Vocabulary for Interpretation - Part 3

Course: Biblical Hermeneutics

Lecture: Vocabulary for Interpretation - Part 3

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.