The fetishism of the document: the historian believes that the document speaks, speaks for itself. It is Luther’s principle of scriptura sui ipsius interpres; the integrity of scripture, or the historical document, or the literary text; “in eine Urkunde nicht fremde Begriffe hereintragen.” The principle that every document must be interpreted in its own terms was necessarily first established in the case of sacred scripture.

But documents do not speak for themselves. And so there is an inner contradiction: The same man who says scripture is its own interpreter says also that we press Christ against scripture; Christum urgemus contra scripturam. By Christ he means his personal conviction, his private inner light, his inner certainty or intuition. There is in both Protestant religion and modern scholarship a double standard (not the same thing as a twofold vision): they combine self-effacing objectivity with self-asserting subjectivity, a principle of subjective intuition (Dilthey’s verstehen).

Norman O. Brown, Love’s Body