One of the most significant books I have ever read is generating the title of this blog. It’s real title is “How to read the bible for all it’s worth”. The authors are Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.
As you read the bible its vital to remember you come to the text with presuppositions and assumptions and worldviews already in tact. Yes, even how you and I read is a matter of a worldview that we either adopt consciously or unconsciously.
This is an exercise we do in Old Testament at Unity Christian School as we leave the introductory material on the background and history of the Old Testament and enter the arena of reading biblical text and making sense of it. I ask this question: Is it every appropriate to say that the text (of scripture being studied) means this or that to me?
In other words, does meaning lie in my perception of what is written or does it lie with the intention of the author and is it my job to uncover that as a reader?
“In the last 40 years, reading and interpreting has been redefined from seeking the intentions of authors through their texts to continually recreating the text through the presuppositions of readers. Since the 1960s the emphasis has shifted to the astonishing assumption that readers not only create the meaning, but also in some sense create the text itself through the contouring of their presuppositions! With this view none of us can really share the same text! The classical view of meaning is that a text is a window into an author’s intentions. By contrast, the postmodern, sense is that a text is a mirror by which readers generate meaning (cited from “Playing with Fire” by Walt Russell). ”
This ends up fostering a self-centered obsession with one’s own thoughts, and that is dangerous when we come to the biblical text.
You may ask, how is this helpful? Well it is thinking, and that is spiritual because God created the mind. So that works. But it is also foundational to us reading and discovering the author’s intention behind the biblical text so that we all are reading and unified on God’s things in God’s way. In other words, this little exercise will help all of us read our bibles better and therefore help us become better students of the Scriptures and more productive members of the church.
I would like for you to read the article I cited above. Here is a link to the entire article. It has examples of uncovering the meaning of a biblical text in context. This is an article that my students read in Apologetics class, so they have already read this.
To be truthful, it is a four part series and at the bottom of each page there is a link to the next article. These articles will make you think and cry. Dr. Russell lost his son as a child and that traumatic event caused him to rethink meaning as he poured over 1 Thessalonians 5 to taste the hope offered in the text. Read and practice what you find.
Copy and paste this link:
Enjoy the challenge and happy bible reading!