a twofold "distance" intervening between the text and the "world behind the text," on the one hand, and between the text and the "world before the text," on the other. The two authors, however, are not fully agreed on the nature of this distance. Ricoeur, patterning this distance after the philosophical models of Husserl and Heidegger, tends to push the historical and cognitive dimensions of the biblical to text to the margins. Ratzinger, though appreciative of Ricoeur's work, argues from theological premises in favor of preserving a more robust—though not exclusive—role for both. These nuanced differences eventually terminate in appreciably different descriptions of the well-disposed interpreter, with Ricoeur emphasizing a kind of sympathy-in-distance with the interpretive community and Ratzinger recommending an immediate sympathy with the doctrinal faith of the church. Diverse ecclesiological presuppositions obviously come into play. I favor Ratzinger's approach for its ability to affirm a dynamism and elasticity of biblical meaning without altogether sacrificing the historical and cognitive controls on biblical interpretation.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.