As an interpretive strategy, ‘mirror reading’ is controversial but hugely significant.
In a nutshell mirror reading is about reasoning from solution to plight. If I tell you I’m taking cold and flu tablets, then it’s not usually too much of a leap for you to reason that I have a cold (or the flu).
Of course, like all tools it must be handled carefully. The all too common failure to show discernment in applying mirror reading goes a long way towards explaining the flak it tends to cop. There’s always a danger of reading too much in: e.g., because I’m talking cold and flu tablets it doesn’t mean I have a cold and the flu.
And you’d want to test your (hypothetical) reconstruction by looking for confirming or falsifying evidence in the present, or turning to your sense of my character built up from past experience, etc. I could be taking cold and flu tablets because I like the buzz or because I have a headache and have run out of regular painkillers.
This is particularly important when it comes to the Bible. On the one hand, when we start asking why Paul places so much emphasis on unity in 1 Corinthians, for example, we might be able to imaginatively reconstruct all sorts of ‘plights’ that help explain it. But we need to exercise cautioun and hold our conclusions with a degree of strength (or tentativeness) reflecting the weight of available evidence.
What we see in our mirror reading, we often see dimly.
On the other hand, we can’t dispense with it — especially when we’re dealing with the concrete historical situation into which the book or letter we’re reading speaks. As far as I can see, the only alternative is a functional docetism in which we try (vainly) to strip back the time-bound historical aspects of the text to expose the ‘timeless truth’ we imagine lies behind it.
What’s the attempt to reconstruct authorial intentions other than a sometimes disguised exercise in mirror reading?