Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How to Find the Author’s Meaning

By Max Strange

In understanding the text of a book, in this case the Bible, one can use certain procedures to ascertain the Author/author’s intended meaning. These procedures do not negate dependence upon the Holy Spirit for divine illumination. They do, however, aid the Christian to mine God’s word with hermeneutical tools that dig into buried treasure. Here are some tools to think on.

First, the Christian must assume several things before reading the text called pre-understanding (a.k.a. presuppositions). Consciously, the Christian must be aware of his own presuppositions. Identifying and building a set of solid Biblical presuppositions will aid the Christian to determine the author’s meaning. The following are a few vital presuppositions:

• The Bible is truly God’s Word

• God’s Word can be known & Interpreted

• God is communicator

• Man is receiver/interpreter

• Man is fallen

• Man lives within a hermeneutical disaster

• Man needs God’s Spirit to overcome this disaster

• God’s Word is couched in Redemptive History

• Jesus is the main theme of all the Scriptures

• Jesus is bringing about the New Creation

Second, the Christian must take his set of presuppositions and read the text. This is not a profound statement but it is a profound activity. This procedure is technically called recognition. Recognition does not dissect the Word or proceed critically or advance technically upon. The Christian simply goes to the texts to breath in what God has breathed out. C.S. Lewis said that this should be a love activity where “tireless curiosity…intensity of imagination…unspoiled appetite…and readiness to wonder…” are all pulled together to hear God-speech. It is a time to hear from the Timeless. It is the reading of the Word where the Christian doesn’t meet himself, his ideas, or his opinions, but His God. He runs face-first into the Author with a capital ‘A.’ The Christian reader engages in active reading for a time of recognition, observation, for Gospel saturation.

The third step is called comprehension. This is what I call the “What-cha-talk'n About-Willis-Hermeneutic?” This interpretive tool basically asks questions and the most important question is this: what is the Author/author talking about? The active reader, seeking comprehension ought to ask questions. Here, the reader employs the questions of who, what, when, where, and the why. These will help to determine the immediate verse, the surrounding paragraphs, the book as a whole, and how that author elucidates how his message fits the whole of redemption within the entire Canon. This comprehension phase will also determine essential theological themes and finally the Author/author’s main purpose.

Last of all, in order to find the author’s intended meaning, one moves into interpretation. With all the previous data, a crystallized statement will be formed to know with certainty the Author/author’s intent and meaning. Here, the interpretive key is the question, “What is the Author/author talking about” within the immediate and far reaching context. It is here that the questions previously asked are now answered.

These steps are rough guidelines in order to determine the meaning of a text. When a Christian sees his own presuppositions, moves into the text to read and hear from God, seeks to comprehend with the right questions and answer them, he will arrive at a clear and faithful understanding what the Author/author in fact meant to communicate.

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