Friday, October 21, 2005

Father Time vs. Our Father in Heaven (part 4)

Many of us have heard that the goal of biblical interpretation is precision, that is, to determine the original meaning of the text. What an impossible task! I remember the first time I taught the scriptures after taking an hermeneutics class...I was terrified. Not the kind of terrified that comes with the realization that one is handling THE WORD OF GOD, but the kind of pressure that comes with facing an impossible task that one can not, nor even has the remote ability to complete. Who could ever really think that they could truly find the original meaning of the text? How can one's brain in the 21st century know what was truly in the author's brain in the first century? The pressure of precision, the oppression of precision. I'm all for good Bible study skills, a healthy understanding of the original languages and a desire to do justice to the text. What I am against is the oppression of precision. Brad Braxton says, "A liberating African-American hermeneutic should not covet the oppressive title of 'the proper interpretation of the text...'" I think this goal is not just the goal of African-Americans, but of all who are weary and burdened by an approach to interpretation that confines the word instead of setting it free. Have you ever felt the oppressive nature of "the proper interpretation of the text?" If you are teaching, it can steal your joy. Especially when you know that the Lord has given you a word that is Biblical, but can you say with absolute certainty that it is the original author's intent? If you are being taught by someone who thinks that they have "the proper interpretation of the text," it can be oppressive as well. How do we honor God's word, mine it for it's truth and not oppress or be oppressed by the pursuit of precision? There must be a hermeneutic that seeks truth and freedom...there must be a jazz approach to precision...


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