Here we are with Episode 3 in my series called “The Bible Does NOT Mean That!” The goal is not to tell you definitively what the Bible does or does not say. The goal is to talk about how we can look at the Bible with intentionality and understanding. Since it is God’s revelation to humanity it’s not supposed to be filled with secrets locked away to all but the elite. It’s designed to guide us ALL!
The problem is that many of us are simply never taught how to read it.
So today we’re talking about hermeneutics (her-men-oo-tics): the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation. It can be used with interpreting anything, really, but is often used when we talk about interpreting the Bible.
The other day I published a post about Feminist Theology and how it damages the text of Scripture. While there is a spectrum of thought within Feminist Theology, most of the thinkers within the movement tend to move away from affirming the authority of the Bible.
Long story short, I upset some people who thought I was marginalizing feminists. One went so far as to tell me:
There isn’t a singular interpretation of any religious text. It’s a 2000 year old comic book in my eyes. To say one reading is holy and another reading is “destroying the bible” is the most ridiculous, selfish, onerous thing [you] can say.
But here’s the thing. There is only one meaning to a text. Fee and Stuart say, “The Bible can not mean now what it never meant then.” That means that the author’s original intent is the foundational guideline for understanding any given text.
“What does this mean to me?” is not a valid method of interpreting a text. How I respond as a reader is not as important as what the author was trying to say. The author’s meaning is what we need to be looking for. In that sense, then, there is only one meaning to any text.
There are, however, multiple applications to a text. Era, culture, technology, and other elements all play a role in how a text is applied to our lives today, but the original meaning never changes.
In that regard, theologies that attempt to skew the original meaning of the text, whether they be feminist, liberation, systematic, whatever…all damage the text when they set aside the original intent in order to pursue their own agendas.
So the next time you read the Bible, the first question need to ask is, “What was God trying to say when this was first written?” Only then can you follow it up with, “How can I work to apply this to my life?”Follow @chrislinzey