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The term hermeneutics—the theory or science of interpretation—comes from Hermes, the ancient Greek messenger of the gods. Since the words of the gods were not intelligible to mortals, Hermes had to interpret their meanings and make them accessible to human understanding. The origins of hermeneutics also is associated with Greek poetics and rhetoric. Poetics is the theory of meanings made through words or other symbols, as in the Greek poieo, “to make.” Rhetoric refers to the art of reaching prudent judgments in matters where absolute knowledge is impossible. It is therefore an art of verbal persuasion rather than of cognitive domination through definitive proof. Hermeneutics also has roots in the Hebrew interpretation of the Talmud. These various traditions of interpretive knowledge were fused in the ...

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