Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hermeneutics: Parts To The Whole Machine

By Max Strange

What are KO E36 OBD1 and VPO E36? They are parts to the same car. The first is a manifold kit that improves speed and air flow and the second is an under-drive pulley that adds 5-11 extra horsepower to BMW 3M series. Vital to the overall car’s performance are the parts. We see that parts work together for the good of the machine. Likewise, the Bible is made up of parts that fit together to make the whole work. We see this clearly in Biblical interpretation as the interpreter looks at words and how words fit the whole redemptive storyline. Engaged in word analysis, the interpreter seeks to understand what the original A/author’s intended by the terms he used. The terms must also be understood in view of the whole of Scripture, and in this way creating a comprehensive Biblical theology employed by a whole-canon-exegesis. In this way, the Scriptures maintain itself and God’s Word continues to be its own innate interpreter. Therefore, discovering a terms’ meaning and context, and being alert to some pitfalls of word analysis, seems the best starting point for exegetical discovery and maintains the integrity of God’s Word.

Words consist of s-y-m-b-o-l-s that when placed together have an assigned meaning to them. The meaning comes from the context. Sometimes words have a range of meaning but the goal of the interpreter is to understand the meaning in which the author used them and in the context in which he spoke. The interpreter knows that words have different meanings. Some meanings are implicit, some emotional in their force (ex. “ouch!”), some words reveal new meaning and significance (interpreting the O.T. in light of the N.T.), some words have a wide range of meaning, while other words are figurative. Analyzing the meaning of the word and the way the author used the word in it’s context is a good start to understanding a term.

It is helpful to study words that are repeated, used once (hapax legomena), used rarely, unclear, apparent synonyms/autonyms, or terms that carry the weight of a passage (structure of a text). Knowing this will help determine which words to zoom in. Yet, there are some pitfalls to watch out for as one seeks to dissect and know a term.

The following are common errors in word analysis:

1. The Etymological Fallacy: This is also know as "root fallacy" and assumes that the meaning of a word is governed by the of its root.

2. Illegitimate Totality Transfer: This assumes that a word carries all of its senses in one passage. It could be called meaning overload. The meaning of the term here is often imported from other contexts.

3. Semantic Anachronism: This error happens when a later meaning of a word is read back into an earlier term. This problem occurs, for example, when later Greek materials are used to support a first-century term that lacks clarity.

4. Semantic Obsolescence: This happens when one assigns to a term an early meaning that is no longer used. This occurs when terms no longer carry the meaning they once had as in the case with the KJV 1611 version.

5. Word-Idea Fallacy: This assumes that the word under study is the study of a whole idea. When one studies the word "King" they can also study other relevant terms such as "rule," or "reign."

6. Referential Fallacy: This error happens when one goes beyond the meaning/s that the author is referring to. This is when the author refers back to an earlier Old Testament text and interprets his situation in light of that O.T. reference.

7. Verbal Parallelomania: This refers to the practice of some who notice the same term (word) in several different context and automatically assumes that they are parallel concepts. Philo's use of the term logos does not mean the same thing as the Apostle John meant for that same term.

8. Prescriptive Fallacy: This argues that a word has only one meaning and it means the same thing in every passage.

9. Selective Evidence Fallacy: This is the most serious error wherein one cites only the evidence that favors the interpretation one wants to defend.

Overall, despite the pitfalls and challenges to word study, it is very rewarding to know what words mean. The interpreter ought to know the A/author’s parts for the parts make up the whole and the whole contains the parts. To know the specificity of random BMW car parts help us see the whole machine and appreciate, at first glance, those arbitrary parts in a more profound way. The parts by themselves do little, but as the interpreter moves from parts to whole in a exegetical pendulum/ladder/spiral fashion (from N.T. to O.T. and back again), the importance of parts KO E36 OBD1 and VPO E36 are truly revealed. Especially when all is known, embraced, and the machine is cruising at 120 mph.

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