The truest meaning of a text is found in what the author and hearers would have thought.—The Lost World of Genesis One, page 43
I would say that this sentence is the underlying foundation of exegesis. We are interested in what the text meant, so that we can apply it to today—without distorting what it is saying. Allegorical and analogical interpretations do violence to the text—but now we enter the realm of philosophical presuppositions and metaphysics :)
But, for a different take on this, see Kevin Edgecomb's post:
Firstly, what is the result of finding the primary and only valid meaning of a text in the distant past, through whatever means? Does it not render all other readings “invalid” or “inaccurate”? Does this not also immediately render the text itself dead, and no longer to speak with a living voice to any community? Secondly, doesn’t such an approach itself also come to be deadened by this methodology? Finding no living voice in opposition to its theoretical constructions of meaning, it is unimpeded in its approach to the text, and finds only deadness reflected back upon it, because it will find nothing else. There is no living interaction. The results of the experiment are predetermined by the experiment. In this case, the approach, partaking as it does of a number of presuppositions, is limited in its conclusions.
Hmmm...what do you think? I think we are on the same page, just different emphases; I said the primary meaning, but not only meaning. Kevin emphasizes the ongoing interaction with the text throughout history. But, am I right?