(1) The literal sense of the biblical texts comprises (i) verbal meaning, (ii) illocutionary and perlocutionary force, and (iii) the relation to the centre. As communicative actions, the texts seek to convey a meaning in order to evoke a particular response. To concern oneself with the literal sense is therefore to reflect on ‘application’ as well as verbal meaning, for without this dimension the texts are no longer understood as communicative actions. The criteria by which scriptural communicative actions are assessed derive from God’s definitive communicative action in the incarnation of the Word.
(2) To grasp the verbal meaning and the illocutionary and perlocutionary force of a text is to understand the authorial intention embodied in it. Authorial intention is the principle of a text’s intelligibility, and cannot be detached from the text itself. The capacity of writing to extend the scope of a speech-act in space and time precludes an understanding of authorial intention purely in terms of the author’s immediate historical context.
(3) A text’s verbal meaning, illocutionary and perlocutionary force, and relation to the centre precede and transcend the additional meanings or significances it may acquire as it is read in different communal contexts. Objective interpretation concerns itself with the primary and determinate aspects of a text’s existence. While local, contextual concerns will often and rightly leave their mark on interpretive practice, they should not deprive the text of its proper vocation, which is to represent, in frail human language, a divine communicative action which does not arise from among ourselves but addresses us from without.