Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

The Descent and Disciplining of the Canons: The Philological Turn in the Classical and Biblical Studies in 18th Century

Author: GUO Xi'an, Associate Professor, School of Humanities, Shanghai Normal University



Centered on F. A. Wolf’s Prolegomena ad Homerum and J. G. Eichhorn’s Einleitung in das Alte Testament, this article analyzes the discourse revolution caused by their philological turn in the 18th century. Through the discursive mechanism of philology, the focus of Wolf and Eichhorn’s work shifted from the author problem to the text problem, thus the authoritative canons were by much reduced to ordinary historical documents, and the belief-based interpretative mode in pursuit of “original meaning” within the texts also shifted toward academic inquiry concerning the historical accumulation and cultural context of the texts. As such, the self-contained authoritative codes were transformed into objects which can be disassembled, understood, criticized, and developed for (and by) academic discourse. Both Homer and the Bible stepped out of traditional dogma, and were assimilated by a rational academic discursive system centered on textual criticism and cultural interpretation. This discursive system assumes, moreover, a latent comparative framework, within which both “heresy” and “alien” are getting licensed in advance, thus Ancients and Moderns, West and East, Holy and Secular are not only comparable synchronically, but convertible across dimensions. By inventing Antiquity and the East as the “Other”, the modern knowledge institution intellectually re-occupied “tradition,” and began the voyage to discipline the “Orient” through discourse.



Prolegomena ad Homerum, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, philology, discourse, discipline, modern knowledge institution


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