Monday, June 23, 2008

Caveman the Bible Exegete

Caveman (click here for more background on that) has been getting a lot of questions recently regarding Bible interpretation...

There are a couple tools we have that give us a slight advantage over Caveman in interpreting the Scriptures. For the most part, these tools are accessible to everyone (i.e. internet, software, amazon), and not just professional clergy.

The tools help us with our historical, cultural, geographical, linguistic, and contextual considerations.

Here's a classic example of how a geographical/historical consideration might color interpretation:

In my formative years of faith (i.e. high school), "being on fire for God" was a predominant metaphor used to describe a true life of faith. Nothing wrong with that. Until I got to Revelation 3:15-16, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm- neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

Interpreting this passage put me in a precarious position.

Here was my interpretation for years (until I had to preach on it)... God seemed to be saying: "I wish that you would either not live for me at all (i.e. be "cold") OR go all the way with me (i.e. be "hot"). It's this riding the fence that I can't stand."

Come to find out, Laodicea was known for it's lukewarm water supply- which was of little use back in the day. Nearby Colosse had useful cold water from the mountains. Hieropolis had useful hot springs. But the lukewarm Laodicean water was of no use.

The geographical/historical research led me to a different interpretation: God wants us to be useful to Him! Do that by welcoming him in through repentance and a passion-filled faith (3:19).

That's not to say the "cold/hot for God" metaphor is not legit. Jesus used it in Matthew 24:12 "the love of most will grow cold."

Can you see I'm stalling on my response to the reader's question to Caveman regarding 1 Corinthians 11:4-ff?

Give me a break, I need some warm up pitches...

1 comment:

paul said...

I think that the caveman principle of interpretation can be helpful, but I think it is also important to keep in mind that God has placed us in community. God has apportioned different gifts to the various members of the body so that together we are built into a holy temple to him. (Eph. 2:20-21, 4:7-13) "Just me and my Bible" doesn't seem to be God's ideal.

Then, also, since sin corrupts our minds, I think it is helpful to put what I understand as "the plain sense of the text" to the test of seeing what other men more learned and godly than I am understood from the text. If the way I read the text is quite different from the way others have interpreted it, then I should probably give my interpretation more thought since it is more likely that I am wrong than a long line of godly men.

Finally, Kim Riddlebarger critiques the caveman principle for interpretation on the grounds that no one is able to come to the text without presuppositions. It is better to acknowledge that we all come with presuppositions and set them out to test them and see if they are good. (I think this comment was made in this talk on "interpreting Bible prophecy".)

Nonetheless, these caveats aside, the overarching principle of generally seeking the plain sense of the text is a good one to be reminded of.