Vocabulary for Interpretation - Part 1

Course: Biblical Hermeneutics

Lecture: Vocabulary for Interpretation - Part 1


Alright here is a definition of meaning – you are going to have to know this. You are going to have to memorize these definitions. These are all in your text.

Meaning: The meaning of a text is that pattern of meaning the author willed to convey by the words or shareable symbols he/she used.

We are going to make one change here. I would add, the meaning of a text is that pattern of meaning which the author consciously willed to convey by the words or shareable symbols he used.

And later on we are going to talk a little more about the distinction between consciously and unconsciously.  At the present stage just leave consciously - add consciously to that definition. What the author consciously willed to convey.  The pattern of meaning the author consciously willed to convey. Later on we will talk about meanings that some people attribute to the sub-consciousness of the author which the author was totally oblivious off and we want to use conscious to eliminate that possibility.

Again the author, notice wills the meaning. The text is present by the shareable symbols and the reader is present by the shareable nature of the symbol. So all three entities are present. The author, text, reader, they are all there. The author may not be aware of all the implications in that pattern, but they are consciously willed by the author.

The meaning of a text is that pattern of meaning which the author willed to convey by the words – consciously willed to convey by the shareable symbols.

There is a sense in which that’s not a good division because I am using meaning twice in it: pattern of meaning to explain meaning. I could use something like, the paradigm that the author wills instead of pattern of meaning. But I think for most people, the pattern of meaning is a little more helpful than paradigm or principle or something of that nature.

Implications: Those meanings in a text of which the author was unaware but which nevertheless legitimately fall within the pattern of meaning which he willed. Implications as such. Let me give an example of this. I will give it in the text. Let me use it again because it is meaningful ofr me and also for Martin Luther.

When Paul writes in Galatians 5:2, “Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.”

Now think of the conscious meaning of Paul. Paul is dealing with people who think that faith in Christ is not sufficient. There are Judaizers out there telling Gentiles, “You know believing in Jesus is alright, but if you really want to be saved, you have to also become circumcised as the Old Testament  commands.” And so some of Paul’s converts are thinking about “Should I be circumcised so I can truly be saved?” And Paul says, “If you are thinking about circumcision, then you are not trusting in Christ anymore. When you believe in Christ, it is not Christ plus something I do. It is Christ alone. And if you are saying right now, that faith in Christ is not sufficient, you are saying there is something that I must do to bring this about. I must merit or earn and therefore you have fallen from grace.”

Now for Martin Luther, this meant that the buying of indulgences from the church, to escape Purgatory and go immediately to Heaven or to spend less time in Purgatory, that is condemned by what Paul says. Paul says you are not saved by faith and indulgences but by grace alone. And if you [Hard to Hear] taught buying indulgences, you are repudiating Christ. You are falling from grace.

You say well “If you asked Paul about indulgences, how would he have responded?” If you say well, “Paul are you forbidding buying indulgences to be saved?” If you say well, “What do you mean by indulgences?” And when you explain it to him, he would say, “Well. No one was doing that in my day, but that’s absolutely what I mean.”

You don’t get to heaven by purchasing anything. It is by grace through faith alone. In my own life, I remember somebody telling me that, “Bob. You know if you don’t worship on the right day of the week, like we do, you are never going to get to heaven.”

So I replied and said, “You know, my hope for salvation is the fact that Jesus Christ died for me. That He rose from the dead and through that death He brought about the forgiveness of my sins and my only hope is that when I appear before God in Heaven, that He will remember what Jesus did for me. Are you saying that’s not enough?”

And they said well, “You know if its in ignorance that you don’t keep the right day of the week, then maybe.”

And I said, “Well. Its not in ignorance. When Paul writes Corinthians, he talks about worshipping on the first day of the week and collecting offering at that time. When he visited the church, he celebrated the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week – the Ephesian elders and so forth. I believe I am following the pattern of the early church.”

Then they said, “Well. That means you are going to Hell.”  Yeah. [Hard to Hear] people have told me straight on in my face, you are going to Hell. This text became very important for me.  But if you said well, “[Hard to Hear] The apostle Paul…”

“Did you mean that if I start worshiping on the seventh day of the week, in order to be saved, I will be damned?”

He said, “What – what do you mean?”

And I explained to him, “Well you know, I wasn’t thinking about… I had a different issue. But that’s exactly the kind of thing I am thinking of. And there may be other kinds of things that people are saying like you can’t be saved unless you have this particular kind of experience – unless you speak in tongues, unless you tithe or unless you do this or that or [Hard to Hear]” All of that are implications that flow out of this, some of which Paul may not have consciously thinking of.
They may have been unconscious meanings or sub-meanings that he was not aware of. So that here would be a kind of implication. This morning in chapel, Dr. Carson was talking about this saying in Exodus 21:23-25, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.  What are the implications of that?

I mean does it cover anything that doesn’t involve an eye or a tooth? What about other things? Well, I think the implications are and we may not be aware of them – what is an appropriate punishment for the crime? Is it an appropriate punishment to cut off a man’s hands for stealing? No. I think it is excessive. I think it violates what the Scriptures teach. It’s an eye for an eye – not two eyes and two hands for an eye.

Is it appropriate punishment to put a person to the death for killing a deer in the king’s reserve? No. That violates the equality and punishment and the penalty and crime must fit hand in hand. So there are implications that flow out of a number of those.  Let me look at another one for instance.

Deuteronomy 22:8. Here you have a saying,

“When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof; otherwise you might have blood-guilt on your house, if anyone should fall from it.”

In other words when you build a house, you should put a railing around the roof.  Now you have to envision the roof in that day.  A roof would be the coolest place in the house.  When the house is still very warm – a lot of windows, there would be no air conditioning – and so when the breeze would come in the evening, you would go to the roof. But you would have to be careful to put something around the roof to keep people from falling off.  What are the implications of that?

Well there is nobody going to walk off my roof. They are going to slide off real quick. Ok. There’s no implication – well wait a minute. Wait a minute. If that is true of the roof, what about other things?

Do you have a swimming pool? Should you protect people from that? Little children walking in. Are you responsible – do you have a dog? Are you protecting people from that dog? You are responsible for concerns about the safety of other people here. So I think there would be all sorts of implications that flow out of this which the Biblical author may not have been aware of, but they are included there because the principle, paradigm is concern for the safety of others in the possessions you have.

1 Corinthians 16:20. Here Paul makes a simple statement.
“All the brothers and sisters send greetings.”

King James would have “All the brethren”.  The New RSV I am reading, “All the brothers and sisters send greeting”. A thought for thought translation. Then he says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Alright now, what are the implications of something like this?  I have never yet greeted anybody in my church with a holy kiss.

Remember my sister-in-law says, “Oh. Bob, you are going to greet me with a holy kiss.” I don’t know if it would be holy to start with.

So the question we are asking – is there any value to this at all? For instance, some of you come from cultures where the physical dimensions of greeting one another is very reticent. Something like this would be terribly improper. It would be disrespectful. Some of you come from an Oriental culture. This would be quite offensive. The French do it all the time, although they are really not kissing, they are blowing bubbles on each cheek, but they are not kissing the air but that is the way they would greet. In Oriental cultures you don’t do that kind of thing. What would be a bow – a respectful bow that would be. In American culture, it would be different again. For me, I always look forward to meeting Bob Bennett at church and shaking his hand. I look forward to that.

There is something about shaking his hand. It was this… I think what Paul was talking about was the kind of holy kiss he is talking about only it was a different culture and a different application from it. But the warmness of greeting which may vary in culture, but the warmness of greeting doesn’t vary. It should be there, in any culture. How it is expressed might change, but not what is being expressed.

The loving concern of Christian towards Christian, that warmth. I have never been to Russia but have had friends who went there and they were quite shook when the male men would kiss them. It was not really a nice experience, especially when they had a bushy beard. So they grew bushy beards themselves to protect themselves in part from some of this kind of thing.

It’s a cultural matter. And how do you express it? Well, warmly greet one another in the love of Jesus Christ. That remains. That’s the principle. And specifically it may vary. We don’t know and who is to say which one is the best of all.

Psalm 150:

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
   praise Him in His mighty firmament!
2 Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
   praise Him according to His surpassing greatness!
3 Praise Him with trumpet;
   praise Him with lute and harp!
4 Praise Him with tambourine and dance;
   praise Him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise Him with clanging cymbals;
   praise Him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Alright now you are part of the worship committee of your church. Are these the only instruments that one can use in a church? Doesn’t say organ trumpets alright but is it the same trumpet? And tambourines, dance, strings, pipe – I don’t know if the strings are violins. Or is the principle here in the idea of let everyone praise the Lord – let everything – let every musical instrument you have praise the Lord.  And so you would say here, yes in the worship of God, the more instruments we have that can be involved in the worship service, the better it is. I much prefer the Tuesday morning worship in our chapel with the symphony – I enjoy that - more than simply an organ.  But I enjoy an organ better than nothing either. I can enjoy organ music by itself.

The totality that we have available for praising God is at stake here. We are not supposed to say, these are the only instruments that are permissible, as some of the old Scottish Presbyterians used to say. It is not strictly ordered in the Bible.  I would like to add one thing to it, “Let every instrument that doesn’t have an amplifier praise the Lord,”  but I don’t know if I can go that far.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9: “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Well in practice, verses 8 and 9 talk about the use of phylacteries on your arm. It had little scrolls in them. Remember being at the wall in Jerusalem, a Jewish boy being bar mitzvah’ed and he had phylacteries on his forehead and on his hands and it was a joyous occasion when he became now a man.

In Jewish homes, many of them have a mezzuzzot on the doorpost, which has a little scroll on it. “Here O Israel, the Lord your God is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength …” Something like that. I don’t do that in our house. But the principle is that the word of God should always be before us. We should be teaching our children how to do this and I must say that I think my kids have done a better job than I did in that regard. I think that, they are using all sorts of means to train them in the word of God.

They have much more music for children that they can play, so there is always Christian music on a CD or something like that for them. And the kids are humming them and singing them and sometimes, I don’t think that the tune is the greatest in the world, but you know it is nice to hear that your grandson and granddaughter singing something like that than a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer commercial. So what are you doing with your children to train them?

We would read the Bible with them at nights. We would give memorize verses. I had real trouble trying to keep up with my kids in that area but we try to help them with Bible school, memorize Bible verses together.  We made a big issue of that.

What are you doing so that your children will be so trained and grounded in this that this will be part of their thinking processes and here is where we can help one another and share and have insights as to how we see an implication as to how this can be done.

Alright let us look another kind of implication, Mark 7:5-7. Here we have – I think I will begin reading at verse 1, so that we can get a feel for this.
“Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.”

Dr. Stein: Unclean hands had nothing to do with whether they are really dirty or not. It has to do with whether they are ceremonially clean. And then Mark adds in verse 3 and 4, a note. He explains to his readers, probably Roman Christians about these Jewish practices. 

“3(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’
6 [Jesus] He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
   but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
   teaching human precepts as doctrines.’”

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to the human tradition.  Now I would suggest that what Jesus is doing is taking Isaiah’s meaning and bringing out an implication of that. I do not think that Isaiah specifically had in mind the Pharisees that were talking to Jesus when he wrote the book of Isaiah. I think he had a different group of hypocrites in mind.

But Jesus is saying, what Isaiah meant back then, that is exactly the kind of thing we are dealing with right now and he draws out an implication saying Isaiah spoke, [Hard to Hear] spoke just about people like you. You have your traditions. You honor me – honor God with your lips, but your hearts are far from him. And so that specific meaning of Isaiah back then Jesus sees as being applicable to the particular people that he is dealing with at the present time and He draws out an implication of that.

At the end of that saying passage in verses 20 and following, we have another kind of example, I think. There He has,

“for it is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Now Matthew has a parallel passage and if you look at Matthew’s, he omits a few of those found in Mark and he has a couple not found in Mark.  Now my understanding of that is not that, put them both together, add them all up and that’s exactly what Jesus said. I think that these are inspired interpreters and what Jesus said about evil coming out of the human heart, He mentioned probably a number of these sins. But I would find it perfectly acceptable in my own understanding to see the inspired interpreter of Jesus’ words here, seeing other implications that maybe particularly relevant for their community.
And he says out of the heart comes these sins and He adds a particular sin that maybe the problem His community faces. Matthew may add a different one, because they are dealing with what Jesus meant and as His interpreters they can bring out implications of that, so what we might have in verses 21 and 22 in Mark and the parallel in Matthew might be some of the implications that a Biblical writer like Matthew or Mark sought in the saying of Jesus and His inspired interpreters bring out at this point.

Turn with me to Exodus 21. In verse 28 through 30,

“28 When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. 29If the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not restrained it, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. 30If a ransom is imposed on the owner, then the owner shall pay whatever is imposed for the redemption of the victim’s life.”

Not very relevant. I don’t know of anyone in this room who has – who has a neighbor who owns an ox. So is it totally irrelevant? Well you say, “there are societies where they use oxen and things like that.” Ok.  But don’t you see something of an implication in this that goes beyond ox? Sure.

And notice the implication that if you had an animal that … like a collie. It tends to be a very friendly animal, would you treat that differently if some little boy came here and the dog just went bananas and killed him? Or then if he walked near and a pit bull ran on to attack him?

One is somewhat accidental. One is by an animal who is trained to do that. Different kind of responsibility a person has in that regard. And so I think this would apply to dangerous animals that a person possesses. There was somebody in Kentucky a few weeks ago that was in a hospital because his pet cobra bit him. My goodness. Does that person have some sort of responsibility about the neighbors in regard to this?

Look – whether you have an oxen or not, the passage does have implications that go beyond in our way. Now I use the example in the book when we talk about implications of the statement, “Aren’t oak trees wonderful?” And I had a little boy say it as he is climbing a tree. Mom and Dad saying it as they go to a tree with a heart carved in it or with the names of their children or something. Or somebody in charge of flood control saying it. Somebody who is a carpenter saying it.

Now there are implications that flow from that statement. But that statement doesn’t have all sorts of implications such as if the boy said it, it has implications about the fun of oak trees. It has nothing to do with being good wood for cabinets.  It has nothing to do with how very helpful for flood control [Hard to Hear] breaking the water and keeping the ground in the soil down.

On the other hand, it is very unlikely that the carpenter was thinking about climbing trees. So it has no implications involved. See the person who said it determines the implications that flow out of it. In that sense, the author is in control of the implications that flow out of it. The author controls the implications. It is not the text by itself that does so. It is the author who worded that text and what the author meant by that specifically and that gives the pattern for the implications that flow.

Later on when you are talking about narrative, we talk about a text about how Jesus got into a boat after He had finished teaching in Parables. A storm came up. He was sleeping in the boat. The disciples are panicking and saying, “Master, Don’t you care that there is a storm?” and Jesus stands up in the storm and rebukes the storm. The storm ends. There is a great calm and the disciples come and say, who is this man that the wind and the waves obey Him? Okay.

Now, story is not about how to build fishing boats. It is not about why there are storms that come on the Sea of Galilee that can be very dangerous.  It has nothing to do with the psychological unbelief of the disciples. The story comes to its high point at the end. Who is this Jesus?

This Jesus is one who stands up and says to the storm, “Be still,” and the hurricane stops. Never seen anybody off the keys of Florida walk out there when the hurricane comes “Be still” and all of a sudden the wave just washes them away, you know. That’s Jesus in this story.  Now if you don’t think Jesus can go out in the pier when hurricane Andrew came and say “Peace. Be still and end it,” you don’t know the Jesus of the Bible anymore. Now what are the problems that you are struggling with?

“I am struggling with something. I own a house in Minnesota. I own one here. I don’t like owning two houses.  Hopefully it will sell on Thursday.  And somehow I have to remind myself that “Good grief. What a trivial thing for a savior that can still the storms.” And you are trying to make sure you have enough money to go to school and feed a family.  Is this Jesus of Mark big enough to handle that kind of situation?  You are worried about how to put together your time, your work, your study and you don’t know how you are going to do it all.

Mark wants to tell you about a Jesus who is big enough to do those things.  Yeah. I think there are implications that flow out of it. There is a story … you know another kind of thing about the book of Hebrews, talks about coming to Jesus, because he tempted in all points like we and yet without sin.

When I was going to seminary and went on for my graduate work – had a wife and two, three children. I didn’t know how He was going to take care of them. But somehow the Jesus that we are told – who understands and that we are to come to pray to – you know He once got into a jam, when He left the carpenter shop and began to preach. And He left His job which was to support His mother and His brothers and sisters.

All of a sudden it dawned on me that I could come to this Jesus and pray to Him about that. There are implications that flowed out of that. So you can do that with narrative well. Alright well, let me go on and just say that for instance – we talked about implications, Acts 1:8, “… You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Now the implications of that are that God’s people will witness for Him throughout the world. Now we can get as individuals, through God’s spirit and understanding of how that specific implication that God has for us in that text, whatever that might be. 
In my family it means for my daughter to be a missionary in Africa.  For my sons it means that they are leaders in their churches. For their father it means to be teaching at seminary. The pattern is that we will be His witnesses. How specifically that the implications flowing out of that applies to me is going to be different than how it applies to you. But there are implications and when we talk now about the specific implication meant in that text for me, we are talking about something, we are going to talk about next week, about the role of the Holy Spirit in guidance.

General implications, yes we can figure those out, but specifically what has God calling me for, that specific is something that comes through the Holy Spirit, but we will talk more about that next week.