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Quote of the Week

It has been awhile since I have posted a quote, but I think this one is noteworthy.  If you have not read Let the Reader Understand by Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton then you are missing out on one of the best books on hermeneutics.  McCartney and Clayton lay down principles that control our reading of the text.

The meaning of any text is based on the way that text functioned in its original linguistic and cultural context.  Since any text is understood according to its human context, the Bible must also be so understood.  Grammatical-historical exegesis is the means to finding this original core meaning.  This task involves the study of verbal elements of the discourse (words and syntax), the necessity of distancing ourselves from the text, the study of textual and sociocultural contexts, and the identification of a text’s genre.  However, grammatical-historical exegesis establishes only the initial base, not the total meaning of a scriptural text, not only because of the historical transcendence of all classic texts, but also and more importantly because history was going somewhere, and Scripture speaks of God’s gradual unfolding of his plan.  The older revelation anticipates and points to the later revelation.  But if we allow the meaning of the text to go beyond what may be established by grammatical-historical exegesis, the question arises as to what controls can be set in place to ensure that a non-grammatical-historical meaning is indeed the divinely intended meaning.  The principles we have noted are:

1. The divinely intended meaning of any text must clearly be organically related to the human author’s meaning.  The human author’s meaning is knowable by reference to his context, and this is our initial access to the larger divine meaning.

2. The divinely intended meaning must be consistent with the total revelation in the Bible.  It is precisely the total revelation in the Bible which enables the expansion from the human author’s starting point. 

3. The divinely intended meaning must in some way or another point to (but not necessarily speak directly about) God’s redemption of his people in Christ; that is, it must find its place in redemptive history, be Christologically focused, and apply to the church.

4. An individual interpreter must always hold his perceptions of the divine meaning tentatively, subject to the Holy Spirit’s directing of the church. (McCartney and Clayton, Let the Reader Understand, 173-174)

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