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September 8, 2012
The New Hermeneutics of Barack Obama
Barack Obama is a political example of the concept of "language event" as defined by the biblical scholars of the New Hermeneutic School.
The New Hermeneutic is a method of biblical exegesis that gained popularity with biblical scholars in liberal, mainstream, Protestant seminaries in the 1960's-1970.
The New Hermeneutic sought to peel-away those layers of the biblical narrative in the New Testament that are not facts about the historical Jesus of Nazareth. The discounted material includes the myths and legends that evolved within the early Christian community following the death of the historical Jesus.
The peeled-away materials include the miracle stories, the historicity of the Resurrection, the Transfiguration, the Virgin Birth, his post-resurrection appearances, and so on. His early followers either made-up those stories, or adapted them from the popular culture at the time. In any regard, they didn't happen -- so posited the New Hermeneutic scholars.
So what is historically factual in the Gospel narrative, they were asked?
After the layers of the Gospel onion were peeled-away, New Hermeneutic scholars were left holding an assortment of sayings by the historical Jesus and many of his parables -- but not all -- found in the Gospels. There was no compelling reason, in their interpretation, to assume those sayings and parables were anything other than the words of the historical Jesus of Nazareth.
The peeling-away process begged this question: If the resurrection wasn't the catalyst that prompted the early Church to form, what was?
The New Hermeneutic scholars had an answer: The phenomenon of Jesus of Nazareth was a "language event" that was so revolutionary and compelling that, after his death at the hands of the Romans, his loyal followers built a community of believers around his words that, over time, grew to become the Church.
Seminary graduates from many of the liberal (non-fundamentalist) Protestant preacher-schools in the 1960-70's went out to serve congregations where the notions of the New Hermeneutic were, and still are, generally unknown. It would not have been well-received by those in the pews.
So what does this have to do with President Obama, you ask?
Barack Obama is an example of the concept of "language event" applied to a political environment.
Where once many -- enough to vote him into office -- found his speeches inspiring, uplifting, politically revelatory, even messianic to an uber-loyal cadre, that's less true today.
There was a sizzle once, alright. But, in four years, there's been no steak.
Lee Cary, a frequent American Thinker contributor, wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Parables of Jesus at a United Methodist seminary in the late 1970's.
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