24 Feb 2007
Text & Context 1: Thoughts on Exegesis & Interpretation
Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Exegesis, Hermeneutics, Preaching
The off and on series titled “Text & Context” will be focusing on one kind of biblical study. This is not the only kind a disciple will engage in but it is critical. In my book coauthored with John Mark Hicks, Kingdom Come, other approaches are also explored.
I recently read the following comment or question: “Why are they so eager to leave the Bible?” The question was written by a person of sincerity and integrity I would imagine. It was directed toward a group of folks who have come to a different understanding of a controversial subject than themselves. My own question is: Why must I assume that he or she or they are “leaving the Bible” when he/she/they disagree with me? What if he/she/they take the Bible with incredible seriousness. What if they really do care what the Bible says? What if they care just as much as I care … and I know that I care what the Bible says.
The following series seeks to posit a few answers to my own questions. I have come to a radical conclusion for a person within the Stone-Campbell Movement. I have come to the conclusion that the Bible can be a difficult book to read and it can be a difficult book to interpret. I have come also to the conclusion that it often borders on dishonesty to say that it is not. The paragraphs below are an introduction to this idea.
While gazing at the wall I conceived of a new tact I want to take: I have decided to do a series of posts that address the issues of exegesis and hermeneutics of the biblical text. Thus I will be doing a series of posts (of varying length) that cover topics such as the principles of word studies (including the use and abuse of such); historical and cultural backgrounds; linguistic and translation issues; sociological issues regarding interpretation and from time to time I will focus these interpretive guns on specific texts to illustrate the value of exegesis. It is my hope that these mini-“essays” will be of help to all who read the Bible . . . but especially to those who teach and preach it.
As a beginning teaser, and to demonstrate that we often need to be discriminating readers of the text paying careful attention to the contexts of the words inspired by the Spirit, I offer the various shades of meaning of the word “means:
1. “You never say what you mean.”
2. “I did not mean to insult you.”
3. “What do you mean by ‘rationalization?”
6. “The root meaning of ‘holy’ is ‘separate.'”
Here we have a word (“mean”) that is used in six different senses, all of which are legitimate. This little exercise also quickly points to the fallacy that is so easily engaged in in word studies of declaring there is a “core” meaning to a word. Rather this exercise has easily shown that it is context that determines meaning.
Sentences 3 and 4 both seem to indicate “intention,” that is the intention of whoever produced the sentences. Sentence 5 points to “implication” and not the absurd suggestion that the word “this” literally means “war” (but in communication the meaning would be clearly understood). Sentence 6 involves some sort of clarification. Sentences 1 and 2 suggest that two people are aware of an intention to communicate for some reason it is not satisfactorily realized.
More to come . . .
Ut omnes unum sint (John 17.21, Vulgate)