A Study of “Sensus Communis” for Homiletic Persuasion - Dialogue with Giambattista Vico, Stanley Fish, and Sandra M. Schneiders -


Choi, Jin Bong

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This work is for the study of homiletic persuasion in light of Aristotle’s pathos. According to Aristotle’s wisdom, meaning is already in hearers’ world of living. This is what Giambattista Vico and Stanley Fish affirm. Both of the two focus on the communal sense of people as the place from where they find their meaning. It is called “sensus communis” – communal sense or assumption of readers. People read the world surrounding them in light of their own world of meanings. The world of hearers’ consciousness and experience determines the meaning of what they read. The reader reads his or her textual world in sensus communis. And, circularly, sensus communis generates meaning to the reader. Accordingly, persuading the hearers to the life of faith, the preacher needs a humble accommodation of his or her hermeneutic lens to cultural and experiential codes of the hearers. This is what Vico and Fish help the preacher for developing homiletic persuasion. However, Sandra M. Schneiders draws us more critically and theologically. For Schneiders, the communal sense is suspicious as well as beneficial to readers because it is still under status quo. The Christian text and Jesus’ gospel subvert readers’ established assumptions and construct new sensus communis. As a faithful community, the church is born in a particular identity in the biblical world. Sensus communis of the Christian community is distinctively shaped in Jesus’ narrative. The faithful community’s value system is generated from the eschatological vision of God’s reign which is an alternative to the oppressing and violating reality of this world. To which the preacher appeals is sensus Christi as sensus communis of faith. Sensus communis of the faithful community is also circular between the scripture and the church. The church reads the biblical text and her surrounding world in the communal sense; Jesus’ narrative as her text shapes an alternative sense of community for the church. Understanding this, the preacher is invited to read the biblical text metaphorically, not literally because literalistic sense of the biblical text includes oppressing and violating reality in its hierarchical and patriarchal social value. However, the sensus communis that the biblical text builds up allows the preacher to read it metaphorically. More homiletically, such a subverting sensus communis asks the preacher of inductive method as a sermonic possibility. Developing this thesis, this work executes the dialogue between Giambattista Vico, Stanley Fish, and Sandra M. Schneiders.


I. Introduction
 II. Dialogue between Vico, Fish, and Schneiders
  1. Vico’s Reading in Sensus Communis
  2. Fish’s Reading of Text
  3. Schneiders’ Reading of the Christian Text
 III. Applications of Sensus Communis
  1. Building Up the Homiletic Bridge
  2. Homiletic Development
 IV. Conclusion


  • Choi, Jin Bong Professor of Presbyterian College & Theological Seminary


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