Friday, October 12, 2007

Nine Theses: Thesis Four

Thesis Four: Texts of Scripture do not have a single meaning limited to the intent of the original author. In accord with Jewish and Christian traditions, we affirm that Scripture has multiple complex senses given by God, the author of the whole drama. — The Scripture Project, “Nine Theses on the Interpretation of Scripture”

I love this thesis. This seems profoundly true to me. I see in scripture a beautiful gemstone, that reflects and refracts the light differently according to which way we turn it. (Where have I read that before?) Turn it this way, and we see one thing. Turn it that way, and we see another. The thing is, the light is always changing. We can almost never recreate the light that was present at the moment the scripture was committed to parchment. So our hope of understanding "original intention," though an important endeavor (and one every preacher has an obligation to attempt), is small, at best.

The reason it is scripture, the reason these writings were kept and cherished and passed on, I believe, is that they have the ability to speak to us new every day. Wyld said in a comment, "It's all interpretation" (or something very close to that). There is much wisdom in that statement. Scripture does have the ability to speak fresh to every fresh situation.

Of course, that said, I think there is such a thing as bad or wrong interpretation. I think there are guidelines we need to stick to in order to interpret. Any interpretation that gives permission to harm someone, or vilify them, or put them in a group that is somehow considered to be less than fully human, is not of God, in my humble opinion. But we are also getting back to my earlier statement that, while there is much of God in scripture, there's also some garbage. Let me clarify: I believe there is stuff ('kill your firstborn son!') that is reflective of human efforts to deal with situations, and not God's.

Scripture: multiple. Complex. Yes.

2 comments:

Diane said...

yes, the "surplus of meaning"

Wyldth1ng said...

In your second paragraph, the first thing that comes to mind is Caddy Shack 2. In the third you made me smile.In the fourth, I was thinking thisis why I love Wikipedia, it gives different examples for most things. Good luck with this one.