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Challenges to Faithfully Interpreting a Text

Wayne McDill in his book, “12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching” discusses three challenges to faithfully interpreting a biblical text.
1. The nature of the Bible itself (“it is a divine-human book, written by men but containing the very word of God.”
2. The difference between the Bible world and our own.
But I found the third reason helpful to consider:
3. The nature of the modern believer. Here is what he says:
The problem lies in our subjectivity. This means we naturally interpret everything, including the Bible, in terms of our own personal views and interests. Realize it or not, we bring all that we are to our interpretation. In one sense our minds are already made up. We already have opinions and ideas on most issues. But the meaning we seek in a passage is not the meaning we give to it out of our own thinking. It is the objective meaning to be found in the words of the original author.
The pressure to find something to preach is always on us as preachers. Our approach to the text is naturally going to reflect our aim, to prepare a sermon. Most of us, then, come to Scripture looking for sermons like children looking for Easter eggs in the grass. They know the brightly colored eggs do not normally belong there. That is irrelevant;. The lawn is merely the place there all the eggs are cleverly hidden. In the same way, the text of Scripture can seem to be merely a place where some really colorful sermons are cleverly hidden. The temptation is to ignore the larger fabric of the text, just snatch up a sermon and keep moving. (p. 66)

I think I agree with 3/4 of this quote. I know that I am guilty of looking at Scripture with “homiletic eyes”–to only look for “what will preach.” And his point is well made. But I DISAGREE with his statement that “the meaning we seek in a passage is not the meaning we give to it out of our own thinking. It is the objective meaning to be found in the words of the original author.” We do need to find that, yes. But the whole nature of preaching is to interact with the text. What meaning do we give to it out of our own thinking? I think it is essential. If there is no personalization of the message, it is dry and the preacher is meaningless…he is just a repeater or rephraser of what is already there in the text. But the faithful preacher brings BOTH what is the message of the original author, but also asks, “What is my impression of this text? How have I seen this lived out? What meaning do I give to this text. It is a combination of objective and subjective truth. What do you think?

Books, Interpretation

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