SansBlogue  
Saturday, November 14, 2009
  Gerasene biblical interpretation
Photo by FilmNut
I have just been marking the final assignment for our introductory course on Understanding and Interpreting the Bible. We used Duvall and Hays book as the core and basis of the course (bibliographical details below). They picture the process of interpreting the Bible today in terms of four (or five for the Old Testament) simple steps:
  1. The text in their town - what the text meant and/or was intended to mean or do in its ancient context(s). The outcome of this phase should be a short summmary couched in the past tense e.g. Paul exhorted his hearers to..., Jesus challenged the Pharisees... or Luke encouraged Gentile believers...
  2. Measure the width of the river - encourages interpreters to notice and take account of the barriers time and space have erected which interfere with our capacity to read and understand the text. In the course we stressed this, and noticed time and again the tendency, deeply engrained in Evangelical Christians, to seek to apply the Bible without thinking.
  3. Uncover the principle - religious discourses usually are either based on or give expression to theological principles, unlike the message of a passage (which is time-bound and specific) these are timeless and general.
  4. For the OT: consider the passage through the lens of Jesus and the NT. If Christians believe that Jesus fulfills the OT then this step may well qualify their understanding of passages from the Hebrew Bible.
  5. Apply the passage. Unlike the principle, but mirroring the message these will be specific, and they should be multiple. Both the specificity and multiplicity together help people to then generalise the application to their own lives - generalised applications usually leave their consumers merely with vague good or bad feelings but called to no specific actions.
Photo by digitalART2
We had reminded the class of these steps each week, and practised them most weeks. As well as looking in more detail at how to study the expression of the text, its literary and historico-social contexts and how various Gattungen of biblical literature work.

Doing this marking I have been forced to notice that (at least among NZ Evangelicals) the default response to a first reading of a biblical text is to draw a pious vaguye general "application". This process is like applying a bandaid, quick and easy and painful to dislodge. It is also like a band aid, easier when it is thin - verses are easier to "apply" than narratives.

The result is that faced with the wide and deep "river" that separates us from the authors and hearers of the Bible, we instantly run full tilt down the hill and throw ourselves at the river.

Hence my title, because of this Gerasene tendency (Mark 5:13) many Bible interpreters end up face down in deep water!


Duvall, J. Scott, and J Daniel Hays. Grasping God's word : a hands-on approach to reading, interpreting, and applying the Bible. Grand Rapids Mich.: Zondervan, 2001.


Duvall, J. Scott, and J Daniel Hays. Journey into God's word : your guide to understanding and applying the Bible. Grand Rapids Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.

Labels: ,



SEARCH Tim's sites
Posts listed by topic
My academic CV



Write to Tim

archives:
January 2004 / February 2004 / March 2004 / May 2004 / June 2004 / July 2004 / August 2004 / September 2004 / October 2004 / November 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 /

biblical studies blogs:

other theology/church blogs:

x


Powered by Blogger


Technorati Profile

Yellow Pages for Auckland, New Zealand