Biblical Hermeneutics - Lesson 9

Vocabulary for Interpretation (Part 2)

It's important to define your terms when you are determining the interpretation and application of Biblical passages. Your goal is to begin by hearing the message of a passage as the author intended it and the first readers would have understood it. 

Robert Stein
Biblical Hermeneutics
Lesson 9
Watching Now
Vocabulary for Interpretation (Part 2)

NT510 Biblical Hermeneutics - Vocabulary for Interpretation Part 2 - Class Transcript

I. Introduction

A. Importance of vocabulary for interpretation

II. Types of Vocabulary

A. Historical-Cultural Vocabulary

B. Literary Vocabulary

C. Theological Vocabulary

III. Historical-Cultural Vocabulary

A. Importance for interpreting the text in its cultural context

B. Examples of historical-cultural vocabulary in the Bible

IV. Literary Vocabulary

A. Understanding of literary terms used in the Bible

B. Examples of literary vocabulary in the Bible

V. Theological Vocabulary

A. Importance of theological vocabulary in understanding the Bible

B. Examples of theological vocabulary in the Bible

VI. Conclusion

A. Summary of key points

B. Importance of studying vocabulary for interpretation

Discussion of Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard on Meaning

A. Our goal remains to hear the message of the Bible as the original audiences would [should] have heard it or as the first readers would [should] have understood it.

B. We are convinced that the goal of hermeneutics is to enable interpreters to arrive at the meaning of the text that the biblical writers or editors intended their reader to understand. (pg. 97)

C. We presuppose the goal of hermeneutics to be the meaning the biblical writers ‘meant’ to communicate at the time of the communication, at least to the extent that those intentions are recoverable in the texts they produced. (pg. 98)

D. Though a given passage may be capable of being understood in several ways, our goal is to determine what (of those various possible meanings) the text most likely would have meant to its original readers because that is why people communicate: they intend for what they communicate to be understood as they communicated it. (pg. 133)

E. The meaning of a text is: that which the words and grammatical structures of that text disclose about the probable intention of its author/editor and the probable understanding of that text by its intended readers. (pg. 133)

  • Understanding the roots of the English language and knowing the history of the English translations of the Bible gives you a context that can help you understand the meaning of the passage you are reading. 

  • After William Tyndale published the first Bible in English in 1539 that was translated from the Hebrew and Greek texts, King James of England assembled a team of top scholars to create an English translation that was published in 1611. More recent translations are still being made to reflect new manuscript discoveries and changes in the English language. 

  • There is no such thing as an exact word equivalent when going from one language to another. Different languages as well as different cultures pose a challenge for translators. It's important to use the best manuscripts for your translation.

  • A few of the challenges that translators face are for the translation to be accurate but understandable, contemporary but universal, and to avoid a theological bias. Contemporary languages are always changing, and each translator holds theological beliefs based on years of training and experience. 

  • Inerrancy of the Bible is an important foundation for the process of translation. Some translations focus more on "word-for-word" equivalents and some focus more on "thought-for-thought" equivalents. Some translations include footnotes to explain a verse that is ambiguous or controversial. 

  • The three components that determine meaning in written communication are the author, the text and the reader. In determining the meaning of Biblical passages, it's important to know as much as possible about all three components. 

  • The author of a passage made an intentional effort to communicate a message. It is the job of the reader to determine the meaning and implications of the message by studying the text itself, then evaluating the literary form and other contextual factors. 

  • The first step in interpretation is to focus on the pattern of meaning the author consciously willed to convey by the words they used. Then, the implications of the text may also include meanings in the text of which the author was unaware but fall within the author's pattern of meaning.

  • It's important to define your terms when you are determining the interpretation and application of Biblical passages. Your goal is to begin by hearing the message of a passage as the author intended it and the first readers would have understood it. 

  • The written word correctly interpreted is the objective basis of authority. The inward illuminating and persuading work of the Holy Spirit is the subjective dimension. When 1 Cor. 2:14 says that an unspiritual man cannot understand Scritpure, it is referring to his lack of acceptance rather than his mental grasp of the words. 

  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in relation to believers, the church, and the world. The lesson covers the Holy Spirit's work in the regeneration and sanctification of believers, empowering and guiding them, unifying the church, bestowing spiritual gifts, the conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and drawing people to God. The conclusion summarizes the Holy Spirit's impact on all aspects of life.

  • Your presuppositions about whether or not the miracles in the Bible took place as they are recorded will affect the way you look at the Bible and at specific events. Three approaches to this question are the supernatural approach, rationalist approach and the mythical approach. 

  • Kinds of meaning and types of meaning are two of the main ideas in the book, "The Language and Imagery of the Bible," by G. B. Caird. Proverbs are short, pithy sayings that express a general truth. Exceptions are allowed. A good example of an exception to a proverb is the book of Job.

  • Judgment prophecy assumes that, even if not stated, if the people repent, judgment will not come. Prophets also tend to speak in figurative language, using cosmic terminology. 

  • The prophets use figurative and metaphorical language to describe future events and spiritual reality. They also use cosmic language to describe God acting in history. 

  • Dr. Stein discusses the possibility of a sensus plenior in some passages. In Mark 13, Jesus talks about coming events that are also prophesied in the Old Testament. 

  • Judges chapters 4 and 5 describe the same events. Chapter 4 uses prose, chapter 5 uses poetry. The book of Psalms is a collection of songs, prayers and reflections about human emotions, and God, his character and his work in the world. 

  • Jesus uses parallelism in the Gospels to illustrate and emphasize who God is and what the kingdom of God is like. In order to understand an idiom, you first need to identify it as an idiom and then determine what the meaning is in the culture.  

  • Exaggeration is overstatement. Hyperbole is literally impossible. When using exaggeration, both parties must agree that the expression is an exaggeration. Jesus uses exaggeration to emphasize and illustrate important teachings. 

  • Jesus uses exaggeration to make his point clear, especially on matters of morality, but doesn't take the time to discuss possible exceptions. Jesus also uses all-inclusive and universal language, as well as idiomatic language that no longer bears its original meaning. 

  • Some of the early church writers and the reformers interpreted parables, like the parable of the Good Samaritan, as allegories. 

  • Adolf Jülicher taught that parables tend to have one basic point of comparison, and the details are just there to make the story interesting. So you should try to understand what’s the main point of the parable. To begin with, seek to understand the parable as the first century audience would have. Consider what the Gospel writers were trying to teach. Ask how it applies to you in your current situation. 

  • In the parable of the hidden treasure and the parable of the pearl of great price, the message of the value of the kingdom of God is more important than the character of the man. In the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the dishonest manager, it's important to focus on the main point of the parable and not to get distracted by the details. The parable of the lost sheep teaches us to pursue the lost. 

  • When interpreting the parable of the workers, determine the main characters, consider the rule of end stress and pay attention to what gets the most press. 

  • Some parables are best interpreted as an allegory. It's important to ask if Jesus with his audience would have attributed meaning to these details and if the audience of the Gospel writers would have understood the details as being allegorical. 

  • When you are determining how you should apply the parable of the final judgment in Matthew 25: 31-46, who Jesus is referring to when he says, "...just as you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me." In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus makes a point about what causes people to believe in him or to not believe in him. 

  • You read and interpret a passage that is historical narrative differently than a passage that is prophecy, poetry or a parable. Much of the historical information in the Bible is confirmed by archaeological discoveries including literature from other contemporary cultures. In the 1700's there was a group of scholars that began questioning whether the miraculous events in the Bible were supernatural. They tried to find meaning in the stories without saying that a miracle happened assumed that the real meaning is not the same as the author's literal intention. They did this by finding the meaning of the words, then conducting a historical assessment of what really happened. 

  • Supernaturalists believe that the miracles the Gospel writers recorded were supernatural events. The rationalists believe that either the Gospel writers knew that miracles did not take place, but they were accommodating their readers who did believe in miracles, or that they really believed them but they were just myths. This would require the Gospel writers to be liars or not very smart, neither of which seem consistent with the care and precision with which the Gospels were written. When you are preaching a narrative passage, it's important to include the whole context when you are interpreting the meaning of the events.

  • When interpreting the epistles, it's important to identify which words are used frequently, what the meaning of the words are and how the author uses them. It can be helpful to study the etymology of words and the meaning of words in their historical context. The process of moving from norms of language to norms of utterance is important. 

  • We can get information about the meaning of words from studying ancient Greek literature, the writings of early church fathers and the translators of the Hebrew Old Testament. We can also compare letters written by the same author, and also how the word is used within the same letter or passage. It can be helpful to look at the way different authors use the same word. 

  • Once you determine the meaning of the words, it's important to recognize how they are used in the sentence and how the clauses in the sentence are related. Understanding the different ways clauses can be used will help you determine the meaning of each sentence. The distinction between "means" and "cause" is significant. 

  • Romans 13:1-7 is a good example of the development of a logical argument. Most of the epistles follow the form of an ancient letter, which is greeting or salutation, thanksgiving or prayer, body of the letter and conclusion. 

  • Two types of covenants are the parity covenant and suzerain covenant. Covenant language is used in both the Old Testament and New Testament. The parts of a covenant, illustrated in the Mosaic covenant in Exodus 20, are the preamble, prologue, stipulations, provision for continual reading and witnesses.

  • God renews his covenant with Israel in Joshua 24. The three types of laws in the Old Testament are civil laws, cultic laws and moral laws. 

  • The book of Psalms is divided into five sections. The Psalms were written by different people at different times for different purposes. Some were for public worship and some were the result of personal reflection in times of joy, distress or repentance. 

  • In Jesus's day, the Scripture was the books of the Old Testament. Many of the books of the New Testament were written before 70 a.d. The Gospel writers produced a written record of the life of Jesus. Paul and other apostles wrote to churches to encourage and teach them. Eusebius, a church historian in 325a.d., recorded a list of the books that are currently in the New Testament.

  • Factors in recognizing the books that make up the New Testament were apostolic authorship, use in the church over time, unity and agreement and the superintendence of the Holy Spirit. The writing of the books of the Bible was inspired by God and it is inerrant. 

Dr. Robert Stein covers the history of the English Bible and then moves into the rules for interpreting the biblical text, including the role of the Holy Spirit in the hermeneutical process. He then spends considerable time moving through the different genres of literature (e.g., proverbs, poetry, parables, narrative). Dr. Stein did not provide us the notes he refers to in the class, but we did place links for the books he used as a basis for the class on the class page under the Recommended Reading heading.

Recommended Books

Biblical Hermeneutics - Student Guide

Biblical Hermeneutics - Student Guide

How do you even start to study your Bible? What are the guiding principles? Are the rules for interpreting narrative any different from parables and apocalyptic literature?...

Biblical Hermeneutics - Student Guide

Significance refers to how a reader responds to the meaning of a text. Ok. Now, implications are determined by the author. We discover them and it is a mental kind of discovery. Significance is something we are masters of.  We are masters here.

Meaning and Implications, the author is master. The reader here is the master of significance. And this involves not so much the mental, but the volitional. Not the mind, but the heart. It is our decision as to what to do with the meaning and its implications. It involves yes or no. I will or I won’t. 

Sometimes people use the term, meaningfulness, but I won’t use that for significance, because we are using meaning here again in a different way but the meaningfulness of something, sometimes people refer to that and we would use the word significance because it is a different root altogether. How you and I respond to a meaning of a text. The volitional aspect, the decision of what we need to do. The decision as to what we will do.

You hear a Gospel message, talk about the need of repentance, the specific meaning of repentance for you and what that entails may be different than someone else but the significance is yes or no. Will you or won’t you?  Obedience or disobedience?  Significance, we are the masters of significance.

Subject matter – this refers to the "stuff" talked about in the text. The stuff talked about … and there’s lots of stuff in the text.  The Bible is just a vast world of subject matter.  If you study the Bible for anything but meaning, you are dealing with the subject matter.  You want to study the Bible and learn about marriage in Biblical times the Pharisees, Genesis 1 to 3, Hebrew poetry, the history of the life of Jesus, Paul’s conversion,  the history of Judah in the 6th century, military tactics of war in Joshua, Judges, I mean you can do any of this material. 

That’s subject matter. You are not interested so much in the meaning of the subject matter, but the subject matter itself.  And you can learn about all sorts of things in the Bible that way. And by the way, a lot of people study the Bible for its subject matter. When you want the meaning, all you have to do is put this in front: “I have told you this…” about marriage, about Jesus, etc. because and now you are dealing with the meaning of that subject matter. I, the Biblical author have told you this information because…

You have a paper like that in which you are going to deal with the meaning of an account. Not the information about it, not what happened. You want to learn about the life of Jesus, ok. Its fine.  But if you want to know the meaning you say “Why does the Biblical writer tell me this about Jesus?”  I have told you this because … and then you are dealing with meaning. Lots of subject matter being discussed. And the temptation many times is to study the Bible for its subject matter, especially when we are dealing with historical passages of Scripture.

One of the things you have to remember is, there is a difference between a description and prescription. You may read things in the Bible that describe, but do not prescribe. In other words, you may read about marriage customs - about marriage in the Bible, in the form of marriage. That is descriptive. It doesn’t mean that the Biblical writer is prescribing this kind of a custom.  So we have to be careful between what is the Bible prescribing and teaching us to do and what it is simply describing in some way.

You can read parts of the book, the Old Testament, you can read about Samson. A lot of that is descriptive stuff. It is not prescribing these for us in some ways. So subject matter alright, now understanding. Understanding refers to the correct mental grasp of something. Correct mental grasp of what the author meant. It is mental. The minute it leaves the mind it becomes something else. But a correct mental grasp and next week we are going to talk about whether an unbeliever can have grasp of the author’s meaning or must one have the Spirit to do so.

But understanding as we are defining it is a correct mental grasp. If you and I have a correct understanding of a Biblical text, they are identical. Our understandings. Yours may be more complete than mine. Mine may even be more fragmentary. But they are the same.

A correct mental grasp means you understand what the author intends and if you understand that correctly and I understand it correctly, we have the same understanding. Let me go to the next definition because here is where things change.  

Interpretation is the verbal or written expression of our understanding of the author's meaning. At this point it is most likely that our interpretations will be different.  Our understandings may be correct, but our interpretations can be very different. Listen carefully.

Let me say that in another way.  Alright, now. Is what I am saying now the second time – the interpretation is different – but is it describing the same thing? Sure. Let me give you another example. I am trying to express my understanding, but I am using different examples. But the understanding being explained in both examples are the same. Translations, an author may be working for a thought for thought translation team. He may also be working for a word for word translation team. 

He comes to the same text, he has the same understanding.  But he words the one differently than he does the other. The understanding is the same – the understanding of the author, assuming it is correct.  The wording, the verbalization may be different.  So understanding will be mental and it is – if it is correct – the same.

Interpretation is verbal and will tend to vary and be different among different people. Jesus said, the Kingdom of God is like … Does He have another parable that begins that way? Well it’s the same Kingdom. Did He somehow change His understanding of it?  No, I think he had the same understanding but the interpretation is different so that an interpretation may vary. Different interpretations – they don’t have to be identical can convey the same meaning or understanding. Meaning – the understanding [Hard to Hear] meaning. The understanding in the mind – not verbalized yet. Interpretation, the verbalization of that.

And one of the things that of course interesting is that the minute you express your understanding, it is no longer your understanding. It is your interpretation. The minute it leaves your mind and it forms words or vocal sounds and explanation, it is now an interpretation. But they can vary. So you can interpret a Biblical text and you can interpret the exact ways as someone else – very unlikely.  You could have the same exact understanding, quite possible, but your interpretations tend to be different. Tend to express it differently.

Mental acts - the experiences that a writer goes through, when writing. The mental acts are those experiences that a person has that they are going through when they write. You know it is at this point that I would like us to turn attention to the C.S. Lewis article, “Fernseed and Elephants".

I had you read this because of its relevance to mental acts. He has a lot of great things to say. He writes so well. I think it is kind of fun to read somebody that is enjoyable. He has a number of things to say to a critics, when people for instance talk about the Bible being full of myths, he said, “I spent all my life as a professor at Oxford, teaching studying myths, how many have you read?” because the Gospels are not like this.

And we will later on talk about the difference of the word myth being understood as a genre and the Gospels and the Bible are not myths.  It’s a genre. I mean where do you come across in Jesus’ life, a one eyed monster, a unicorn or something like that. You don’t. Myths are like that. Some people mean by myths, not historically true. But that’s no longer a genre, that’s a historical judgment. 

And you have perfectly the right to say that “the Gospels are not historically true”. I think you are totally wrong in this, but you might say that. But you can’t say they are myths, because now you are using a term of genre – a literary form – and they don’t have that literary form. A good distinction here, [Hard to Hear] later goes on and talks about to the sheep of which he is – the shepherds rather of which he is one of the sheep and he ends the book in a very humble way.

Such are the reactions of one believing laymen to modern theology. It is right you should hear them. You will not perhaps hear them very often again. Your parishioners will not often speak to you quite frankly.  Once the layman was anxious to hide the fact that he believed so much less than the vicar. He now tends to hide the fact that he believes so much more. Missionary to the priest of one’s own church is an embarrassing role though I have a hard feeling that if such mission work is not soon undertaken, the future history of the church of England is likely to be short.

And if you see what’s happening to the Church of England especially in the English speaking world of America, Canada, Australia, England, he is quite right. If there is any hope it comes from the Anglican Church in Africa which is still very – for the most part faithful to the Word of God and coming back to “you taught us the Bible, let us tell you what you have been teaching us,” and see what happens.

And what’s really important as far as I am concerned is on page 114 and 15. This changed my life. When I read this, I put this book down and I said, “Well. That simply means that 75% of all doctoral dissertations are rubbish.” It was kind of scary. But I think he is right. Listen to him. The 2nd full paragraph,

“Until you come to be reviewed yourself you would never believe how little of an ordinary review is taken up by criticism in the strict sense; by evaluation, praise, or censure, of the book actually written. Most of it is taken up with imaginary histories of the process by which you wrote it. The very terms which the reviewers use in praising or dispraising often imply such a history. They praise a passage as 'spontaneous' and censure another as 'labored'; …

What the value of such reconstructions is I learned very early in my career. I had published a book of essays; and in the one into which I had put most of my heart, the one I really cared about and in which I discharged a keen enthusiasm, was on William Morris. And in almost the first review I was told that this was obviously the only one in the book in which I had felt no interest. Now don't mistake. The critic was, I now believe, quite right in thinking it the worst essay in the book; at least everyone agreed with him. Where he was totally wrong was in his imaginary history of the causes which produces its dullness.

Well, this made me prick up my ears. Since then I have watched with some care similar imaginary histories both of my own books and of books by friends whose real history I knew. Reviewers, both friendly and hostile, will dash you off such histories with great confidence; will tell you what public events had directed the author's mind to this or that, what other authors had influenced him, what his overall intention was, what sort of audience he principally addressed, why - and when - he did everything.

Now I must record my impression; then distinct from it, what I can say with certainty. My impression is that in the whole of my experience not one of these guesses has on any one point been right; that the method shows a record of 100 per cent failure. You would expect that by mere chance they would hit as often as the miss. But it is my impression that they do no such thing. I can't remember a single hit. But as I have not kept a careful record my mere impression may be mistaken. What I think I can say with certainty is that they are usually wrong. “

Now think if trying to reconstruct what was going through an author’s mind – the mental acts of an author – if you are a contemporary of the author, raised in the same culture, had the same language, the same education, maybe even know the author and when you try to reconstruct the mental experiences of that author, you are almost always wrong.

What is the likelihood that you will be able to reconstruct the mind of the Biblical author, 2,000 years ago whose language was very different, Greek, whose culture was different, whose way of thinking was different and say you can reconstruct what was going through their minds. Or going back 3,000 years to a culture which was a different language, Hebrew and perhaps even more distinct differences from ours.  What is the likelihood that you can reconstruct what was going through Isaiah’s mind or Matthew’s mind when they wrote?

Let it sink in. Remember he is dealing with contemporaries who knew him and his friends and tried to reconstruct what was going through their minds and what led them to write these things. You find people today writing about what was going through the Biblical author’s mind and what the struggles, the community was going through.

Now sometimes, a biblical text will tell you, I am writing this because or he says what is happening in the church community.  He doesn’t mean that.  That’s no longer a mental act. That’s part of understanding the text itself. But when the text is silent about these things and trying to reconstruct what was going on, if C.S. Lewis is right, there is no way. There is no way. Do you know what was going through my mind when I wrote, A Basic Guide To Interpreting The Bible?

Who cares? Alright. Leave that aside right? You say well, how would I know? Ok. How would you know that? We can understand what the Biblical author is trying to convey because we have his text. Can we know their experiences? Not unless they tell it and then it is part of the text itself.  Much of the Biblical interpretation involves, trying to reconstruct what was going through the author’s mind. I had come to the place where I had simply said, it is not possible.

I don’t know how to shake what C.S. Lewis [Hard to Hear] in that article. When I put that down I began to think and it sank in. I realize that the job we have as interpreter are not trying to reconstruct what was going through Paul’s mind when he wrote, but we are to try to understand what Paul meant by the words that he gave to us. And so I simply think [Hard to Hear] mental axe, yeah wonderful to know what was going Paul’s mind when he wrote. But we don’t have any access to it.

The C.S. Lewis article bears re-reading and I think any student who goes into doctoral work in Biblical study needs to take very seriously that article. It’s a very popular article, but we should not let its popularity - the level of its popularity – and also the simplicity of what he is saying pass us by without seriously absorbing what he is says here. It has great great implications in that regard.

Alright couple more, norms of language. The norms of language are the range of meanings allowed by the words or the verbal symbols of a text. The best tools for the norms of language would be a dictionary that helps us understand the meanings of words and the like and try to understand.

But there are a lot of expressions even that - can mean several things.  The love of my wife. Is that my love for Joan or Joan’s love for me? The love of my wife. The norms of language permit either. “The love of Christ controls me” (2 Cor. 5:14).  Paul’s love for Christ or Christ’s love for Paul? I think here he means Christ’s love for him. 

Now there is a great debate in Biblical studies when it talks about the faith of Christ. Is it Christ’s personal faith or the faith of which Christ is the object?

My wife and I, we were driving one rainy night on a road that we had never been on before and we came to a sign that warned us that all vehicles over 12 feet must leave at the next exit.  I said “Oh. Nuts. Joan we have to get off at the next exit.” She said why? I said “All cars over 12 feet have to get off.” And she said, “Every car is over 12 feet.”

I thought, yeah, that’s right. So if I’d have realized that it didn’t mean that our car, because it was over 12 feet had to get off, but if we had a car that was 12 feet high, we would have to get off because there is probably a bridge coming. You see the norms of language permit either. And as we drove the road got narrow and narrower. And they didn’t meet higher, they meant wide.

The norms of language permitted either. Unfortunately if you were a 12 foot or more wide truck, it was kind of late to learn it when that road got narrow because there was no way of getting out. All they had to put was 12 feet wide, but they didn’t. The norms of language though [Hard to Hear] 12 feet wide, high are wrong. The norms of language [Hard to Hear]

The context, “narrowing of the road” made it very clear later on what the sign intended, so the norms of language, the possibilities. Words have all sorts of possible meanings. And here is where a dictionary is helpful. If you want to know the possibilities in language, the word has to fit. One of those that’s found in the dictionary. If you want to use a word in a way that has never been used before that’s not a dictionary definition. If you want to be understood then you have to have an explanation and the Bible does that at times. 

When it refers to Jesus saying, “destroy this temple in three days, and I will raise it up.” John says to his readers because the word temple is being used very unusually here, “This he spoke about His body.” So … He is talking about His body as a temple. But that’s not within the norms of language.  So John explains that to the readers so they will be able to understand that. The possibilities.

And here as I say a dictionary is be very very helpful.  Now, the norms of utterance becomes the specific meaning that the author meant. What does he mean? Does he mean Christ’s love for us or our love for Christ? Now how do authors help us to go from the norms of language to the norms of an utterance? What do they provide?

A context. Sure. So the language allows us to narrow it down. If you want to look at the word love, and somebody uses the word love in a statement, you know that can’t mean hamburgers unless they define it, because that’s not one of the possible meanings of love.  The only possibilities of love would be … the 12, 14, I don’t know how mnay –would be listed in a dictionary.  Those are the possibilities. It has to be one of those, because people using the word love want to be understood.

And if they want to be understood it has to fit the norms of language. Always know that. But if there are 12 or 14 possible meanings, how do you get from the 12, 14 to the one? Well, now you have a context in which is provided - the rest of the sentence is the most helpful. Then the paragraph in which that sentence is found and the chapter and so forth and so on. So we have here then the norms of language, the possibilities. Here is where have a dictionary most helpful to the norms of utterance.

When I try to find out the specific meaning of a word, I start with the norms of language, I look up a dictionary or the lexicon if we want. Then if I want to go to the norms of utterance, the most useful tool for me here is a concordance.  Where I can find where that same author uses that word elsewhere. Because most probably, the way he uses the word elsewhere will help me understand the word here, especially if it is used in the next sentence or the previous sentence or something like that. So a concordance is very helpful for the norms of an utterance.

Alright our last two definitions.

Literary genre - The literary form used by the author and the rules that govern that form. Literary genre – okay. The various rules governing that genre. Very important. We will look at that not so much next week. We will allude to it next week, but the following week after next, we will start dealing with various genres and we will be spending a lot of time on different literary genres. How to approach and understand these genres, the rules governing that.

Then finally the context. Now the context is defined here differently that most of us think of a context. Usually we would say the context of the words preceding and following the text. But wait a minute, words in a text have no meaning. Authors have meaning. So the context is defined here as the willed meaning an author gives to the literary material surrounding the text.

Because [Hard to Hear] the context is the willed context of the author and the meaning that the author gives and attributes to that context. Now here is the totality of a hermeneutical vocabulary. You need to know these meanings and in the long run the most valuable part of the course will be a mastery of this vocabulary and you are having a conceptual basis of that when you talk about hermeneutics, you can refer to what people are saying in this vocabulary.

Now one thing to be careful about – the world has not yet accepted our vocabulary definitions. They are back-wood illiterate people. The whole world. {laughter} We are the elite. We only have this definition right? So if somebody says understanding, they may be referring to an interpretation or meaning or something.

What you have to do is to say now I know they are using this word, but what they are really referring to – and then put it in your conceptual framework so that you can understand what they are talking about. Please remember, our definitions are precise. Others have different kinds of definitions. That’s fine, but what we have to do now is to use our understandings so that we can translate what they are saying into our vocabulary.

I have some material from Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard. Some statements that help us to discuss what is meant by meaning here. “Our goal remains to hear the message of the Bible as the original audiences would have heard it or as the first readers would have understood it.”

"Our goal remains to hear the message of the Bible as the original audiences would have heard it or as the first readers would have understood it."

Now that is very different than the way we define meaning. Our definition and this definition are in conflict with one another. Our definition is what the author consciously willed by the verbal shareable symbols that he uses. The pattern of meaning the author consciously willed by the shareable symbols that he uses. Here they have “Our goal is to hear the message of the Bible as the original audiences would have heard it or as the first readers would have understood it."

Is this – Isn’t this radically different? Ok. Now why do people often define the meaning of a text as something like what the original audiences would have understood by these words? Alright now why would they have understood it? Alright now what word in our definition of meaning brings in the audience? Shareable – right?

And when we talk this way, we generally mean this. Since the author would have used shareable symbols intending for the readers to understand it, it is worded for this audience more than any other audience to understand. So what they would have understood is more likely to have been the correct understanding than anyone else. Unless you simply say that the New Testament writers were just terrible communicators.

I think you generally say, he consciously wrote for this audience” and since we know how this audience would have understood these Greek terms in this context and grammar – if we understand how they would have understood it, then we understand the author’s meaning, because he wrote particularly for them and used shareable symbols that were clearly understood by them.

So this is one way that authors define simply define meaning but do you see any problem with this? I want to change this “would” to “should”. You see sometimes Paul’s audience misunderstood him.

Thus 1st Thessalonians requires 2nd Thessalonians. So hypothetically yes, but practically I want to say, how the author intended these - his audience to understand this but I can see what he is getting at and it is helpful since we can understand how they would have thought and read. Now in 97, 2/10ths of the way down, he writes

"We are convinced that the goal of hermeneutics is to enable interpreters to arrive at the meaning of the text that the biblical writers or editors intended their reader to understand."

A little more close to what our definition is in our wording, but I think we can accept that.  I think that is very close. We talk about shareable symbols. We add that in there. It is not there, but their definition of meaning and goal of understanding is very very close to how we would want to go. Next page,

"We presuppose the goal of hermeneutics to be the meaning the biblical writers 'meant' to communicate at the time of the communication, at least to the extent that those intentions are recoverable in the texts they produced."

Ok. Fairly similar again to our definitions here.

"Though a given passage may be capable of being understood in several ways, our goal is to determine what (of those various possible meanings) …”

Dr. Stein: - various possible meanings – terminology we use, norms of language, the possible meanings that this language here permits.

“… the text most likely would have meant to its original readers because that is why people communicate: they intend for what they communicate to be understood as they communicated it.”

Now here he comes and explains the previous statement about trying to understand what the original authors would have understood the text. Because they are the ones most likely to have understood it. The biblical writers intended to communicate to them. To be understandable they used shareable symbols and more often than not they understood it correctly.

There were exceptions to this which means that we can’t simply say the goal of interpretation is to understand how the early – the original audience understood the text. If you say should have understood the text, yeah but not how they understood the text is not specific enough. And then one more.

"The meaning of a text is: that which the words and grammatical structures of that text disclose about the probable intention of its author/editor and the probable understanding of that text by its intended readers."

Now they bring it both together. We will stick with just our one defined definition and we will use that consistently throughout the semester. Leave it at that instead of using several.