A friend of mine and I went to lunch recently and had a long discussion about the state of biblical studies. We are both proponents of historical criticism when it comes to interpreting the Bible. What I mean by that is that both of us understand that meaning is found in the text itself and thus one must understand the historical context into which that text was written in order to properly ascertain said meaning.
We both also admit that our presuppositions and social locations influence how we understand a text and its meaning but neither of us believe that meaning itself is found in the reader of a text. For me, one of the main reasons why I think this way is that if meaning is not found in the text itself then how can we judge a given interpretation? How would it be possible to say that one interpretation is more valid than another if the meaning resided within the reader?
To put this all more plainly: in this day and age of biblical studies in which ideological criticisms (such as feminist, African-American, gay, theological, etc) rule the day, how can one judge any of them? If meaning lies within the reader then isn't each and every reading valid?