It doesn’t take long to hear from an interlocutor, “You’re just forcing your interpretation in this passage;” or, “You’re just forcing your paradigm here. If you would just let the text say what it says, you would clearly see….”

This is a false dilemma. It is an FD precisely bc it is inescapable that one’s hermeneutic influences one’s interpretation of any passage in general and the entire Bible in particular. It cannot be helped and in point of fact, it is most natural and right that a reader of the Bible runs each and every text through his grid of interpretation. Anything less would be inconsistent. The question which begs to be addressed is this: Is your hermeneutic the most natural way to interpret the text?

What this inevitably depends upon is having information. The required information one needs for interpreting the Bible is an issue of language. All language is symbol. Whether or not the language is written down is irrelevant. Sound as well as visual depictions are symbol.

The story of Israel is no exception. In fact, one of the hallmark default associations made regarding Israel is her existence in a world of symbol. The ANE is an entire milieu of cosmological symbol. Take Genesis 1 for example. Any cursory collegiate course on the topic will indubitably refer to “all the other cultures in existence have their own worldviews represented in a story about their ‘beginnings.'” What this does is it orientates Israel’s story as a creation story. But it also orientates Israel story as a “temple text” as John Walton and others have recently popularized. No average church goer will think along the “temple text” lines. This level of reading the text is much more advanced than your average Granny Smith and Grampa Joe is equipped.

What this does is puts us in a good place to discuss authorial intent and meaning. What does the author intend his readers to understand is his meaning when all is say’d and done? The average reader of the Genesis 1 account “shoehorns” the text into a literal, concrete presentation of “just-the-facts-ma’am,” but would the author be satisfied with this treatment of his work? Does the author’s purpose and meaning matter when the text encounters a reader unaware of the nature of that which he is reading? Today’s reader seems not to be concerned one whit whether or not the meaning of the text matters precisely because the reader believes his interpretation is the meaning. Today’s music industry paves the way for poor readers who exhibit this tendency. The musician writes a song and publishes the song; the fan listens to and finds meaning in the story of the song because she relates it to her context; the writer acknowledges, “As long as my fans can find their own meaning in my songs I’ve done my job.”

TBC