I once heard of an attitude to interpreting religious scripture that goes roughly as follows:

The scripture was made such that it will always produce the correct ethics, guidance, and similar when taken as it is in the reader’s context, i.e., their society, technology, and language. With other words: The scripture was made with foresight to adapt to changes in society, technology, and language. For example, if the meaning and societal status of marriage changed over the centuries, and thus some action that was unethical according to the scripture a few centuries ago has become ethically acceptable nowadays, this is completely intentional.

If you so wish, this is The Death of the Author applied to religious scripture.

I am looking for further references on this, but my Internet searches so far yielded nothing. Thus I am asking:

  • Is there any name for this kind of belief?
  • Are there any religious movements that believe in this concept (or something similar)?

1 Answer 1


This falls under the the general field of Hermeneutics.

Hermeneutics is the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially the interpretation of biblical texts, wisdom literature, and philosophical texts.

This can be applied to any text, and even into non-textual forms (visual media, such as movies.)

Essentially, it's the idea that content can have different meanings over time, depending on the reader's frame of reference (context).

It has been proposed that longevity of a text may be a function of the capacity of the text for renewed interpretation, keeping such texts relevant as conditions and understanding of the world change.

Just for Fun: It's worth checking out Jorge Luis Borges' Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. [PDF]

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer, but according to my understanding hermeneutics entails all sorts of interpretation of scripture and is not specific to the belief I am looking for. Neither could I find a specific hermeneutic goes in the general direction.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 10:15
  • @Wrzlprmft I'd say the hermeneutical conception implies that survival of a text, and continued social relevance, is a function of textual reinterpretability.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 22:03

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